NEWS

Report: DHS Intelligence Role Must Evolve Beyond Terrorism, Concentrate on the Local

By Matthew Harwood

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) role in the nation's intelligence community must evolve beyond terrorism-related threats and concentrate on providing unclassified, creative, and responsive intelligence products to state and local first preventers, according to a report released yesterday by The Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group during a House subcommittee hearing.

Lawmakers were briefed on the contents of the report, "Homeland Security and Intelligence: Next Steps in Evolving the Mission," (.pdf) by three former high-level homeland security and counterterrorist officials—former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, former Deputy Director of the FBI's National Security Branch Philip Mudd, and former Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism Juan Zarate, all of whom now work for the Aspen Institute's Homeland Security Group.

"This approach should serve local partners' requirements, providing intelligence in areas (such as infrastructure) not previously served by federal intelligence agencies, and disseminating information by new means such as smartphones," stated Mudd in prepared testimony (.pdf).

According to Mudd, the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) should stay away from duplicative intelligence work concentrating on international terrorism. Rather it should help local and state agencies and the private sector protect themselves from multiple threats primarily associated with non-state actors, particularly homegrown terrorists.

In the future, DHS's intelligence mission should concentrate on the department's unique responsibilities that it doesn't share with other agencies, such as border security and critical infrastructure protection, and the data that goes with it, said Mudd.  "Analysis that helps private-sector partners understand how to mitigate infrastructure threats, for example, might merit more resources than all-source analysis of general threats," he explained.

Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, HUMINT, Analysis, and Counterintelligence, agreed. "While I certainly can understand the pressure on I&A to spread its arms far and wide, I firmly believe that it will gain relevance, and contribute most effectively to the intelligence mission, by zeroing in on its core mission," she said (.pdf).

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