It is good news for those who closely follow homeland security issues to see Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson named as the new chairman of the National Governors Association's Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. The NGA is a bipartisan group comprised of the nation's governors and is instrumental in promoting collateral national policies, especially in regard to common security issues facing states.
Gov. Hutchinson's committee handles issues dealing with homeland security, the National Guard, criminal justice, public safety and veterans affairs. The homeland security role of governors, according to the NGA, is to "provide the first line of defense in protecting critical infrastructure and public health and safety. When an incident occurs, state and local personnel often are the first to arrive and the last to leave. Governors, with the support of the federal government, are responsible for coordinating state and local resources to effectively prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters, disease outbreaks, acts of terrorism and other major emergencies." The governor brings hands-on experience in all those issue areas.
The governor served as the first undersecretary for the Border and Transportation Security Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which at the time was the largest division of DHS, with more than 110,000 employees. During those early years of service he was responsible for securing the nation's borders, ports, waterways and transportation system. He oversaw the functions housed in agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.
Prior to DHS, Hutchinson served as the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and oversaw the enforcement activities of 9,000 DEA personnel that helped lead the successful prosecution of powerful drug cartels. Earlier he served as a congressman for two terms in the House and prior to that as a U.S. Attorney for the 3rd District of Arkansas.
Gov. Hutchinson is well respected on both sides of the political aisle, especially regarding working toward public safety solutions. His public sector experience in law enforcement, policy, compliance and management are all important areas of focus for the NGA's Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.
In an 2004 article in NDIA magazine, Gov. Hutchinson was quoted as saying, "I've been in government in various capacities for many years, and I've never had a challenge in government greater than what we've had to undergo through at the Department of Homeland Security," he said. "You're having to build a new organization at a time of elevated threat in our society and responding frequently to specific threats and intelligence that we have to operationally be prepared for."
Now with over a decade of lessons learned since the inception of DHS, the governor will have a new opportunity to apply those lessons and help shape policy and provide vision for homeland security at the state level of government. This will be beneficial to the nation as the risks we face are still extensive, varied and dangerous. Increased security with knowledgeable leadership is certainly a priority for most Americans, and it is comforting to see Gov. Asa Hutchinson continue to serve in an important role at the helm of the NGA's Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.
Charles (Chuck) Brooks serves as the vice president for government relations & marketing for Sutherland Government Solutions. He served at the Department of Homeland Security as the first director of legislative affairs for the Science & Technology Directorate. Find him on Twitter: @ChuckDBrooks.