Defining the Public-Private Partnership on Terror

The war on terrorism has reshaped the relationship between government and the private security industry

Companies and their employers may ignore government advisories of prospective attacks. Meanwhile, government may fail to heed the insights of industry as it relates to possible counterterror solutions. Interaction between the public and private sectors are stressed when differing interests and perspectives occur in crafting means to combat terrorism. Government's expansive counterterror efforts impact private sector management and employees whether they are called for reserve duty or serve as private contractors abroad.

An evolving definition of what constitutes the war on terrorism and what roles industry and government have in this fight (and what they are willing to give up) will impact how the public and private sectors will interact. Relevant too is the role of costs in securing industry and determining which entity should pay what in order to safeguard companies, individuals and the homeland at large. This is particularly relevant with regard to protection of critical infrastructure.

The developing public-private partnership in homeland security must be attended to with significant resolve and compromise as economic security, national security, and public safety are at stake. In the coming years, government will buttress industry while business will assist public sector counterterror efforts. Nevertheless, the government-industry paradigm will occasionally include tensions as disparate perspectives and actions with regard to combating terror will undoubtedly arise.

Dean Alexander is CEO of OnEarth Solutions Corp., a hardware and software engineering firm assisting homeland security companies. This article is an abridged version of Chapter 6 of his recent book, Business Confronts Terrorism: Risks and Responses (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2004). Mr. Alexander can be reached at