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Quadrennial review reveals current homeland security landscape

Jul. 31, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By MARC PEARL   |   Comments
Pearl

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its second Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) on June 18. The QHSR, mandated by Congress, is a comprehensive examination of the evolving risks, threats, challenges, and the drivers of change in our homeland security environment. It also identifies the principles, priorities, and strategies that will lead the Department of Homeland Security over the next four years.

Taken as a whole, the QHSR makes a strong case for the importance of homeland security to our national interests, the need for a single department to coordinate and oversee the mission, and reinforces the notion that concept of homeland security is inseparable from our economic security. Companies who are particularly relied upon to provide homeland security solutions should pay close attention to the QHSR, as they think about future capabilities and solutions that will be needed.

The first QHSR, released in 2010, established the five missions:

■ Prevent Terrorism and Enhance Security;

■ Secure and Manage our Borders;

■ Enforce and Administer our Immigration Laws;

■ Safeguard and Secure Cyberspace, and;

■ Strengthen National Preparedness and Resilience.

The 2014 version reaffirms these missions, but DHS has now refined the focus and areas of emphasis within each mission to account for changes in the threat environment and progress made within our homeland security architecture.

What does the homeland security environment look like going forward, and how has it changed?

The QHSR identifies six drivers of change as well as six challenges that pose the most strategically significant risk. The drivers of change include:

■ An evolving terrorism threat focused less on Al-Qaeda and more on affiliate groups and lone offenders;

■ Interdependent ICT that provide enormous benefits, but also creates new risks and vulnerabilities;

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■ The increased likelihood/consequences of natural disasters, pandemics, and climate change;

■ The cascading effects and weakened resilience that we face from aging critical infrastructure systems and networks;

■ The increasing volume and speed associated with the flow of people/goods through our trade and travel system; and

Economic conditions/constraints that have dramatically reduced investments in public safety, as well as in security and resilience for many homeland security partners.

These change drivers also involve several strategic challenges that will influence the risk profile and DHS’ ability for success: significant but more decentralized terrorist threats; cyber threats increasing the risk to our critical infrastructure and economy; the likelihood and potential impact of biological concerns; the catastrophic consequences associated with the introduction of an improvised nuclear device; trans-national criminal organizations increasing in strength and capability; and natural hazards becoming more costly to address. Technology and migration are also listed as factors that will provide a number of opportunities and challenges to the homeland security enterprise.

Industry will be pleased to see that the QHSR explicitly recognizes the need to focus on enhancing the critical relationship between the government and the private sector. DHS is developing a new framework to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how its mission can be more successfully executed through public-private partnerships. By finding better ways to engage with each other, DHS and industry can better understand each other's capabilities and requirements, and find ways to meet the gaps in a manner that leads to improved, cost effective solutions.

It is clear that addressing the breadth and complexity of the homeland security mission and risk profile will require substantial unity of effort – across every area of DHS activity and throughout the homeland security enterprise: other federal agencies; local, state, and international governments; and with private sector stakeholders. The action items coming out of Secretary Jeh Johnson’s recent Unity of Effort memorandum will continue to serve as the foundation of the critical steps in the Department’s ability to successfully operationalize the QHSR. Everyone in the enterprise should welcome its introduction to the dialogue.

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