When it comes to homeland security, the next president should establish a more effective relationship with cities, states, and the private sector, effectively implementing a new approach to federalism. The federal government cannot secure the American homeland alone, although it will always shoulder the most significant burden. The mission will always be primarily local.
The most effective weapon to prevent another attack is the policeman on the beat. This is one reason we have seen the greatest innovation and effectiveness in homeland security operations in cities such as New York and Los Angeles. Yet many cities, including New York, face shrinking tax revenue and increasing municipal budgets. Under the existing governing ideology, the Bush administration has repeatedly cut federal support for police and first responders. Many federal mandates have also been unfunded, and states have been slower to respond to domestic contingencies with large numbers of National Guard troops and equipment in Iraq.
The Bush administration has also assumed that private companies and private markets will, in general, automatically secure the critical systems and networks that we rely upon every day. The private sector operates roughly 85 percent of what we term critical infrastructure, but as our current economic difficulties illustrate, companies and markets are hardly infallible. In fact, most welll-run businesses want—and in many cases, are still waiting for—the federal government to set appropriate national security standards. The new president has an opportunity to develop a new framework for how the federal government interacts with the whole range of actors in the homeland security mission.
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