U.S. Army War College and the Homeland Security Experts Group (HSEG), recently published an article for War Room, in which they prompted several skilled Homeland Security practitioners the following question: What do you envision as the greatest challenges facing homeland security and domestic intelligence for the next decade?
Over the last 30 years, we have seen an increase in the number and types of threats and challenges affecting our country, our allies, and those who share our interests. At the same time, we have seen a series of activities that have diminished our public institutions and hindered the abilities of public servants to prevent, protect, and respond to these threats.
This includes highly visible actions, such as the politicization of department and agency missions; the failure of leaders and organizations to hold those who abuse the public trust accountable; and agencies who have failed to build a culture of respect and compassion internally or with the public. It also includes less visible, but systemic issues, such as the difficulty in attracting and retaining new talent, with the needed diversity of viewpoint and background to respond in our complex environment. The damage from these activities has been exponentially increased in our current environment, where meaningful public policy discussions are often drowned out by dueling “quick hit” press and social media reporting, or, even more concerning, disinformation campaigns funded and managed by foreign nations and other groups seeking to promote distrust or actual violence.
The consequence of these activities are institutions that are less prepared, less capable to carry out their mission and respond to emerging threats. It has also meant that institutions are less likely to work across organizational lines to share needed information, because of a lack of trust within and between organizations and cultures.
We must reverse this trend. We must consciously choose to reinvest in our institutions and the public servants we rely on to counter these threats. We must find new ways to have meaningful, open conversations about what domestic intelligence should be collected, and how it should be used by domestic law enforcement. These changes mean we have to increase our efforts to counter the cyber threats we face – both disinformation campaigns and cyber theft of intellectual property and information. We must increase Department and Agency transparency, establishing and using standardized mechanisms to provide the American public with reliable, fact-based information in order to promote a healthy public policy discussion about their missions and actions they take. We must depoliticize our public institutions. Our public institutions, from military to law enforcement, to intelligence, to diplomacy, to homeland security, are charged with implementing the policy direction of elected and appointed officials. But they shouldn’t be used or viewed as political tools. Finally, and most importantly, we must seek to reestablish confidence in those who chose to be public servants and ignite a passion in the next generation to commit to public service.
About Homeland Security Experts Group (HSEG): With a mission to elevate and invigorate the conversations around homeland security risks and bring ground truth to the discussion, the HSEG is an independent, nonpartisan group of homeland security policy and counter-terrorism experts who convene periodically to discuss issues in depth, share information and ideas with the Secretary of Homeland Security and other policymakers, increase awareness of the evolving risks facing our nation, and help make our country safer. The Homeland Security Experts Group is co-chaired by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and former Congresswoman Jane Harman. HSEG, while independent in its operations and pursuits, is supported by The MITRE Corporation. All of this was made possible through the coordination efforts of the U.S. Army War College De Serio Chair of Strategic Intelligence, Dr. Genevieve Lester.