September 18, 2008 | Special Report on Department of Homeland Security
In 2004, a task force chaired by homeland security experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and The Heritage Foundation (and consisting of representatives from academia, research centers, the private sector, and congressional staffs) presented its conclusions in "DHS 2.0: Rethinking the Department of Homeland Security." Their report evaluated the capacity of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to fulfill its mandate as set out in the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Their evaluation was based on four criteria: management, roles and missions, authorities, and resources. It offered more than 40 major recommendations and made the case for a significant reorganization of the DHS to improve this instrument's effectiveness and efficiency for preventing and responding to terrorist threats. Many of these proposals in the report were subsequently adopted by Congress and the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Four years later, this follow-up report concludes that, while many still find the department a work in progress, the most pressing needs for enhancing the protection of the country from transnational terrorist threats do not lie in further major reorganization of the DHS or revisiting its roles and missions. Rather Congress and the Administration should shift their focus to strengthening the effectiveness of the national homeland security enterprise as a whole.
The terrorist threat is nimble and dynamic. It exploits the seams of our society, operating in the gaps between bureaucratic notions of foreign and domestic, state and federal, civil and military. To counter this threat, we must build a national homeland security enterprise that is as agile and seamless as those who seek to harm us. The objective of this report is to highlight the most critical tasks for building such an enterprise.
To be more agile, our bureaucracy must foster better decision making in Congress and in the interagency process, support the development of a new generation of professionals, and facilitate information sharing throughout all elements of the enterprise. Furthermore, to close the gaps where terrorists hide, we must empower individuals and communities and extend international cooperation throughout our homeland security activities.
Each section of this report consists of findings and recommendations agreed upon by the task force. Major recommendations in the report include:
The next Congress and Administration have an opportunity to look at our national homeland security enterprise anew. In doing so, they should adopt specific initiatives to address these critical tasks. The Administration should adopt an interagency approach led by a revitalized, reorganized, and integrated National Security Council that treats domestic and international security concerns in a more holistic manner.
In addition to consolidating committee jurisdiction over the DHS and creating committees to oversee interagency education, assignments, and accreditation, Congress should establish a bipartisan caucus that meets regularly to consider issues that affect the national homeland security enterprise. Both the next Congress and Administration need to engage private businesses and the American people-two great, but seemingly forgotten strengths of American society-more effectively to persuade them to contribute to and participate in homeland security.
Protecting America at home is a national mission that requires the concerted effort of the nation, including state and local governments, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations, local communities, families, and individuals. Many of the most vital tasks are conducted most effectively in a decentralized manner. The national enterprise must facilitate cooperation, innovation, resiliency, flexibility, and adaptability, not promote rigid Washington-centric solutions. In addition, virtually every aspect of domestic security from securing the border to disaster response has an international dimension requiring the cooperation of friends and allies around the world. We are facing threats-naturally occurring and deliberate-that can, will, and do target all elements of our society. It is therefore incumbent upon all elements of our society to work together to counter these threats.
While this report's 25 recommendations are grouped by critical task subject, many of the proposals are interdependent, affecting more than one mission area. In particular, the initiatives regarding community preparedness and resiliency of national infrastructure and global systems dovetail closely. Thus, the task force envisions these recommendations as integral parts of a holistic strategy for building the national homeland security enterprise that the nation needs, not as a menu from which policymakers should pick and chose.
David Heyman is Director of and Senior Fellow in the Homeland Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 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.