Congressional Quarterly surveyed homeland security experts, a number of whom are contributors to Security Debrief, on the state and future of homeland security. Some of their responses are provided below.
With the new year beginning, it’s time once again to take stock of how homeland security fared in 2009 and what could be in store in 2010. CQ Homeland Security contacted more than two-dozen leaders and thinkers in the field to ask three simple questions: What was the best move the Obama administration made in homeland security in 2009, what was the worst move, and what is the biggest challenge the administration faces in 2010?
• Stewart A. Baker, former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, currently a partner at the law firm Steptoe and Johnson LLP: “In general, DHS had the least partisan and least divisive transition of any major department (other than the Department of Defense, where the secretary actually stayed in office). In particular, DHS continued to aggressively pursue U.S. security interests internationally, implementing a passport requirement at the Canadian land border and successfully negotiating information sharing arrangements with several European countries.”
• Tom Blank, former acting deputy administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, currently vice chairman at Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates: “The best thing the Obama administration did this year was the launch of the Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight program. This program represents a significant step forward in applying an intelligence- and risk-based capability to aviation security that supplements the scanning and detection measures put in place after 9/11. The second-best thing is that the Patriot Act has not been curtailed. This is evidenced by the disruption of several domestic terrorist plots such as the plan to blow up Grand Central Station in New York.”
• Julie Myers Wood, former assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a founder of consulting firm Immigration and Customs Solutions, LLC: “Specific to immigration enforcement, the best move was prioritizing the continued expansion of the Secure Communities program, which is the ICE initiative to ensure criminal aliens are identified and processed for removal while they are incarcerated, and before they get back out on our streets. As the program expands and criminal aliens are identified throughout our penal system, the need for detention and removal funding will explode. I hope that the administration and Congress will make a long-term funding commitment to ensure that ICE is not forced to allow criminal aliens to be released back onto the streets.”
• Rich Cooper, principal at Catalyst Partners: “Getting Janet Napolitano to take the DHS Secretary’s chair. Regardless of her poor choice of words following the Flight 253 attack about the system working, whoever the president selected for the secretary’s job would face a steep learning curve in taking on the DHS job. Given her experience and familiarity with a number of the homeland-centric issues — particularly with border and trade concerns, information sharing with states and locals, immigration, as well as emergency management — she was able to slide into that seat easier than many others could. . . . The same goes for the selection of Craig Fugate to lead FEMA. There aren’t a lot of people who can walk in on day one that have the grasp and command of emergency management issues and a have at their reach a nationwide network of people that he does. Like Napolitano, he ‘gets it,’ and there is a comfort in having that type of experienced leadership at the helm.”
• David Olive, principal at Catalyst Partners: “Secretary Napolitano’s standing up to congressional pressure to implement 100 percent cargo scanning. Security decisions should be made on the basis of good intelligence and a clear understanding of the risk involved. Congress often does not understand the difference between ‘threat’ and ‘risk’ — or at least does not make legislative decisions as if they understood it. Secretary Napolitano ‘gets it’ and we are all better off because of the decision she made early in her tenure.”