PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University political scientist Steven Stehr has prepared a section of a report from The Century Foundation that examines homeland security responses in the Evergreen State. Others from Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin added their states’ efforts to the report released today (June 25).
The Sept. 11 attacks made clear the central role that state and local governments play in homeland security. The federal government has been developing a homeland defense strategy and has created a new department to execute it. None of that will matter however, unless state and local governments are a strong and effective part of the plan.
But how have state and local governments improved their preparedness over the past 18 months? This new report from The Century Foundation looks at four states: Washington, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin to provide a broad cross section of state and local government activities in responding to these new threats. Authors of the four reports looked for concrete ways in which agencies have changed the ways they do business.
The reports were written by Stehr, the chair of the WSU Department of Political Science/Criminal Justice Program; Louise K. Comfort of the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania); Robie Robinson, David A. McEntire, and Richard T. Weber, all of the University of North Texas (Texas); and Dennis L. Dresang of the University of Wisconsin at Madison (Wisconsin).
University of Wisconsin political scientist Donald F. Kettl, who oversaw the papers, notes that the main theme emerging from all four reports is “business as usual.” However, the papers also contain examples of successful homeland security efforts in each state. The authors of the four reports found little evidence that states and localities have improved protections for their residents. The reports provide evidence that there are substantial gaps of coordination between national, state and local government response operations and more money is needed to plug those gaps.
However, putting more money into the system is not likely to close those gaps, unless the system fundamentally changes. The state governments must become key players in enhancing local preparedness. Building the system the country needs requires a new strategy for federal grants for homeland security.
The Century Foundation’s reports show that to most effectively protect residents, federal, state and local governments must invest quickly in three key areas: an enhanced public health capacity; a personnel policy matched to the problem; and communication capacity to ensure that first responders can communicate with one another in the event of an emergency.
The state reports each highlight that more money alone will not solve the problems. The reports show that more money is needed, but enhanced security depends on a fundamental restructuring of homeland security strategies. The four case studies reveal that the states must be able to guarantee a minimum level of protection for residents and discuss options for setting these standards. The case studies illustrate the need for strengthening local coordination among departments and personnel, while enhancing the states’ role in the coordinating function.
The case studies offer a nationwide plan for transforming homeland security in which states will play the primary role. The reports’ authors argue for a federal grant system, in which: the federal government sets minimum nationwide guidelines and appropriates the necessary funding; the states receive grants and devise statewide plans to enhance coordination; and local governments maintain substantial discretion about how best to build and deploy their resources.
The paper was commissioned as part of The Century Foundation’s Project on Homeland Security. Kettl, the executive director of The Century Foundation Working Group on Federalism Challenges, served as the director of the four-state study and as author of the overview of the report.
The paper is available on The Century Foundation’s website at www.tcf.org or the homeland security website at www.homelandsec.org. The Century Foundation’s Project on Homeland Security was created to help formulate coherent and comprehensive approaches to homeland security challenges. The Homeland Security Project looks at a number of areas including, the federal response to terrorism, federalism challenges, the public’s need to know, bioterrorism, and civil liberties.