DHS report card needs some help

According to a new report card published by the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in Washington, D.C., the Homeland Security Department is winning good grades for nuclear plant security and air defense, but earns poor grades for port security, chemical plant security and public relations.

The assessment was put together by Stephen E. Flynn, senior fellow for national security studies at the council. It is the council's first homeland security report card.

The lowest grade was issued for chemical plant security, which received a D-/F. It is 'completely unsatisfactory' for DHS to have a budget of only $10 million to monitor up to 15,000 chemical facilities nationwide with the potential to harm a significant number of people, Flynn said.

Public relations for the department received a D and port security received a D+ after three years of complete failure, Flynn said in the report. 'Certainly we have a framework now that we didn't have before to begin to address the complexity of the problem, but we have such a long way to go that it doesn't yet rate an average grade,' Flynn said of the ports.

Flynn gave average grades to airport security, border control and immigration, disaster response and critical infrastructure protection.

The department performed better on nuclear plant security, rating it B/B+, an area in which the nation 'started strong' prior to 2001.

Air defense received a B. But one of the shortcomings of the North American Aerospace Defense Command is the difficulty of monitoring planes flying below 1,500 feet. That was the case in the recent incident in which a plane flown by a New York Yankees pitcher crashed into a high-rise apartment building.

That incident illustrated 'one of the big remaining gaps for NORAD,' Flynn wrote.

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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