Strengthening Domestic Counterterrorism:Private Sector Solutions for Public Safety

Business Executives for National Security (BENS), a nonpartisan organization that applies best business practice solutions to national security issues, recently released a report detailing its recommendations for domestic counterterrorism efforts.  The national security landscape has changed drastically in the fourteen years since 9/11, and the attacks at Fort Hood and the Boston Marathon demonstrated America’s vulnerabilities to domestic threats. Lone wolf terrorists, home grown extremists, and the advent of easily accessible and highly advanced technology necessitate the development of a unified domestic counterterrorism strategy. 

Over the course of three years, a BENS Task Force interviewed over 100 members of the domestic intelligence community to compose the recommendations outlined in  “Domestic Security: Confronting a Changing Threat to Ensure Public Safety and Civil Liberties”.  The report identifies significant room for improvement in the domestic security apparatus and offers ten common-sense recommendations for a more cohesive domestic counterterrorism strategy.  Most recommendations fall into three broader categories, detailed below.

Interagency Cooperation and Local, State, and Federal Interoperability

The report emphasized the importance of collaboration between all levels of federal and local law enforcement.  With an estimated 800,000 officers nationwide, local law enforcement has an intimate knowledge of the communities they serve, but their expertise is historically underutilized. The Task Force also recommended a restructuring of the intelligence community to include “domestic entities performing domestic intelligence work”, such as Customs & Border Protection, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, and Transportation Security Administration (among others).   Currently, each domestic agency “conducts its own independent domestic threat prioritization, resulting in uncoordinated or duplicated efforts.”  In response, the Task Force proposed the development of an annual interagency assessment of domestic threats and intelligence needs.

Capitalizing on Existing Federal Resources

BENS identified poorly defined roles among competing agencies as a causal factor of bureaucratic overlap.  The Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence & Analysis, for instance, should “focus its attention and efforts on the intelligence derived from the unique knowledge and capabilities of the DHS” rather than developing an independent analytic capability.  Likewise, the FBI should devote itself equally to the task of law enforcement and domestic intelligence collection, rather than prioritizing one over the other.  Finally, the Office of the Director of National Security (ODNI) should exercise its legal authority over the domestic intelligence community to ensure “unity of effort and oversight”.

Recruiting, Training, and Retaining a Skilled Workforce

Domestic intelligence analysts are crucial to counterterrorism efforts, but they rarely receive the compensation, training, or leadership roles commensurate with the importance of their work.  The Task Force advised creating better incentive structures and opportunities for advancement in order to recruit and retain “the needed cadre of skilled intelligence analysts.”


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