Napolitano to unveil administration's homeland security strategy

Published 29 July 2009

In a speech today to the Council of Foreign relations, DHS secretary Janet Napolitano will unveil the administration’s homeland security strategy; the emphasis will be on continuing and expanding many of the Bush administration’s initiatives, but with greater emphasis on protecting civil liberties

Earlier today we sent our readers a news flash containing the gist of the speech DHS secrtary Janet Napolitano were to give at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York (see normal print below). By the time the regular issue of HSNW has been produced, Napolitano has finished her presentation. We offer a summary of her talk below, in italics.

Napolitano said the federal government would begin to leverage ordinary Americans and the private sector as the first layer of the country’s defense.
“For too long, we’ve treated the public as a liability to be protected rather than an asset in our nation’s collective security,” she said. “This approach, unfortunately, has allowed confusion, anxiety, and fear to linger.”

One of her most important duties, she said, was to move the country from a culture of fear to one of preparedness.

Napolitano called the costs of perpetually living in fear rather than in preparedness “enormous,” but failed to explain those costs. The New York Times felt her discussion of fear “seemed to rebuke the approach taken by the Bush administration, which critics said too often seemed to exaggerate threats and sow a sense of fear.”

Napolitano stressed the importance of everyday vigilance, citing the example of a New Jersey store clerk who warned authorities of men trying to copy extremist DVDs. The tip ended up with federal agents arresting the men plotting the attack on Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey. “You are the ones who know if something is not right in your communities,” Napolitano said.

She offered citizens practical ways to help ordinary Americans move toward a culture of preparedness rather than fear, such as creating family emergency plans, volunteering for CitizenCorps and AmeriCorps, and receiving free basic disaster response training from a local Community Emergency Response Team.

Napolitano also spoke about her department’s efforts to increase communication and collaboration with the private sector to protect the country’s critical infrastructure, 85 percent of which is in private hands. Since 2003, DHS has provided more than $28 billion in grants to help protect critical infrastructure at state and local levels. Money will not do it alone, according to Napolitano: “It’s the active engagement of employers to work with DHS to identify critical resources, and plan for ways to secure them.”

Countering the terrorist threat is not just the efforts of one agency, or one element of society,” she said. “Rather it requires a holistic and unrelenting approach: all levels, all tactics, all elements of society.”


DHS secretary Janet Napolitano, in a speech today at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, will unveil the administration strategy for addressing terrorist threats to the United States. Many of the administration’s policies will be a continuation of policies initiated by the Bush administration, but Napolitano will highlight the Obama administration’s greater emphasis on protecting civil liberties.

Following the speech, Napolitano will head to Ground Zero, her first visit to the site of the 9/11 attacks.

Wall Street Journal’s Cam Simpson writes that in an interview this week about her strategy, it was clear Napolitano’s ideas are not revolutionary, nor do they represent a sharp break from policies of the past. She is not seeking another reorganization of the government, or even another reorganization of her department, which is the nation’s third-largest with more than 200,000 employees.

Among the issues Napolitano will address and initiatives she will announce:

  • The need to fill the large and critical information-sharing gaps that still exist among government bureaucracies — from those within her own department, to others on the federal level, down to states and local governments and the private sector.
  • A key component of the integration efforts is a national network of roughly seventy intelligence-fusion centers. They bring federal, state, and local officials under the same roof to “fuse” terrorism-related intelligence.
  • More civic awareness and involvement to prevent attacks.
  • Working closer with foreign governments, from sharing airline-passenger data to intelligence about potential plots.
  • Expansion of some of the Bush administration’s programs, for instance, a pilot program to train police to report suspicious behavior such as theft of keys from a facility that keeps radiological waste.
  • Some of the themes Napolitano will emphasize today also echo the findings of a private report released last year called “Homeland Security 3.0.”