Search CSIS

1800 K St., NW
Washington, DC 20006
ph: 202.887.0200
fax: 202.775.3199

Email the Webmaster




It is no small irony that despite the triumphant end of the Cold War and the absence of major conflicts in the world, direct threats to the American "Homeland" have intensified. The unwelcome fact is that the post-Cold War period leaves the United States exposed to new threats to which it is particularly vulnerable. The bombings of the World Trade Center and the federal building in Oklahoma City, the sarin gas attack on the subway in Tokyo, the launch by North Korea of a three-stage missile, and the attempt by Yugoslavia to "hack" into NATO's computers in March 1999 have focused the policy community on the capability the U.S. needs to defend its Homeland.
Defending the American Homeland against new threats such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles, and information warfare has become a "hot" topic in the public policy world. Research to identify American vulnerabilities, access the scope of the threats, and develop appropriate responses is now underway. For the most part though, this research and analysis is taking place in separate and discrete fields. For example, missile defense, information warfare, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism - all of which are part of Homeland Defense - are being treated in distinct analytical orbits that overlap very little. There are now some dozen governmental commissions treating facets of these separate areas but within no overall strategic or analytical context.
This compartmentation presents a wide range of problems. First, it is not clear what risks and vulnerabilities should be considered as part of Homeland Defense. Second, the risks presented by some threats are very high. This is particularly true of direct or terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, it is very difficult to assign overall probabilities and priorities to either individual threats or the vulnerabilities to each threat. Third, many defensive measures involve high costs and/or complex changes in the operation of federal, state, and local governments and in the private sector. It is easy to develop individual "wish lists" regarding possible defensives, but any real-world solution requires careful prioritization and the creation of a budget and program plan the nation can afford. Fourth, the phrase Homeland Defense does not mean the US can take action in isolation from the need to consider programs to defend its allies, and the role its allies can play in critical aspects of Homeland Defense like warning and counter-terrorism.
Thus, the separate recommendations of the groups studying these problems could work at cross-purposes to each other if implemented by the United States. There is an acute need for an overarching effort that would bring together the best thinking in all these areas and examine all these tactical issues as part of a comprehensive strategic challenge for the United States.
The CSIS Homeland Defense project seeks to bring together the various piece-meal policy investigations and analyses that are part of the new security calculus, and carry out the additional program, budget, and organizational analysis necessary to develop a comprehensive approach to Homeland Defense. This approach has the following major elements:

  • Threat assessment and prioritization - establishing a clear hierarchy in terms of the threats that must be addressed, their seriousness, and their probability over a timeline of 10-20 years.
  • Assessing and prioritizing vulnerabilities at home.
  • Identification of homeland defense responses in terms of defensive measures, with an identification of probable cost, timeline, and effectiveness.
  • Examining the role of other countries and the lessons to be learned
  • Analysis of current and planned federal, state, local, and private roles in implementing the solutions.
  • Development of a proposal program budget cutting across different types of threats and responses that describes the course of action the US government might pursue over the next five-ten years.
  • Development of a proposed organizational hierarchy proposing the proper role of given elements in federal, state, and local governments, and the private sector.

The project involves the development of a independent analysis that provides draft report in each of the above areas. This draft will be developed within the CSIS, but it will be developed on the basis of extensive informal consultation with US government officials, influential scholars, policy makers, and analysts.
Any such draft will be inherently controversial. It will have to cut across well-established analytic and bureaucratic lines, and will have to made difficult cost-benefit decisions and trade-offs. It is also clear that the threat and vulnerability analysis of given problems is often far more developed than the examination of costs, and possible impacts on the federal budget. This means that the initial draft will often have to be based on rough estimates that will have to be steadily refined with time.
As a result, the CSIS is using a series of expert working groups to refine the analysis of individual threats and solutions, while consulting with a range of policymakers, experts, and leaders in the private sector to develop a final report that will present a comprehensive approach and conceptual policy framework for addressing Homeland Defense issues and their policy implications. It is the first project-inside or outside of government-that addresses Homeland Defense issues as a whole rather than as disparate parts. It will also identify key areas and issues that require policy decisions and/or further analysis, and areas where there are alternative solutions and views that must be considered by senior policymakers.
By pulling together the best thinking in these fields into an integrated framework, CSIS seeks to advance the strategic thinking about the issues related to Homeland Defense. While such an effort cannot produce detailed answers to all the issues involved, it should be possible to generate a deliberately broad conceptual and policy framework, or "architecture," into which the results of the various research efforts can be better grouped, better understood, and better translated into policy options and responses.

Questions of substance on Homeland Defense should be addressed to Joseph Collins, the Project Director. Administrative questions should be addressed to Gabrielle Bowdoin, the lead administrator.