Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The State of State Homeland Security

Some interesting findings in the National Governor's Association's (NGA) recent survey of state homeland security directors.

The NGA got responses from 44 of 56 state and territorial homeland security advisors who comprise the Governors Homeland Security Advisors Council. They identified their top priorities for 2007 as:

  • Developing interoperable communications
  • Coordinating state and local efforts
  • Protecting critical infrastructure
  • Developing state fusion centers
  • Strengthening citizen preparedness
The only new priority is the last one, "strengthening citizen preparedness," which replaced "preparing for natural disasters," the popular choice in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane season. Unfortunately the 2007 survey didn't ask for any details about the new goal of strengthening citizen preparedness; it will be interesting to see what progress is made in 2008.

Here are a few notes on what the survey revealed about the other priorities:


On interoperable communications, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Federal l
eadership and funding remain significant hurdles to interoperability.
[N]early every state now has a statewide interoperable communications governance structure in place, and nearly three quarters (about 70 percent) report having a full-time interoperability coordinator at the state level. However, achieving interoperability has, until recently, been hampered by a lack of clear guidance from the federal government and an associated lack of designated funding to develop interoperable systems.
The same argument was made last March, in this report by the First Response Coalition (see also my post).

Coordination with Local Efforts

Good news here. As I've noted anecdotally on a few previous occasions, some states are doing a good job of working with local agencies to coordinate response efforts:
In the 2007 survey, states were asked specifically about their interaction with local governments, tribal governments, the private sector, and other states. More than half—54 percent—said they “significantly” involved local governments in the development of strategic plans, including grant funding allocation plans. Roughly one third of the states, or 32 percent, said local involvement in those activities was “fair,” while 14 percent reported local involvement as “minimal.”

Nearly all the respondents reported having completed or being in the process of developing coordinated response plans with local agencies for a range of disasters. In addition, coordination of security plans and procedures with the private sector also remains a priority, with 100 percent of states reporting that they either have or are in the process of developing security plans with the privately owned infrastructure in their states.
But efforts are more mixed for prevention and preparedness:
Despite the success of EMAC and its proven utility in large-scale events such as Hurricane Katrina (97 percent of states surveyed in 2007 said EMAC was very or somewhat efficient), the coordination of pre-event planning—or, the “prevention and preparedness” phase of emergency management—remains a work in progress.
Critical Infrastructure

There was some measured good news regarding critical infrastructure, in that more than half of the states have joined in interstate (i.e. regional) efforts to protect infrastructure sectors.
Fusion Centers

Fusion centers are critical elements of the National Strategy for Information Sharing, yet the NGA survey indicates that fusion centers "remain a work in progress." The information that flows into the centers is improving:
The 2007 survey results also reflect an improvement in the federal-state information-sharing relationship. More than half of the states (56 percent) said they were satisfied with the timeliness of the intelligence they are receiving; 47 percent said they were satisfied with the specificity of that intelligence; and 50 percent said they were satisfied with the “actionability” of that intelligence.
And yet, leadership is lacking from the federal government on funding and systems development:
Nonetheless, nearly two-thirds of the states said they will be unable to sustain their fusion center operations without federal funding.

About half the states (48 percent) said they had little participation in key information-sharing initiatives such as the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN), DHS Alert, and the Disaster Management Information System.
Federal-State Coordination

Overall, DHS is still doing a bad job collaborating with the states:
If there is an area where states are reporting unsatisfactory progress, it is in their relationship with the federal government, specifically with DHS. More than half the states (57 percent) reported being dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with their overall communications with DHS, and 60 percent said the quality of their communications with the department had either not changed or had deteriorated since 2006.

States did provide some recommendations on how the federal-state relationship in homeland security could be improved. The majority, about 88 percent, said DHS should coordinate policies with the states before the release or implementation of those policies; 79 percent said there should be more coordination among DHS and other key federal agencies, including the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services; and 71 percent said the relationship could be improved with additional grant funding.
Secretary Chertoff always emphasizes involving state and local agencies, but it doesn't seem to happen at ground level. The interesting thing is, states seem to be doing a better job of this, in collaborating with local agencies. Without a collaborative effort, the work will be fractured. Even the vaunted fusion centers could slip by the wayside unless there is a coordinated effort to make them work.

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