The 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review: Analysis and Insights
By: Garrett Riba
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released the second edition of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR). While this issue illustrates an evolution of DHS’s understanding of the need for a risk-based approach to homeland security, challenges remain to unify efforts across DHS and the broader homeland security enterprise, link strategy to budget priorities, and articulate the role of intelligence.
This review directly reflects Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson’s unity of effort initiative, which seeks to align many departmental efforts, from budgets and acquisition to operational capabilities. Since developing a strategy based on risk involves establishing winners and losers in terms of resource allocation, and DHS has struggled in its brief history with a component-oriented mindset, overcoming these issues will present a challenge to the success of the unity of effort initiative and the full and effective application of the QHSR. Additionally, since DHS did not finalize the review by the time the president submitted his Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) budget request to Congress on March 4, the development of the FY16 budget and its subsequent implementation will serve as the true test of DHS’s ability to effectively link funding priorities to the strategy and guidance outlined in the review.
The QHSR also recognizes that the risk levels of different homeland security threats and hazards are constantly changing, which begs the question whether this document provides a sufficiently adaptable strategy for new, emerging challenges over the next four years. Although the document lacks specific mention of certain new threats, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, it clearly outlines the capabilities and methods most often employed by all violent extremists, allowing flexibility for addressing new actors using these tactics. However, it spends little time outlining how the strategy’s risk-based model can preemptively identify and counter potential new, emerging, and metastasizing threats. Since a risk-based approach is ultimately driven by intelligence, the QHSR could place more emphasis on defining the role and investment needs of intelligence to provide the capabilities to proactively shift resources across the changing security environment.