Global Insights: Reflections on Sept. 11

Global Insights: Reflections on Sept. 11

Since I was at the Pentagon on Sept. 11 and saw Flight 77 hit the building, the 10th anniversary of the attack naturally causes me to reflect on how much progress we have made in preventing another such cataclysm during the past decade as well as on the challenges that remain for preventing one in the future. Two issues immediately come to mind: further strengthening the Department of Homeland Security and considering how the United States might reduce the high level of anti-Americanism that persists in much of the world.

The mere creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003 was a helpful advance in strengthening Americans' defenses against terrorism. Before 2001, despite calls by the Hart-Rudman Commission and other bodies to create a single agency dedicated to homeland security, it was not clear which of the many agencies with such a role was in charge. DHS has now become the third-largest U.S. department, with an annual budget of some $50 billion and more than 200,000 federal employees.

The department's rapid creation and diffuse mission has naturally left unresolved certain problems of integration. Many of its 22 legacy organizations are not performing as effectively as they should, and the wasted resources will prove difficult to justify in a period of increased budgetary stringency. A related problem is that DHS personnel, who have generally received good individual and unit training, often see themselves first as members of sub-department bodies and only secondarily as members of the Department of Homeland Security. The continued postponement of plans to build an integrated DHS headquarters has reinforced the problem.

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