There’s a lot of talk about who is best suited to take Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s spot when she leaves the department. Less commonly discussed at present is what this new secretary should do. DHS is a massive organization, and herding the many agencies and initiatives into a coherent and comprehensive effort to protect the homeland is no easy task. Napolitano has had many successes and has served the country well. At the same time, there is always room for improvement.

For example, the DHS Private Sector Office plays a critical role; however, you wouldn’t know it given the track record under Napolitano. For an office that was meant to foster cooperation between the department and the nation’s businesses, the Private Sector Office is a shadow of its former self in numbers, actions and impact.

There are numerous areas where Napolitano’s successor can make vast improvements on the department’s operation. Here is a piece I wrote for Defense Media Network detailing my wishlist for what the next DHS Secretary can and should accomplish.

What the New U.S. DHS Secretary Needs to Do

With the announced departure of Janet Napolitano as U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, and speculation on potential successors being weighed by many, it’s time to look for what the next DHS Secretary needs to do. Here’s my wish list.

Better Communications: While leadership and management skills are essential to the Secretary’s job, so is the ability to communicate with the DHS team and the public at large. Television cameras, boom mics, teleconference bridge lines, handheld phones and more are unforgiving instrument, recording everything at any moment. Everything the DHS Secretary does and says about an issue will be parsed and examined thoroughly. Many people seem to forget that the first homeland security “threat” Secretary Napolitano had to communicate about was the H1N1 Flu outbreak. Before Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius took over HHS as its secretary, it was Napolitano who was the most senior federal official leading the charge for the newly inaugurated Obama Administration. Through White House Briefing Room appearances, TV news shots, radio interviews and more, she gave almost daily updates while also demonstrating the new and preferred method of covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough. While such demonstrations may seem silly, they demonstrate part of the role that the secretary has to play in what is a truly tough job.

Read the full article.

Rich Cooper blogs primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More