CQ HOMELAND SECURITY—Homeland Security Experts Weigh In
January 2, 2012
Reprinted with permission.
With the New Year beginning, CQ has asked dozens of homeland security experts in the public, private, and academic sectors to weigh in on the lessons of 2011 and what 2012 holds in store. The answers provided by Rick “Ozzie” Nelson of CSIS are excerpted here.
Q1: After the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, what group poses the greatest threat to America?
A1: While al Qaeda and its affiliates remain the greatest terrorist threat to America, the rise of homegrown terrorists linked to or inspired by these groups will be of particular and growing concern. In recent years, an increased number of terrorist plots involving U.S. citizens or legal residents have been uncovered. This trend has been driven primarily by the resonance of al Qaeda’s narrative—that the United States and the West are at war with Islam—among a small but surprisingly broad section of the populace. Facilitated by the Internet and social media, critical “intermediaries,” such as the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki have proven successful in convincing vulnerable members of society to embrace violence. While the sophistication and scale of the attacks launched by homegrown extremists have so far paled in comparison to 9/11, they have the potential to be disruptive, especially in economic terms.
Q2: In a tight budget environment, what homeland-related activities should Congress look at cutting in the coming year? What must be preserved, or see increased funding?
A2: While the homeland security budget will soon suffer the first cut in its short history, this must be viewed as an opportunity to streamline the homeland security enterprise—an effort that must begin with a reform of the congressional oversight process. Without such reform, the effective prioritization of homeland security–related activities will remain elusive, preventing the elimination of duplicative missions and the building of needed capabilities. Since 9/11, a number of agencies have seen their missions expand, sometimes to the point that they overlap with those of other entities. For example, multiple agencies possess coastal maritime capabilities, yet the authorities regarding their use remain unclear, demanding congressional review. At the same time, the homeland security enterprise must identify and build capabilities to address growing challenges and opportunities, such as the opening of the Arctic. Without reform of homeland security–related congressional oversight, such forward-looking prioritization will prove difficult.
Q3: The 10 years since Sept. 11 have seen major organizational shifts at the agencies that prepare for, respond to, and help recover from terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other catastrophes. What’s the next big move the federal government needs to make?
A3: The next major shift the federal government needs to make will not be an organizational one, but one of mindset. The U.S. government and public need to be willing to accept a significant restructuring of our homeland security model toward a system based on risk rather than the idea of total protection. As a nation, we must accept that we cannot protect all people, places, and things from all threats at all times. Attempting to provide total security has proven incredibly costly and will simply be impossible to maintain under current fiscal conditions.
However, a risk-based model, under which resources are allocated according to where risk is greatest, represents an opportunity to increase not only the efficiency of our security efforts but also the effectiveness. The Department of Homeland Security is already experimenting with risk-based security through various pilot programs, yet these efforts will only succeed if we embrace such a model.
Reprinted with permission from CQ Homeland Security. © 2012 CQ Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.