“We are here to do the work that ensures no other family members have to lose a loved one to a terrorist who turns a plane into a missile, a terrorist who straps a bomb around her waist and climbs aboard a bus, a terrorist who figures out how to set off a dirty bomb in one of our cities. This is why we are here: to make our country safer and make sure the nearly 3,000 who were taken from us did not die in vain. Their legacy will be a safer and more secure nation."
Barack Obama,
U.S. Senate Floor, March 6, 2007

The 2008 Presidential election is being heralded as a mandate for change. Clearly, America cannot continue along the economic and energy paths it is on and changes to improve the economy and our international standing are needed. And while the election is historic for many reasons, it may not be exactly clear what to change or in which order. Or exactly what President-elect Barack Obama’s mandate is.

Especially regarding Homeland Security.
For security professionals working to understand the risks their organizations will face and the appropriate security strategies to mitigate those risks, a government throwing more balls in the air will make your job harder.

Overused Mandates

Mandates come and go and seem to be greatly overused by the winning party. It was only eight years ago that George W. Bush was elected with a perceived mandate to restore family values. This was the result of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

This year, neither party campaigned on family values. And the Iraq War, which took center stage during Bush’s reelection in 2004 dipped among voters concerns as the credit crisis and recession became the election's issues.

President-elect Obama won the election on a platform of “change.” One of the changes President-elect Obama campaigned on is to end the war in Iraq. And this is one change that will impact your security planning and your taxes. Over $47 billion was budgeted and approved by Congress for the Department of Homeland Security in 2008. The 2009 budget request is $50 billion. However, it is questionable whether that money has been invested within the homeland or to fund the wars, which are costing over $10 billion per month.

There is nothing inappropriate about funding war operations in Iraq, Afghanistan or other areas outside the U.S. Stopping threats before they reach the homeland certainly falls within the role of homeland security. But ending the war and spending homeland security money in the U.S. will have both a direct and indirect impact for your organization, your community and the emergency services, communications, training programs and support you rely upon.

America has significant economic, environmental, social and global challenges to face. And President-elect Obama and the democratic led Congress will have a very long to-do list to improve the future. Ending the Iraq War, bringing our troops home and reestablishing a strategic, long-term homeland security policy with new leadership should be atop his long list.

President-elect Obama has made the following promises and comments regarding Homeland Security.
  • Seven years after 9/11, America is not as safe as it should and can be.
  • His administration will take quick action to strengthen security for all Americans.
  • • He will implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
  • He will ensure the federal government works with states, localities and the private sector as a true partner in prevention, mitigation and response.
  • The goals are two: 1) Prevent terrorist attacks. 2) Improve resilience and response.
  • Allocate resources based on risk not politics.
Nations are at their greatest risk during administration transitions and we encourage President-elect Obama to act quickly in naming his Secretary for Homeland Security to ensure as seamless a transition as possible. Our endorsement goes to James Lee Witt. Mr. Witt did an outstanding job transforming FEMA during the Clinton Administration from a bureaucratic maze to a dynamic and successful organization. His firm, James Lee Witt and Associates was hired by Louisiana to successfully overcome the shortfalls of FEMA after Hurricane Katrina. He has also been recognized for his management of the Oklahoma City bombing.

James Lee’s personality is a match for the DHS matrix of organizations as he is both well liked and respected. And he has proven executive level experience and functional expertise. We encourage President-elect Obama to stay true to his campaign pledge, avoid politics and provide the support necessary to succeed. Appointing Witt will be a powerful, first step in reaching his goals.

Publisher’s Note:As we close 2008, my personal thanks to the Security community, including our advertisers, contributors, advisory board, business partners and the world-class Security Magazine team. Special thanks to our readers as we approach the holidays for keeping our communities secure. We wish a Safe and Happy New Year to all – Mark