October 16, 2006 | Executive Memorandum on Department of Homeland Security
In the wake of 9/11, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security not just to integrate the activities of over two dozen agencies and programs, but also to lead a national effort of federal, state, and local government as well as nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. Yet building a core of homeland security professionals-the most important initiative in making the enterprise a success-has hardly begun. The Administration can and must address this shortfall. Homeland security needs the foundation of a professional development system that will provide the cadre of leaders required to meet the demands of the 21st century.
The Right Stuff. Homeland security is a new core competence of government. The professionals that lead the effort must have three essential skills:
Today, however, few individuals in government have all of the skills needed to lead the homeland security enterprise. The White House's after-action report on the national response to Hurricane Katrina, for example, highlighted the shortfalls in the government's ability to manage large-scale interagency homeland security operations.
Lessons Learned. The U.S. military faced similar professional development challenges in building a cadre of joint leaders-officers competent in multi-service operations involving two or more of the armed services. The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 mandated a solution that required officers to have a mix of joint education, assignments, and accreditation by a board of professionals in order to be eligible for promotion to general officer rank. Goldwater- Nichols is widely credited with the successes in joint military operations from Desert Storm to the war on terrorism.
Foundations for Homeland Security. Education, assignment, and accreditation are tools that can be applied to developing professionals for homeland security and other critical interagency national security activities.
Education. A program of education, assignment, and accreditation that cuts across all levels of government and the private sector with national and homeland security responsibilities has to start with professional schools specifically designed to teach interagency skills. No suitable institutions exist in Washington, academia, or elsewhere. The government will have to establish them. They should include:
While the resident and non-resident programs of many university and government schools and training centers can and should play a part in homeland security and interagency education, these institutions should form the taproot of a national effort with national standards.
Assignment. Qualification will also require interagency assignments in which individuals can practice and hone their skills. These assignments should be at the "operational" level where leaders learn how to make things happen, not just set policies. Identifying the right organizations and assignments and ensuring that they are filled by promising leaders should be a priority. These assignments could include:
Accreditation. Accreditation and congressional involvement are crucial to ensuring that programs are successful and sustainable. Before leaders are selected for critical (non-politically appointed) positions in national and homeland security, they should be accredited by a board of professionals in accordance with broad guidelines established by Congress. Congress should:
The Clock Is Ticking. Critical components of good governance, like establishing long-term professional programs, are often shunted aside as important but not pressing-something to be done later. But later never comes. This is unacceptable for homeland security and other critical national security activities that require building interagency competencies that are not broadly extant in government. The Administration and Congress have time to address this issue and help to make Americans safer for generations.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.