DHS to take 'multi-threat' approach to fighting terrorism, cyber attacks

Monday - 6/23/2014, 10:55am EDT

The Homeland Security Department will channel its efforts into battling terrorism, cyber threats and natural disasters, according to a quadrennial review the agency released Wednesday.

DHS released its first quadrennial review in 2010, where it outlined five basic homeland security missions. In the second review, the agency said it will still adhere to the principles, but the "missions must be refined to reflect the evolving landscape of homeland security threats and hazards."

Protecting the nation from terror attacks will remain the "cornerstone" of DHS' mission, the review stated. DHS was established in 2002 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, but the terror threats have evolved since the agency's inception.

Weapons used in terror attacks also have evolved over the past 12 years. Improvised explosive devices pose a "significant threat" because they are simple and easy to build yet create considerable damage.

Advances in biotechnology mean that bio and nuclear threats present another area of concern for DHS.

DHS outlined in its principles that, over the next four years, homeland security "must be multi-threat and all-hazard" in the fight against terrorism. The agency said its strategic approach will be to identify and investigate threats as early as possible.

DHS will also zero in on mass casualty attacks, such as the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013.

Terror attacks strike in the virtual world, too. Cyberspace has evolved dramatically and become "an integral part of daily life in America and around the world," the review said.

Sophisticated cyber hackers are able to use the integrated network to their advantage in stealing financial, secret and other sensitive information, from individual persons to large businesses to governments.

At the same time, the growing cyberspace allows data to flow more smoothly. The federal government must find the ideal balance between protecting and securing networks while still sharing data with the public, the review stated.

DHS' plan is to advance law enforcement and reporting capabilities of cyber crimes. The agency will work with public and private sector partners to "develop a strong team of cybersecurity professionals to design, build and operate robust technology to reduce exploitable weaknesses. "

Unlike cyber and terror threats, which can at times be thwarted, natural disasters pose an unpreventable threat to the nation.

The review cited Hurricane Sandy as one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent years, killing more than 100 people, leaving millions without power and causing tens of billions of dollars in damage.

"The risk of these disasters is increased by the vulnerability of aging infrastructure, increasing population density in high-risk areas and — in the case of droughts, floods and hurricanes — by trends associated with climate change," the review stated.

DHS will conduct another review in four years to reassess its principles and mission.

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