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National Homeland Security Consortium Releases White Paper

Today, the National Homeland Security Consortium (NHSC) issued its 2012 white paper, Protecting Americans in the 21st Century: Priorities for 2012 and Beyond (pdf).

As a member of the consortium, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) joins other public-safety organizations in calling on leaders at all levels of government and the private sector to come together to address the increasingly complex and interdependent issues identified in the document.

"With the 2012 elections behind us, now is the time for apolitical, nonpartisan collaboration to advance national safety and security goals," said John Madden, director, Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Madden is one of the tri-chairs for the NHSC, a voluntary group of 22 national associations formed in 2002 in an effort to collaboratively address homeland-security issues.

In the white paper, the Consortium's endorsing members state not only that the following areas are of concern individually, but that leaders must recognize and begin to understand the interaction and intersection of these threats and vulnerabilities:

  • Cyber Hazards – One of the most troubling aspects of this threat is the lack of a cohesive framing of the problem and the wide range of potential severities and consequences.
  • Climate Change – While determining the cause of this global phenomenon may be an important factor in slowing, halting or reversing the impacts, the Consortium is primarily concerned with the actions, policies and strategies that will be necessary to mitigate, respond to and recover from its consequences.
  • Demands on Global Resources – The concerns of growing populations versus diminishing agricultural, mineral and water resources will present a wide range of cascading consequences and implications, potentially including mass migrations and civil conflict.
  • Changing Demographics – Geographic location, age, ethnicity, education level, nationality, employment status, residency status and language are all examples of demographics that are constantly in a state of change both domestically and across the world. While change is constant, the implications of these changes to health, safety and security officials can significantly affect both policy and operations.
  • Emerging technologies – Advances in areas such as social communications, synthetic biology, genetic manipulation, advanced automation, increased connectivity and computing power will certainly have grand societal benefits. However, we would be remiss if we didn't consider the potential for accidental or intentionally malevolent applications as well.
  • Violent Extremist Ideologies – The decline of one violent extremist ideology doesn't mean the decline of all, nor does it prevent the emergence of new terroristic threats to the nation. Enduring attention, analysis and vigilance to this threat must be maintained.
  • WMD Proliferation – This global hazard/threat requires an international effort. It also emphasizes, rather than diminishes, the need for a domestically prepared nation.
  • Mega-Hazards and Catastrophic Cascading Consequences – Japan's horrific experience reminds us of how truly catastrophic events can spread their consequences exponentially and globally. For both natural and technological disasters, it's paramount that the homeland-security community and those they serve recognize the complex interdependencies, and consequent vulnerabilities, of our national systems.

"Despite some of these issues being more global in nature, they are still of great concern for our nation's domestic preparedness," said Joe Wainscott, director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and a NHSC tri-chair. "The Consortium believes that risks must be assessed from across a broad spectrum so that we not only prepare for the imminent, but also the foreseeable."

The Consortium is comprised of state and local safety, security and health professionals, along with elected officials and the private sector. The group provides an excellent example of how entities with divergent interests can put them aside and focus on solving issues of importance to the nation.

"Members of the Consortium would be the first to admit to the challenge of finding consensus and agreement on such complex national policy issues identified in the white paper," said Madden, "but they would also be the first to affirm that deliberative dialogue, transparent exchanges and genuine relationships are the best methods for advancing ideas that best serve the safety, security and health of our communities and our citizens."


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