By Christopher Krebs

The day after the Obama Administration posted its homeland security agenda on the White House website, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano released five action directives concerning the Department’s “protection” activities.  Later the same week, she issued two more “protection” related directives.

The first series of directives focuses on (1) critical infrastructure protection; (2 )risk analysis; (3) state and local intelligence sharing; (4) transportation security; and (5) state, local, and tribal integration (and presumably territorial).  The sixth and seventh directives relate to (6) cyber security and (7) the northern border strategy.

The first directive pertains to DHS’s critical infrastructure protection activities (full disclosure – the Office of Infrastructure Protection is my old stomping grounds). The Secretary will need to immediately deal with the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (aka CFATS) final tiering determinations, as well as the October expiration of the program’s legislative authority.   In addition, the White House homeland security agenda calls for the creation of a “National Infrastructure Protection Plan…[that will provide an] effective critical infrastructure protection and resiliency plan for the nation.”  As the NIPP has been out for a two or so years now, Secretary Napolitano may need to brief up Deputy Nation Security Advisor for Homeland Security John Brennan on the Department’s existing programs.  Speaking of Brennan, his title pretty much seals the fate for the Homeland Security Council.

For the second directive, intelligence sharing, the big ticket items will probably include the status of the oft-maligned Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) and the role of DHS in State and local Fusion Centers.  Given her new boss’s commitment to “work with…the private sector as a true partner in prevention, mitigation, and response”, I expect Secretary Napolitano to be particularly interested in the status of HSIN-Critical Sectors – an piece of HSIN developed with specific private sector requirements in mind.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will be called to the carpet on the status of a number of transportation security programs, in all probability including the recently delayed (again) Rail Security Rule, TSA’s use of the Terrorist Screening Database, and who knows, maybe even the implications of security screener unionization.

The state and local integration directive is a bit of a departure from the other directives – instead of providing status reports to the Secretary, the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (the fifth directive mistakenly identifies the Office of Intergovernmental Programs (IGP) as the “Office of Intergovernmental Affairs”) is to immediately work through its State, Local, and Tribal phone tree to inform them that a new sheriff is in town.  Napolitano promises that future engagements with those jurisdictions will be more robust than the previous administration’s efforts.  Perhaps the Secretary’s previous stint as Governor of Arizona and the associated experiences with the Department (whatever they may have been) are coming back home to roost?

The Secretary’s reaction to the risk analysis directive response should be fairly interesting.  In a May 2008 hearing concerning the Department’s risk management approach, House Homeland Security Committee, Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee Chairwoman Sheila Jackson-Lee questioned the efficacy and even the authority of the DHS Office of Risk Management and Analysis (RMA).  Since that hearing, RMA has managed to make some progress, issuing a Department-wide risk lexicon, as well as a draft Integrated Risk Management Framework.  A number of congressional members and staffers will closely monitor RMA’s fortunes under the Napolitano years.

In her sixth directive, Secretary Napolitano requests for a briefing on the Department’s cyber security efforts.  Considering the White House’s call for a cyber security czar that reports directly to the President, I would imagine that the Secretary and her executive branch counterparts aim to have their cyber security responsibilities well in hand before the czar comes calling.  Over the next year or so, I expect the czar to work with the Department to overhaul the cyber security operation.

The seventh directive pertains to the Northern Border Strategy.  The directive requests the run down on what activities are underway with respect to reducing our vulnerabilities along the US/Canada border.  I imagine this issue will be at the top any congressional priorities list given the November 2008 GAO report on the very same subject, so at the very least the Secretary’s staff will have a jump on talking points.

Several DHS principals flew out to Arizona the week after Christmas to provide briefings on a number of key programs. Perhaps those briefings raised more questions than they answered?  Or maybe the Secretary is building a case for dismantling or otherwise restructuring portions of the Department right out of the gate.  Due to legislative bars, Napolitano is unable to reorganize her new charge absent congressional approval.  In some instances, however, it’s unlikely that congress would need much convincing for a restructuring or reassignment.

A plethora of questions will be asked and answered (to varying degrees of satisfaction) in the coming weeks and months.  As Secretary Napolitano navigates the mountains of paperwork and briefings brought on by these directives, one thing will certainly be on her mind: how to reconcile the Bush-era DHS with the Obama Administration’s Homeland Security agenda.

Chris Krebs currently serves as Vice President at Dutko Worldwide where he focuses on providing homeland security, critical infrastructure protection, and risk management consulting services to both the private and public sector.  Prior to his current position with Dutko, Chris served as Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, US Department of Homeland Security.  Chris provided policy analysis, counsel, and support to the Assistant Secretary on all matters related to the protection of the Nation’s critical infrastructure and key resources.