A leading expert at the Council on Foreign Relations has issued his report card on how the Department of Homeland Security is doing — and they’re not grades you’d want to bring home to your mother. Here are the grades assigned by Stephen E. Flynn, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations: Port Security: D+
This grade is actually up from the ‘F’ Flynn says they deserved until about two years ago. Flynn says DHS has created a "framework" for improving port security, "but we still have such a long way to go." THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Passengers Bound for the U.S. Are Wheels Up by the Time DHS Checks Watch Lists Click Here to Watch the Brian Ross Investigates Webcast on Ammonium Nitrate Click Here to Ask Brian Ross a Question Nuclear Plant Security: B/B+
This was a high priority even before 9/11, and Flynn says it’s pretty strong. Air Defense: B
Flynn says the small plane that crashed into a New York City high-rise building earlier this month points out a gap in our air defense capabilities: anything flying below 1500 feet. On the positive side, fighter jets can be scrambled quickly, and monitoring has improved on planes flying in from overseas. Airport Security: C
Passenger and baggage screening does better, ‘B’ or ‘B+,’ but Flynn says air cargo shipped in the hold of commercial jets "is still a major vulnerability," a ‘D+.’ Border Control and Immigration: C
Flynn says the borders are "a hot topic for political reasons, but they don’t have a lot to do with security." Chemical Plant Security: D-/F
"This is totally unsatisfactory in light of the threat that some very deadly chemicals can pose," Flynn says. The Department of Homeland Security has just gotten legal authority for the first time to check the security plans at facilities around the country but has limited money for enforcement.
Disaster Response: C-
Flynn says the Department of Homeland Security "got religion" after Hurricane Katrina, but FEMA has limited assets, and there’s still a struggle to coordinate plans with the military. Infrastructure: C
Flynn says our bridges and tunnels tend to be "over-engineered" and would be difficult for a terrorist to blow up, "but there is still a lot that could be done on surveillance." Public Relations: D
In Flynn’s opinion, "This is probably one of the weakest areas." He says DHS needs "Madison-Avenue-type help" to keep Americans engaged and alert when there hasn’t been a major attack since Sept. 11, 2001. Read the Full Report Card by Stephen E. Flynn of the Council on Foreign Relations.