Term Paper

Question

HLS 404: Homeland Security and Defense in Practice
Assignment Guidelines
Term Paper Guidelines

You will only write one term paper in this course – but it really does not have to follow the classic,
academic-style format since you will never write an essay for a public official should you work in the
Public Administration, Public Safety, Law Enforcement, etc., field. The closest type paper you may
have to craft when working in one of these fields is a White Paper, which is also a running narrative.
Let’s keep this simple. Follow this format, proof your work (readability, spelling and grammar) and
address each of the specified topics in the Graded Assignment and you should do well:
• Introduction to the subject
• Main Body
• Summary/Closing
Since this is Lesson 8 and you have been writing Information Papers and Executive Summaries, I
expect to see a better product now that you have learned from previous papers.
Reflecting on your experience in this course, write an essay entitled, “The Homeland Security
Grant Program: Opportunities, Challenges and Obstacles to Preparedness” (Length:
2000-2500 words).
You will receive more details on this assignment in the Term Paper lesson.
Last Note Regarding Formats: Do Not submit pdf-formatted documents unless you do not want to see
my comments. Submit papers in either Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.

Answer

The Homeland Security Grant Program: Opportunities, Challenges and Obstacles to Preparedness

September 11, 2009, will go down in history as one of the darkest days for America. Not only did the terrorist attack that occurred on that day result in wanton destruction and loss of lives, it also wounded America’s pride as a world superpower (US Senate, 2015). The attack served to expose the glaring gaps in intelligence gathering and sharing as well as maintaining security. As a result, various measures have been put in place aimed at achieving utmost resilience and security of America’s critical infrastructure. Various presidential orders and congressional directives have been issued out with the aim of strengthening law enforcement agencies such as the Homeland Security Department.

            Through the Homeland Security Grant Program, the Department of Homeland Security through the Federal Emergency Management Administration, has established a system of funding opportunities aimed at collaborating efforts of improving homeland security at all levels of government (Homeland Security, 2016). This has resulted in increased information gathering and sharing within and across urban areas, local government, American territories and states which has enhanced their capacity to thwart and mitigate potential hazards such as terror attacks and natural disasters as well as recover from them whenever they occur. Despite these great strides, the Homeland Security Grant Program has its fair share of challenges that need to be addressed as well as opportunities that if utilized will lead to better security services.

Overview

            The Homeland Security Act of 2002 provided a foundation of enhanced security arrangements for the Department of Homeland Security as an executive department under the US Code with the following roles: preventing terror attacks, reducing American vulnerability to terror attacks, minimizing damage and aiding recovery and acting as a focal point for emergency planning during natural and manmade disasters (Department of Homeland Security, 2010).

            Meanwhile, Title XX of the Homeland Security Grants offers valuable guidelines regarding funding to individual states and high-risk urban areas. The Homeland Security Grant Program entails several interconnected federal grant programs that finance a range of preparedness activities including planning, organization, administration as well as training. The main sub grants under the program are the State Homeland Security Program (seeks to enhance local and state level’s ability to implement the objectives of their individual preparedness report), the Urban Areas Security Initiative (finances American metropolitan areas to empower the boost regional preparedness) and the Operations Stonegarden (finance border and territorial security).

Opportunities

            The respective sub grants of the Homeland Security Grant Programs present three major opportunities for building a safe and resilient nation to their grantees, which are manifested through the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), Operation Stonegarden (OPSG) and the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP).

Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI)

            The UASI program that currently receives $ 580,000,000 according to (Homeland Security, 2016) aims at funding US metropolitan areas to enhance their capacity to boost regional preparedness. A major opportunity presented by the grant to its grantee is the opportunity to expand regional collaboration. The grant supports the metropolitan area to expand regional collaboration by aiding them to create regional systems for protection and recovery from potential hazards. Metropolitan areas such as New York City and other major cities attract the highest risk of terror threat or potential hazards due to the high concentration of people and accumulation of critical infrastructure and edifices. As such, the occurrence of any threat such as the September 11 attacks in these areas would have the largest number of casualties and considerable damage to infrastructure. The UASI program therefore offers a great platform for the protection and resilience building of these areas.

State Homeland Security Program (SHSP)

            With a current budget of $402,000,000 under the 2016 fiscal year, the State Homeland Security Programs offers great opportunities for enhancing local and state level’s ability to implement the objectives and goals of their individual preparedness plans. Financing state and local levels of government amounts to devolving the process of securing the nation and involves many people as possible. This in turn enhances the implementation of the Critical Infrastructure and Resilience National plan that seeks to guide collective national and local efforts aimed at attaining and sustaining the security and resilience of the country’s critical infrastructure.

Operation Stonegarden (OPSG)

            Administered by FEMA and currently receiving $55,000,000, the Operation Stonegarden presents opportunities for enhance border and territorial protection (National Immigration Forum, 2010; Department of Homeland Security (2016a). The grant offers opportunities for interagency collaboration by enhancing coordination amongst all levels of law enforcement agencies efforts in securing American borders with Mexico, Canada and international waters. With the current threat of immigration facing Europe and the United States there is greater need for more stringent measures of controlling and maintaining our borders.

Challenges

            A report by FEMA (2005) stipulated three main challenges that impede effective implementation of the Homeland Security Grant Programs namely: developing a monitoring and evaluation tool or system that would measure the impact of the grants; creating a risk-based strategy as well as establishing an efficient management structure. A report on the Homeland Security Program by the US Government Accountability Office (2012) revealed several loopholes. It was observed that FEMA had awarded four of its key grant programs among them the Urban Area Security Initiative and the State Homeland Security Grant Program with differing points of information. This resulted in the financing of redundant duplicative projects since application assessment across the four grant programs was not harmonized (DHS, 2010).

            Another challenge faced by the Homeland Security Grant Program is structural challenges that result in under spent monies. Grantees under this funding program often do not prepare their project budgets before the grants are disbursed. In reality, the Homeland Security Department distributes funds to the grantees based on a formula determined by the department as opposed to the grantees though the grantees apply as a formality. As such, local and state governments find themselves with lots of cash but no execution plan to spend it. In addition, the grants come with restrictions on what the finances can be spent on. For instance, the grants place some limits on the amount of funds that can be used to meet salary expenses, maintenance of local or state equipment or the purchase of certain disposable. With increasing incidences of under spent grant allocations, the American Congress has cut the allocations over the years.

Obstacles

            The Homeland Security Grant Program presents some obstacles in its funding that hinder access and use of funding largely due to legislation challenges and bureaucracies according to a 2010 audit report. These obstacles can only be resolved following policy or legislative changes. They include determination of risk, application and qualification requirements, administration restrictions, and coverage criteria of critical infrastructure.

Determination of Risk

            The determination of risks related to the grant program applications is normally carried out by FEMA and the Department using flawed risk assessment and management formulas. The formulas are based on impact on the American population, infrastructural significance and considerable socio-economic effects of the proposed contingencies. The first step of the formula formulas compare development founded on the area population numbers then combines it with the importance of the area infrastructure and the threat. Though there is room to modify the formulas to meet the current significant aspect of population and economic indices with the level of importance (US Congress, 2007), the formulas have huge flaws as they seek to measure aspects (such as vulnerability or threat) that are hard to quantify and harder to finance. Similarly, by focusing much based on population density in their threat calculation, the formula deems low density populations such as those living in rural areas or near national landmarks less valuable when compared with the people living in urban areas.

            Similarly, the assessment of risk reduction is also a hard task for both the federal government and grantee. Save from hardening of physical assets, other uses of grant finances are hard to quantify in relation to their risk reduction. For instance, the level of training offered to designated homeland security areas and purchase of equipment such as explosive device remediation, mitigation and protective gears essential for the deterrence of terror attacks cannot be easily quantified in relation to actual process of risk management until an event that necessitates them to be used occurs.

Application and qualification requirements

            Eligible applicants to the grants are limited. For instance, only the State Administrative Agency may apply for financing through the Operation Stonegarden and UASI sub grants though the intended grantees are a minor government level such as local government (Department of Homeland Security, 2016 b). This implies that local and territorial governments must cooperate with the agency for the agency to apply for the grants on their behalf. The grants qualification requirement also impedes the application and eventual use of the funds. For instance, UASI applicants must be listed on the stipulated list of highest risk urban areas which ignores and excludes most cities considered and other areas that are sparsely populated. Similarly, the OPSG only funds states bordering Mexico, Canada or international waters thus excluding coastal states.

Administration restrictions

            The issuance of the HSGP funds often comes with certain restrictions which deny the grantees the freedom to utilize the funds to meet their needs. Grantees of the UASI and the Homeland State Security Program (HSPS) are mandated to dedicate 25% of the received funds to planning, organizing, training and buying crucial equipment aimed at preventing terrorism. The end results of this obligation is unutilized funds should the grantees feel that there is no pressing need to use the funds to train, plan or buy certain equipment. On the other hand, grantees may be forced to offer unnecessary training to their staff to ensure that the allocated funds are utilized. A report by the inspector general of audit’s office indicates that states such as Arkansas, Georgia and Florida did not always obligate the grants to the sub grantees on time thus hindering their ability to deliver their projects on time.

Coverage criteria of critical infrastructure

            The grants are largely intended for government or public entities thus implying that private resources such as the fibreoptic infrastructure that shapes the information age are not covered. As such, private entities are forced to fund their own security since the American Congress is yet to direct that the HSGP offers protection for private critical infrastructure. With increased threats of cyber terrorism, the America citizens are not entirely safe should the private entities lack the necessary wherewithal to secure their infrastructure.

Conclusion

            Since the September 9 terror attacks, the United States Department of Homeland Security has put in place stringent measures aimed at improving the security and resilience of America’s critical infrastructure. The American government has also developed a national approach that seeks to integrate and collaborate various partners from all levels of government, civilian population and private sector towards promoting homeland security. Through the federally established financial assistance programs, for example, the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSP), the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), and the Operation Stonegarden, the Department of Homeland Security has strengthened these partnerships and developed and overseen the implementation of a national preparedness plan. 

            With the rise of new terror groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the recent resurgence of existing ones such as Al Shabaab and Boko Haram in East and West Africa respectively, terror attacks are bound to happen any time targeting American infrastructure or people in these regions if not on US soil. There is great need to address the funding issues that face the states, local and territorial governments if the United States of America is to remain safely guarded from terror attacks. Any future congressional effort aimed at the Homeland Security Grant Program can be informed by the opportunities, challenges and obstacles faced by current and potential grantees presented herein.

            Though the grant programs have seen a sharp reduction in the allocated funds partly due to past records of unutilized grants, one thing that remains is that the threat of terror is still imminent. While the department has achieved a lot in terms of intelligence collection and sharing due to the integrative and collaborative efforts that have been put in place, there is need for a all-inclusive approach to better understand US enemies, their wherewithal and motivations. American citizens ought to be trained on how to detect and respond to man-made and natural disasters.

            There is need for more and better proactive financial planning to be implemented to ensure that the local and state governments plan their project budgets (proper forecasting of grantee strategies and financial implications) and utilize the allocate resources prudently. Similarly, in the wake of reduced federal funding, the grantees ought to diversify their sourcing for funds such as partnering with local nongovernmental organizations, charitable foundations as well as business moguls; pool their funds together as regions or streamline their program operations to minimize redundancy. Grantees need to be fully involved in the allocation of the funds by allowing them ample time to draw up their budgets after wide consultation and carrying out needs assessments. The American Congress ought to expand the coverage of the HSGP to target private critical infrastructure such as fibreoptics that is indispensible to the American population and economy.

            In a nutshell, various presidential policy directives and congressional orders have been put in place to protect and guarantee the resilience of the American critical infrastructure. The Homeland Security Department through its grant program provides the necessary funding that supports state and local levels security plans. To sustain its past successes in promoting the resilience and protection of critical infrastructure, the American Congress needs to address the obstacles that have been presented herein by enacting legislations. The department, on the other hand, needs to address the challenges that it faces in the granting of the funds by encouraging and involving the grantees at all possible levels of the grant assessments.

References

Department of Homeland Security (2016a). Fiscal Year 2016 Homeland Security Grant Program           Fact Sheet. Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security.

Department of Homeland Security (2016b). Notice of Funding Opportunity: Fiscal Year 2016       Homeland Security Grant Program. Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security.

Department of Homeland Security. (2010). Efficacy of DHS Grant Programs. Washington, DC: Office of Inspector General.

FEMA. (2005). FY05 Homeland Security Grant Program. Accessed on February 20, 2017. Web.

National Immigration Forum. (2010). Fact Sheet: Operation Stonegarden. Accessed on 1st   February 2016. Web.

US Congress. (2007). Implementing recommendations of the 9/11 commission act of 2007.   In 110th Congress. August (Vol. 3).

US Government Accountability Office. (2012). Managing Preparedness Grants and Assessing National Capabilities: Continuing Challenges Impede FEMA’s Progress. Accessed on 21st February 2017. Web.

US Senate. (2015). Statement Of Anne L. Richards Assistant Inspector General For Audits Department Of Homeland Security Before The Subcommittee On Emergency Preparedness, Response, And Communications Committee On Homeland Security U.S. House Of Representatives Concerning Homeland Security Grants: Measuring Our Investments. Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security.

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