Updated homeland security strategy emphasizes resilience

The Bush administration released this week an updated National Strategy for Homeland Security that emphasizes newer concepts, such as developing resilient infrastructure, while including familiar themes, such as deterring terrorism through more effective information sharing.

The Homeland Security Council advisory group to the president prepared the 62-page document. The group’s purpose is to update an earlier administration strategy released in July 2002 to reflect, in part, lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.

The strategy outlines continued preparedness and prevention efforts, including border security, surveillance, biometrics and information sharing. It also covers identification cards, cargo identification and tracking, passenger screening, and cybersecurity threat detection and neutralization.

Federal contractors have been active in these areas since the Homeland Security Department opened in 2003. The report suggests opportunities will continue to grow and develop in those areas.

For example, the strategy asserts a need for enhanced screening programs involving various identity documents. It lists the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and Real ID Act as examples of “efforts to improve the integrity of documents used for entry into the United States.” Both of those programs involve millions of new identity documents that agencies must issue to U.S. residents.

In addition, the strategy states that biometrics are an effective tool for establishing someone’s identity, which can help protect against terrorism. For example, the federal government should try to take advantage of “science and technology to enable more advanced multimodal biometric recognition capabilities in the future that use fingerprint, face or iris data.”

Also, the United States should continue to encourage countries that are not participating in the Visa Waiver Program to develop and deploy biometric passports, the strategy states.

Furthermore, the report states, the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program should continue efforts to expand biometrics for visitors entering the country from two fingerprints to 10. However, the report does not mention Congress’ requirement to implement the US-VISIT program for tracking visitor exits.

In the section on infrastructure protection, the report calls for greater attention to resilience, protection and physical survivability of national assets rather than redundancy. “We must now focus on the resilience of the system as a whole,” the report states. Developing resilience in information technology infrastructures and the Internet has been an important theme for the IT Sector Coordinating Committee, which is working with DHS to protect the IT sector.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, reacted with skepticism to the report, saying it did not appear to have much new information or ideas.

“The real question is, nearly five years after the Department of Homeland Security was created, what’s new in this national strategy and how will it better the national effort to secure the homeland,” Thompson said in a news release.

“The reality is that this strategy provides little guidance for the deficiencies already taxing our homeland security capacity, while at the same time, it attempts to define successes in border security, information sharing, and biopreparedness, which have not yet been realized,” Thompson said.

Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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