Joint Problem Solving: Bridging the Cross-Agency Counterterrorism Gap
In 2004, the 9/11 Commission published a report that identified communication and intelligence failures leading up to the September 11th attacks. The Commission determined there was a significant disconnect between intelligence agencies and their ability to work together in counterterrorism efforts and empathize across agencies and missions.
Since the attacks, Federal agencies have enhanced counterterrorism strategies to address the numerous evolving threats. Despite these advances, a gap remains in cross-agency problem solving for counterterrorism.
Each agency with a counterterrorism element has a set of specialized skills that range in coverage of responsibility. For example, agencies like DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis focus on the analytical approach to counterterrorism strategy by assessing threats and drafting intelligence products that are used to make strategic decisions. Other agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations focus on the tactical approach that address operational goals. While specialized approaches are important, without a broader integrated approach, they also can hinder the ability of counterterrorism agencies to implement other tactics that may address multi-faceted terrorism issues.
To bridge the cross-agency counterterrorism gap, the Government should re-commit to a mission-focused working group with members from all agencies that play a role in that area. The current border joint task forces are a great start. To offer a solution, the group must understand how each agency approaches the mission, using empathy as a key tool. The ability to be more empathetic fosters an environment that inspires collaboration and partnership.
Some important topics to consider include:
- Increasing collaboration between agencies, such as HSI’s collaboration and support of FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces
- Expanding counterterrorism efforts against immediate and evolving threats. For example, DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate focuses on upholding critical infrastructure against cyber attacks
- Including appropriate partner agencies that support the mission, such as National Counterterrorism Center outreach efforts at the local, state, and Federal level
With expert guidance from counterterrorism representatives, a cross-agency working group can focus on common solutions. From there, the group can draft tangible solutions that include best practices from each agency to provide proper guidance and delegation of responsibilities with a fixed goal in mind.
Ultimately, each agency that has a stake in counterterrorism maintains the same goal – successfully preventing the next terrorist attack. Each agency provides a set of skills that can make significant contributions to improve our nation’s counterterrorism efforts. Given the ever-evolving nature of this threat, Federal agencies must integrate and collaborate on strategy by communicating and empathizing with each approach to better thwart terrorism on all fronts.
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