CQ Homeland Security conducted its annual survey of security challenges last year and the road ahead in 2012. The three-part series included comments from security experts throughout government and the private sector, many of whom are contributors to Security Debrief. Below is a rundown of some of their responses. Check out each of the story links to read more about important security efforts in 2012.
CQ asked: “After the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, what group poses the greatest threat to America?”
Frank Cilluffo: Our successful strikes against bin Laden and al-Awlaki were definitely milestone events, but the ideology, narrative, and movement they gave rise to lives on. Over the past few years we’ve seen the threat metastasize and morph and today it comes in various shapes, sizes and forms. These range from al Qaeda Core — which, despite the recent deaths among their leadership ranks, still poses a significant threat to US national security — to al Qaeda’s affiliates, which continue to grow in reach, most notably al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operating out of Yemen, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operating out of north and west Africa and spreading throughout the Sahel, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Furthermore, there exists a witch’s brew of violent extremist forces operating out of safe havens in Pakistan and the FATA. While many of these groups historically had narrow regional aims and objectives, they increasingly ascribe and subscribe to al Qaeda’s broader vision of global jihad. . . . Compounding the current threat landscape overseas, domestically we have seen a troubling spike in the number of cases of homegrown jihadi radicalization.
David Olive: It is my belief that the greatest threat to America no longer comes from a global jihadist group, although al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb will still pose significant problems. Rather, lone-wolf actors, jihadist sympathizers and so-called “wannabe” terrorists will pose the greatest threat of a physical attack on America. Chinese-backed hackers pose the greatest threat for an economic attack on America. The U.S. Congress’ inability to reach consensus on major policy issues affecting the organization, structure, priorities and personnel actions of homeland security and homeland defense pose the greatest danger in allowing America to mitigate the impacts of a catastrophic incident, whether man-made or an act of nature.
CQ asked: “In a tight budget environment, what homeland-related activities should Congress look at cutting in the coming year? What must be preserved, or see increased funding?”
James Jay Carafano: Counterterrorism, border security, immigration and visa security services have to be protected. Homeland security grants have mostly been a waste and ought to be bill-payer. Coast Guard modernization has to be taken off life support. Its time to plus-up the Coast Guard’s modernization budget.
Julie Myers Wood: Given the tight budget environment, Congress should look to ensure that homeland spending results in measurable results. We do not have the luxury of funding items that produce no results or, worse, reward poor providers. One area that could be targeted for reduction is grants that do not require specific metrics or outcomes.
For example, local prisons receive money for housing illegal aliens, called State Criminal Alien Assistance funding. They receive this funding regardless of whether they cooperate with immigration authorities on identifying and processing these same aliens. Cook County received over $2 million in fiscal 2011 from this program, even though it refuses to assist ICE in identifying the criminal aliens they house. This makes no sense.
The frequency and breadth of cyberattacks demonstrate that this is an area that must see increased funding and focus — both to increase government capacity to protect and defend against such attacks, and to help prepare the private sector to protect and respond.
CQ asked: “The 10 years since Sept. 11 have seen major organizational shifts at the agencies that prepare for, respond to and help recover from terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other catastrophes. What’s the next big move the federal government needs to make?”
Chris Battle: Emergency management agencies have not kept up with the changing media landscape. Communication with the public during crises is critical, and if you’re not communicating via digital platforms today then you’re not communicating. With their bureaucratic processes, risk aversion, paralysis over political and legal repercussions, and lack of awareness of new communications technologies, government agencies are losing their positions as first-line trusted sources of public information. Increasingly, citizens are bypassing the government and turning to one another through social media channels.
Agencies must revise their processes — not only leveraging digital media but doing so in an operational way that allows citizen participation. Governments are notoriously afraid of losing control of information, but it’s simply a fact that they have already lost that control. The public already uses social media to gather information and will no longer wait for the government. Governments can harness this new media landscape or become irrelevant in it.
Daniel Kaniewski: The federal government needs to move from resilience as a buzzword to operationalizing it into policy and organizational change. Following Hurricane Katrina, the White House lessons-learned report called for an emphasis on preparedness, and the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act operationalized it by elevating the preparedness mission within FEMA. Other organizational changes are under way today. NPPD is undergoing a reorganization, including a renaming of the directorate to include the term “resilience.” The DHS Policy Directorate is creating an assistant secretary for resilience policy. Now, the latest change to policy, Presidential Policy Directive-8 (PPD-8), represents an opportunity for further organizational change. PPD-8 should be the glue that binds reorganizational efforts together. Only then will the preparedness, response and recovery activities throughout the federal government be synchronized and resiliency-enhanced.