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From "Defending Forward" to a "Global Defense-In-Depth": Globalization and Homeland Security

Authored by Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria II, Prof. Bert B. Tussing. | October 2003

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In July of last year, the Bush administration published the National Strategy for Homeland Security (NSHS) which, while commendable in many ways, failed to take into account the effects of globalization in planning for the nation?s security. Safeguarding America?s homeland in an era of globalization requires a more comprehensive approach based on a ?global defense-in-depth.?

The NSHS amounts to little more than a strategic directive for the newly formed Department of Homeland Security (DHS), rather than a national strategy. It focuses principally on activities that take place within the nation?s borders, making only a brief genuflection to the need for international cooperation. Other than a passing reference to Northern Command and its envisioned responsibilities in civil support, the NSHS fails to address the roles that the U.S. military?s combatant commands should play. Finally, the NSHS fails to incorporate newly emerging technologies into an overarching strategic concept, or way, that would contribute to keeping Americans safe.

To be sure, an internal focus with regard to protecting the homeland is at least partially warranted. However, the NSHS?s shortsightedness overlooks the ways in which globalization?which is increasing the real and virtual mobility of people, things, and ideas worldwide?exacerbates the problem of safeguarding the homeland. The increased mobility of people, things, and ideas means that an attack against the American homeland need not take place on U.S. soil, and that the range of potential negative effects that could result from such attacks has increased. Consequently, America?s homeland security challenge cannot be seen as merely a national problem; it is a problem of global dimensions.

To address homeland security in terms of today?s challenges requires a global perspective. Accordingly, the NSHS should establish a ?global defense-in-depth? characterized by an improved defensive coverage that uses a worldwide continuum of networked surveillance and intelligence-gathering systems to cover multiple intercept points for people, weapons, and dangerous materials, and that is linked to resources dedicated to reacting instantly to identified threats. This network must also include local law enforcementagencies and organizations. One logical nexus for tying together these various elements is the new Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), established May 1, 2003. Much of the technology necessary to begin erecting such a continuum already exists, or is under development.

A global defense-in-depth would entail extending the deployment of permanent chemical, biological, and radiological sensors?such as those currently being deployed in major U.S. cities and subway systems?beyond U.S. borders to key population centers overseas. It would also involve continuous monitoring and tracking of suspected terrorists and other criminals. While legal constraints can?and should?limit the monitoring or tracking of personnel within the United States, such restrictions do not apply to monitoring physical structures, such as high-security areas and key pieces of infrastructure like bridges, tunnels, airports, and border crossings. In terms of cyber-security, a global defense-in depth would employ a more decentralized approach based on the cooperation and vigilance of individuals worldwide in both the public and private sectors. It would also include political, economic, and socio-cultural forms of national power in critical roles aimed at crushing an immediate threat as well as bringing about changes that would prevent its resurgence. All of this will, of course, require significant international cooperation centered on a coherent agenda that includes forums through which participating nations, particularly poorer ones, have opportunities to air their concerns about the unintended consequences of a global defense-in-depth.


The idea of establishing a global defense-in-depth represents a small, but extremely significant, shift in our thinking about homeland security; it?s a perspective that is broad enough to appreciate the requirements as well as the opportunities presented by globalization. Accordingly, along with an internal focus?which, as previously mentioned, ought to remain a critical component of our homeland security strategy?the NSHS should include a strategic way involving the construction of a robust, global defensive network. As a strategic way, a global defense-in-depth would assist directly in accomplishing the first two ends outlined in the NSHS, namely, preventing terrorist attacks within the United States, and reducing America?s vulnerability to terrorism. In terms of means, it would take advantage of various characteristics of globalization, especially emerging information technology, sensors and surveillance devices, and information sharing among law enforcement, the military, and the public and private sectors.

Unfortunately?and inexplicably?neither the NSHS nor any of the other documents related to homeland security pay sufficient attention to this important way in the discussion of ends, ways, and means. Yet, if we consider these documents collectively, their intent can hardly be accomplished without it. Instead, they approach the challenge of securing the homeland in a compartmentalized fashion, reflecting an egregious lack of perspective, especially since homeland security becomes synonymous with national security at the strategic level. The NSHS should establish a genuinely global and strategic focus that each supporting document should emulate.

In today?s global environment, it is imperative to think of homeland security in terms that extend beyond national borders. Actions that involve the closing of U.S. borders or disrupting the flow of people and goods through them would clearly affect the United States? and the world?s economies adversely. Therefore, America?s homeland security strategy must go beyond the notion of defending as far forward as possible; it must reflect a defense based on a seamless, global continuum. To make homeland security work in the 21st century, America should move from a ?defend forward? mentality to one based on a ?global defense-in-depth.? The nation?s homeland security strategy must reflect an understanding of globalization not only for the challenges it poses, but also for the solutions it offers. Above all, it must inspire confidence in the American public.