DHS Seeks Partnerships to Increase Information Sharing
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to help ethnic and faith-based communities handle terror threats by adopting procedures used by the Secure Community Network (SCN). The department’s goal is to mimic the SCN platform for national security and preparedness and use it as a means to decrease the number of acts of terrorism by increasing both communications and information sharing.
The DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP) focuses on protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR). The IP works to reduce terror threats and to strengthen national preparedness and response and recovery times, largely through public-private partnerships because most of the national CIKR is privately owned.
William F. Flynn, the IP’s acting assistant secretary, shares that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano wants to identify “communities of interest that don’t fit that normal model where we have outreach, like through local government and the private sector. She’s taken a personal interest in expanding this initiative.”
SCN is one such group. Because the Jewish community is often a target for terrorists, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations created SCN four years ago to address heightened security concerns. The organization has two purposes: to share information in crisis situations quickly and to improve security awareness of Jewish organizations to protect against terrorism and other threats.
SCN’s national director, Paul Goldenberg, notes, “Our community has seen an unprecedented number of attacks during recent years. DHS recognized that our community was vulnerable and that they should establish formal ties with the Jewish community. They felt training civilians to understand terror threats would help create eyes on the ground for DHS and local law enforcement.”
DHS and SCN have collaborated for four years, with DHS providing “tons of services” to the Jewish community, Goldenberg says.
Flynn adds, “SCN has a great platform to reach a broad audience. They have a pipeline, a technical means of broadly reaching their partners and constituents. That’s very valuable to help push out information. [DHS] has leveraged that relationship. We’ve sponsored security clearances for some of their staff; we’ve provided Web-based training and done webinars for them.”
The partnership’s success comes from information sharing, Flynn says. “That’s the model we have demonstrated: to reach an important group and have a two-way form of communication and to provide them with training to enhance their security preparedness. We think that model can be reciprocated to other organizations.”
DHS has been reaching out to other communities of interest—most of them faith based—that might be interested in developing a relationship similar to the one between SCN and DHS. One of the partnership’s goals is to provide effective, streamlined communication with DHS during and after a crisis. “[DHS] chose our model because of our success,” Goldberg says. “[Because of SCN], our community is more educated and is better at reporting threats, raising awareness.”
Flynn hopes to see that success in partnerships with other communities as well. “We want to bring those groups in and partner with them so we have a broader reach to enhance security, to offer recommendations, to make sure they’re part of the information sharing.”
He points out that by helping these communities, “DHS fulfills its own mission as well as helps these groups.”
Flynn anticipates having a set list of organizations to reach out to within six months. “We’re dialoguing and reaching out to communities that we feel we can have a similar partnership with. That’s our short-term goal. The long-term goal is to broaden DHS’ outreach and enhance those relationships.”