Homeland Security Survey Shows States are Progressing

A new survey conducted 3 years after Sept. 11 outlines the homeland security priorities and ongoing security challenges facing the nation's governors.

"Homeland Security in the States: Much Progress, More Work", released by the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices, is an issue brief detailing the findings of a survey of state homeland security advisors identifying the progress and remaining homeland security challenges facing states. The survey, which was completed in August 2004 by 38 of the 55 state and territorial homeland security directors, was taken shortly before the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia in 2001.

"Governors have made great strides since 9/11 to enhance their states' homeland security processes and requirements," said John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center. "For all the progress states have made, governors understand there is still much work to be done. Homeland security is such a new and fluid discipline that all the lessons we learn are in real-time."

The survey found homeland security has quickly become a bipartisan priority for governors across the nation. In the weeks, months and years since Sept. 11, "states have rallied to plan, coordinate and implement a number of initiatives to prevent and respond to terrorist acts," the issue brief says. "States have also expanded their internal security capacity and worked with federal and local partners toward building a comprehensive network of resources to implement homeland security initiatives."

Despite a general lack of precedent to assist their work, states have made great strides in protecting their borders and preventing future attacks, the survey reveals. While each state homeland security strategy is tailored to specific needs, the survey found several likeminded strategies have been employed, including:

  • Establishing statewide emergency operations centers (100 percent of respondents);
  • Designing exercises to train first responders while identifying weaknesses in agency response plans (98 percent);
  • Focusing attention on bioterrorism preparedness and acting to amend policies and laws related to isolation and quarantine practices (95 percent); and
  • Developing mutual assistance agreements with neighboring states for sharing National Guard resources, equipment and personnel (94 percent).

"While no two states respond to threats in exactly the same way, the important thing is they all are designing solutions. From coordinating emergency response plans to developing interoperable communications systems, states have made great strides in building a new homeland security structures that compliment existing emergency management and public health functions," Thomasian added. "As is to be expected, this survey shows each state has different priorities and different needs. What is remarkable, however, is just how far states and governors have come in such a short period of time."

The survey also polled states to determine their top 10 priorities – those which still need to be addressed to meet the homeland security challenges facing states in the future. According to the survey's results, states identified the following top three priorities:

  • Achieving interoperability - the ability for emergency responders to communicate with one another during an incident;
  • Enhancing states' ability to collect, analyze and disseminate intelligence by creating "fusion centers" for intelligence sharing among federal, state, and local government was the second priority; and
  • Protecting critical infrastructure, including identifying and protecting essential daily functions such as telecommunications, transportation and banking.

"In a short amount of time, states have established critical policies and programs, especially in the areas of governance, preparedness, coordination, communication and information sharing. Progress, however, does not mean the job is done," the issue brief says. "Governors understand that considerable work remains. States have demonstrated a commitment to tackling tough issues and have formed a vision for achieving their goals."

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