Paying It Forward

States must continue to play vital role in homeland security funding.

One of the 9/11 commission's many findings was that government's approach to homeland security was fragmented. Agencies often failed to share information or could not communicate adequately during a disaster. In the interest of speeding money to critical programs, some in Congress are considering bypassing the states in the homeland security funding process. Ironically, such a move would force the Homeland Security Department to fund local entities directly through fragmented grant programs.

From the beginning, DHS and Congress determined that most homeland security grants should be distributed first to the states and then down to local governments and spent according to a statewide or regional homeland security plan for prevention, protection, response and recovery activities. The majority of that funding would go to local governments to carry out those activities.

If one were to design the ideal structure to protect against terrorist groups or major catastrophes, the federal system would not be it. It is designed to diffuse power and control through a tripartite federal government with 50 sovereign states; thousands of semiautonomous counties, cities, villages and towns; and tens of thousands of public safety agencies. The states play a key role in integrating the federal government and local agencies in this massive homeland security network, and bypassing them would invite chaos.

Homeland security grants through the states seek to enhance national preparedness and security by integrating capabilities across all levels of government. States have wide operational, legislative/legal, regulatory and financial jurisdiction, whereas local governments' authority usually starts and ends at the city or county limits.

Issues such as strategic planning, information sharing, mass evacuation planning, communications, and the protection of interdependent infrastructure systems demand a broad, statewide perspective that balances national priorities with local needs and maximizes homeland security funds. When states are not allowed to perform this role, the result is misallocation of resources and duplication of effort.

How can state government develop or enforce compliance with an interoperable communications plan if it has no authority over the federal funds allocated for such a plan? And in the absence of such compliance, will the nation ever have inter-operable communications?

The states' role as integrator does not undermine the role local governments play in homeland security. Indeed, the majority of tactical on-the-ground capabilities, such as law enforcement and firefighting operations, reside with local governments.

The federal government must reinvigorate its partnership with the states in developing and implementing homeland security programs. Cutting them out of the funding picture would further fragment government's ability to deal with all threats-manmade and natural. If some states are not performing, the problems should be identified and addressed. But the slowness with which some homeland security funds are spent has little to do with the states and virtually everything to do with antiquated local procurement laws.

States must begin to speak more effectively as a cohesive unit on homeland security issues to ensure that all stakeholders have a clear understanding of their roles and many achievements in protecting the nation.

Joshua D. Filler is former director of the Homeland Security Department's Office of State and Local Government Coordination; Timothy L. Beres is former director of preparedness programs for the agency's Office of Grants and Training.

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

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
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)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


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