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DHS Advisory Group’s “Top Ten Challenges” For Next Homeland Security Secretary Includes Some Citizen-Focused Recommendations

October 12th, 2008 · No Comments

The Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) recently released a report titled Top Ten Challenges Facing the Next Secretary of Homeland Security. Comprised of “leaders from state and local government, first responder communities, the private sector, and academia,” the HSAC was created to provide “advice and recommendations to the Secretary on matters related to homeland security.”

Though I might have preferred a little more emphasis early on in the report about the public’s role in the nation’s homeland security mission going forward, the last two “Challenges” – Improve Risk Management and Risk Communications For Homeland Security and Sustainability Of Our Nation’s Homeland Security Efforts – directly involve the public. I thought I would excerpt the relevant recommendations:

Key Challenge 9 – Improve Risk Management and Risk Communications For Homeland Security

Dealing with risk involves two key concepts: risk management and risk communications. The new Secretary must support and expand efforts to improve the risk-based approach to homeland security, which is in its early stages. The evolution and decisions about risk, as applied to the Homeland, are paramount to building a risk-based foundation for security that lasts into the next decade. Ultimately, a good risk framework is only useful if political leaders (at all levels) are willing to make tough choices on security trade-offs. In addition, the new Secretary has the challenge of communicating to the American people and homeland security partners in an effort to prepare them for potential threats, as well as during unfolding crises.

Risk communications 

Improving the approach to risk in the Department also requires improving risk communications systems. Risk communications starts with the fundamental need to explain the threats that America faces and involves creating a culture of preparedness through long-term education. An effective risk communications system can mitigate the long-term psychological effects of an incident on the American citizen, which will help safeguard our Democracy against overreaction to possible future attacks. It also involves improving crisis communications systems such as the color-coded homeland security advisory system (which should be revisited and revised to have meaning for the average American), as well as completing the improvements to the old emergency alert and warning systems that DHS controls. 

Key Challenge 10 – Sustainability Of Our Nation’s Homeland Security Efforts


One of the toughest challenges for the next Secretary will be to keep the American public engaged
and focused on efforts to prepare for any potential domestic or international threats. Maintaining the political will and public support to move forward with necessary, long-term efforts to protect the Homeland is a challenge for all Americans. The new leaders of DHS must continue to work to inspire a sense of urgency in the public and among policy-makers that our efforts are necessary and valuable to the protection of our Nation.

I agree with these recommendations to engage the public on risk and the role of the citizen in the nation’s homeland security. I hope and expect they will a priority of the next Secretary. 

You can find a copy of the full Top Ten Challenges report at

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Tags: Department of Homeland Security · Preparedness Ideas · Uncategorized

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