Home Events Planning the Future of DHS: Evolve from an All-Hazards Approach to a Targeted-Hazard Approach

Planning the Future of DHS: Evolve from an All-Hazards Approach to a Targeted-Hazard Approach


By Leischen Stelter

Today is the first day of the Maritime Risk Symposium at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (Nov. 14 & 15). This event brings together academia, government and industry leaders to discuss ways to improve research strategies, reduce cost and increase effectiveness of maritime operations.

Patrick Forrest, the Director of Homeland Security Programs at American Military University and American Public University, is one of the featured speakers at this conference. As a former senior official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Forrest’s presentation will focus on the need for the DHS to reevaluate its capacity to conduct long-term strategic planning and to evolve from an all-hazards approach to a targeted-hazard approach.

To make this monumental shift within DHS, Forrest argues that the department should establish a model similar to that of the Department of Defense Office of Net Assessment (ONA). While this will be a seismic shift in the department’s organizational priorities, DHS must evolve from its current model of event-driven planning to a strategy that includes detailed threat assessments and a long-term planning approach. This long-term analysis must focus on the drivers of change, future threats, vulnerabilities as well as opportunities.

Forrest argues that in order to overcome this planning gap, DHS needs an independent analytical partner, one free from political influence or reprisal. He suggests that an independent Office of Net Assessment is the very solution. For one thing, an ONA is able to remain focused on long-term challenges because leadership is able to stay in office longer than the normal appointee tenures. (For example, Andrew Marshall, who was commissioned by Nixon in 1973 as the Director of the DOD’s ONA still holds this position today!).

However, Forrest cautions that DHS must come up with its own working model of an ONA and that it can’t rely on DOD’s model for complete guidance. One of the major differences is that DOD views future hazards from an outward-looking, international vantage point, framed from a military perspective. DHS, on the other hand, requires much more of a cross-functional approach to security, including: civic defense, emergency management, law enforcement, customs, border control and immigration.   

One of the biggest hurdles for DHS is, of course, cost. As the federal budget continues to shrink, DHS must figure out how to offer solutions without significantly adding cost. Forrest proposes ONA as a viable, and cost-efficient, solution. In addition, if DHS could focus its efforts on well-researched, data-driven assessments, it could spend its security dollars more effectively to address issues that threaten the homeland.

For more information about Patrick Forrest’s presentation and others during the USCG-CREATE Maritime Risk Symposium, go here.



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