Homeland Security and Public Safety

Addressing Cyberthreats and the Risks of a Changing Climate are Among DHS Goals

Quadrennial review highlights the five missions of the department and how they’ve evolved.

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In releasing its second quadrennial review, a 104-page report, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) outlines its efforts to enhance the five homeland security missions it detailed in the first review in 2010.

With disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, as well as the increasing cyberthreat as the backdrop, the report outlined what it called a more risk-based approach to the significant threats from terrorism and natural hazards.

Of course the mission of the DHS continues to be combating terrorism, but also taking an all-hazards approach and recognizing the trends in natural hazards brought on by a changing climate, and to understand and mitigate the possibilities of a devastating pandemic.

The report says that weather events present a growing challenge as evidenced by the multi-billion dollar disasters in recent years like Hurricane Sandy, which killed 117 and knocked out power to 8.5 million. It says the risk of more of these storms is increasing and that, combined with an aging infrastructure and population increases in high-risk areas, sets the stage for catastrophe.

Of course, the ever present and increasing cyberthreat is addressed and the vulnerability of the infrastructure makes the threat even more ominous. Calling it a “cyber-physical convergence,” the report details the risk of a cyberattack on the nation’s infrastructure, both physical and other.

The five homeland security missions are revisited and revised to reflect the evolving threats and level of adaption on the part of the DHS and the rest of the country:

Prevent terrorism and enhance security: This is the cornerstone of the department’s efforts and those efforts have to evolve as the threats do, the report says, citing the Boston bombings as evidence that the war on terrorism includes domestic-based “lone offenders” who are difficult to detect.

Secure and manage the borders: Border security must be improved to “exclude terrorist threats, drug traffickers and other threats to national security, economic security and public safety,” the report states. Enhanced technology to screen incoming cargo at ports and monitoring international travel with the help of foreign partners will enable those efforts.

Enforce immigration laws: The report says “immigration reform that enhances border security, prevents and discourages employers from hiring undocumented workers and provides an earned pathway to citizenship” is supported by the DHS.

Safeguard and secure cyberspace: The growing cyberthreat must be addressed as risks to services, such as water, energy, transportation, telecommunications and financial services persist and increase. The report says that the DHS must work with the public and private sectors to share information and ensure that new infrastructure is built to be more secure and resilient. And the DHS must secure the federal government’s IT systems; one, by approaching systems and networks as an integrated whole and by deploying cybersolutions at a pace that matches the threat level, which includes developing cyber law enforcement.

Strengthen national preparedness and resilience: The report says since Hurricane Katrina disaster planning with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations and the private sector, has improved significantly. This reflected a return on investment that resulted in prepositioned assets and an awareness that helped the nation respond.
 

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