Not just safer—but safe

First among those will be finding a conclusion to the Iraq conflict that preserves a friendly—and, hopefully, democratic—regime in Baghdad, that prevents Iraq from becoming a base forinternational Islamist terrorism and that ends, or at least reduces, the enormous strain on American resources that Iraq currently represents.
Iraq is at the top of the list because it directly affects American homeland security. While a terrorist-dominated Iraq would threaten the United States, an interminable, grinding, expensive Iraqi conflict not only kills American soldiers and diminishes American standing in the region and the world but also deprives America’s homeland security professionals of the resources they need to make the American people truly safe.
The president must be committed to getting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the entire homeland security apparatus in the states and localities the resources they need. Repeated studies and independent inquiries have pointed out the inadequacy of current funding levels. This is why resolving the Iraqi conflict—or at least reducing its cost—is so important. It’s rare in government that a direct correlation can be drawn between the expense of one government line item and the inadequacy of funding for another, but this is one of those rare occasions.
The president must make a commitment to DHS and to protecting its place in the executive branch. Over the past 20 months of its existence, DHS has had its intelligence function progressively stripped away and has lost many of its bureaucratic battles. A homeland security secretary can fight for his department, but he must have top-level support if he’s going to win.
The president must take an active role in changing the resource allocation formula between the federal government, the states and the localities. To date, rural lawmakers have ensured that their states received some homeland security funding. This has made up for some longstanding inadequacies in rural emergency management, law enforcement and health services—which is fine as far as it goes. But large cities like New York and Washington, DC have made the legitimate point that they’re the prime terrorist targets and that they require the most support. They’re deprived under the current formula.
The post-election period is the perfect time to make a change in the way funding is allocated, regardless of the party in power. Technically, it’s a change that Congress must make, but the president has a key role to play by using the bully pulpit of the White House and his considerable lobbying clout to make it happen.
Another priority: The president will have to select a replacement for current Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who has indicated that he’d like to leave.
Whoever is selected, and the list of potential candidates is long, as we pointed out in our last edition, he or she will have to be a strong manager and bring extensive management skills and experience to the job. Right now, DHS is in dire need of management expertise. Consolidation of the 22 formerly independent agencies has not been as smooth or as extensive as previously hoped. Much needs to be done to make the department function as needed—and, of course, this includes adequate funding.
The new secretary and the president will have to make service in DHS rewarding enough to attract the best and brightest in government. Immediately after Sept. 11, 2001 the country’s most capable people were inspired to come forward to help defend the nation. Since then, the department has been plagued by disillusionment and frustration. That early post-9/11 spirit must be recaptured.
The entire homeland security movement was created in a rush of panic and pain, but we’re beyond that now. The person who takes the oath of office on Jan. 20 will have before him the monumental challenge of making America not just safer—but truly safe. 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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