In the post 9/11 world the Department of Homeland Security is evolving to become more effective in achieving its mission. American expectations have also evolved – from an overseas focus to a more domestic one. A report released by The Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group on January 18 titled Homeland Security and Intelligence: Next Steps in Evolving the Mission summarizes a recent hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence addressing this DHS evolution. The report describes four key elements that make up the DHS intelligence mission:

    • Access to unique, homeland-relevant data
    • Responsibility for securing the border and critical infrastructure
    • Access to personnel who have intimate tactical knowledge of current issues and trends
    • Responsibility for serving state/local and private sector partners in key infrastructure sectors

Because of budgetary restraints DHS has shed functions that are less central. This has enabled a greater focus on its core competencies hinging on “competitive analysis”, consisting of, “analysts at different agencies…looking at similar problems to ensure that…no new perspective, no potentially valuable data source [is missed].” Because many other agencies are pursuing terrorism, the DHS is uniquely positioned to build a new analytic foundation to emphasize data, analytic questions, and customer groups.

The summary of the hearing concludes that the DHS mandate should allow for collection, distributing, and analysis that are “homeward-focused”. First, the DHS focus could be more focused on areas overlapping with its legislative mandate. Second, the DHS mission direction should emphasize areas that are not served by other agencies, particularly state and local partners.

In contrast to other federal intelligence entities, public and private DHS customers require information with limited classification. This has spawned a focus on having products that start at lower classification levels, which allow information to be spread via means historically unavailable to the intelligence community (i.e. phone trees, Blackberries, etc.).

Success in this reformed effort is partly determined by partnerships and collaboration. As threats grow locally, state and local partners generate the first leads in order to help understand new threats. The federal needs will grow requiring the staffing of local agencies.

Because major cities are the focus of threats they will become sources of intelligence that will inform the understanding of threats on a national scale. This may cause the DHS to move toward decentralizing its analytic workforce to more effectively partner with state/local agencies in collecting and disseminating intelligence.

This evolving approach reflects the evolving American expectations of national security. State, local agencies, and various private sectors in the U.S. should help drive requirements for the DHS, because they are sources that can be tapped for identifying emerging vulnerabilities: “DHS should utilize existing public private partnerships to both drive requirements and aid distribution.” By eliminating redundancy, strengthening partnerships and relationships, and emphasizing unique strengths the DHS aims to become more lean and effective in keeping the U.S. secure.

Noah works with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and is an evangelical Christian trained in theological studies. He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife and two children. You can follow him at his blog

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