LESS TALK, MORE WALK: Strengthening Homeland Security Now
by David Isenberg; Center for Defense Information
8:00 a.m. January 15, 2003 PDT
The following Executive Summary is an excerpted document from CDI's Terrorism Project. For the full document, please visit Center for Defense Information
, a non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to independent research on the social, economic, environmental, political and military components of global security. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author.Acknowledgements
: The author would like to thank CDI Vice President Theresa Hitchens for initiating this project, and for her guidance, insights and many helpful suggestions. Thanks also to Martin Calhoun for his editing.
Clearly, in a world where the number of threats is almost unlimited, prioritization is vital. One cannot defend perfectly against every possible threat, but it is feasible to strengthen existing defenses and create new ones, thereby making the most deadly type of attacks less likely. Though much more needs to be done, improved homeland security is possible.
T IS NOW A TRUISM
to say that Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything. But this is not true when it comes to efforts to prevent terrorism and attacks against the U.S. homeland. Since 1960, there has been a proliferation of U.S. counterterrorist measures. Dealing with the burgeoning number of counterterrorist agencies and bureaucracies created over the past decades is only part of the challenge to improving homeland security.
Additionally, much of the planning, with a few significant exceptions, has been on paper without commensurate funding or realistic training to back it up. Some of the programs were developed without recognizing existing state and regional coordinating mechanisms for emergency preparedness. Moreover, some of these programs overlapped because several federal agencies had similar efforts that were not well coordinated with each other.
Long before Sept. 11, the U.S. government was preparing for the worstcase scenarios. For example, on June 5, 2000, the National Commission on Terrorism, a congressionally mandated bipartisan body, issued its report. Similarly, the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, also known as the Gilmore Commission after its chairman James Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia, which was charged with assessing the capabilities for responding to terrorist incidents in the U.S. homeland involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD), has issued several reports.
Part of the problem in preparing for and implementing effective homeland security was that government officials were reluctant to create a sense of crisis. So the wisdom of many who had anticipated the brutal truth that a terrorist attack against the United States was likely like the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, known as the Hart-Rudman Commission after its co-chairs, former Sens. Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, which recommended that the president propose and Congress should agree to create a new Department of Homeland Security was ignored.
On June 6, 2002, President George W. Bush announced that he would move to establish a Department of Homeland Security, following his creation of a Cabinet-level Office of Homeland Security (OHS). However, at this time it remains unclear how the new department will function or even how it will be structured, since Congress has yet to sort out and approve the details.
There are a dizzying array of governmental departments and agencies involved in planning for homeland security. Previously, these included the National Security Council (NSC), State Department and the FBI, to name a few of the most prominent.
Table 1. Appropriations for Combating Terrorism and Protecting Critical Infrasctructure Since 1998 and the Funding Requested for 2002 Before Sept. 11, 2001 (in millions of dollars)
Department or Agency
DoD and Intelligence Agencies
Health & Human Services
Total Budget Authority