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August 23, 2011

Homeland Security 4.0: Overcoming Centralization, Complacency and Politics

The Threat Remains

  • Ten Years Later: The nation has undergone tremendous changes in how we do business on homeland security since September 11, 2001. There have been a number of successes. However, the biggest challenges remain. Namely, we must overcome the challenges associated with centralization, complacency, and politics if we are to stay ahead in the war on terrorism and build a healthy homeland security enterprise capable of tackling the threats we face.

Federalism Is More Than a Sound Byte

  • Decentralizing Homeland Security: Federalism is not some archaic concept dreamt up by our Founding Fathers to placate skeptics of a strong central government. Federalism does not just protect us from the centralization of power in Washington; it also promotes the reality that state and local governments possess the resources, geographic locus, and experience to protect us from physical threats, as well.
  • Centralized Environment Increases Risk: Despite being essential and equal partners in the effort of defending the homeland, state and local governments have little say in the national policy development. State and local governments bear the cost of federal failure on immigration, and they are discouraged from taking action. States still lack an effective large-scale volunteer mobilization network.

Complacency Must Be Avoided

  • DHS SealThe Past Must Not Inhibit the Future: Ensuring national security is a competition between determined, innovative adversaries and the American people. If the U.S. becomes complacent or focuses on the past, it will pay a heavy price. The nation cannot expect to stay one step ahead of the terrorists if it accepts the status quo; rather, the complexity of human nature, technological integration, and scale must temper expectations.
  • Federal Government Still Not Ready: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lacks a strong policy leadership position, is not adequately focused on emerging threats, is not leveraging the private sector on innovation, and remains a minor player on the National Security Council. Our intelligence entities still have problems “connecting the dots,” and the Federal Emergency Management Agency remains mired in the past. And the Quadrennial Defense Review shortchanges domestic defense.

Politics Must Be Tamed

  • Political Expedience Is a Threat: Washington and the politicians cannot entirely expunge politics from homeland security issues, but it is to be hoped that elected leaders can work to set aside politics on issues of national security. Regrettably, over the past decade, politics has played too big a part in policy decisions and has wasted billions of dollars in homeland security grants, created oversight inefficiencies, prevented progress on key issues, and left America less secure than if the politicians had left politics at the committee door. The U.S. can and should do better.
  • Congress Must Measure Policy Effectiveness: DHS grants have become pork-barrel spending and lack accountability. Meanwhile, 100% screening or scanning solutions are not based on risk and create a false sense of security, while the Transportation Security Administration is overly focused on the screening line. Congress should re-assert oversight over DHS.

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