Government urged to focus on resilience in homeland security

Private sector leaders, key congressional staff and advisers to both presidential candidates largely agree that the next administration and Congress need to make critical infrastructure "resilience" a central concept in homeland security policy.

At a forum on Wednesday sponsored by the Reform Institute, there was widespread agreement that the federal government must do more to help the private sector develop the capacity to survive crises and bounce back, whether the calamity is induced by terrorists, extreme weather, pandemic disease or anything else.

"The challenge now is to define [resilience] and develop a comprehensive resiliency strategy that brings coherence and focus to homeland security policy, particularly the mission of the Department of Homeland Security," said Robert Kelly, a senior adviser at the Washington think tank.

The Reform Institute earlier this year conferred with more than 100 corporate leaders to explore best practices and share concerns about their ability to maintain continuity of operations during crises. Those discussions informed its new report on the subject, which recommends the next administration refocus DHS efforts to better identify threats in the global supply chain and serve as a clearinghouse for creating workable business continuity plans.

"I'm optimistic about our relationship with the [federal] government," said Michael Hickey, vice president for government affairs and national security policy at Verizon. He said the communications sector and Homeland Security have begun to define roles and relationships in a way that makes sense.

Whether a President Obama or President McCain takes the helm next year, his staff should tread carefully in crafting any new approach to protecting critical infrastructure, Hickey said. "I would encourage the new administration to take a thoughtful look at what programs exist and work."

"The federal government has done good work, but it is critical to push programs out to the states," Hickey said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has done a good job of organizing efforts at the regional level, but more needs to be done to coordinate efforts to protect critical infrastructure and mitigate damage to the economy and social fabric of communities in the event of a crisis, he added.

Timothy Farrell, a senior vice president for Bank of America, said the presidential transition and the fact that the next administration will have its hands full stabilizing the U.S. economy suggest that "this is a prime time for terrorists to take a look at us."

Advisers to Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain participated in the forum and supported the notion that the federal government must play a greater role in fostering resiliency in the private sector, which is responsible for 85 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure, according to the Reform Institute. But neither campaign offered concrete ideas for how they would approach the issue.

Lee Carosi Dunn, counsel to McCain on technology and homeland security issues, emphasized McCain's support for improving emergency communications interoperability among first responders and for beefing up cybersecurity, while P.J. Crowley, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and an Obama volunteer adviser, said national security spending is weighted too heavily toward military operations at the expense of domestic defenses.

One congressional staffer, who asked not to be identified, said too much of Homeland Security's focus on critical infrastructure has been in working with Washington-centric organizations -- large corporations and the associations that represent them.

"The dialogue at the state and local levels could be much more effective," he said. In addition, he said there needs to be someone in government who can function as a chief risk officer, weighing DHS' programs against similar programs at other agencies: "When we look at the Homeland Security budget request we don't know what is going on with [similar] investments [at other agencies]."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.