Homeland security’s report card

But I was also personally curious. I wanted an honest, objective answer, because if we don’t have a clear, factual, unbiased picture of our status, we’re unable to see where we’ve been or where we’re going. It was quite clear that the only way to make this determination was by conducting our own thorough examination into the state of our homeland security.
We want to assure our readers that we tried to be as objective and clear-headed as possible. Like any teacher, we worry that our grades were too harsh—or not harsh enough. Like any report card, this is a judgment call.
If you disagree with our grades and would like to respond, please send any messages to Editor@HSToday.us.
The nature of HS
Much of the debate about homeland security doesn’t take into account its multifacetednature. It’s possible to have great success in one category, while suffering terrible failures in others. Our Report Card reflects this.
Furthermore, it’s very difficult—impossible, really—to separate foreign developments and the global war on terror from security in the homeland. The global war on terror is our sword, homeland security is our shield. One doesn’t do battle without both, so both must be evaluated.
You’ll also note that the Report Card asks whether we’re safer than last year and, separately, whether we’re safer than on Sept. 11, 2001.
There’s no question that this nation has become vastly more secure than on Sept. 11. On that day, except for a tiny group of experts, Americans were unaware that they were at war. Today, the country is on a war footing and we’ve taken innumerable precautions to protect our population. That terrible day marked a true historical turning point, and it’s almost unfair to judge the world of Sept. 10 by the standards of today.
The administration of President Bush has a stake in promoting its achievements since 9/11, and they are considerable. But because we intend the Report Card to be an annual feature of this magazine, we also wanted to see how far we had come in a year to judge our incremental progress. Hence, the two different categories.
We also present a second report card, written by Julie Sturgeon, a new writer on our roster. Julie surveyed state homeland security directors and asked them to grade the federal Department of Homeland Security. The results surprised us.
This Report Card was written before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission) issued its exhaustive report. However, when we examined the 9/11 Commission Report, we found virtually nothing to change our conclusions, which were based on our own reporting over the past year and on our own experience. If anything, the Commission Report bolstered our judgments. And they used a brilliant phrase with which we heartily concur: We’re safer, but not yet safe.
Why now?
Readers may question why we’re presenting the ReportCard in our September edition. It would be disingenuous to say that it has nothing to do with the election—obviously, interest is high and so are the stakes, and it is the right moment for a magazine dedicated to homeland security to make its contribution. But the election is not the only reason.
For generations, September was the month when we returned to school and work, refreshed from summer vacations. We thought of it in terms of cooler breezes, the coming of autumn and—if you’re old enough—the smell of burning leaves. It was a time of golden light, fading days and autumnal reflections.
But Sept. 11, 2001, brought with it a new calendar. From now on, September will also evoke commemoration and sadness and re-examinations of our situation, and in this month we will forevermore ask: Are we safer? HST

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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