Chapter 10—
Strengthening Homeland Security

Michèle A. Flournoy

September 11, 2001, pierced the sense of invulnerability that most Americans had come to enjoy in the post-Cold War security environment. Although the sense of security at home waxed and waned with the dynamics of the Cold War—from the “duck-and-cover” drills of the 1950s to the détente in the 1970s—our sense of invulnerability became fairly entrenched after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia was no longer our enemy, we were the world’s sole superpower, our military was unsurpassed—we were a nation at peace. If the 1991 Persian Gulf War reminded us that we still faced threats to our national interests, it also reinforced the sense that America’s wars would be fought far from its borders. As one Pentagon strategist noted in the early 1990s, “The American military only plays ‘away games.’”

In the decade following the Gulf War, U.S. national security experts began to worry openly and write about asymmetric threats, including potential threats to the American homeland.1 Over the same period, the Clinton administration launched a number of initiatives to help Federal, state, and local governments enhance their respective capabilities to defend against and respond to potential attacks on U.S. soil and to coordinate their efforts better. But the American people remained largely unaware or unconvinced of the threat, even after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. For many Americans, part of the shock of September 11 was that such attacks had seemed so inconceivable.

In the wake of the worst terrorist attacks in history, homeland security has soared to the top of the U.S. priority list. Before September 11, there was a growing commitment among many in government to take prudent steps to guard against potential threats to the United States; after September 11, there is an urgent public demand and an unprecedented degree of political will to do and spend whatever is necessary, as quickly as possible, to enhance homeland security to the greatest extent we can. Congressional willingness shortly after the September 11 attacks to give President George W. Bush $40 billion in an emergency supplemental—fully twice what he had requested—was indicative of the country’s new mood. The “day after,” everything looks different.

Protecting the U.S. homeland from threats, such as terrorism, cyberattack, and weapons of mass destruction, will be an extremely challenging task, one rendered more difficult by the open nature of American society, the economy’s reliance on international commerce and trade, and the civil liberties that we hold dear. Each day, approximately 1.3 million people cross U.S. borders. Among them may be terrorists who have already demonstrated their ability to enter the United States, often legally, and live among us undetected for a period of years. More than 340,000 vehicles and 58,000 cargo shipments enter the United States daily, and only 1 to 2 percent of these are inspected by customs agents. Each year, there are more than 250,000 attempts to hack into Department of Defense (DOD) computers, which represents only a fraction of the attempted intrusions experienced by the Federal Government and the private sector as a whole.

Enhancing homeland security will be further complicated by the fact that responsibility for dealing with different aspects of these threats cuts across the jurisdictions of more than 40 Federal agencies and
14 Congressional committees, not to mention countless state and local offices, as well as the private sector. As one homeland security expert noted, “We’ve got great athletes. . . . But we don’t have a coach, we don’t have a game plan, and we’re not practicing. How do you think we’re going to do in the big game?”2 Organizing for success will be critical—and also exceedingly difficult.

A Three-Pronged Strategy

Homeland security can be usefully defined as the prevention, deterrence, preemption of, and defense against attacks on the United States and the management of the consequences should one occur. Inherent in this definition are three broad and enduring objectives that should provide the foundation for a new national strategy for homeland security: prevention, protection, and response.3


The first objective is to prevent future attacks on the United States. This objective is preeminent, as it is central to the survival of the open, democratic, market-based way of life that distinguishes American society.

Prevention involves stopping threats to the United States before they become manifest, preferably as far away from American shores and borders as possible. Prevention efforts overseas might include working with allies to roll up terrorist networks abroad, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range delivery systems, or shutting down hackers conspiring to launch attacks against American computer networks. It might also include more immediate actions inside the United States to stop a terrorist from crossing into the country, boarding a flight, or renting a crop duster or commercial truck. Prevention is by its very nature proactive and often requires taking offensive action to destroy or neutralize a threat before an attack occurs. The Federal Government and leaders must be prepared to act proactively in concert with established coalitions or alliances—and unilaterally, if necessary—to strike against defined, imminent threats to the homeland far from American shores.

Prevention also involves “shaping the security environment to avoid or retard the emergence of threats to the United States,” which can only be achieved through American activities overseas.4 In this regard, the Department of State, Department of Defense, U.S. allies, and foreign law enforcement agencies all play a significant role in defending the American homeland. Thus, prevention may be greatly aided by U.S. engagement abroad. But in the final analysis, the most important element of prevention is the ability to detect threats before they become manifest, with enough specificity and forewarning to permit preventive action.

Indeed, improving U.S. intelligence is the most crucial element of transformation for homeland security; as amplified below, it is the “long pole in the tent.” To prevent attacks on the American homeland, decisionmakers must have not only a general sense of the kinds of attacks that various actors might be willing and able to conduct against the United States but also specific warning as to the nature, location, and timing of anticipated attacks. This requires superior intelligence collection and analysis and, in most cases, substantial sharing of intelligence across agency lines. Given the importance of surveillance and tracking of suspected terrorists within America’s borders, one of the greatest challenges becomes enhancing our situational awareness without becoming a police state. Striking the right balance between intelligence collection within the United States by law enforcement agencies and the protection of the civil liberties that define and distinguish our society is critical.

Because it may not be possible to prevent every attack, the goal in practice should be to minimize the likelihood that the most serious attacks on the United States could be mounted successfully. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said, “Our victory will come with Americans living their lives day by day, going to work, raising their children and building their dreams as they always have—a free and great people.”5 such attacks in the past by acting rapidly on specific indications and warnings is proof that a degree of prevention is possible.


The second objective is to enhance the ability of the United States to protect itself against attacks. This includes strengthening America’s defenses against a variety of threats to the U.S. homeland that might come from a wide range of directions against any number of targets.

Essential to the protection of American citizens is an effective capability to defeat or neutralize enemy action once an attack is launched. Whether an immediate, responsive defense against an air or missile attack, a rapidly instigated manhunt to find and foil a terrorist cell, or day-to-day security measures to protect borders and critical infrastructure, a broad range of capabilities, including domestic law enforcement, intelligence, military, and public health, will be needed to mount effective barriers to such attacks. This aspect of homeland security is made particularly complex by the wide variety of acknowledged threats, the increasing sophistication displayed by known terrorists, and their ability to adapt concepts of operations to take advantage of new technologies and to exploit weaknesses in whatever security measures are in place.

As a result, U.S. efforts to enhance homeland security should not focus only or even primarily on ensuring that terrorists can never again hijack American commercial airliners and fly them into buildings. The United States must anticipate and be able to protect itself against a much broader range of possible threats—for example, terrorist attacks involving airplanes, missiles, trucks, cars, or ships; attacks involving the release of chemical or biological agents or nuclear materials in major U.S. cities; and both cyber and physical attacks on critical infrastructure. Both lethal, destructive threats and nonlethal, disruptive threats demonstrate the complexity of the problem and the broad range of participants, in public and private sectors, that must be involved in protecting the United States.

This multiplicity and diversity of threats highlight the need for prioritization. The United States cannot afford to give equal weight to strengthening its defenses against every conceivable threat scenario. One of the most important challenges that must be addressed early on is an assessment of the range of potential threats to the American homeland, based on both the likelihood of occurrence and severity of consequences were they to occur, to set priorities for allocation of resources.


The third objective is to improve our ability to respond to and manage the consequences of any attack. First, the United States must have a robust capability to ensure public safety; continuity of government; command, control, and communications; and the provision of essential services. Effective consequence management is also central to maintaining public confidence and reducing the physical and psychological impacts of terrorism. As we witnessed on September 11, state and local “first responders,” such as local firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical teams, are often the most important element of effective consequence management. They must be given the resources, equipment, and training needed to do their jobs and coordinate their efforts well, even under extraordinary conditions such as those following the use of a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon.

Second, the United States must be able to minimize disruption and restore the functioning of critical infrastructure rapidly in the immediate aftermath of an attack. This might involve restoring telecommunications service, repairing energy production and distribution systems, or providing alternative routes and means of communication and transportation. “Hardening” potential targets, developing contingency plans, and building a degree of redundancy into key systems will be critical to rapid restoration.

Third, the Federal Government must be prepared to take rapid steps to stabilize American financial markets and manage the immediate economic and financial consequences of an attack. This must involve relevant agencies, such as the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve System, but should be done in partnership with major players in the private sector.

Fourth, Federal, state, and local agencies, as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), must be prepared to provide immediate assistance to the victims of an attack, their families, and affected communities.

Central to success in both protection and response are advance planning, exercises, and simulations to identify problems and refine plans, as well as coordination across the Federal Government with state, local, private sector, and NGO representatives to prepare for future attacks.


As we consider the long campaign against terrorism before us and the prospect of additional attacks against the United States, intelligence will be the indispensable element of the campaign on which the success of all others will depend.

Intelligence enables all other components of the campaign against terrorism to be effective: homeland security, law enforcement, military and covert operations, and coalition building. Decisionmakers in each of these areas must rely on information that is gathered, analyzed, and provided by the intelligence community. Meeting the multifaceted challenges associated with intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination will be daunting, as each element of the campaign against terrorism poses unique intelligence requirements.

Given the nature of potential adversaries, there are no guarantees that the quality of our intelligence on terrorist organizations such as Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network will substantially improve without significant operational changes and sustained effort by the intelligence community. As a flat organization comprising small cells of individuals in more than 60 countries, Al Qaeda has demonstrated its ability to use a wide range of communications, from low-tech means such as face-to-face meetings to high-tech means such as encrypted messages. When its communications have been intercepted, it has been extremely agile in changing its modus operandi to evade Western intelligence collection.

Terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda do not rely on the kind of infrastructure that makes other intelligence targets such as governments easier to penetrate. Under these circumstances, national technical means of collection (for example, satellites, electronic eavesdropping, surveillance aircraft, and the like) are less effective. Furthermore, the extremist ideology that motivates recruits and cements an otherwise loose network together makes it extremely difficult—indeed, almost impossible—for Western agents to infiltrate. Due to the strength of their convictions, members are unlikely to defect, even if offered substantial incentives. Given these factors, the campaign against terrorism may pose the biggest intelligence challenge for the United States and its allies since the Cold War.

Homeland security presents a particular set of intelligence requirements. Those responsible for homeland security need to have a general understanding of the types of attacks that various terrorist organizations are interested in and capable of launching against America. If indicators suggest that such an attack is imminent, authorities also need specific warning information about the proposed location and type of attack so as to enhance law enforcement, security, and consequence management efforts. Such warning information is unlikely to emerge unless there is extensive information sharing and fusion across bureaucratic lines to facilitate synthesis of relevant information from the overwhelming amount of data collected by a variety of agencies and means into a coherent, timely picture of what is likely to happen.

One of the greatest challenges that we face in the homeland security arena is enhancing our situational awareness (that is, the ability to know what terrorists are doing inside our borders) without becoming a police state. Consider the fact that the planners and perpetrators of the September attacks lived, prepared, and hid among American citizens for several years, yet we were largely unaware of their activities. One of the things that stands out about that terrorist episode is how little actionable intelligence was available prior to that date and how much various intelligence and law enforcement agencies have gathered since then. How could this have happened?

One answer is that the system was not “tuned” to collect the right data and evaluate it properly. This suggests the need to redesign data collection and analysis priorities and strategies for the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Another answer is that relevant bits of information were available within various agency files but remained stray needles in the enormous haystack of intelligence data. This suggests the need for new technologies to organize, store, and retrieve information that the Federal Government already collects. A third answer is that individual agencies may have identified key pieces of information but failed to share and correlate this data in a way that enabled anyone to put all the pieces together and see the larger picture. This suggests the need to enhance data sharing and correlation across agency lines. But this inevitably raises the specter of intelligence agencies collecting information within U.S. borders, something that has long been seen as a threat to the basic privacy and political rights of Americans.

Being effective in the campaign against terrorism will require coming to terms with this difficult issue. Creating the situational awareness now deemed essential will require developing new methods for lawful surveillance of American citizens and foreigners living in America, while creating adequate oversight mechanisms to ensure that new methods are not used inappropriately. In short, we must do more to find and track terrorists on American soil while also protecting the civil liberties that are essential in our society.

Because better intelligence is the indispensable element of the campaign against terrorism, it is imperative that the United States act quickly and wisely to identify and address the most serious intelligence problems in the counterterrorism campaign. For starters, the President should call for a comprehensive assessment to identify shortfalls in intelligence policy, capabilities, practices, and resources that could hamper the future effectiveness of the campaign against terrorism. Based on these assessments, the administration should then develop a multiyear action plan to address priority issues and shortfalls.

Second, the President should give high priority to strengthening bilateral intelligence-sharing and cooperation with countries that have the most to offer the United States on the terrorist organizations of greatest concern. Since September 11, such intelligence arrangements have become defining political issues in American relations with many other countries. One of our central diplomatic goals in the months and years to come should be to broaden and deepen these arrangements as a cornerstone of bilateral relations with key countries. This should include seeking greater international cooperation in surveillance and tracking of the financial transactions of various terrorist organizations.

Third, Congress should substantially increase the resources devoted to the intelligence community in general and to the campaign against terrorism in particular. This will be essential to address critical shortfalls in a timely manner in areas such as human intelligence, covert operations, analysts, linguists and area specialists, and the integration of new technologies.

Fourth, the guidelines and processes for intelligence sharing within the United States need to be overhauled to enable more rapid and effective intelligence fusion and to ensure adequate situational awareness. This needs to occur not only at the Federal level but also between Federal, state, and local agencies. American lives are on the line, and there is simply no excuse for bureaucratic infighting that compromises our ability to exploit the intelligence we have.

This will be no small challenge. It will require a shift in focus from a case file approach to more fundamental and proactive data analysis. Where are the terrorists likely to be hiding among us, and how will we find them? How can we distinguish suspicious activities in our complex and dynamic society? It will also require substantial investment in data correlation and analysis capabilities, as well as a new willingness to share data across bureaucratic lines. Improving our ability to correlate data will inevitably require us to reevaluate the rules and procedures governing the gathering of intelligence on American citizens and others living in the United States. Specifically, the United States should create new combined-agency investigation centers that are supervised on an ongoing basis by an officer appointed by the court authorized by the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, who would essentially serve as a real-time privacy ombudsman to ensure that there is no inappropriate use of new investigative techniques.

Fifth, the intelligence and law enforcement communities need to undertake more simulations—for example, “red-teaming” and “If I were a terrorist...” exercises—to develop a better understanding of the types of attacks terrorist groups might be willing to contemplate and how they might respond in various situations. Though imperfect, at best, such exercises can be very useful in exposing gaps in thinking and shortcomings in preparation.

Finally, the intelligence community cannot and should not be expected to solve all its problems on its own. It should pursue new public-private partnerships to engage the best technologists in the country to help it surmount its most substantial technological hurdles. Particular emphasis should be placed on investment in new technologies to organize, store, and retrieve information. After September 11, it should not be difficult to find private-sector partners. More broadly, the intelligence community should seek to leverage America’s diversity and openness at every opportunity, engaging experts and linguists outside the narrow confines of the Federal Government through a combination of outreach and outsourcing.

Since September 11, the intelligence and law enforcement communities have been recognized as both crucial and in need of additional resources and reform. Nothing will be more important to the success of the campaign against terrorism and to U.S. homeland security than meaningfully improving the capabilities and performance of these two communities.

Bioterrorism and Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

és the United States develops a national strategy for homeland security, particular attention should be paid to two threats that pose the greatest danger to our basic way of life: bioterrorism and attacks on critical infrastructure.

Whereas an effective terrorist attack involving chemical agents could produce tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties, an effective attack using biological pathogens could result in millions. It is well established that members of Al Qaeda have sought to obtain biological means of attack and have contacts with states that have biological weapons programs. The anthrax attacks that followed the September 11 attacks effectively ended the debate about whether individual or small groups of terrorists could obtain and use biological agents. They have and they will.

The good news is that biological pathogens are generally difficult to weaponize; it is difficult to take them from a laboratory petri dish or vial, produce them in large quantities, and put them in a form that can be effectively dispersed to cause mass casualties. The bad news is that terrorists would need only a small quantity of a highly contagious pathogen such as smallpox to infect enough people to create a mass-casualty event. Each infected individual would become, in effect, a walking biological weapon. This is a danger whose dimensions are magnified in our mobile society. A local bio-attack could quickly become a national crisis with the potential to cripple the country. The United States should therefore give highest priority to keeping pathogens that could be used in such attacks out of the hands of terrorists and to enhancing our ability to deal with such attacks should they occur.

Today, security measures at American and foreign facilities are not adequate to prohibit theft of dangerous pathogens. In the United States, samples of some pathogens such as smallpox are kept under very tight security, but samples of others, such as anthrax, are found in research laboratories across the country that have only minimal security. Across the former Soviet Union, literally tons of Cold War-era biological weapons agents remain housed in nonsecure facilities.

In addition, we are ill prepared to prevent the dire consequences of a large-scale bioterrorism attack. The United States currently lacks the stockpiles of vaccines and antibiotics, as well as the means of rapid distribution, that would be required for an effective response. We lack an adequate cadre of first responders who are trained and equipped to deal with such a crisis.

The Federal Government also lacks adequate management strategies, plans, and information systems to cope with a bioterrorism assault. Today, senior leaders would simply not receive the intelligence and expert advice that they need to make informed decisions. As a result of these shortfalls, Federal and state officials could find themselves in the untenable position of having to impose forcible constraints on citizens because they lack other viable tools to contain a crisis. This would pose enormous challenges to civil liberties and horrific choices for decisionmakers. Indeed, the less prepared we are for a bioterrorism event, the greater the panic that is likely to ensue, and the more threats there will be to the civil liberties of average Americans.

To address this situation, the President, working with Congress and with state and local governments, should launch a major public-private initiative on the scale of the Apollo Program to enhance the Nation’s capabilities to prevent and respond to biological terrorism. The focus of this project should be fortifying and equipping the public health system to limit the potentially catastrophic effects of bioterrorism.

Substantial investments are needed to strengthen public health expertise, infrastructure, and early warning systems. New approaches must be developed to deal with the diseases that might be used as weapons of terror, especially stockpiling vaccines and antibiotics, strengthening regional and national distribution mechanisms, and researching and developing other means of facilitating rapid, effective disease control, such as funding the development of easily deployed diagnostic tools using new biotechnologies. The Bush administration’s decision to create a stockpile of 300 million smallpox vaccines was a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. Particularly important will be developing an appropriate regulatory process to ensure the safety of new vaccines and antibiotics, as well as providing the medical and pharmaceutical industries with the necessary incentives, such as liability protection, to rise to this national challenge.

This modern-day Apollo Program also should include:

  • development and implementation of an effective security protocol for all U.S. laboratories that store pathogens that could be used effectively in a terrorist attack
  • extensive analysis, simulation, and exercise programs to improve understanding of the challenges that we would encounter in the event of such an attack
  • identification and prioritization of shortfalls that need to be addressed
  • development of detailed plans and decisionmaking protocols for dealing with a bioterrorism event, including clarification of jurisdictional issues between Federal and state entities
  • development at all levels of government of the information systems that would be needed to manage such a crisis.

In addition, the United States must make reducing the biological weapons legacy of the former Soviet Union through cooperative threat reduction programs an even higher priority on the foreign policy agenda. It also should seek to reinvigorate and reorient the Biological Weapons Convention process to take the new bioterrorism threats into account. Only in preparing for this worst-case scenario can we hope to limit its consequences.

Enhancing the security of America’s critical infrastructure—those physical and cyber-based systems essential to the minimum operations of the economy and government—is another central challenge in reducing the risks and consequences of future terrorist attacks. Vast disruption and panic would ensue if an aircraft breached the containment structure of a nuclear power plant, a major city’s power supply was shut down, or the New York Stock Exchange’s computer system was sabotaged.

Critical infrastructure includes telecommunications, electrical power systems, gas and oil infrastructure, banking and finance, transportation, water systems, and emergency services, 80 to 90 percent of which is owned or operated by private firms. With the advent of new information technologies, much of the Nation’s critical infrastructure has become increasingly automated in recent years, bringing not only new efficiencies but also new vulnerabilities, including vulnerability to cyber attacks. As in the case of biodefense, an active and sustained partnership between the government and the private sector will be essential to address these problems.

Significant progress has been made in recent years, including the establishment of Information Sharing and Analysis Centers by the Federal Government, in partnership with the private sector, to address electronic threats, vulnerabilities, incidents, and solutions for a number of sectors. To date, however, these efforts have focused primarily on cyber rather than physical threats. Given that terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda have demonstrated their interest in producing highly visible mass-casualty events, cyber strikes may not be their preferred mode of attack. The Bush administration would be wise to broaden its work on critical infrastructure protection to include a greater emphasis on physical vulnerabilities and threats in various sectors.

This will require not only new threat and vulnerability assessments but also a clearer delineation of who has the responsibility and who has the authority to enhance security measures against physical attacks on various elements of critical infrastructure. For example, who is responsible for providing adequate security at the 103 nuclear power plants operating in the United States? Is it the private utility companies who operate the plants, local law enforcement, or perhaps National Guard units under the control of the state governors? These issues urgently need to be addressed in a coordinated manner through consultations between Federal, state, local, and industry officials.

Private sector firms will have a particularly important role to play in this regard, in activities ranging from designing new facilities to better withstand attack, to enhancing physical security systems at existing facilities.

Organizing for Success

How should the U.S. Government be organized for homeland security? This question—at the heart of virtually every policy discussion since September 11—was debated in depth for months and even years before.

Three basic options were discussed most frequently: give the entire homeland security mission to one existing agency or another, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the Department of Defense; create a new agency by merging together elements of existing organizations and missions;6 or create a strong coordinator in the White House.7 President Bush seems to have settled the debate, at least for his tenure, by appointing Tom Ridge to be Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. In essence, the President chose the third option, a national coordinator in the White House charged with bringing together the assembled resources of the entire government. Yet within hours of the announcement, debate resumed over whether Director Ridge had been given the legal and budgetary authorities and institutional standing that he needs to be effective in his new post.

President Bush’s decision was the right decision for now, but it is inadequate for the longer term. The precise structure of the long-term organizational solution is probably unknowable at this point, but changes will surely be needed.

Designing a long-term, integrated, effective response to the complicated problem of international terrorism waged on American soil requires understanding three fault lines that fracture the U.S. Government.8 The first is divided Federal Government: the system of checks and balances that the founders put in place to preclude abuses of power and that is the very essence of American constitutional democracy. Over time, the U.S. Government has evolved to become enormously complex and redundant; nearly every major department and bureau has some relevant role in homeland security. The second constitutionally grounded fault line is American federalism: the way in which authority is divided between the national level and the state and local levels of government. Coordinating a nationwide response to terrorism requires vertical coordination between various levels and agencies of government to bridge these gaps. The third fault line is more cultural than constitutional: the separation between our foreign and domestic security apparatus. American political culture has always been wary of excessive government power, and this has limited the role of military and intelligence agencies inside the borders of the United States. The military’s role within the United States is highly circumscribed by the doctrine known as posse comitatus; the U.S. intelligence community cannot spy on American citizens, and the domestic surveillance activities of Federal law enforcement bodies are constrained by fairly strict operational restrictions and judicial oversight. When it comes to fighting terüorism, however, this division between foreign security and domestic security creates dangerous vulnerabilities. For example, in the past, the terrorist use of modern communications networks to leap across political jurisdictions allowed them to operate within the United States in ways that forced intelligence agencies to abandon the chase at the border. This foreign-domestic security fault line creates operational barriers to cooperation between military forces, intelligence, and law enforcement that must constantly be surmounted.

As if this picture were not sufficiently bleak, it should be noted that many other democracies are equally fractured in their government structures. The discontinuities on the American scene are also found among our partner states, complicating the problem of international information sharing and coordination.

A National Coordinator for Homeland Security

In light of the deep divisions that mark American culture and constitutional governance, a national coordinator is currently the best and only solution to the problem of homeland security. However, Director Ridge has been assigned the most difficult job imaginable: to coordinate a vast and complex government and to instill the focus and agility required to stay ahead of small bands of ruthless terrorists. His task is further complicated by the inherent advantage that the terrorists have of hiding inside an America that values its diversity and its openness and that embraces transnational business practices and social interactions.

Given these challenges, Director Ridge should approach his mission at a strategic level. Virtually every major department of the Federal Government, and certainly the law enforcement and emergency response elements of the state and local governments, all have crucial roles to play in the homeland security mission. The national coordinator cannot run the daily operations of such a vast and disparate array of agencies and bureaus. Instead, he should use his power and influence to shape the priorities, plans, and future competencies of the government to deal with terrorism.9 This requires establishing an overall strategy.

First, as mentioned above, the United States must resist the trap of preparing to fight the last war. It is unlikely that terrorists will attempt a strike that resembles the events of September 11, and if they do, we undoubtedly will be better prepared to foil their plans. Instead, terrorists are more likely to attack in unanticipated ways: airplanes one day, anthrax the next, and something else on the following. Therefore, the first task of the national coordinator is to think like a terrorist. He should establish a terrorism assessment unit that is specifically designed to strategize as a terrorist would and to research ways in which American security could be breached. This should not be an unbounded exercise of human imagination, but rather a disciplined review of intelligence assessments, more systematic and thorough analysis of terrorist doctrine and techniques, and a deliberate reasoning about the goals and effects intended by various terrorist organizations. The terrorist assessment unit should draw widely on the research community in the United States and in other countries as well as less conventional sources, such as Hollywood and the broader creative community. Its aim should be to challenge and shape the planning and programming priorities of the various departments and bureaus that share the homeland security task.

Second, the national coordinator should institute an extensive program of wargaming and simulation. For years, DOD has conducted so-called tabletop exercises to test assumptions and plans. Other elements of the government also have some forms of assessment, but most do not have the same degree of discipline or sophistication. Wargames serve five primary purposes: to uncover discontinuities in planning for unexpected events; reveal insights into the complexity of problems that cannot be developed by reading reports; establish operational working relationships among participants in peacetime that become crucial for communication and trust in crisis situations; help suspend the typical turf battles when organizations confront just what they can and cannot do, as well as what other organizations bring to the table in a time of crisis; and reveal critical shortfalls in processes and capabilities that need to be addressed.

A comprehensive antiterrorism wargaming program should include periodic training sessions for the President and his Cabinet. The wargaming program must contemplate different scenarios and spontaneous developments. The terrorism assessment unit described above would be instrumental in designing the scenarios and identifying the key learning points for each exercise.

Third, the national coordinator should establish an advanced concepts office for homeland security. This office would be chartered to develop new approaches to government operations that would bridge the discontinuities and address the shortfalls identified in the wargaming process. It would utilize current operations research techniques to identify alternative concepts of operations and help the national coordinator provide guidance to the Nation’s various departments and bureaus to develop new capabilities.

Fourth, Director Ridge should conduct a homeland security strategy review—on the scale of a national security strategy review or the recent Quadrennial Defense Review—to define and prioritize objectives, develop a strategy to meet those objectives, and develop a concept of operations that clearly assigns responsibilities to specific agencies and actors for various aspects of the strategy. This planning process should include a comprehensive assessment of current U.S. capabilities to deal with the full range of threats to the American homeland. The objective should be to identify and prioritize shortfalls in national capabilities that should be addressed, based on a combination of the likelihood of the threat and seriousness of potential consequences.

Informed by this strategy review, the national coordinator, on behalf of the President, should develop a multiyear interagency action plan. The plan should specify short-term actions to be taken on a priority basis, long-term investments to be made to enhance capabilities in critical areas, and a clear division of labor, including lead agency responsibility for specific areas and actions. This plan should be issued over the President’s signature to guide resource allocation for homeland security across the Federal Government. It should be a living document that is reviewed and revised on an annual basis. The process of developing this plan should include every Federal agency that will be assigned responsibility for an element of homeland security, as well as close consultations with key state and local agencies and actors. Both the assessment and the development of an integrated action plan will be important to ensure that the United States gets the highest possible returns on what is likely to be tens of billions of dollars invested in homeland security over the next several years.

Once this plan is in place, the national coordinator should establish a program and budget review process, whereby the activities and expenditures of relevant Federal agencies are reviewed annually in light of the requirements defined in the multiyear plan. This review process would provide a mechanism for ensuring that agency actions accord with the President’s guidance and would provide the national coordinator with a critical mechanism for enforcing the President’s priorities. Here, consistent and unwavering Presidential backing will be essential to the national coordinator’s success. The President must effectively communicate to the various agencies that Director Ridge’s decisions are his decisions and that there will be no appeals.

The national coordinator must also take steps to integrate Federal programs and plans more fully with those of state and local governments and to aid state and local authorities in enhancing their homeland security capabilities. Because state and local governments are likely to be the first to respond to an attack, they will bear the lion’s share of responsibility in implementing decisions made in Washington. They also will feel the immediate impacts of any attack most acutely. These constituencies will have to be included in discussions and decisions if the United States is to succeed in strengthening security at home. The same is true of key parts of the private sector, particularly firms involved in operating or securing the Nation’s critical infrastructure.

In the short run, a strong national coordinator for homeland security is the right answer. In the long run, however, we must develop new approaches to government that will bridge these fault lines more effectively. At this stage, it is not possible to determine with precision what new structures are required. This should logically emerge after insights are gained from the study-exercise-innovate-review process described above.

In the interim, Congress should refrain from passing legislation that would make the new Office of Homeland Security a Cabinet-level
department or fundamentally reorganize the U.S. Government for homeland security. If history is any guide, such organizational change would be, at this time, both unnecessary and premature. Lessons from World War II and since suggest that the keys to success in organizing the Federal Government for any prolonged and complex campaign or effort—in this case, sustained homeland security operations—are full Presidential empowerment of one person under the Chief Executive to “drive the train”; institutional flexibility to adapt and change as the operations unfold; and ensuring that the empowered individual is focused on setting priorities, on determining who should be responsible for what, and on applying pressure where necessary to ensure that the President’s priorities are actually implemented, rather than on conducting day-to-day operations. President Bush’s conception of Ridge’s role as Director of the Office of Homeland Security appears to be consistent with this model; establishing a new Cabinet-level Homeland Security Agency would not be.

In addition, major institutional change at this stage would risk diverting the attention and energy of both leaders and operators from the task at hand, away from taking concrete steps to improve our immediate capacity to deal with further terrorist attacks at home, to fighting rear-guard actions to protect agency turf from encroachment by a new department. A time of crisis is not the best time to undertake a fundamental reorganization. Furthermore, we should not commit ourselves to legislated institucional change before we have enough experience to know what we really need to meet new challenges.

In time, a reorganization may be necessary; if so, Congress and the executive branch would need to work in partnership to define the best course of action. But it is simply too early to know what form such change should take. For now, Congress should give the President the time and discretion to try organizational and process innovations within the White House and departments. As the results come in, Congress and the executive branch should open a dialogue on whether and how the Federal Government should be fundamentally reorganized for homeland security missions over the long haul.

Other Organizational Innovations

Given both the importance and the likely longevity of homeland security as an issue, Congressional leadership should convene a panel of members to evaluate and recommend options for reorganizing Congressional committees to enable more effective oversight of cross-cutting issues such as homeland security. Some 14 Congressional committees currently claim jurisdiction over some aspect of homeland security. In practice, this means that Congress is essentially trying to provide oversight by looking at the problem vertically through 14 different soda straws. Given that it has the power of the purse as well as the last word on how the Federal Government actually expends resources, Congress can have an enormous impact—positive or negative—on the coherence of an activity.

Within DOD, at least two proposals should be considered. The first proposal is for the Secretary of Defense to establish a new Commander in Chief (CINC) for Homeland Defense. The U.S. military must be better organized to support homeland defense. Historically, assigning responsibility for an area or function to a CINC has been the most effective way to ensure that it receives priority attention in military planning, training, and resource allocation. Creating a new CINC for Homeland Defense would put all or most of the military assets required to support homeland security under the command of a single four-star general or admiral. It would create a senior “go-to” person within the military whose sole job, day and night, is to prepare the military for operations to protect against or respond to threats to the American homeland. Currently, no such person or focal point exists, although a proposal to create a new Northern Command is being actively considered. The challenge in creating a new homeland defense CINC will be to balance the desire to put all military homeland defense missions under the control of one CINC against the need to ensure that the resulting CINC has a manageable set of missions and span of control.

The second proposal is for DOD to make homeland defense the primary mission of the Army and Air National Guard and for elements of the Guard to be reorganized, properly trained, and fully equipped to undertake this mission. Specifically, the Air National Guard should be given air and missile defense of the United States as its primary mission and should be restructured accordingly. The Army National Guard should be reoriented, reorganized, trained, and equipped to focus on consequence management in the event of a major terrorist attack, especially one involving chemical or biological agents. This includes maintaining civil order and augmenting civilian capabilities for protecting critical infrastructure. Geographically dispersed, with deep ties to local communities and well-established relationships with state governments, the National Guard is ideally suited to be the military’s primary contributor to these missions. Reorienting the Army National Guard in this way would reorder its current priorities, making its role as a strategic reserve in the event of a long or difficult major war overseas a secondary rather than a primary mission. Over the longer term, the strategic reserve mission might be assigned to a restructured Army Reserve.

The administration should also give priority to strengthening the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be the permanent connection between the Federal Government and state and local governments for dealing with the consequences of terrorism on American soil. FEMA has an excellent track record of coordinating the national response to natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods; however, prior to September 11, it was extremely reluctant to take on post-terrorism consequence management. As a result, it currently lacks personnel with the requisite skills for this mission. Rather than assign the Federal coordination role to another agency, the President, working with Congress, should strengthen FEMA to undertake this task, with considerable investment in new staff and training activities.

Finally, the government should create opportunities for national service in the area of homeland security. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon led to an outpouring of national volunteering and participation in the recovery effort. Across the Nation, Americans are looking for ways to help. This offers an opportunity that should not be wasted. The President should create a task force to explore the creation of a Homeland Security Service Corps for Americans, young and old alike, who are prepared to give 2 years to help protect the Nation. Volunteers would be trained to serve in a variety of fields, including the Public Health Service, airport security, and the National Guard and Reserve. Modeled after the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, this Corps could make suitable educational and financial benefits available to volunteers. The program would be likely to have strong bipartisan commitment from the President and Congress. The task force could also explore the merits of mandatory national service.

The Imperative to Prevail

Homeland security is now front and center in America’s consciousness, and it is likely to stay there for quite some time, especially if further attacks occur. Unlike the 100-hour Gulf War or even the Cold War, the war against terrorism will not have a clear end point. Rather, it will be more like the wars on crime or drugs or poverty. Because the problem can never be entirely eliminated, victory becomes defined in terms of managing the level of risk down to acceptable levels. In short, the need to strengthen homeland security will present not only a multifaceted set of requirements but also an enduring one.

The Federal Government, in partnership with state and local agencies and the private sector, must do everything in its power to enhance our homeland security capabilities if we are to prevail in this long war on terrorism. It should start by identifying critical shortfalls in capability, prioritizing those shortfalls, and then addressing them, starting with the most important items and working its way down the list. It also must establish new ways of doing business to better integrate policies, programs, and budgets across bureaucratic divides. This will require enormous political will and leadership on the part of America’s elected officials and perhaps historic levels of resolve on the part of our Nation. But transforming on the home front is not just an option; it is an imperative if we are to prevail.


 1.  Most notable are the U.S. Commission on National Strategy in the 21st Century (the Hart-Rudman Commission), Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change (Wilkes-Barre, PA: Kallisti Publishing, 2002), and the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (the Gilmore Panel), Second Annual Report, Toward a National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, accessed online at <>. These, among others, reflect detailed consideration of homeland security and made numerous recommendations in this area. [BACK]

 2. Randall Larsen as quoted in Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., “Shoring Up America,” National Journal, October 19, 2001. [BACK]
 3. These objectives were inspired by the three-part framework of prevention, protection, and response that was originally laid out by the Hart-Rudman Commission in Road Map for National Security, Phase III Report, January 31, 2001, 12-14. [BACK]

4. Michael Dobbs, “Homeland Security: New Challenges for an Old Responsibility,” Journal of Homeland Security, March 2001. [BACK]

5.Donald H. Rumsfeld, “A New Kind of War,” The New York Times, September 27, 2001. [BACK]

6. The Hart-Rudman Commission recommended the creation of a new Homeland Security Agency that would include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, and Customs. See Road Map for National Security, 15-16 and 21. [BACK]

7. See, for example, the Gilmore Panel, Toward a National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, 7; Joseph J. Collins and Michael Horowitz, Homeland Defense: A Strategic Approach (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 2000), 42. [BACK]

8. Much of this discussion is drawn from unpublished work by John Hamre, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, DC. [BACK]

9.Ibid. [BACK]



Table of Contents  |  Chapter Eleven