Members of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS) joined House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Rep. Bill Keating (R-Mass.) Wednesday for a panel discussion on countering domestic terrorism on the second anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, and on the heels of the committee’s follow-up report that concluded progress in intelligence sharing is still lacking.
The follow-up report, which Homeland Security Today reported on, stated that, “While the progress made since the Boston Marathon bombing appears to have had an effect on enhancing collaboration on counterterrorism investigations, the committee remains concerned about the continued reliance of personal relationships for information sharing in the field.”
“Throughout the committee’s follow-up, state and local law enforcement articulated their concern about the rate of rotational leadership changes at FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) field offices, and the effect they could have on cooperation in their region. Several of the committee’s additional recommendations seek to institutionalize structures for facilitating information sharing that can serve as a complement to the personal relationships that exist between organizations.”
Former director of the National Counterterrorism Center Mike Leiter participated on the panel along with retired Gen. Norton Schwartz, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force and current President and CEO of BENS. Leiter discussed today’s threats and need for US domestic counterterrorism efforts to adapt.
The “Terrorist threat has evolved as much, if not faster than our institutions,” and the BENS report, “focused on how our institutions need to change,” Leiter said.
Leiter and Schwartz were among a panel of other homeland security and intelligence experts who included former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis championing the BENS’ report, Domestic Security: Confronting a Changing Threat to Ensure Public Safety and Civil Liberties.
Among the BENS’ report’s other recommendations is greater cooperation and inclusion of state and local law enforcement.
McCaul furthered BENS’ view by saying local law enforcement is a “force multiplier that needs to leveraged.” McCaul also called for strengthening information sharing infrastructure pointing to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force as a model. A similar recommendation was made in the BENS’ report.
Much of the panel’s discussion echoed the findings and recommendations outlined in BENS’ domestic security report that was released in January.
“As we commemorate the second anniversary of that tragic day in Boston, we owe it to the victims to do everything we can to ensure something like that never happens again,” McCaul said. “We can’t be 100 percent safe, but that is the goal for which we strive. Between the report of this committee, the report of BENS, and the recommendations put forward,” McCau;l commended the FBI director and DHS secretary for implementing these recommendations. “We are safer as a result of these lessons learned,” McCaul said.