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Public-Private Partnerships in Homeland Security Essay

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Updated: Apr 10th, 2021

The roles and strategies of private sector security in homeland security

The private security-law enforcement partnerships have been in existence for a long, but the perception changed following the 9/11 attacks. After the attacks, such partnerships are viewed as an important aspect in dealing with terrorism-related activities. Currently, private security manages over 85 percent of the country’s critical infrastructure (Hayes & Ebinger, 2011). On the other hand, the local law enforcement mostly handles information on threats to the infrastructures, which are manned by the private sector. Therefore, the partnership between the two entities ensures that the private sector gets the right information in good time to execute its mandate before the threats can materialize and lead to destruction. The partnership between the private security sector and the homeland security will ensure the efficiency of each partner, which will lead to optimal service delivery to the American residents. For instance, the private security sector worked collaboratively with the homeland security agencies during the 9/11 attacks, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and Hurricane Katrina to contain the situation by offering immediate solutions to the arising matters. This section addresses the roles and strategies of the private security sector in homeland security.

The protection of critical infrastructure is one of the major roles of the private sector security in homeland security. The private security sector works closely with the Office of Infrastructure Protection (OIP), which is a department within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The OIP works on “threat and vulnerability analyses, national and local-level coordination with businesses and government agencies, and risk mitigation” (Busch & Austenm, 2012, p. 11). Apparently, the private security sector deals mainly with these six areas, and thus, it works with the OPI under the Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council (CIPAC) to exchange information and facilitate the coordination of the protection activities. Therefore, the strategy, in this case, involves the exchange of important information with government agencies to ensure that the private security sector meets its obligations to its clients and the country as a whole.

The private security sector also plays a critical role in ensuring cybersecurity. The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) “works hand in hand with the private security sector to ensure that computer users know how to protect themselves from cybercrimes” (Busch & Austenm, 2012, p. 16). The NCSA collaborates with the different players in the IT sector like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Visa among others to ensure seamless sharing of information to avert or contain cybercrime incidences. For instance, in 2011 Google came across what appeared like the phishing of personal information belonging to senior US government officials. Google established that the intrusion originated from China, and thus, it alerted the FBI. The DHS then worked with Google to assess the impact of the intrusion and devise ways to avoid such incidences in the future. Such collaborative efforts underscore the role of the private security sector in ensuring cybersecurity to all technology users in the US.

Besides, the private security sector plays a central role in ensuring the security of US ports. The American ports are some of the busiest in the contemporary world, and they handle millions of passengers annually. Therefore, such a massive movement of people becomes a security target as terrorists can easily take advantage of the same to smuggle in dangerous weapons. The private security sector works closely with the Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism (C-TPAT) to ensure security at the ports. The C-TPAT has certified “over 6,000 private security firms, which work hand-in-hand with the Customs and Border Protection in the US to ensure security in the international supply chain” (Busch & Austenm, 2012, p. 18). Additionally, the private security firms collaborate with the government to ensure homeland security at the ports through other different initiatives, as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program among others. The security initiatives provide screening services for both cargo and travelers.

Finally, the private security sector is involved in managing emergencies when they occur. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assumes disaster management responsibilities by collaborating with the private sector for optimal performance. For instance, during the 9/11 attacks, the private security agents were the first respondents, and they played a key role in evacuating the affected buildings and ensuring the safety of the people (Dunn-Cavelty & Suter, 2009). Similarly, during the Deepwater Horizon oil spillage incident in 2010, the private sector was in the frontline to contain the situation. The same happened with the Hurricane Katrina crisis. Currently, FEMA appreciates the role of the private sector in the management of disasters. This appreciation led to the establishment of FEMA’s regional offices across the US where a private sector liaison officer forges strong relationships with the private sector.

The strategies employed by the private security sector in the provision of homeland security involve different aspects. First, the private sector fills gaps in personnel requirements in the provision of security services. Second, this sector utilizes resources effectively to ensure that the set objectives are met by focusing on the specialization of service delivery. Finally, the private sector has established trust and working relationships with government agencies to ensure that homeland security is at its best across the nation.

The US DHS should facilitate enhanced protection for different areas

The US DHS needs to facilitate enhanced protection for office buildings, residential locations, and houses of worship. These locations present soft targets for local terrorists and other criminals seeking to cause damage for whatever reasons. On the national scale, the security system has managed to ward off serious attacks from the outside similar to the 9/11 incident. Therefore, the focus has now shifted to isolated places like office buildings, residential locations, and houses of worship. According to a report released in 2016, the period between January and June 2015 experienced “a 1.7 percent increment in the rate of violent crimes” (The Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2016, par. 1).

Apparently, the houses of worship, residential areas, and office buildings do not have tight security measures like rigorous screenings as the case in government offices and airports. Consequently, cases of lone gunmen attacking churches and schools have been on the rise in the past leaving a trail of devastation and avoidable loss of life. In the light of this understanding, the DHS needs to explore different avenues through which to enhance the protection of different facilities across the United States. For instance, while churchgoers may not be in a position to ward off a gun-wielding lone shooter like trained security forces, the DHS can come up with training programs to prepare people for such occurrences and reduce the casualty levels.

The DHS needs to focus on protecting all areas that host groups of people because they are soft targets for attacks. The sole aim of terrorism and other related crimes is to cause maximum damage and places like houses of prayer, schools, office buildings, and residential areas present good numbers for such attacks. This section looks at the different approaches that the DHS can use to achieve its objectives. Two cases will be explored with the first one involving protecting the places of worship like churches and the second one is a general approach towards securing all areas that are likely to be targeted for crime or terrorism.

The complexity of securing places of worship arises due to the view that such areas are open to everyone. Therefore, it becomes difficult to identify someone visiting such places with sinister motives. However, the DHS can collaborate with leadership in such places to offer training to observant volunteers who can monitor the happenings within and around the places of worship. For instance, churches have numerous ushers who welcome worshipers as they walk in for a worship service. Unfortunately, a study conducted in 2009 showed that such individuals do not get any training on security matters (Harrell, 2010). Therefore, the DHS can collaborate with the church leaderships to offer basic training on security matters to its ushers and other volunteers.

For instance, in 2007 a lone gunman set out on a killing mission at the New Life Church, in Colorado Springs, and opened fire on innocent worshippers (Harrell, 2010). Fortunately, one of the congregants had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and he managed to shoot the gunman before causing any harm. This scenario presents a classical example of how the DHS can work with the leadership in houses of worship for enhanced security measures. Currently, the DHS has the Soft Target Awareness Course (STAC) program, which seeks to train leaders in places of worship on how to anticipate and deal with risks associated with terrorism and other attacks. In conclusion, the DHS should come up with different need-based training programs targeting places of worship to enhance security measures in the wake of the increasing cases of domestic terrorism and other violent crimes.

On the other side, one of the most suitable approaches that the DHS can use to enhance security across the country is community-oriented policing. This kind of policing is a form of philosophy that seeks to influence how traditional law enforcement is carried out (Chappell & Gibson, 2009). This philosophy seeks to facilitate the creation of reliable and working partnerships with the affected communities, the use of problem-solving approaches, and the transformation of policing organization and culture to be in line with the changing environment. Community partnerships hinge on the view that the citizens should be on the frontline in the fight against crime. In most cases, the community has vital information regarding the occurrences in a given area, and thus, the DHS should focus on this aspect to create clear communication strategies for reporting such issues to thwart crime before it happens. On the problem-solving approach, the DHS should work with the community to ensure that some of the issues that contribute to violence or terrorism are addressed. Finally, organizational transformation involves changing the way law enforcement officers dispense their duties. Individual officers can be given more space and mandate to handle different issues as they arise in the community. Overall, the DHS should become creative and come up with strategies on how to involve the community in the fight against insecurity. The DHS should facilitate enhanced protection for all areas that can be potential targets for crime and terrorism.


Busch, E., & Austenm D. (2012). Public-private partnerships in homeland security: opportunities and challenges. Homeland Security Affairs, 8(18), 1-24.

Chappell, A., & Gibson, S. (2009). Community policing and homeland security policing: friend or foe? Criminal Justice Policy Review, 20(3), 326-343.

Dunn-Cavelty, M., & Suter, M. (2009). Public-private partnerships are no silver bullet: an expanded governance model for critical infrastructure protection. International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection, 2(4), 179–187.

Harrell, B. (2010). Security challenges for houses of worship. Journal of Physical Security, 4(2), 1-9.

Hayes, J., & Ebinger, C. (2011). The private sector and the role of risk and responsibility in securing the nation’s infrastructure. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 8 (1), 1-27.

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