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Council for Excellence in Government Issues Report on Homeland Security from Citizens' Perspective

I received a call from the Council for Excellence in Government on Thursday, asking if I could announce their new report “We the People: Homeland Security from Citizens’ Perspective” to the NCDD network. The report includes recommended action gleaned, in part, from citizen suggestions at seven town hall meetings for all levels of government, first responders, private sector and individuals. The recommendations were presented to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and will be distributed to governors, mayors, members of Congress, industry leaders, trade and professional organizations and civic groups immediately.

Click here to read Ridge’s remarks about the project. Among other things, Ridge endorses citizen engagement by saying, “…Homeland Security officials – including myself – were able to hear first hand the concerns and questions on the minds of many Americans. That dialogue has provided an important and useful resource that will help guide our continued efforts at Homeland Security to engage and empower citizens.” Click below to read the announcement, read more on the Council’s website, or download the report.

Washington, DC–When it comes to ideas and actions to improve the nation’s homeland security, the American people–our most important resource–have plenty to say.

Their concerns and suggestions set the agenda for nearly 50 recommendations for national action in a new Council for Excellence in Government report, We the People: Homeland Security from the Citizens’ Perspective.

Among the recommendations:

– The President should direct the Department of Homeland Security to convene leaders from federal, state and local governments, the private sector and civic organizations to update the National Strategy for Homeland Security, with input from citizens.
– State and local governments, schools and workplaces should update and practice their plans, with direct involvement of citizens, parents and employees.
– Local governments should produce index cards of critical information in a user-friendly format that can be distributed in multiple languages through many channels to homes, workplaces and schools.
– Local officials should set up one telephone number (similar to 311 or 911) for citizens to report homeland security threats and emergency information; and offer citizens a service that will send emergency information to phones, cell phones, email addresses, pagers and other personal communications devices.
– The President should designate the month of September as “Homeland Security Preparedness Month” and governors, mayors and other leaders should plan events to amplify the effort.
– The National Strategy on Homeland Security should set the goal of a seamless network for authorized public safety officials to share information and talk to each other at a level of reliability and security that can withstand the demands of a national emergency.

The recommendations reflect an unprecedented conversation with people across the country and nine months of broad-ranging activities by the Council to look at the entire homeland security enterprise through citizens’ eyes.

The effort included seven major town hall meetings (St. Louis, Miami, San Diego, Houston, Fairfax, Boston, and Seattle) and national polls which were reviewed by expert working groups to identify ideas and activities–at the national, state and local levels, in the public sector, private sector and in communities and homes across America– for individual and collective action.

“These homeland security recommendations are truly of, by and for the people,” said Patricia McGinnis, President and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government. “Our hope is that leaders within the homeland security enterprise–as well as everyday peoples–will use them as a blueprint to make the citizens’ homeland security vision a national reality.”

The recommendations are targeted at all levels of government, from the President, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, the U.S. Congress, and state and local governments to schools, the first responder community, private employers, managers of privately-owned critical infrastructure facilities, industry and trade associations, the local and national media, and families and individual citizens.

Topic areas for the recommendations cover a wide landscape— collaboration, informed and engaged citizens, strategic/appropriate uses and sharing of information, and innovation and rigorous evaluation. Other recommendations propose that:

– State and local governments include reporters in homeland security training exercises as active participants.
– Citizens view their personal information as a valuable asset and learn how government and businesses collect, use and store it.
– The Federal Communications Commission issue a frequency “re-banding” ruling to deal with public safety radio interference.
– The President and the Congress call for an independent review of the Privacy Act and related legislation.
– The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate consolidate authorization and oversight of homeland security programs into a single committee.

“These ideas represent the citizens’ agenda and will significantly improve the nation’s capacity to prevent, prepare for, and respond to terrorist attacks as well as other emergencies and natural disasters,” McGinnis added.

The recommendations were presented to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and will be distributed to governors, mayors, members of Congress, industry leaders, trade and professional organizations and civic groups immediately.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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