Homeland Security Institute
A PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP IN THE U.S.
© 2010 FrontLine Security (Vol 5, No 1)

The Homeland Security Institute (HSI) was conceived in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. In its report Making the Nation Safer, the National Academies proposed the creation of a dedicated, not-for-profit technical ­analysis and support institute for homeland security to provide the U.S. Federal Government with much needed analytic capabilities in support of effective counterterrorism-related decision making and program execution.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 called for the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and directed the new Secretary to “establish a federally funded research and development center to be known as the ‘Homeland Security Institute.’ By law the Institute was to terminate on April 25, 2009. During its five-year history, HSI matured and evolved with DHS and the homeland security mission.  

The role of the public in countering terrorism is often understated. We are currently examining the Israeli approach to public engagement in counterterrorism efforts and identifying best practices that are successful in fostering a resilient and capable citizenry that can help deter and defeat terrorist attacks.

Often unexplored is the role of the public as a stakeholder in homeland security. In this area, we are convening panels of representatives from functional disciplines (public opinion experts, elected officials, social scientists, civil rights attorneys) and specific communities (law enforcement, the medical community, and religious organizations) to identify issues and concerns from the public’s perspective that could adversely impact the deployment of new technologies. Some of the technologies are a microwave vehicle stopper to stop the engines of motor vehicles and vessels; a standoff explosives detection device based on the science of Raman spectroscopy, which employs a laser to scan individuals and materials; and a mobile biometrics screening device developed under the Small Business Innovation Research program. This device can screen people at a distance. Each panel identifies areas of potential concern to the public and makes suggestions to DHS on how best to introduce such technologies to the American people if it decides to eventually purchase and employ them.

Often unexplored is the role of the public as a stakeholder in homeland security. In this area, we are convening panels of representatives from functional disciplines (public opinion experts, elected officials, social scientists, civil rights attorneys) and specific communities (law enforcement, the medical community, and religious organizations) to identify issues and concerns from the public’s perspective that could adversely impact the deployment of new technologies.

Our main objective is to help the Department and others across the homeland security enterprise to prepare for both natural disasters and potential man-made disasters.

We also focus on supporting DHS and others at the Federal level, along with their counterparts at the State and local levels and in the private sector in responding effectively and efficiently to any major disaster.

In emergency management, we analyzed proposed revisions to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) doctrine, developed metrics to track NIMS implementation, and helped secure final approval of the NIMS document. NIMS provides the nation with a framework for blending emergency management and incident response efforts at all levels of government. We also provided a framework of functional needs, typical positions, core competencies, multi-agency coordination systems, resource management, and training for all NIMS stakeholders involved in emergency management and incident response.

This effort supports the implementation of the Five Year NIMS Training Plan for which we also produced an evaluation and made recommendations to improve future NIMS training.

We are also developing user requirements for an advanced ­system to accurately track fi rst responders while they work in very hazardous situations, as well as user requirements for an advanced physiological monitoring system that will track a first responder’s vital signs.

In terms of incident response to actual disasters, we provided an independent analysis of the Federal response to the 2007 Southern California wildfires. We assessed several innovative recovery and mitigation activities such as the new Multi-Agency Support Group (MASG) – a task force coordinating post-fi re mitigation efforts to minimize the effects of potential flooding, erosion,  and debris flow in burned areas.

Our primary objective in conducting research is to support decision makers with useful results and recommendations that they can act on. We employ multidisciplinary team models to ensure that disparate stakeholders’ perspectives are fully addressed. We integrate policy, economic, technical, and operational factors into many of our reports.

Consistent with our original charter and the future needs of DHS, we continually enhance nine overlapping strategic core ­capabilities.

The Homeland Security Institute spent the past five years contributing to the intellectual underpinnings necessary to enable DHS to secure the homeland. The Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute will devote the next five years to delivering to the extended homeland security enterprise the high-impact analytic support necessary for improving the nation’s security and ability to respond to and recover from any catastrophe. 

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© FrontLine Security 2010

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