After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, it became clear that much more needed to be done to protect America's freedoms and interests - both at home and abroad. The US Government, in response, created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over five years ago and the Department is now the lead organization responsible for protecting the United States homeland.
The National Strategy for Homeland Security (2007), which guides, organizes, and unifies homeland security efforts, outlines four national goals:
Prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks
Protect American people, critical infrastructure and key resources
Respond to and recover from incidents that do occur
Continue to strengthen principles, systems, structures and institutions to ensure long-term success
Furthermore, the President states that "Homeland security is a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur." Accordingly, homeland security "cannot simply rely on defensive approaches and well-planned response and recovery measures." (White House, March 2008).
Proactive Counterterrorism Efforts Needed in Homeland Security
Many of the homeland security efforts right after 9/11 were centered on plans, procedures, and processes for emergency management personnel. While a necessary and worthwhile endeavor, not as much attention has been focused on prevention as opposed to "response and recovery measures".
One of the keys to prevention in the context of homeland security is knowledge of the threats and risks posed by terrorism. This means that in addition to "all-hazards" emergency response exercises and training, homeland security and counterterrorism professionals need to develop a deep understanding and subject matter expertise in how terrorists groups operate; their tactics, techniques, and procedures.
Proactive counterterrorism efforts include forestalling terrorist actions through enhanced detection and interdiction of terrorist cells. This level of intervention, at the prevention stage versus the recovery stage, requires comprehensive training for counterrorism operators and analysts about how to get into the minds, cultures, and habits of terrorists and their organizations. More attention should be paid how to both develop and execute strategies to disrupt terrorist activity before they are able to carry out their plans and inflict damage.
Homeland Security Counterterrorism Analysts Need Intelligence Training
Another component of homeland security is intelligence and the need for counterterrorism professionals to understand how to gather and analyze intelligence from a variety of sources about potential threats to the homeland. Homeland security intelligence analysts must develop expertise about how to conduct risk analysis, threat assessments, and how to apply analytic tradecraft in the homeland security domain (intelligence collection against non-state actors and terrorist groups as opposed to the traditional emphasis on the collection of state-based foreign intelligence).
Counterterrorism intelligence analysts involved in the homeland security mission are responsible for providing insights about the capabilities, motivations, and intentions of terrorist groups that may seek to harm US interests at home and abroad. Because terrorists are agile and difficult to monitor using traditional intelligence collection instruments, homeland security analysts must possess advanced critical thinking, problem solving, and other analytic skills - including foreign language training - to properly and adequately exploit and leverage open source intelligence (OSINT).