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Homeland Security

Analysis: Homeland Security Goes Local

Council on Foreign Relations

February 26, 2007
Prepared by: Eben Kaplan

During his tenure, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff cast homeland security as primarily a state-level function, with the federal government offering guidance and assistance. “State and local governments are the primary first responders in a disaster,” Chertoff told the National Hurricane Conference last year. Some states have embraced this role; a few even established state-level homeland security departments before the federal government did. For the most part, states have focused on emergency response, reevaluating their readiness to respond to crises. But the post-9/11 era security environment presents new challenges, and many state officials are placing new emphasis on intelligence operations.

In an annual survey (PDF), the National Governors Association asks state homeland security directors to describe the challenges they face and the policies they endorse. Topping the list of priorities is a communications system that would allow various state and federal agencies to communicate directly in an emergency. This was among the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and is an aim of recent congressional legislation. It remains unclear if, or when, these communications systems will be implemented. Heritage Foundation analyst James Carafano suggests a proposed new grant to fund such systems will only encourage states to “view security grants as pork-barrel handouts.”

Second on the list of priorities is developing “fusion centers,” state-level intelligence hubs that pool information from state and federal agencies to assist in both criminal and counterterrorism investigations. As this new Backgrounder explains, fusion centers represent an important development in burgeoning state-level intelligence programs.

For years, intelligence collection and analysis has been the purview of the federal government, but state and local law enforcement authorities increasingly feel the need to bolster their own intelligence networks.

Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.

Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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