Interview with Frank Navarette
Frank Navarette’s introduction to the security field was 18 years in the Phoenix Police Department, but perhaps as much as anything, it was his international experience in the telecommunications field that made him the favored pick to lead the Arizona Office of Homeland Security when it started in 2003. Navarette’s other qualifications for the job included the post of state intelligence director under then-Governor Bruce Babbitt, who moved on to become U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
CAN YOU GIVE READERS A SENSE OF WHAT THE JOB OF DIRECTOR OF HOMELAND SECURITY FOR ARIZONA CONSISTS OF?
My job is more strategic than tactical. The overarching responsibility is to secure the citizens of Arizona, but it’s to ensure that all the stakeholders are doing what they are supposed to in support of the state’s homeland security strategy.
We tie in very closely with our local stakeholders, including our tribal partners. It also involves a lot of coordination with our federal partners, not just DHS folks back in Washington, but here in Arizona with border patrol and Customs.
And we make sure we follow through on many of Governor Janet Napolitano’s priorities. She’s a very strong proponent and supporter of homeland security and emergency management.
WHAT ARE OTHER TOP ISSUES YOUR DEPARTMENT FOCUSES ON?
The top issues we are focused on are continuing our efforts on interoperability, critical infrastructure protection, and training and exercises.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU MOST SINCE BEING ON THE JOB?
There was nothing drastic. Having been in law enforcement a long time, it takes a lot to really surprise me. But one of the things that stood out was the positive cooperation among local and state organizations and their willingness to work with each other. That includes the FBI, the locals, the sheriffs, the fire departments. It’s very unusual.
The other thing is the strong partnership with Mexico. We do a lot of joint exercises with our first responders right along the border, especially around Nogales, Douglas, and San Luis. We’re in a position where we have to help one another. It’s nice to train and exercise jointly so that each of us know how the other is going to operate, and we have some consistency.
HOW HAS WORKING WITH THE MEXICAN AUTHORITIES BEEN THUS FAR?
Under the current administration, it’s going extremely well. Both governors have a very strong relationship, and that ripples down through the administration.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE DEPARTMENT IN THE COMING YEAR? WHAT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO ACHIEVE?
I will tell you that it’s really evolved since 9-11. Prior to that time, there was a feeling in emergency management in the state that you didn’t use public funds to enhance private business, because if we did that it showed favoritism to a particular business.
We really need to rethink that. And part of it is simply recognizing that private business owns up to 85 percent of the critical infrastructure. If we don’t find a way to effectively partner, we’re going to really miss the boat.
Since 9-11, we’ve met more with our business community, people who belong to ASIS, the Iowa Business Council; we’re working now with Business Executives for National Security, and we’ve really broadened our participation in business and begun to talk about interdependencies between various sectors.
We’ve done some exercises together, and we are looking for opportunities to plan and work together. We’ve expanded our [Emergency Operations Center] operations to invite business in, knowing that they’ll play a vital role.
Probably the bigger challenge is in information sharing. You know there’s a tendency to look at intelligence as criminal intelligence in the state, and there are restrictions in state law, as in federal law, in sharing criminal intelligence information. At the same time, we want businesses to understand a threat that they may face so they can take appropriate protective measures.
That’s been a challenge for us. And we keep attacking that, and going back to our legislature and saying, “You know, we need to protect information on one hand, but we need an ability to share it on the other, and do it in an effective way so people can take the right protective measures given that information.”
At the same time, business needs to trust that they can give information to the state, and we can protect it.
WHAT KIND OF COOPERATION DO YOU GET FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?
It’s good and bad.
I'VE HEARD A LOT ABOUT THE INSIDE - THE-BELTWAY MENTALITY, STATES FEEL AT TIMES AS THOUGH THEY ARE TREATED WITH CONDESCENSION, AS IF THEY WOULDN'T KNOW AS MUCH AS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
I would echo that. It’s the Beltway mentality. The feeling is that the center of the universe is in Washington, and you guys don’t know anything. But it’s also true that there are a lot of good people back there, and we have friends back there. In some cases, they’re very responsive. But that’s not true across the board.
The cooperation with border patrol and Customs is excellent, both here and in Washington. The cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is not as good as we would like it to be.
I also firmly believe that Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff has a keen interest in fixing what is going on at the border. I just don’t know that he’s got the wherewithal to do it in the time frame that we would like to see it done. His heart’s in the right place, but we are still dealing with Washington.
WHAT ABOUT CHANGES YOU'D LIKE TO SEE IN THAT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT? A COMMON ANSWER I'VE HEARD IS THAT THE DIRECTORS OF HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENTS AT THE STATE LEVEL WOULD LKIE A SEAT AT THE TABLE AND TO MORE INVOLVED IN THE DECISION -MAKING PROCESS
The first thing I’d like to see is improvements in the ICE program. The National Governors Association has just set up a Homeland Security Directors Council. My good friend Matt Bettenhausen of California has been elected vice chair. As chair of that group, I’d like to drive home the importance of more input from the locals on homeland security issues rather than the top-down approach that currently exists. Right now, they bring us in to ask our opinion of things after they are already done. That doesn’t fly with me. Together, we’ll be able to drive that point home pretty hard.
WHAT FUNDING DOES THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT GIVE YOU? WHAT ARE THE DEPARTMENT'S OTHER SOURCES OF FUNDING? IS THIS SUFFICIENT
I’ve experienced a continuing decline in federal funding, from $61 million in fiscal year 2003, to $56 million in ’04, to $40 million in ’05, to $20 million in ’06. What’s wrong with that picture?
In this last go-around, I think they overcomplicated the process. In discussions I’ve had with DHS recently, they won’t be able to change the ’07 process, but they seem to be receptive to alleviating complexities in the process. Clearly in my mind, our proximity to the Mexican border ought to have a big impact on the Southwest border states’ funding.
HOW HAVE SOME OF THE FUNDS BEEN USED? IF YOU HAD ADDITIONAL RESOURCES, WHERE WOULD YOU PUT THEM?
Our fusion center (intelligence center) is identified as a model on a national level. Our progress in interoperability is a major accomplishment. We prioritized personal protection equipment in the first year. We’ve got a very robust response team in the state. Our threat and vulnerability assessment team is also very robust.
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE ABOUT HOW YOU ARE INVOLVING OR WORKING WITH BUSINESSES IN THE STATE TO SHARE INTELLIGENCE, DEVELOP COUNTERTERRORISM STRATEGIES, AND PREPARE EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLANS AND PROTOCOLS?
I’m glad you’re asking that. The Arizona perspective is that the private sector is a critical piece of the puzzle. We work closely with utilities, fuel tank farms, shopping center owners, railroad operators, private security professionals, and so forth. To that end, they work closely with our intel folks and our emergency management folks.
The governor has held many meetings with area CEOs to build a relationship at that level. We recently had a meeting with about 25 of the state’s top CEOs. It was very positive. It was an opportunity to look the CEOs in the eye and say, when this happens, I want you engaged. The result of that is we are setting up additional meetings with key members of the private sector to discuss specific issues at an executive level to ensure that they are on board and that we are working closely together on everything.