Homeland Security Affairs Journal, Volume IV - 2008: Issue 2, June
Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS)
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June 2008. How do we define “homeland security?” Is it best addressed at a local, state, or national level? These are the underlying questions posed by our authors in this issue of Homeland Security Affairs. In “What is Homeland Security?” Christopher Bellavita presents seven definitions of homeland security, based on claims about what homeland security emphasizes or ought to emphasize. Each of these definitions, he explains, attempts to find a niche in the homeland security ecosystem, struggling for resources that include space on the public policy agenda, money, semantic dominance, and doctrinal preeminence. The lack of a single definition of homeland security is not necessarily a bad thing, Bellavita argues; the absence of agreement can, in fact, be seen as contributing to the continued evolution of homeland security as a practice and an idea. What people, organizations, and jurisdictions do under the banner of homeland security is as instructive as how they define the term. What is being done by FEMA, one agency operating under the banner of homeland security, is addressed by Michael Byrne in “…And Not a Drop to Drink. Water, a Test for Emergency Managers.” Here Byrne addresses one piece of the homeland security ecosystem described by Bellavita: the sometimes cumbersome process used to get aid to disaster victims. While the process may be necessary from an administrative point of view, the many steps involved appear to inhibit the delivery of vital resources. Are twenty steps really necessary to get a bottle of water to a person in need? Perhaps, Byrne suggests, we need to change the focus of emergency response from the process to the victim and the responder at the point of service. How we train and staff that response is the topic of Adam Crowe’s “National Strike Teams: An Alternate Approach to Low Probability, High Consequence Events” (LPHC). Crow argues that the current approach, of providing national funding to prepare local responders for LPHC events (e.g., acts of bioterrorism or agroterrorism) is both costly and ineffective. Rather, he suggests, emergency response to LPHC events should utilize national strike teams modeled on the Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) or Urban Search and Rescue. The biggest obstacle to this program, Crowe predicts, will come from local leadership that has come to depend on the federal funding stream. In the quest to define and address homeland security, one of the biggest stumbling blocks may be a lack of cooperation among the various local, state, and federal agencies and departments competing for federal resources. Earlier this year, Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) convened a forum of government and private sector leaders in homeland security to propose specific, practical steps the next administration can take to strengthen collaboration in homeland security. The “Findings from the Forum on ‘Homeland Security After the Bush Administration: Next Steps in Building Unity of Effort,” presented here by Paul Stockton and Patrick Roberts, summarizes the recommendations of these leaders and proposes a number of structural changes within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). An emphasis on the structure of organizations may be key to our success in battling networked groups such as al Qaeda, according to David Tucker. In “Terrorism, Networks, and Strategy: Why the Conventional Wisdom is Wrong,” Tucker contends that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it does not take a network to fight a network. Hierarchical organizations, where information flows up from the bottom and decisions flow down from the top, have checks and balances that networks lack, holding members to certain standards and demanding accountability. In the strategic struggle between those who use terrorism and those who oppose them, argues Tucker, the side that wins is generally the side that best controls and limits its use of force, focusing on long-range strategies, such as countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), rather than killing and capturing high-value terrorist targets. Yet there is a danger in fixating on WMD, cautions Bill Tallen in “Paramilitary Terrorism: A Neglected Threat.” Due to this fixation, reinforced by the recurring need to manage the consequences of other manmade or natural disasters, the homeland security community has paid scant attention to how we would respond to an ongoing terrorist incident of a paramilitary nature — the seizure of a school or a nuclear facility by a large, well-armed terrorist group. Such an incident would demand a swift, decisive response beyond the capabilities of local agencies. Tallen recommends the formation of regionally-based, swiftly responding federal forces with a streamlined command and control structure to address this particular threat to homeland security. Finally, and on a far more philosophical note, Philip Palin reviews Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, by George Weigel. A Catholic scholar, Weigel argues for reason as a weapon in the current struggle against radical Islamist terrorists. Recalling the influence of George Kennan during the Cold War, Palin wonders about the American culture’s readiness to deploy reason or faith and asks Weigel to give us more. The authors in this issue of Homeland Security Affairs are far from being in agreement on what homeland security is and how we, as a nation, should address it. Yet, as Christopher Bellavita states, “the absence of agreement can be seen as grist for the continued evolution of homeland security as a practice and as an idea.” As always, we welcome your comments and participation.
Homeland Security Affairs is the peer-reviewed online journal of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS), providing a forum to propose and debate strategies, policies, and organizational arrangements to strengthen U.S. homeland security. The instructors, participants, alumni, and partners of CHDS represent the leading subject matter experts and practitioners in the field of homeland security.
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