Homeland Security Advisory System Task Force reports
Following a 60-day review of the US Homeland Security Advisory System, the HSAS Task Force has given its findings.
The Task Force report is structured around six major themes:
#1 Enduring Merit of a Dedicated Terrorism Advisory System
In the view of the Task Force, a national threat warning system for terrorist attacks is as central now as it was when today’s system was established in 2002.
#2 Two Audiences – The Public and ‘Institutions’
The Task Force members agreed that there are two primary audiences for the Homeland Security Advisory System. The current system has functioned reasonably well for this audience, especially as alerts have become more targeted geographically and to specific sectors; however, improvements are needed. The system’s ability to communicate useful information in a credible manner to the public is poor.
#3 The Current Advisory System -Commanding Insufficient Public Confidence
The Task Force members agreed that, at its best, there is currently indifference to the Homeland Security Advisory System and, at worst, there is a disturbing lack of public confidence in the system.
#4 Changing the Alert Level Baseline to Guarded Status
In the judgment of the Task Force, a central undermining feature of the current alert system is that the threat level more easily moves up than comes down. The lowering of the alert level should be automatically lowered to ‘guarded’ within 15 days unless credible intelligence shows a reason to keep it elevated.
#5 Greater Precision is Required in Identifying the Specific Local Governments, First Responders and Private-Sector Companies Threatened and the Protective Measures that Necessitate a Response
The significant success of the Homeland Security Advisory System has been in the detailed planning of protective measures to be taken based on increased threats and alert level.
#6 The Homeland Security Alert System Will Require Dedicated Infrastructure, Staff, Established Protocols and Procedures
The Homeland Security Advisory System was created in a crisis and for that reason it was done with admirable speed in 2002 in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Moving quickly, responding to a rapid succession of threats, executive branch leaders depended on ad hoc practices for changing the nation’s alert status and communicating that message. Further, the system has had no staff dedicated to manage the work in a crisis. The Task Force believes the Secretary should establish the protocols, procedures, and staff capable of supporting the Secretary.