Janet Napolitano: Homeland Security, Economic Security Go 'Hand-In-Hand'

WASHINGTON -- A top administration official on Monday signaled that the focus of homeland security in 2012 would shift in emphasis to business and the economy.

"Simply put, our homeland security and our economic security go hand-in-hand," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a speech at the National Press Club. "Security measures should, to the greatest extent possible, be designed to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods while securing our critical infrastructure."

In a wide-ranging "State of America's Homeland Security" address, the nation's third homeland security chief touted her department's achievements on everything from disaster response to a gradual lifting of screening procedures at airports. But with Osama bin Laden out of the picture and a 2012 election that will likely hinge on the economy, Napolitano made clear the administration is looking for ways to better balance security with commerce so that neither are overly compromised.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Napolitano said, "we have learned a great deal about how to better secure our country, but we remain aware of how a successful terrorist attack or natural disaster can inflict economic damage beyond its human toll."

The secretary spoke soon after returning from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There, before the world's business movers and shakers, she announced the Obama administration's plans to develop a new global strategic plan to guard the international supply chain from terrorist attacks and disruptions.

"No one understands the need for security more than the business community, where one break in the supply chain can put an entire company at risk," said Napolitano, whose department is working to ensure foreign countries and companies adhere to U.S. air cargo security standards. "We will foster an all-of-nation approach to leverage the critical roles played by state, local, tribal and territorial governments, and private sector partners in strengthening supply chains; and we will enhance our coordination with the international community and international stakeholders who also have key supply chain roles and responsibilities."

The evolution in focus for DHS comes as the agency is also fine-tuning how it conducts intelligence. Napolitano's predecessor Michael Chertoff recently told a Capitol Hill committee that it is time for the department to reduce its focus on foreign enemies and find new ways to work with the private sector and local governments so it can protect critical infrastructure from homegrown threats.