Panel frets over homeland security

Gilmore Commission Final Report

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Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, momentum for a comprehensive, national homeland security strategy appears to have diminished, a federal commission reported today.

Scarce resources are not being prioritized or applied effectively for homeland security, said the Gilmore Commission, in its fifth and final report to President Bush and Congress.

"The panel has serious concern about the current state of homeland security efforts along the full spectrum from awareness to recovery, " the report states. "Efforts by the government may provide the perception of enhanced security that causes the nation to become complacent about the many critical actions still required."

Chaired by former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore III, the 17-member commission, formally known as the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, was formed in 1999 and will disband early next year. Congress and various government agencies have adopted 125 of the 144 recommendations in the commission's first four reports.

The group's stated goal is to create a steady state in the next five years that provides a benchmark for government, commercial and nonprofit organizations. Such standards are meant to encompass standardized sharing of information; commitment of resources; definition of the military's domestic role; processes for involving academia, business and the public sector in standards research and development for technology and public policy; and unified plans and incentives for critical infrastructure protection.

The federal government hasn't put forth a clear strategic guidance about the definition and objectives of preparedness and how state and local governments will be evaluated, according to the commission.

"While some progress is being made, it is not happening at a pace commensurate with the flow of Federal funding to communities and states," the report says. "By the time clear definition and objectives are provided, many communities and states may have embarked on paths that are measurably different from those adjacent to them and potentially inconsistent with a national approach."

The document also pointed to a "deficit in intelligence and information sharing" and a lack of security clearances at the state and local levels preventing widespread dissemination of general strategic intelligence.

Commission members recommended development of an enterprise architecture to institutionalize intelligence and information sharing, risk assessments and better integrated planning and training in coordination with state and local governments and the private sector. It also called for a streamlined funding process and revision of the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System.

Another concern has been civil liberties, especially with an increasing reliance on sophisticated technology for surveillance purposes. The commission said the debate between security and civil liberties should be reframed from being about competing values to mutually reinforcing ones. The commission recommended that the President establish an independent, bipartisan civil liberties oversight board "to provide advice on any change to statutory, or regulatory authority or implementing procedures for combating terrorism" with civil liberties implications.


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