February 19, 2010

The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Re: Quadrennial Homeland Security Review

Dear Madam Secretary:

The National Conference of State Legislatures appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Department of Homeland Security's first Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR). However, we are very disappointed that the final report does not recognize state legislatures’ traditional roles—lawmaking, program oversight, the appropriation of funds and information gathering—as critical components in our nation's homeland security and emergency preparedness efforts. NCSL brought this issue to your attention in a June 26, 2009 letter, during the QHSR comment period, and again during the November 19, 2009 meeting.

The report defines the homeland security “enterprise” as the “collective efforts and shared responsibilities of Federal, state, local, tribal territorial, nongovernmental, and private–sector partners—as well as individuals, families, and communities—to maintain critical homeland security capabilities. It connotes a broad-based community with a common interest in the safety and well-being of America and American society.” Recognizing state legislatures as part of the homeland security enterprise fosters stronger state-federal partnerships and programs.

We encourage you to amend Appendix A of the report to include the roles and responsibilities of state legislatures. As we stated in the letter we sent to you on June, 26, 2009, the state legislature:
Enacts laws on a range of homeland security and immigrant policies.

Exercises constitutional and statutory oversight to review and evaluate state and local programs in order to coordinate the state’s activities.

Appropriates state funds and ensures that all federal funds are appropriated according to state law. This becomes extremely critical to ensure the long term viability of new programs as future federal funding cannot be predicted and federal funds may require a maintenance-of-effort contribution from the state.

Conducts hearings or other information-gathering activities to determine what actions the state has taken to improve protections against all hazards and to determine the level of preparedness of state and local agencies and to examine the impact of immigrants on state policies.

As an example, within Mission 3, Enforcing and Administering our Immigration Laws, the report mentions states, among other stakeholders, in two objectives— as collaborative partners in employment enforcement and in law enforcement. While we appreciate this reference, it is state legislatures in particular that are enacting legislation to encourage employment verification and to discourage human trafficking. We are often the first responders in not only these areas but in a diverse array of refugee and immigrant policies to protect the community and to support effective integration, including naturalization efforts. State legislatures are also investing considerable resources in health, human services, education, and law enforcement in support of the homeland security “enterprise.”

The QHSR report “will serve as a roadmap to keep America safe, secure, and resilient in the years ahead.” State legislatures across the country play a critical and unique role in homeland security and emergency preparedness and it is time for this role to be recognized by the department. As always, we look forward to working with you. For additional assistance, please feel free to contact either one of us or NCSL staff Molly Ramsdell (molly.ramsdell@ncsl.org; 202-624-3584) or Sheri Steisel (sheri.steisel@ncsl.org; 202-624-8693).

In addition, we would like to point out that on page B-6, it refers to NCSL as the National Council of State Legislatures. It should read the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Sincerely,
 

Senator Richard T. Moore
Massachusetts
General Court

 
Senator Thomas J. Wyss
Indiana
General Assembly

 

 Co-Chairs, NCSL Executive Committee Task Force on Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness