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QHSR an opportunity to tackle what 'homeland security' is

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Lack of a commonly agreed-on definition of "homeland security" matters because without a consensus, the United States risks disjointed and disparate approaches toward securing the nation, a Congressional Research Service analyst told a House panel earlier this month.

But, the varied definitions--leading to varied missions--may also be the result of a strategic process attempting to adjust for continually emerging threats, noted the analyst, Shawn Reese, in his written testimony (.pdf). He testified Feb. 15 before the House Homeland Security subcommittee on oversight and management efficiency.

"One may even argue that ['homeland security'] might be waning as a separate comprehensive policy concept," Reese said, citing the fact that the Obama administration included homeland security guidance in the 2010 national security strategy (.pdf) rather than addressing it in a separate strategy.

"There has not been a distinct national homeland security strategy since 2007," he added.

Even were all the stakeholders in homeland security--the Homeland Security Department accounts for only about 52 percent of requested federal fiscal 2013 appropriations for it--to come to a definition of "homeland security," that agreement wouldn't necessarily be enough to ensure that execution isn't disjointed.

"A consensus definition would be useful, but may not be sufficient," he wrote in his prepared testimony. In addition, the federal government would need to prioritize strategic missions, he said--adding that the second Quadrennial Homeland Security Review due to be released late this year or early next "might be an ideal time to review the concept of homeland security, its definition, and how the concept and definition affect congressional appropriations and the identification of priorities."

DHS released its first quadrennial review in 2010 to tepid reviews. Reese notes in his written testimony that some critics compared it unfavorably to the Defense Department's quadrennial reviews and said that it didn't communicate homeland security priorities.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage (prepared testimonies and webcast available)

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Definition of homeland security remains elusive