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Homeland Security and the Honey Bee

2015 May 19
by Jason Nairn, CPP, CISSP

Homeland security is not a precisely-defined discipline.  Rather, it tends to encompass issues that relate to risks to the people, stability and infrastructure of the United States.  Consequently, when an issue arises that is associated with these risks, a thought-provoking exercise for scholars in homeland security is to note the role of homeland security professionals, and the Department of Homeland Security, in addressing the issue.  Such an opportunity is presented with today’s announcement of a national strategy for the promotion of honey bees and other pollinators.

Over the past several years, entomologists have noted a decline in the populations of honey bees and other pollinators.  These declines are worrisome because of the role pollinators play in the food supply.  Additionally, the global decline in certain insect species could indicate a larger problem the magnitude of which has yet to be discovered.  These concerns have reached the White House.

In June of 2014, President Obama released a Presidential Memorandum calling for the development of a strategy to protect and promote honey bees and other pollinators.  Section 1 of the memo outlined the departments involved, and the Department of Homeland Security was conspicuously absent.  Yet DHS maintains the National Infrastructure Protection Plan, the goal of which is to “identify, deter, detect, disrupt and prepare for threats and hazards to the nation’s critical infrastructure”, and among the identified critical infrastructure sectors is Food and Agriculture.

So what can DHS bring to the issue of bees and butterflies?  The answer is the resilience model.  While the leaders of the task force – the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency – will undoubtedly focus on the causes of pollinator decline, the improvement of habitat and the support of growers and beekeepers, someone needs to focus on resilience in the face of declining pollinator populations.  DHS has programs in place for mobilizing readiness in the face of disasters, and by many accounts, the decline of the honey bee is disastrous.

In 2014, DHS announced its intent to focus on climate change, recognizing the need to prepare for the resulting impact on homeland security.  At the time, a senior DHS official was quoted in Reuters as saying “increasingly, we’ve moved not only from a security focus to a resiliency focus”.  If this is true, honey bees are a homeland security issue.

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