Wednesday, November 29, 2006

DHS Chief Emphasizes Collaboration, Information Sharing, Risk Management

In a speech by DHS Secretary Chertoff at the 2006 Grants & Training National Conference, Chertoff reasserted some of the department's priorities. First, Chertoff again stressed a collaborative approach across levels of government:

Effective preparedness requires teamwork across all levels of the government and society, and it requires joint planning, coordination, training and execution. We have to have a common approach, a coordinated approach, across all of the phases of what we have to do to create homeland security -- prevention, protection, response and recovery.
In the grant process, this will mean more two-way communication between local authorities and DHS:
It's going to be an iterative back-and-forth process in which you will have an opportunity to absorb our suggestions and come back for a second round before we finalize these arrangements. I'm convinced that this kind of two-way communication is going to go a long way to alleviating some of the frustration that you have rightly expressed in past years.
Chertoff also repeated his emphasis on risk management as a guiding principle for Homeland Security:

I'm going to repeat something I've said a lot in the almost two years I've been on this job, which is the core principle that animates what we do at DHS, and that is risk management. It is a recognition of the fact that management of risk is not elimination of risk. There is no elimination of risk in life, and anybody who promises every single person protection against every threat at every moment in every place in the country is making a false promise.

What we do have to do is identify and prioritize risks -- understanding the threat, the vulnerability and the consequence. ... So we have to invest our resources that balance the need to give the most to the high risk areas, but also to make sure that everybody is getting a basic level of capability to do what they need to do to protect Americans in our towns and our rural areas from sea to sea.
Chertoff stressed the primacy of state and local government:
I also want to say, before I discuss what we're going to do, that we have a very keen recognition of the primacy of state and local government in developing the skills and capabilities for preparedness. State and local governments know communities the best. They know their communities much better than the federal government in Washington knows their communities. And therefore, the expertise to tailor planning and capabilities to specific needs best resides with the lowest level of government.
Chertoff, matching the tone of the Information Sharing Environment Implementation Plan, emphasized state and local fusion centers as a primary means of "vertical" information sharing (also see Monday's post on the ISE plan):

One of the critical insights we've had is that we have to do, not only a better job of horizontal sharing, as we have succeeded, I think, in doing over the last five years, but we have to do more in terms of vertical sharing. And that's, by the way, not a one-way street. It's not just us pushing information down to you; it's you -- helping you collect and push information up to us because increasingly the threats we have to worry about are not merely those that come from overseas, but homegrown threats of the kind, for example, that the United Kingdom has lately faced in 2005 and 2006 with some of the homegrown plots that came to light over there.

One of the keys to moving this vertical pathway in information sharing -- are fusion centers that are now being created in many of the states and the major urban areas in this country. We see a tremendous value in having a national network of linked intelligence fusion centers to facilitate the two-way sharing of information, and we look forward to enabling and assisting the creation and development of those fusion centers.

One of the things, for example, we're in the process of doing is deploying DHS intelligence and analytic personnel to all the major fusion centers, and getting that done by the end of 2008. We're already getting that done in a number of major cities. This will allow us to build a vertical network to match the horizontal network of intelligence and information sharing for all of our communities across the country.

Chertoff identified interoperable communications systems as one of the department's goals for the coming year:
[W]e are determined to ensure that the Urban Area Security Initiative cities, the major cities, have inter-operable communications in effect by the end of this coming year, and that all states have inter-operable communications in effect by the end of 2008. ... The bottom line is we have to be able to communicate during a disaster, and this remains a priority for all of us. We're going to get it done.
He also stressed NIMS compliance:
Another goal is NIMS compliance. We're well on our way to NIMS compliance all across the nation.
Also, DHS and DOD have collaborated on plans for responding to the 15 disasters in the National Planning Scenarios:
And perhaps even more important, we have begun working with DOD what we call a deliberative planning process for 15 major catastrophic national planning scenarios, which we would need to plan against if there were truly a catastrophe in this country.

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