The Resilient Homeland: Testimony before U.S. House Subcommittee on May 15

On May 15, I will speak before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment.

The hearing is titled “The Resilient Homeland: How DHS Intelligence Should Empower America to Prepare for, Prevent, and Withstand Terrorist Attacks.”

The hearing will convene at 10:00 a.m. EST in 311 Cannon House Office Building.

Click here to view a live webcast of the hearing.

The executive summary of my testimony appears below. Click here to read the full text of the prepared testimony.

The Resilient Homeland: How DHS Intelligence Should Empower America to Prepare for, Prevent, and Withstand Terrorist Attacks (Executive Summary)

To ensure a resilient homeland in a post-9/11 society, the United States must have a homeland security strategy that (1) understands the threat, (2) effectively counters the threat while preserving American values, (3) establishes a system of accountability, and (4) creates public-private and federal-state partnerships facilitating intelligence sharing and the continuity of society in the aftermath of an attack.

It is necessary to work with clear definitions of the terms and concepts that frame this strategy for resiliency. As I have previously articulated, “one of the greatest hindrances to a cogent discussion of terrorism and counterterrorism has been that the terms lack clear, universal definitions.” For this reason, I provide clear, concrete definitions of terrorism, counterterrorism, homeland security, effectiveness, accountability, and resiliency—the key terms in articulating the strategy for a resilient homeland. In addition to these definitions, I include two critical matrices for: Determining Effectiveness and Implementing Accountability.

The central focus of this testimony examines the dire consequences of the break-down in communications following both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, which suggests that in order to realize resiliency in the future, it is paramount that there is clear cooperation and coordination between the public sector and the private sector. Effective resiliency will ultimately be tied to establishing public-private partnerships.

In establishing these partnerships, they must be based upon three critical components: (1) clearly defined roles and responsibilities; (2) articulating a coordinated prevention-response plan; and (3) repeated training and/or simulation exercises using the prevention-response plan against realistic disaster/terror scenarios. By strategically strengthening security, sharing intelligence, and creating plans for post-attack procedures (such as evacuation plans, transportation plans, establishing places of refuge, and having basic supplies available to aid first-responders) private partners become the key to a secure and resilient homeland.

The importance of information before, during and after a disaster or attack is vital to resilience. Information sharing is, perhaps, the single most important aspect of successful resilience. Information sharing requires government agencies (federal, state and local) to share information both amongst themselves and with the private sector. Furthermore, it requires that the private sector—subject to existing legal and constitutional limits—share information with the public sector. Successful information sharing requires cooperation and coordination both internally (within sectors) and cross sectors (between public-private entities).

The lessons of 9/11 and Katrina speak for themselves. Resilience in the aftermath of either disaster or attack requires federal, state and local government agencies to understand that information sharing is vital to the nation’s homeland security. That information sharing process must include the private sector. Otherwise, the mistakes of yesterday will inevitably re-occur.

Cross-posted on National Security Advisors Blog.

Learn more information about my casebook Global Perspectives on Counterterrorism here.