Reports & Papers

22 Items

Airport Traveler

Image by Joshua Woroniecki, Pixabay

Paper

Lessons Learned: Why the United States Needs a Counter-Pandemic Border Strategy

    Authors:
  • Robert Bonner
  • Gillian Horton
| Sep. 28, 2020

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, one thing is already clear: most nations, including the United States, have struggled to effectively contain the spread of this deadly new virus. Countries have adopted a wide range of unilateral measures to counter the pandemic with highly varying degrees of success; some have nearly contained the virus and have reduced the mortality rate, while others have continued to experience mounting loss of life and severe economic damage. The reasons for these varied outcomes are complex and include factors that cannot be controlled by governments battling the pandemic (e.g. the size and heterogeneity of the country) but other factors are squarely within a government’s power to control.

One striking difference between several of the governments that have been most successful against COVID-19 and those that have not is the effective use of border screening to slow down and contain the spread of the virus. Countries that implemented border screening measures up front, including New Zealand and Japan, have seen dramatically lower COVID-19 death rates1 and less immediate damage to their economies. While life in these countries has resumed some semblance of normalcy eight months into the pandemic, the United States continues to face staggering human and economic costs, including an unemployment rate more than twice what it was before the pandemic, an ongoing recession, and, at the time of writing, 200,000 Americans who have lost their lives.

Although no nation has developed a truly comprehensive border strategy for countering a global pandemic, the results from countries that acted swiftly in this regard are promising, and what we know about the spread of COVID-19 supports the idea that early mitigation at the border is critical. As seen in New Zealand, border screening of all arrivals coupled with aggressive contact tracing can prove highly effective when implemented in the early stages of a pandemic, before large-scale community spread occurs, and the United States should be prepared to take similar steps.

 

COVID19 Virus

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

Paper

COVID-19 and the Preexisting Weaknesses and Tensions Within Our Emergency Management Regime

    Author:
  • Timothy Perry
| July 06, 2020

In the modern history of the United States’ response to disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic stands out as uniquely deadly and widespread, posing an emergency simultaneously in all fifty states and killing Americans in each of them, while causing a tumultuous national economic downturn with job losses unseen since the Great Depression. To combat the virus, local, state and federal agencies launched a robust emergency response, unprecedented in its scale. Although unprecedented, these response efforts also revealed—indeed, magnified—many of the weaknesses and tensions extant within our emergency management regime.

This article identifies and analyzes several of those weaknesses and tensions. Overall, it concludes that while emergencies may be “locally executed, state managed, and federally supported,”1 the federal government must play a central and catalytic role in harmonizing national policy across the federalist system, and ensuring that states cooperate rather than compete with one another. The article proposes policy changes that would improve the United States’ approach to all threats and hazards while better integrating emergency management into the larger homeland security enterprise.

Paper

Crisis, Issues, and Risk: An Issues Management Model for Businesses

    Author:
  • Jasjeet Ajimal
| June 2020

When a crisis occurs, be it a hurricane, forest fire, or a pandemic­, highly skilled disaster teams are on standby to assess situations, deploy resources, and coordinate amongst multiple organizations allowing the fastest possible recovery. Every crisis manager asks similar questions when confronted with a significant issue. Successful crisis managers utilize a similar thought process, one that can be replicated when dealing with any crisis. 

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Paper

Closing Critical Gaps that Hinder Homeland Security Technology Innovation

| Apr. 23, 2020

Rapid technological advances are making nonstate actors much more capable than they were even a decade ago. Malicious actors like terrorist groups, criminal organizations, and state proxies are increasingly able to threaten American civilians and their interests around the world. At the same time, we are increasingly vulnerable to the emergence of new disease and natural disasters, as vividly shown by the hurricanes of 2017 (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effectively countering these threats, including by developing and supporting private sector-generated new technological solutions, is a core government responsibility. DHS is the U.S. government’s primary civilian public safety agency and the main source of government funding for nonmilitary development of public safety technologies. Unfortunately, DHS has a poor record of developing new technological solutions to advance its mission and address emerging threats. This article assesses the current situation, identifies lines of research that are urgently needed, and makes recommendations on how DHS can more effectively partner with industry and how new technologies can be quickly seeded.

Travelers from China’s Wuhan and other cities go through body temperature scanners at Narita international airport in Narita, near Tokyo, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020.

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

Paper - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Weaponizing Digital Health Intelligence

| January 2020

This paper argues that these potential vulnerabilities deserve rigorous, urgent, and thorough investigation. First, it draws from cybersecurity literature, and reviews general sources of vulnerability in digital systems. Next, with these sources of vulnerability in mind, it reviews the health intelligence systems used in the US as well as in a current Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It then It then reviews the possible motives state actors have to attack health intelligence systems, drawing on recent examples of state-led efforts to manipulate, conceal, or undermine health information. It then speculates about what an attack on a health intelligence system might look like. It concludes by proposing a research and education agenda to thoroughly interrogate these issues and generate policy recommendations needed to address them.

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Paper

Beyond CVE: Evolving U.S. Countering Violent Extremism Policy to Prevent the Growing Threat of Domestic Terrorism

    Author:
  • Alexander Guittard
| Dec. 01, 2019

U.S. counterterrorism agencies lack the authorities, funding, and political direction to meet the evolving terrorist threat to the United States. Efforts to expand the counterterrorism toolkit to include prevention of all types of terrorism, known under the Bush and Obama Administrations as “countering violent extremism,” or CVE, and under Trump as “terrorism prevention,” have struggled to take hold and the programs have been underfunded and politically unpopular.  These efforts have also suffered from the perception that they were biased towards stopping al-Qaeda and ISIS-inspired terrorism and have ignored the threat posed by “right-wing” terrorists. The United States must accept that counterterrorism should evolve beyond relying on law enforcement and intelligence alone to prevent the growing threat of domestic terrorism. This evolution should include developing a bipartisan consensus for addressing all forms of terrorism; funding the types of CVE programs we deliver overseas at home; and updating our terrorism laws to incorporate preventative and restorative approaches that build on the best practices and lessons learned from tackling other forms of crime and targeted violence, such as hate crimes and gang violence.

Image of Phone and Map

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

Paper

The City-Sized Hole in U.S. GPS Planning

    Author:
  • Steven Polunsky
| Nov. 21, 2019

Our society has become highly dependent on constant, real-time information about position, navigation, and timing. We typically access this information through cell phones or other devices that receive global positioning system (GPS) signals. Cities are particularly vulnerable to GPS failures and will become more so as Smart City initiatives produce results. Yet, we are missing opportunities to protect localities from potential disaster. This paper recommends efforts at all levels of government that could improve local government resilience, coordinate efforts, involve the private sector, and integrate these initiatives with federal planning for the future.

The US/Mexico Border

WikiImages/Pixabay

Paper

The New Reality of Migrant Flows at the U.S. Southwest Border

| June 26, 2019

In this first publication of the Belfer Center Homeland Security Project Paper Series, Alan Bersin and Nate Bruggerman write about the dramatic changes in numbers of migrants crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico and the urgent need for attention and response from the U.S. Congress and executive branch of the government.

A Tajik conscript looks out over remote stretches of northern Afghanistan from a border outpost near Khorog, Tajikistan.

Photo by David Trilling (c)

Report - Russia Matters

Jihadists from Ex-Soviet Central Asia: Where Are They? Why Did They Radicalize? What Next?

| Fall 2018

Thousands of radicals from formerly Soviet Central Asia have traveled to fight alongside IS in Syria and Iraq; hundreds more are in Afghanistan. Not counting the fighting in those three war-torn countries, nationals of Central Asia have been responsible for nearly 100 deaths in terrorist attacks outside their home region in the past five years. But many important aspects of the phenomenon need more in-depth study.

This research paper attempts to answer four basic sets of questions: (1) Is Central Asia becoming a new source of violent extremism that transcends borders, and possibly continents? (2) If so, why? What causes nationals of Central Asia to take up arms and participate in political violence? (3) As IS has been all but defeated in Iraq and Syria, what will Central Asian extremists who have thrown in their lot with the terrorist group do next? And (4) do jihadists from Central Asia aspire to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction? If so, how significant a threat do they pose and who would be its likeliest targets?