NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 22, 2006

The government is not doing enough to harness the capabilities, assets and goodwill of the private sector to bolster our national state of preparedness, concludes a new Council on Foreign Relations Special Report.

Nearly five years after the 9/11 attacks, public-private coordination on protecting America's most critical infrastructure remains stunted. As a result, the nation faces catastrophic consequences when terrorists next strike, say coauthors Stephen Flynn and Daniel B. Prieto.

The authors identify problems that have kept this public-private partnership from maturing:

  • Federal government reorganization since 9/11 has made it harder for the private sector to work with Washington on homeland security issues.
  • The federal government and the private sector still do not share enough specific information about threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Overall investment in critical infrastructure protection has been modest.
  • As Hurricanes Katrina and Rita illustrated, the private sector has not been effectively integrated into response and recovery planning for major disasters, though some promising public-private initiatives have been piloted.

To address these and other shortcomings, the authors urge Washington to change its approach, which tells companies to protect themselves. Flynn and Prieto recommend specific actions the federal government should take immediately, including:

  • Quickly complete, as required by law, a national list of priorities for critical infrastructure. It is simply unacceptable that a list to guide federal spending and agency efforts does not yet exist.
  • The White House and Congress need to stop talking about improving information sharing and hold government officials accountable for actually doing so. There is legitimate frustration among corporate security officers that talking with federal agencies is always a one-way street -- companies generously give and barely receive.
  • Congress should establish targeted tax incentives to promote investments and rapid adoption of measures that will improve the resiliency of the highest risk industries.

Source: Stephen E. Flynn and Daniel B. Prieto, "Neglected Defense: Mobilizing the Private Sector to Support Homeland Security," Council on Foreign Relations, May 13, 2006.

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