NEWS

State Homeland Security Advisors Unhappy with Federal Government

Matthew Harwood

A majority of state homeland security advisors are none too pleased with their relationship with the federal government, especially  the Department of Homeland Security, according to new report from the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices.

The survey revealed deep dissatifaction among respondents, all members of  the NGA's Governors Homeland Security Advisors Council.

More than half the states (57 percent) reported being dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with their overall communications with DHS, and 60 percent said the quality of their communications with the department had either not changed or had deteriorated since 2006. Only slightly more than one-third, or 34 percent, said their communications with DHS had improved in that one-year period.

Advisors say the federal government's homeland security grant program is inadequately funded and does not strike a balance between the four core principles of homeland security: preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery. The survey also showed advisors want DHS to coordinate policies with states before releasing or implementing them. Without more federal funding, advisors say, states can't support the necessary personnel needed to sustain programs "that are national in scope but that carried out locally."

With Hurricane Katrina still resonating in homeland security circles, the survey reports only one-third of states have 75 percent of the National Guard force necessary to respond to a natural or manmade disaster.

When survey participants were allowed to comment anonymously, they criticized a high turnover rate at DHS, which they said fosters weak and often adversarial communication with states. Collectively, DHS has little understanding of what goes on at the state level, respondents said.

The survey also asked advisors about priorities. Establishment of interoperable communications again topped the list, followed by coordination of state and local efforts, protection critical infrastructure, development state fusion centers. Last, and new to the top five this year, was strengthening citizen preparedness.

Of the 56 state and territorial homeland security advisors polled, 44 responded to the questionaire, a slight drop from the previous year when 49 homeland security advisors participated.

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