Book Review: Beyond 9/11: Homeland Security for the Twenty-First Century

Book: Beyond 9/11:  Homeland Security for the Twenty-first Century. Lawson, C, Bersin, A, and Kayyem, J. eds. The MIT Press, 2020. $35.

Reviewed by: Dr. Jeffrey Glick Professor of Practice, School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech.  Affiliated Faculty at the McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown

What does it take to secure the homeland in the twenty-first century?  This is the central question tackled by the book, Beyond 9/11: Homeland Security for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Chapppell Lawson, Associate Professor at MIT; Alan Bersen, Former Commissioner of the U.S Customs and Border Protection and DHS Assistant Secretary; and Juliette Kayyem, Faculty Director of the Homeland Security Project, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.  The editors assembled a distinguished group of writers for whom they note, “have held senior positions in DHS, its components, or other organizations with key roles in the homeland security enterprise.”  Together, they focus on the key components of the homeland security challenge nineteen years after the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and twenty years since 9/11.

The first chapter provides an overview as to the diversity and evolving nature of the homeland security enterprise and how responsibilities and actions for homeland security span beyond DHS, to other federal agencies, state and local governments, across the private sector, to individuals and even beyond to the international community.  As the authors note, and what proves to be a theme for the book, partnerships are essential for securing the homeland.

The second and third chapters build on the first chapter’s foundation by discussing the evolving structure of DHS, what is inside and outside its mission space, its need to establish and nurture partnerships to foster accomplishment of broader homeland security goals, and what it has yet to accomplish internally both structurally and operationally.  This provides the background for Chapters 4-9, which each focus on and critically analyze a particular aspect of the homeland security enterprise, providing suggestions for operational improvement.  Such topics as the terrorist threat and the domestic counter-terrorism response, transportation security, border control and immigration are all discussed with recommendations for each, while noting there are paradigm shifts underway which necessitate evolving responses and approaches going forward.

The tenth through twelfth chapters shift focus to emergency management and the importance of critical infrastructure in response to the growing landscape in number, severity and diversity of disasters and security challenges.  Beginning with Chapter 10’s focus on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its unique role and function within DHS and need to partner with other government entities at all levels to accomplish its disaster mission.  Chapter 11 turns to the importance of critical infrastructures, which the author points out were once subject to relatively low-cost, isolated events, but now due to the increasing interconnectedness of systems to each other and to the internet, are subject to, and can subject society to high-cost events with cascading effects.  Chapter 12 then turns the analytic lens on cybersecurity, the growing and evolving threat, the role of particularly government in responding to this threat and providing recommendations to the cyber threat challenges that remain at all levels and functions of society.

Chapters thirteen and fourteen take a hard look at law enforcement.  First in Chapter 13 from the perspective of DHS’s role in crime prevention, primarily in border and aviation security and the requisite information sharing needs verses need for personal informational privacy.  Then Chapter 14 looks specifically at combating transnational crime and the need for a new approach.  The authors suggest adding the “Disruption Model” to active law enforcement, making it difficult for criminals to perpetuate their nefarious activities, in addition to the ongoing prosecutorial approach which attempts to punish criminals, who are often beyond reach of U.S. courtrooms.

In a concluding chapter, the editors pose eight central questions confronting homeland security.  They draw on all the previous chapters in answering what they believe are the best courses of action, necessary tradeoffs and inherent difficulties in this high stake venture of protecting the homeland.

The combined historical and analytical focus of Beyond 9/11, does an excellent job of articulating the present issues and limitations, but also provides concrete suggestions to enhance the U.S. approach to ensuring homeland security, with one caveat.  This book was written too soon – before 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.  The book briefly discusses pandemics and particularly the roles of DHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the Department of Health and Human Services.  However, given this nation’s experience in the pandemic’s and its widespread impact on all as aspects of societal functioning, a valuable addition would have been a separate chapter exclusively devoted to discussing pandemic preparedness and the requisite need for communication, cooperation and mitigative planning and actions at all levels of government, throughout all of society and internationally.  This necessary chapter awaits the possible second edition of this very useful and insightful addition to the emergency management library.

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