The National Strategy for Homeland:
Finding the Path Among the Trees
To date, most public discussion of the National Strategy for Homeland Security has focused almost entirely on individual programs contained somewhere within the 88-page document. This is understandable. People care about their jobs, their taxes, and their security. Media, lobbyists, and policy makers care about funding. Supervisors care about organization and resources. And everybody cares about the distribution of power. So the natural tendency in examining this sweeping White House proposal to organize national power and apply it in a new way is to analyze how individual agencies, programs, interest groups, and constituencies would fare.
But to reinvent an old cliché, this focus on individual trees obscures not just the forest, but the path through that forest of overlapping responsibilities and jurisdictions that has constituted our homeland security non-system up until now. The President’s new strategy provides just such a path. Critics may disagree with the design of that path-they may not like the way the vision, priorities, and initiatives fit together-but they should at least recognize the unity of direction that runs through the document. This unity is expressed in a handful of themes repeated again and again-themes that provide a valuable insight into how the administration sees the way ahead through the heavy underbrush and thorny challenges of homeland security.
For the nation as a whole, recognizing the path this strategy describes is more important than any of the specific details now receiving such public scrutiny.
A Plan, Not a Strategy
For the sake of clarity, we should establish from the outset that this is not really a strategy in the classic sense. That is, although it acknowledges the existence of a thinking enemy on its opening page, this is not really an explanation of how the nation will defeat that enemy or protect or advance its interests. The “Strategy” is concerned with vulnerabilities, not threats. It explains how the nation will reduce its vulnerabilities and marshal its resources, but not how they will be applied against any specific enemy. This is really a national plan, not a strategy.
This distinction is pointed up by way of explanation, not criticism. Specific strategies against specific enemies should hardly be expected in broad unclassified documents released to the world, and those critics who demand to see such detail before considering governmental reorganization are at odds with history. For example, the Department of Defense was initially organized-like the Department of Homeland Security, largely from existing government agencies-in 1947 and revamped in 1949. But these changes were proposed and approved by Congress despite that fact that the nation had not released a formal public strategy for national security at the time. In fact, the Cold War strategy emerged gradually over several years through a series of statements not necessarily connected to specific organizational changes at all.
The simple fact is that effective plans may be crafted for marshalling, organizing, and supervising resources even before other plans for applying those resources are fully developed. This is exactly what happened as we prepared for and conducted World War II, and it is not unreasonable that the White House advocates this course of action in waging a long war against shadowy terrorists. The Strategy says that its purpose is “to mobilize and organize our Nation to secure the U.S. homeland from terrorist attacks” (p. vii). Governor Tom Ridge has further explained that the Strategy is actually a “comprehensive list of what must be done.”
In fairness, then, the success of the Strategy should be judged against its declared intent, and not against an academic concept of how a strategy should be designed. Does this Strategy for Homeland Security provide a useful framework to understand what must be done, who must do it, and what actions are required to get started? Our judgment is “Yes.”
Definitions: A Major Accomplishment
One of the first critical steps to laying out a national plan for homeland security is to define key terms. This is much more difficult than it sounds. Critics frequently argue over definitions because they have hidden agendas. Recently, legitimate military action has been described as “terrorism,” local safety issues have been called “securing the homeland,” and favored industries have been defined as “critical infrastructure” -all in an attempt to shore up a narrow argument or to advance a specific political agenda. This Strategy cuts through these murky arguments and makes precise communication possible by offering precise definitions of three key terms:
- Terrorism: “Any premeditated, unlawful act dangerous to human life or public welfare that is intended to intimidate or coerce civilian populations or governments” (p. 2).
- Homeland Security: “A concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur” (p. 2).
- Critical Infrastructure: “The assets, systems, and functions vital to our national security, governance, public health and safety, economy, and national morale” (p.ix).
All of the plans and programs for homeland security advanced by the administration are offered in the context of these three definitions.
The path the administration intends to blaze toward homeland security is defined by several themes. These themes are more important than the specifics of any individual objectives, initiatives, or programs. Congress will certainly support some individual ideas, kill others, and advance some ideas of its own. And the details of each individual “tree in the forest” will be of vital interest to some constituency. But it is the underlying themes that demonstrate the administration’s key assumptions and fundamental beliefs and help identify those issues where the President will accept compromise and those where he will fight for principles and specifics.
We have identified the following themes as constituting the administration’s path forward on homeland security.
There is no more important concept contained in this plan for homeland security than that of federalism: the idea that the federal government shares authority, responsibility, the mandate for action, and the struggle for resources with state and local governments and private actors. Here numbers tell an important story: more than 87,000 governmental jurisdictions exist in this country (p. vii); 85 percent of critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector (p. viii); the private sector already spends $55 billion per year on security (p. 65); the nation spends about $100 billion per year on homeland security (p. 63); yet at the end of a three-year ramp-up, the administration expects that federal expenditures will be about $38 billion (exclusive of the Department of Defense) (p. 64). Clearly, this is an area where the federal government will be a partner, not the sole source of resources-and hence not the only center of power.
Which is not to say the federal government will abrogate its leadership role. The Strategy assumes approval of the new Department of Homeland Security, allowing for central discipline and guidance for almost every federal agency directly involved in preventing attack, reducing vulnerabilities, minimizing damage, and speeding recovery (p. 2). It sets a national vision and outlines specific initiatives in six “critical mission areas”:
- Intelligence and warning
- Border and transportation security
- Domestic counterterrorism
- Protecting critical infrastructures and key assets
- Defending against catastrophic threats
- Emergency preparedness and response
In each of these areas it accepts the responsibility to consolidate federal plans, promote cooperation among state, local, and private plans, and identify and resolve the seams between them. The National Strategy establishes national level intent to direct and control those national level programs best managed at the national level-from national border control to centralized national management of research and development programs.
But discussion of these national level programs is interspersed with constant reminders that the programs specified below the national level are “suggestions, not mandates” (p. 49), since “The Tenth Amendment makes clear that each state retains substantial independent power with respect to the general welfare of its populace” (p. 47). As a result, the determination to promote and coordinate an efficient and effective homeland security program without creating massive federal intervention and control at every level comes across as the key intent and most important long-term legacy of this strategy.
A second theme running throughout the document is the idea that for almost every specific major initiative in every mission area, some sort of accountability should be established to track leadership and performance back to a specific individual or office. Although the evaluation system is not mentioned, readers might be reminded of press reports of recent cabinet meetings where the President publicly evaluated the performance of leaders, agencies, and programs with color-coded cards. That spirit of periodic review and reallocation of resources from struggling programs to those that can demonstrate success is reflected in the specificity with which major initiatives are spelled out in every mission area. Surely the administration expects that the press and others will use this list of initiatives and expectations as a checklist to evaluate progress toward homeland security. And just as surely, senior administration leaders must plan to beat critics to the punch, publicly announcing their successes and publicly reorganizing those offices and efforts that cannot show progress in a reasonable period of time.
Again, those current analyses that focus on programmatic specifics (such as the proposed size of the Coast Guard and whether all of the Immigration and Naturalization Service is transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security) miss the larger point.
- For example, under this Strategy, a single entity “will manage who and what enters our homeland” (p. 22) and be responsible for the results.
- Similarly, “the President calls on each governor to establish a single Homeland Security Task Force for the state, to serve as his or her primary coordinating body with the federal government” (p.14).
- Again, in the much-maligned color-coded threat Advisory System, a single entity “would serve as the primary provider of threat information to state and local public safety agencies and to private sector owners of key targets” (p. 18).
- And in the area of preparing first responders, federal grant money would be “(based on performance) for planning and equipping, training, and exercising first responders” (p. 44).
In each case, someone is held responsible for action to be taken.
The theme reverberates throughout the document-the path to homeland security requires clear organization, consolidation of authority, and then holding someone responsible for performance. Accountability is not a new principle of government, but in practice it does seem to be more the exception than the rule. If the administration can establish this theme as a cultural characteristic in the new field of homeland security, it will have done the nation a great service.
Closely aligned with accountability for initiatives and programs is the theme of fiscal responsibility in planning for and expending public funds. The problem is the tendency (fed by the immediacy of media reports) to expect perfect security and to see anything less as a failure of government. Seeking to avoid a voter backlash, the government could spend itself into bankruptcy and still not achieve perfect security. As the Strategy notes gloomily (but accurately), “We have to accept some level of terrorist risk as a permanent condition” (p. 2). Perhaps concerned about an emotional response to this rational argument and attempting to forestall a clamor for federal funds, the Strategy sets the bounds of fiscal expectations early:
Government should fund only those homeland security activities that are not supplied, or are inadequately supplied, in the market. Cost sharing between different levels of government should reflect the principles of federalism. Many homeland security activities … are properly accomplished at the federal level. In other circumstances … it is more appropriate for state and local governments to handle these responsibilities [p. xii].
Once the mission requirements for homeland security are identified, the Strategy devotes an entire chapter to “the broad principles that should guide the allocation of financial resources for homeland security, help determine who should bear the financial burdens, and help measure the costs” (p. 63). The key point is that in contrast to many other national strategy documents in the past, this one drives home not just the cost of security, but the need to prioritize-“to devote the right amount of scarce resources to homeland security and to spend these resources on the right activities” (p. 63). This leads to a consistent but remarkable (for such a document) economics lesson to the effect that “over the long term, government spending is balanced by either higher taxes or inflation, both of which hinder rapid … economic growth,” because “under any tax system, every dollar collected in taxes results in distortions that reduce the efficiency of the economy and lower national income” (pp. 64, 65). In other words, one fundamental aspect of homeland security is careful control of federal spending-even on homeland security itself.
Those who dismiss this concern as simply another way to influence tax policy should take note of the detailed program, located at the end of the chapter on costs (p. 65), for economic recovery after a terrorist attack. The argument for spending constraints and fiscal responsibility is clearly part of a larger concern about the vulnerability of the economy as a whole-either as a target of direct attack or as a victim of misallocated resources and overspending.
Whether the administration can build a bulwark against state, local, and private claims on federal money through congressional appropriation remains to be seen. But it is not an accident that the administration chose one of the most powerful locations in the Strategy-the closing sentence of the Executive Summary-to deliver this message: “These plans will ensure that the taxpayers’ money is spent only in a manner that achieves specific objectives with clear performance-based measures of effectiveness” (p. xiii). According to this Strategy, the path to homeland security is built on a foundation of fiscal responsibility.
One of the long-standing complaints against public national security documents from previous administrations is that they rarely establish priorities. Given the competing pressures from established bureaucracies, they tend to be compromise documents that mention every key agency’s programs to some extent. Prioritization is left to the budget process where “insiders” triumph over outsiders regardless of the merits of their programs. Thus, what passes for strategy in such documents is generally a collection of policies favored by those in power. Perhaps because homeland security is a new field and the established bureaucracy has not yet defined the boundaries of its interests, the administration has actually been able to determine a set of priorities and advance them consistently.
From his earliest days as the Director of the Office of Homeland Security, Governor Ridge identified four top priorities for action: first responders, borders, bioterrorism, and improved intelligence and information flow. With little fanfare, he managed to gain budget support for those priorities in both the fiscal year 2001 Supplemental and in the fiscal year 2002 Annual Budget approved by Congress. And within his office, he advanced identifying and protecting critical infrastructure as an important effort from the past that deserved additional emphasis. Now, with little change, those same five priorities appear again in the Strategy-in fact, they mark the centerpiece of the document. Those interested in something more than this afternoon’s policy and budget debates should recognize these themes and the path they define to the future.
- Intelligence and warning has been placed in the “too hard” box for the current round of congressional testimony and action. Hence the major contribution of the Strategy in this area is that it resists the temptation to sweep problems under the rug and instead continues to emphasize the need to develop “real-time actionable information” (p. 17).
- Border and transportation security will be addressed by establishing a system of “layered management” of people and items crossing our borders, as well as cleaner lines of authority in supervising that system (p. 22). Today we do not actually have an integrated system for border and transportation security. Rather we have a set of subsystems (Customs, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Border Patrol, etc.), each operating independently, overlapping in some areas, and leaving other areas uncovered and unprotected. The new approach will put most of these subsystems under a single chain of command and envision the entire program as a series of supporting and reinforcing layers of security that start overseas where cargo and passenger craft load and ensure continued visibility and supervision until they unload in the United States.
- Domestic counterterrorism was not included on Governor Ridge’s original list of priorities, probably because he had neither visibility of nor authority over the law enforcement assets that address it. Additionally, the major initiatives identified in the Strategy reflect many of the lessons learned from months of analysis of what we should have known from information available prior to 11 September. The initiatives deal primarily with facilitating the exchange of information between law enforcement agents and other appropriate agencies. This aspect of the Strategy will no doubt be fleshed out with additional specifics as the “intelligence and warning” priority is developed.
- Protecting critical infrastructures and key assets benefits from years of work already done in identifying and evaluating potential targets, but suffers from the fact that the systems in question (agriculture, food, water, public health, etc.) are extremely complex, with the result that “the effects of a terrorist attack can spread far beyond the direct target, and reverberate long after the immediate damage” (p. 30). The challenge of prioritization will be even greater here than elsewhere, since every item of infrastructure in the United States is critical to someone, somewhere. The Strategy is absolutely correct in stating: “The assets, functions, and systems within each critical infrastructure sector are not equally important. The transportation sector is vital, but not every bridge is critical to the Nation as a whole” (p. 30).The program of initiatives to identify and address infrastructure priorities is impressive in detail-especially the priority given to the various aspects of cyber-security. However, setting and sticking to priorities in the face of local political pressure will be a challenge.
- Defending against catastrophic threats expands the early priority set on biological threats to include chemical, nuclear, and radiological threats as well. The key point here is that the document is internally consistent in prioritizing against threats best addressed by “a coordinated national effort” and accepting responsibility for research, development, and testing at the national level, as well as provision for special response teams to provide skills not affordable at the state, local, or private level. However, this does not relieve jurisdictions below the federal level of their responsibilities for first response-they will have to find ways to meet the standards and guidelines for state and local preparedness on their own.
- Emergency preparedness and response can expect a high priority for significant resources from the federal government if the Department of Homeland Security is able to “consolidate federal response plans and build a national system for incident management” as intended (p. 42). Again, federal agencies would give high priority to “incidents of national significance” (such as bioterrorism and agroterrorism), and state and local organizations should prioritize in accordance with this federal planning, thereby receiving grants for preparedness training and evaluation.
A longer laundry list of programs and initiatives is omitted from this analysis by intent. Such a list is readily available from other organizations and from the Strategy itself. Our interest is not in the “eaches” but in the way they are grouped, identified, and addressed. The administration identified a set of priorities early after the attack of 11 September, pressed them consistently through the budget cycle, and revised and expanded them as the centerpiece of its strategy. Support for these priorities is further delineated along federal or state and local lines. Federal programs will be integrated whenever possible to promote comprehensive solutions and accountability. State and local programs will be assisted through federal standards, guidelines, training, and evaluation, with the results affecting subsequent grant programs.
It is the substance and priority of these themes-not the fate of individual programs-by which observers should judge whether the Strategy constitutes a “comprehensive plan for what must be done.”
Foundations for the Long Term
If the Strategy were just a list of things to be done, it might have ended with its review of “critical mission areas.” However, the list of four “Foundations” establishes a final theme: that homeland security is not an issue of short duration, but a long-term requirement that will influence American life for years-maybe generations.
- The focus on law reveals a sensitivity to the fact that the consolidation of power at the federal level could, over time, erode government restraint and change the basic nature of the contract between governing and governed. Taking a long view, the Strategy urges that we use existing laws to their maximum effect, “craft new laws carefully,” while “refrain[ing] from instituting unnecessary laws” (p. 48).
- Science and technology offer few immediate solutions to the challenge of terrorism, but do offer great benefits over time. Especially in the area of catastrophic threats, coordinating research and development promise double advantages that “not only make us safer, but also make our daily lives better” (p. 53). But turning the nation’s independent system of universities, labs, and private enterprises in this new direction is not something to be done lightly or easily-or quickly. And it diverts attention from other priorities. This solution suggests that we are in for the long haul.
- Issues identified as part of information sharing and systems really have little to do with terrorism per se. The problems of communicating across equipment, legal, and cultural barriers have more to do with the nature of organizations than the nature of the threat. And the concerns identified-citizen privacy, common requirements, elimination of duplication, establishment of trusted databases, adaptability to change-are longstanding challenges for government information technology (p. 56). They will not be solved soon, and their inclusion reinforces the idea that this Strategy expects to be a force shaping the government for many years to come.
- Finally, international cooperation sets the objectives of this Strategy in the broadest possible context in an attempt to “harmonize our homeland security policies with our other national security goals”-goals not likely to be achieved anytime soon as the reality of international politics is that most issues must be managed over the long haul, and few are ever really solved (p. 60).
As pundits and policy makers focus on the specifics of individual initiatives in this Strategy, the theme running through this section should give pause. The path it describes to homeland security is a long one, not to be accomplished anytime soon. Protecting the nation without changing it unintentionally will be a difficult challenge as we negotiate this lengthy trip.
Missing From the Strategy … and Worth Noting
- Overt political agenda: The Strategy gives remarkably few nods to interest groups, constituencies, business, set-aside communities, etc. In light of the tendency of past public strategies to play to specific audiences and congratulate themselves on successes, this is a refreshing change.
- Central budgeting system: The budgeting system the administration desired in its concept for the Department of Homeland Security was simplicity itself: organizations bring their slice of the budget from their former agency and allow the new Secretary to move the money around as necessary to support the priorities declared in this Strategy. Regrettably, such simplicity is not possible. Not only do issues of “overhead” within agencies make splitting budgets difficult, but Congress is not likely to allow the flexibility required to make movement of money between programs (and committee jurisdictions) work. To pursue this Strategy, the administration in general and the new department in particular will have to create a budget system to justify requirements, evaluate them individually, evaluate them against each other, craft them into a coherent argument for an annual budget, and then adapt according to what the Congressional appropriators and authorizers actually provide. The Department may not have to go as far as the Department of Defense, with its operational planning system that feeds a seven-year budget planning cycle and powerful program, analysis, and evaluation directorate-but it will have to create something that accomplishes the same purpose.
- Standards for Acquisition: In one respect the emphasis on federalism makes the job of national level homeland security easier. Unlike the Department of Defense, there will be little need for massive centralized procurement. While the Department of Defense must develop a single set of requirements for tanks, fighter planes, boots, meals, etc., the Department of Homeland Security will leave most such purchases to state and local governments, which will buy whatever fire trucks, squad cars, and emergency equipment suits their needs best. Thus the Strategy need not consider the inclusion of a massive acquisition system in its view of the future. However, if national level agencies are to coordinate state, local, and private efforts for efficiency and effectiveness, then those efforts must also be standardized to some extent. Equipment, training, and doctrine must be at least compatible between these jurisdictions, and this will never come about unless some higher organization establishes and promotes common standards. It is not necessary that the new Strategy or the new department endorse specific items or ideas, or even encourage specific purchases, but they must provide some way-perhaps something like an Underwriters Laboratory seal of approval-to help decentralized purchasers across the United States sort through competing claims and buy systems that work, and work together.
- Education Program: In keeping with the priorities established soon after 11 September 2001, this Strategy gives heavy and appropriate emphasis to the training of first responders-and especially those who deal with chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attacks. Provisions are made for grants, certifications, and exercises, and evaluations of non-federal programs. And several model programs (the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Alabama, for example) are cited as examples of how training could be centrally coordinated. But virtually all of this training is aimed at first-line operators-firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, etc. As homeland security grows and changes over time, it will require a much broader range of interdisciplinary experts-it will require not just training but educational programs at multiple levels. Someone must prepare the mid-level managers from all over the country who will have to establish and oversee the new programs-they must learn to plan, organize, fund, and manage entirely new assets to accomplish the entirely new homeland security mission. Someone must prepare the senior leaders-fire chiefs, city and county planners, and federal agency chiefs-who formulate doctrine and oversee the managers. And someone must educate the top-level executives-the mayors, governors, and national level elected and appointed officials who establish strategy and policy at the top level. Just as the military now trains and educates at every level from private to general and admiral, so the new field of homeland security will require a career-long program of multilevel professional education. This is no small order-it will require schools, professors, curriculum, and support facilities in multiple locations nationwide. It will require time to develop. And it will require significant investments at every level-starting at the federal level if we are to set the standards right and early. The military has long considered its education program a critical element of its readiness to fight; so too is a new educational program a critical element in our ability to promote security here at home.
- Personnel policies: The creation of a federal Department of Homeland Security to support this Strategy will require one of the largest and most complex government reorganizations in history. Some jobs in every one of the 22 federal agencies involved will have to change. And in every one of those organizations, some people will make the transformation better than others. This is an important consideration, as jobs previously focused on government administration suddenly have a direct impact on the security of the nation and its citizens. The administration has asked for new “flexibility” in applying established personnel rules to both reward and correct individual employees during the transformation from the old work environment to the new. The specifics of such changes will be the subject of intense political debate, probably continuing for years, and specific proposals were rightly excluded from this broader document. But the need for a refocused workforce, willing to embrace new duties and new ways of doing business, is so great that it rightly deserves a place in any “comprehensive list of what needs to be done.” An energized workforce focused on its new mission is an absolute prerequisite for the future security of the nation.
- Marriage of intelligence and law enforcement: For the first time, this Strategy lays out an entire family of subordinate public strategies to be designed and coordinated under the “framework established by the National Security Strategy of the United States and National Strategy for Homeland Security” (p. 5) These include at least the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, the National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, the National Money Laundering Strategy, the National Defense Strategy (formerly the National Military Strategy), and the National Drug Control Strategy. The administration has publicly acknowledged the need for a national solution to the thorny problem of marrying intelligence to domestic law enforcement, and it has deferred a solution until the current discussion of the Homeland Security Strategy and its associated department can be managed through Congress and into law. In the Homeland Security Strategy, the administration has taken a wise tack in establishing specific goals and initiatives to measure progress in other mission areas. It would do well to spell out where and when the marriage of intelligence and law enforcement will be addressed and how it will be measured as well.
One Major Point of Disagreement
Crisis and consequence management: As part of the general themes of establishing priority, accountability, and responsibility while promoting emergency preparedness and response, the Strategy makes a point of consolidating plans and actions before a terrorist incident with those afterward.
The Department of Homeland Security will consolidate existing federal government emergency response plans into one genuinely all-discipline, all-hazard plan-the Federal Incident Management Plan-and thereby eliminate the “crisis management” and “consequence management” distinction. A single federal coordinator would be responsible to the President for coordinating the entire federal response. Lead agencies would maintain operational control over their functions (for example, the FBI will remain the lead agency for federal law enforcement) in coordination with the single on-site federal official (p. 42).
While streamlining reporting chains and unifying command and control is generally a good idea, eliminating the distinction between a “crisis” (before an attack takes place) and a “consequence” (after the attack), and combining all the resulting activities under the heading of an “incident” may be more difficult in practice than in theory. Once an event takes place-especially an event producing significant casualties-priorities change rapidly. Identifying the perpetrators may go from top priority to last-especially if they died in the attack. Skills required may change dramatically, going from law enforcement to rescue in a bombing attack, or rescue to law enforcement in a biological attack. Interaction with the press and the public may change significantly depending upon the degree of secrecy required. Maintaining the same official in charge overall during this rapid, stressful transition sounds like an excellent idea. But operating from an “all-discipline, all-hazard plan” risks a lowest-common-denominator approach where authority is driven by position rather than special expertise applicable to the event.
The military solves this problem by constructing plans in “phases”: different organizations may be used and different subordinates may have “the lead” as the plan moves from phase to phase. For example, the FBI might have the lead in the search for a suspected bomb, the Federal Emergency Management Agency might lead in the immediate aftermath of an explosion, and Health and Human Services might lead later if the bomb dispersed biological agents.
So collapsing the terms “crisis” and “consequence” into a single “incident” is acceptable only if all involved understand that there may be time-phased distinctions in priority, action, and responsibility. In preparing for crisis and dealing with consequence, one size will not fit all.
And a Caveat
Mobilizing national power, reducing vulnerability, minimizing damage, and speeding recovery are admirable goals for this initial Strategy. But we must not mislead ourselves into thinking that these will prevent attack. A good plan can make an enemy attack more difficult and even discourage action against specific targets. But a dedicated terrorist-especially one willing to give his life as part of the attack-will eventually get through. And many of our vulnerabilities-public utilities, public transportation, public gatherings-will be very difficult to address. A free society cannot prevent every crime and remain a free society. Just so with terrorist attacks.
The terrorist always has the advantage. The defender must be successful everywhere all the time. The attacker only needs to be lucky once. Thus, the solution to international terrorism is to be found at the source of the problem-overseas.
This is not to suggest that homeland security is a waste of time or that this Strategy is doomed to failure. A good defense is both physically and psychologically essential while our own offense tightens the noose around the overseas collection of killers who hate our freedom and threaten our way of life. But it does mean that we should not expect the impossible from our plans, our leaders, or those who serve the public interest. We are engaged in a long-term fight for survival. There will be more casualties. This Strategy does not make us safer just by its publication.
But it does offer us hope that better organization and concerted action will improve our chances of survival, both individually and collectively. Ultimately, this Strategy should be judged against that standard.
This analysis does not review or endorse every point in every program and initiative of the Strategy under consideration. But on the really important issue-does this document define a usable path forward through the thicket of domestic and overseas challenges and move us closer to security in our homeland?-we believe it succeeds.
Homeland Security is the most complex challenge the U.S. government has ever faced. The path forward will be strewn with rocks and pockmarked with holes and shadowed by special interests bent on placing their needs above those of the nation as a whole. But if we can get beyond the study of individual trees and regard the plan as a whole, then the National Strategy for Homeland Security does a quite respectable job of describing a suitable road though dangerous woods to a more secure future.