The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is one of the United States' newest, but most pivotal federal government departments, charged with protecting national security since its creation in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. From border security, to counterterrorism to national emergency management to maritime security and more, DHS components have operational responsibilities across a wide array of national security priorities. As the domestic security landscape evolves and grows in complexity, DHS faces challenges in implementing its authorities effectively and comprehensively. CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation around how the department can be better equipped to conduct its critical functions. Continue reading this edition of Sharper to explore their commentary, analysis, and policy recommendations.
The Department of Homeland Security: Priorities for Reform
In the midst of a rapidly evolving security environment, the department should be reoriented in a way that best protects the United States from homeland security threats consistent with law, security and public safety needs, and the nation’s fundamental values. In this report, the first of a series of mission briefs on reforming DHS, CNAS Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow Carrie Cordero and former Executive Research Assistant Katie Galgano build on recommendations of areas where both the Biden administration and the 117th Congress should focus efforts related to DHS reform.
Over the last decade, the United States and other countries in the Western Hemisphere have encountered an evolving set of irregular migration events. The United States and other Western Hemisphere countries are collaborating on a migration management strategy that addresses the increasing frequency and scale of irregular migration events stemming from a broader range of factors (like climate change). A new report from Cristobal Ramón proposes two intersecting sets of recommendations for the United States and for L.A. Declaration signatories that address the weaknesses in these policies.
Reassessing Homeland Security Intelligence
The discipline of intelligence has been a central element of the homeland security enterprise over the past two decades since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has often struggled to live up to this vision. It has found it challenging to influence and integrate intelligence-related activities across the components of DHS. A report from Christian Beckner provides the foundation for a detailed set of recommendations to reform I&A.
A Conversation with DHS Deputy Secretary John K. Tien
The Department of Homeland Security has massive responsibilities to protect the country against a wide range of threats. On Friday, January 28, CNAS hosted Deputy Secretary John K. Tien in his first in-depth public conversation since stepping into his role, to discuss current homeland security threats and challenges, and, one year into the Biden administration, the department’s priorities for strengthening the effectiveness of its operations while adapting to a threat landscape that has evolved substantially since the department’s creation. Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow Carrie Cordero moderated the conversation.
When major disaster strikes, American look to FEMA to support the response of their local and state authorities. On Friday, March 25, CNAS hosted FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell in a conversation about preparedness for climate related disasters, pandemic response, and how FEMA's new strategic plan tackles these issues and more. Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow Carrie Cordero moderated the conversation.
Western Hemisphere Migration Is a Long-Term Challenge
"Large-scale migration events have been a core facet of life across the hemisphere in the latter half of the 20th century, write Carrie Cordero and Cris Ramón in Just Security. "Factors such as insufficient economic opportunities, cartel violence and civil wars in Central and South America prompted people to leave their countries in search of better opportunities and safety in other countries. Central American and Caribbean migrants, most prominently Cuban and Haitian, have all taken land and sea routes to reach the United States. In South America, families and individuals have fled dictatorships and civil wars to neighboring countries, with some, such as Colombians, traveling to the United States to seek safety."
Opportunity to Reform the Department of Homeland Security’s Biodefense Operations and Governance
"The present moment is ripe to reform biodefense efforts concerning homeland security," argue Carrie Cordero and Asha M. George in Lawfare. "First, the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine demonstrate both the actual harms and potentially devastating consequences of biological events. The sluggish initial U.S. response to the pandemic revealed the inadequacy of detection and mitigation measures embedded in federal government policies and practices. And given substantial debate regarding Russia’s biological weapons program and its suspected use of chemical weapons against its adversaries, the potential for the accidental or intentional release of biological agents exists in the present environment. Moreover, if Russia were to engage in biological warfare against Ukraine, that act could embolden other countries to develop and use such weapons in other conflicts."
How Cybersecurity Saved U.S. Democracy
"American elections are run locally; the U.S. federal government does not administer them and is not in charge of them," observes Carrie Cordero in The Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development. "The effort to protect the actual security of the 2020 election and counter post facto allegations that it was unsecure required a whole of nation effort that ranged from the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security and other parts of the intelligence community to state and local election officials, but also included a range of private sector entities that facilitated the implementation of technical defenses."
In the News
Featuring commentary from Richard Fontaine, Carrie Cordero, and Christian Beckner.
About the Sharper Series
The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. From the future of America's relationship with China to the state of U.S. sanctions policy and more, each collection draws on the reports, interviews, and other commentaries produced by experts across the Center to explore how America can strengthen its competitive edge.
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