Enhancing International Collaboration for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

Report Homeland Security

Enhancing International Collaboration for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

October 18, 2007 15 min read Download Report

Authors: James Carafano and Richard Weitz

Homeland security is a global mission. From secur­ing the border to protecting global supply chains, virtu­ally every aspect of preventing terrorist attacks has an international dimension that requires the United States to work effectively with friends and allies. Traditionally, responsibility for international collaboration on national security matters has fallen primarily to the Department of State, the Department of Defense (DOD), and, to some extent, the FBI and CIA. Since its creation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has played a critical role in protecting U.S. interests overseas, but it lacks some of the formal instruments available to other agencies for promoting international cooperation.

Congress should ensure that the DHS is charged and funded to provide international security assistance pro­grams similar to those managed by the State and Defense Departments. Likewise, the DHS should have a more formal role in advising, cooperating, and supporting for­eign development, humanitarian assistance, public diplomacy, and post-conflict stability operations. Avia­tion and maritime security--facilitating safe and reliable international trade and travel--should be the first prior­ity. Regionally, the top priorities should be working with traditional U.S. trading partners and developing capac­ity in the Western Hemisphere and in troubled areas in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia.

Partnering for Victory

Since the beginning of the Cold War, security assis­tance programs have been a foundation of American foreign policy. The international security assistance programs funded by the State Department and exe­cuted by the Defense Department produce a number of tangible benefits. These programs safeguard and promote U.S. interests and build enduring alliances. Assistance also helps allies to address military threats, manage natural disasters and humanitarian crises, and defend themselves. In the event that the U.S. military must step in to assist an ally, countries receiving security assistance have a greater chance of collaborating effectively with American forces because they will likely have compatible equipment, communications, and doctrine.[1]

The Pentagon administers a number of security assistance programs: Foreign Military Sales, Inter­national Military Education and Training (IMET), transfers of excess defense articles, and Foreign Mil­itary Financing (FMF).

Foreign Military Sales. Foreign governments buy equipment, services, and training under For­eign Military Sales programs. Developed during the Cold War to increase the capacity of allies to deter Soviet aggression, these programs remain an instru­ment for bolstering regional security and promoting interoperability between U.S. forces and America's friends and allies. In fiscal year (FY) 2006, Foreign Military Sales worldwide totaled over $18 billion.[2]

International Military Education and Train­ing. Funded by the Department of State under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, IMET provides for­eign military and civilian personnel with profes­sional, leadership, and management training and instruction in managing defense establishments and budgets. Instruction includes over 4,100 courses taught at roughly 275 military schools.[3]

Excess Defense Articles. Excess defense articles may be sold to any country eligible to purchase them or given as grants. For example, excess articles have been given to Latin American and Caribbean nations to combat narcotics trafficking.[4] In FY 2006, grants and sales totaled over $1 billion.

Foreign Military Financing. The FMF program allocates grants and loans to eligible countries for financing purchases of military articles, services, and training. FMF is run by the DOD and financed from the State Department's international affairs budget.[5] The State Department has requested over $4.5 billion in FMF funding for FY 2008.[6]

In addition to fostering bilateral relations, FMF is a principal instrument for facilitating regional coopera­tion. Programs financed by FMF include NATO's Part­nership for Peace (PFP), the African Crisis Response Initiative, and the Enhanced International Peacekeep­ing Initiative. Partnership for Peace programs enhance interoperability with NATO. The African Crisis Response Initiative helps to build the capacity of Afri­can states to engage in peacekeeping and other humanitarian operations. The Enhanced Interna­tional Peacekeeping Initiative aids in developing for­eign peacekeeping professionals. The Pentagon also administers multinational counternarcotics, disaster relief, and mine action programs.[7]

FMF already contributes to homeland security activities that require civil-military cooperation. NATO's Civil Emergency Planning Directorate coor­dinates national planning for domestic emergencies, such as storms and floods. The directorate includes a Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre, which organizes disaster relief efforts. The center has representatives from all 26 NATO mem­bers and the 20 nations in the PFP. Besides coordi­nating disaster relief, it conducts exercises, training, and research. Additionally, NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Unit provides national civil and military assets, including aviation (such as helicop­ters) and specialized ground forces (such as decon­tamination teams).

In addition to financing, sales, and assistance programs, the Pentagon supports international cooperation in defense science and technology research. Particularly important to this effort is the Technical Cooperation Program, one of the world's largest collaborative science and technology cooper­atives. Through this program, scientists and engi­neers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States cooperate on defense projects, including explorations of alter­native concepts prior to new weapon systems; col­laborative research and development through sharing data, equipment, materiel, and facilities; and joint experiments, exercises, and demonstra­tions. This cooperation has been extended to areas related to homeland security.[8]

Finally, the DOD funds five regional centers for security studies. These centers host conferences, sponsor studies, and offer courses and seminars on issues such as national security planning and civil- military relations. The centers present American views on security questions and regional perspec­tives. They also foster people-to-people contacts among defense establishments.[9]

The Department of State also engages in sub­stantial foreign assistance. For example, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs undertakes programs to assist foreign states and works with foreign officials and organizations through international, regional, and country-spe­cific programs.[10]

Global Homeland Security

It makes sense for the DHS to use tools similar to traditional national security and cooperation tools to build homeland security partnerships and capac­ity around the world. The transnational nature of contemporary terrorist threats, the interdependence of modern societies resulting from globalization, and the concept of using layered defenses to thwart attack at every turn from conception to execution all make the case for multinational homeland secu­rity partnerships.

Moreover, the events of the past decade illustrate the extent to which terrorism has become an interna­tional challenge. Terrorists move between countries, exploiting loopholes wherever they find them. They use Latin America as a base for safe havens, recruiting, fund-raising, and facilitating international travel. In South and Central Asia, terrorist groups have estab­lished an evolving network of staging areas from which they can attack other countries. Europe served as a base for recruiting and planning for 9/11, suicide attacks in Iraq, and other terrorist acts.[11]

Protecting the international networks that facilitate the flow of goods, people, services, and ideas raises a number of priorities. Eventually, the DHS needs to develop the ability to oversee and participate in robust assistance programs in all of these areas.

Aviation and Maritime Security. One-third of the U.S. economy depends on trade, and most U.S. imports and exports travel by sea. Aviation security is critical because civilian aviation is both a frequent target of transnational terrorism and a common means of travel for international terrorists.[12]

Immigration and Border Control. Transna­tional terrorists have exploited every known legal and illegal means of international travel from using legitimate and falsified travel documents (such as passports) to crossing through established points of entry and across open borders.[13]

Information Security. The Internet is a primary tool for international recruiting, propaganda, fund-raising, gathering intelligence, and planning and coordinating attacks, as well as a means of launch­ing malicious acts.[14]

Counterterrorism Operations. The best defense against transnational terrorism is to stop terrorists before they strike by disrupting radicalization, re­cruiting, training, and financing and by foiling active plots, dismantling terrorist networks, and in­capacitating leadership.[15]

Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recov­ery. The effects of large-scale disasters do not re­spect borders. For example, estimates of the global cost of 9/11 vary, but the attacks easily cost many tens of billions of dollars.[16]

The DHS and Global Security

The 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security acknowledged that "a successful strategy for home­land security requires international cooperation."[17] In fact, the DHS has over 2,000 representatives overseas, a number exceeded only by the State Department.[18]

Many of the legacy agencies folded into the DHS had some international assistance programs. For example, the Coast Guard is responsible for inspect­ing foreign ports for compliance with the Interna­tional Ship and Port Security Codes. To date, the service has issued final reports on 14 of 29 Carib­bean nations, finding that a number of facilities need to make improvements or take additional measures.

The DHS also participates in the Caribbean Cor­ridor Initiative, a multiagency effort to combat illicit drug smuggling. Under this program, the Customs and Border Protection agency provides training on cargo and document inspection.[19]

It is time to formalize and integrate the DHS's disparate international programs and to provide the DHS with the resources and legal authorities to establish effective and enduring programs. Specifi­cally, Congress should:

  • Establish the legislative authority for a DHS initiative on international homeland security assistance.
  • Provide annual appropriations for DHS assis­tance programs.
  • Assign jurisdiction over these programs to the House Committee on Homeland Security and Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
  • Task the Assistant Secretary for International Affairs with crafting international assistance programs in coordination with DHS operating agencies (e.g., the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection) and interagency partners, including the Pentagon and the State Department.

For its part, the DHS should:

  • Consolidate homeland security and disaster response programs run by other agencies under the DHS (to the extent authorized by Congress), such as programs related to port security assistance.
  • Establish "one stop" assistance programs for countries that offer holistic solutions for air, land, and sea security with equipment, logistics, training, and technical support that can be cus­tomized to meet the specific needs of each coun­try. Alternatively, the DHS could offer a menu of goods and services, allowing countries to build their own assistance programs.
  • Promote international standardization and interoperability in doctrine, equipment, and procedures among U.S. friends and allies.
  • Advocate programs that respect and enhance the sovereignty of individual nations. The DHS should promote domestic programs and international security cooperation that improve public safety; effectively combat transnational terrorism and crime; encourage economic growth, free markets, and trade; and protect the civil liberties of U.S. citizens, respect the rights of friends and allies, and respect human rights.[20]
  • Provide overall management, accountability, and oversight of international homeland secu­rity assistance efforts.

The DHS international assistance effort should be organized to:

  • Create a formal, integrated education and training program similar to IMET. This would include training in the United States, mobile training teams that would deploy overseas, and support for international programs. The DHS should integrate its IMET program into its over­all professional development program.[21]
  • Establish a security assistance sales, lease, and grant program that allows the department to assist countries in obtaining equipment, support, and financing for homeland security functions.
  • Facilitate more international collaboration in researching, developing, and sharing home­land security technologies in coordination with the Science and Technology Directorate, such as establishing an international clearinghouse of technical information.[22]


While the exact design and responsibilities of a DHS international assistance program remain flexible, the increasingly transnational nature of threats to the American homeland and the need to mitigate the global effects of terrorist incidents abroad demand steadfast and organized international engagement by the Department of Homeland Security.

The United States stands to reap enormous secu­rity benefits from improved security abroad. By establishing multinational homeland defense edu­cation and training initiatives and mobile training teams similar to the Defense Department's IMET program, the DHS could significantly enhance for­eign national homeland security expertise and per­formance while establishing critical relationships with foreign governments and civilian personnel.

Foreign acquisition of U.S. homeland security technology, facilitated by a DHS program similar to DOD's Foreign Military Financing, could substan­tially improve international security. Indeed, the international standardization of practices, over­sight, and systems technology in maritime security assistance and heightened international collabora­tion in researching, developing, and sharing home­land security technologies could realize dramatic improvements in international security.

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. Richard Weitz, Ph.D., is Senior Fellow and Director of Program Management at the Hudson Institute.

[1]U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State, Foreign Military Training and DoD Engagement Activities of Interest, Vol. 1, March 2002, at http://state.gov/t/pm/rls/rpt/fmtrpt/2002 (August 20, 2007).

[2]U.S. Department of State, Congressional Budget Justification: Foreign Operations, Fiscal Year 2008, February 2007, p. 689, at www.state.gov/documents/organization/80701.pdf (August 20, 2007).

[3]U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State, Foreign Military Training and DoD Engagement Activities of Interest.

[4]U.S. Department of State, Congressional Budget Justification, pp. 699 and 701.

[5]William S. Cohen, Annual Report to the President and the Congress, 2001, Appendix M, at www.dod.mil/execsec/adr2001/M.pdf (October 10, 2007).

[6]U.S. Department of State, Congressional Budget Justification, p. 56.

[7]U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State, Foreign Military Training and DoD Engagement Activities of Interest.

[8]U.S. Department of Defense, Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support, June 2005, p. 2, at www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun2005/d20050630homeland.pdf (October 10, 2007).

[9]U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State, Foreign Military Training and DoD Engagement Activities of Interest.

[10]U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, "INL Regional and Country Programs," at www.state.gov/p/inl/narc (August 20, 2007).

[11]For regional threat assessments, see Mark P. Sullivan, "Latin America: Terrorism Issues," Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, updated January 18, 2006, at /static/reportimages/C6F95C05FA2E10D971748FA8B00EC68C.pdf (August 20, 2007); K. Allen Krondstadt and Bruce Vaughn, "Terrorism in South Asia," Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, updated December 13, 2004, at www.fas.org/irp/crs/RL32259.pdf (August 20, 2007); and Robert S. Leiken, "Europe's Angry Muslim Problem," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 84, No. 4 (July/August 2005), at www.foreignaffairs.org/20050701faessay84409/robert-s-leiken/europe-s-angry-muslims.html (August 20, 2007).

[12]James Jay Carafano and Alane Kochems, "Making the Seas Safer: A National Agenda for Maritime Security and Counterterrorism," Heritage Foundation Special Report No. 3, February 17, 2005, at www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandSecurity/sr03.cfm.

[13]For an overview, see Thomas R. Eldridge, Susan Ginsburg, Walter T. Hempel II, Janice L. Kephart, and Kelly Moore, 9/11 and Terrorist Travel: Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,August 21, 2004, at www.9-11commission.gov/staff_statements/911_TerrTrav_Monograph.pdf (August 20, 2007).

[14]Gabriel Weimann, "www.terror.net: How Modern Terrorism Uses the Internet," United States Institute of Peace Special Report No. 116, March 2004, at www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr116.pdf (October 10, 2007).

[15]For example, see Michael Jacobson, The West at War: U.S. and European Counterterrorism Efforts, Post-September 11 (Washington, D.C.: Washington Institute for Near East Studies, 2006).

[16]Dick K. Nanto, "9/11 Terrorism: Global Economic Costs," Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, updated October 5, 2004, at http://digital.library.unt.edu/govdocs/crs/permalink/meta-crs-7725:1 (August 20, 2007).

[17]The White House, Office of Homeland Security, The National Strategy for Homeland Security,July 2002, p. 59, at www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/book/nat_strat_hls.pdf (August 20, 2007).

[18]Paul Rosenzweig, Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Acting Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, "Review of 2006 for the Department of Homeland Security and Priorities for 2007," U.S. Department of State, Foreign Press Center Briefing, December 20, 2006, at http://fpc.state.gov/fpc/78146.htm (October 11, 2007). Over 450 DHS representatives are based in Canada in Customs and Border Protection clearance programs, and representatives are also posted in other nations. Other DHS personnel posted overseas are primarily from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, and the Secret Service. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has two officers posted to NATO.

[19]U.S. Government Accountability Office, Information on Port Security in the Caribbean Basin, GAO-07-804R, June 29, 2007, pp. 3 and 5, at www.gao.gov/new.items/d07804r.pdf (October 11, 2007).

[20]See James Jay Carafano and Paul Rosenzweig, Winning the Long War: Lessons from the Cold War for Defeating Terrorism and Preserving Freedom (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 2005), at www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/the-long-war.cfm.

[21]For comprehensive recommendations, see James Jay Carafano, "Missing Pieces in Homeland Security: Interagency Education, Assignments, and Professional Accreditation,"Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum No. 1013, October 16, 2006, at www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandSecurity/em1013.cfm.

[22]For specific recommendations, see James Jay Carafano, Jonah J. Czerwinski, and Richard Weitz, "Homeland Security Technology, Global Partnerships, and Winning the Long War," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1977, October 5, 2006, at www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandSecurity/bg1977.cfm, and James Jay Carafano and Richard Weitz, "Rethinking Research, Development, and Acquisition for Homeland Security," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2000, January 22, 2007, at www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandSecurity/bg2000.cfm.


James Carafano
James Carafano

Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute

Richard Weitz

Policy Analyst in Empirical Studies