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Tom Warrick, Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, discusses top areas where DHS should focus its mission right now and ways to address challenges facing the department

The Atlantic Council issued a new report about how to improve morale and refocus the mission at the Department of Homeland Security. Tom Warrick, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Counterterrorism Policy, co-authored the report with his colleague Caitlin Durkovich.

Warrick told “Government Matters” Monday that DHS needs to refocus its mission, because “the most urgent threats to the country are very different from what they were on 9/11 … or even as recently as 2016.” Primary among these is COVID-19 and the necessity of “being able to distribute materials, medical supplies, testing supplies, and ultimately, we hope, a vaccine.”

The second threat Warrick believes should be a priority is the attempt by Russia, China and Iran to weaken American power through non-military means. Some of these methods include cyber operations, attacks on elections infrastructure and the spread of disinformation, Warrick explained. “They know they can’t defeat us on the battlefield, so instead, by dividing the United States, they hope to weaken American power.”

The President and the President’s top advisors should look to DHS to lead this effort, Warrick said. Additionally, everyone in government needs to understand DHS’s role better. “When the President is sitting around the Cabinet table, if a threat comes in … if it’s military, everyone turns to DoD, but if it’s not military, people need to look to the Secretary of Homeland Security to lead the nation’s defense,” he said.

Over the long term, the Department of Homeland Security should also prioritize the response to climate change and extreme weather due to the risk they pose to American lives and infrastructure.

As for the longstanding issue of low employee morale at the department, Warrick explained that because TSA and CBP make up more than half of the workforce, improving morale at just those two components could “lift DHS out of last place.” He concluded, “this is a solvable problem – it takes focus, and it takes money from the Congress.”

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