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Hart-Rudman Commission and the Homeland Defense

NCJ Number
Ian Roxborough
Date Published
41 pages
The main threat to the American homeland will not come from terrorism inspired by U.S. leadership of globalization; rather, architects of the American strategy for homeland defense need a broad perspective that includes a wide range of existing or potential threats.
The U.S. Commission on National Security, known popularly as the Hart-Rudman Commission after its chairs, believes that changes to the security environment mean the rise of new threats, particularly the likelihood of an attack on American soil resulting in thousands of casualties. The commission calls for major changes in the organization of national security institutions to respond adequately to these new challenges. However, the assumptions made by the commission are of debatable merit and rest on a very selective reading of social science. The commission relies heavily on the assumption that globalization will cause an intense rejection of western culture in parts of the Third World. In fact, there is little to support this assumption. It is speculative to argue, as the commission does, that the United States is moving into an era of global cultural conflict. The United States might equally be moving into a period in which global resource conflicts and changing regional power balances will lead aspiring regional hegemons to embark on policies that lead to war. Each of the four assumptions taken by the commission are wrong: 1) globalization will be a mixed blessing, producing both more integration and strident rejection; 2) social change is disruptive and produces conflict; 3) a clash of fundamental values is what underlies conflict; and 4) the world is entering a radically new age. It is unclear how the commission arrived at the conclusion that the biggest security challenge is likely to come from foreign states. U.S. citizens also can perpetuate mass casualties. The focus on dealing with attacks on the United States needs to be balanced with a range of other security concerns, including the possible rise of regional hegemons. The commission also argues that globalization and declining social cohesion in American society will together lead to an erosion of ties between citizens and the state, leading to brittle support of U.S. military operations. This analysis is one-sided. While many matters should concern citizens about likely future trends in American society, the redefinition of social ties should not be one. Changes in family, work, and leisure time will not uniformly result in less social integration. It is unclear that changing conceptions of citizenship will impinge on America's ability to conduct military operations in the ways the commission thinks are likely. The Defense Department should be cautious in the way in which it accepts the homeland defense mission. There is likely to be a strategy-resources mismatch unless considerable additional resources are forthcoming. It is not clear that Army resources are the most cost-effective way to deal with the consequences of a mass casualty attack. The brunt of consequence management is likely to be borne by civilian emergency response agencies, and they are seriously unprepared for the task. While the commission's recommendations should be adopted, including the establishment of the National Homeland Security Agency, the commission is prone to rely heavily on moral exhortation rather than economic incentives as a way of changing what it sees as inefficiencies and defects in American government. The commission calls for the development of a culture of coordinated strategic planning. It is in the Army's interest to do what it can to encourage the development of strategic culture and in particular of a balanced set of capabilities to deal with a wide range of diverse threats. Endnotes