Homeland Security – Working for Hawai‘i at the Community Level

Posted on Feb 28, 2023 in Main

Hawai‘i’s strategic location gives the state a seat at the national table of states sharing information about foreign and interstate security threats. However, the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) also plays a crucial role here at home. Communities as bustling as Downtown Honolulu, as quiet as places between Hilo and Kailua­Kona, or as remote as those on Moloka‘i, are all able to benefit from the programs developed by the OHS, which is attached to the State Department of Defense.

State and federal tax dollars are spent here in our communities, not just on the latest equipment used by the military. According to OHS Administrator Frank Pace, the funds are distributed equitably throughout the islands, implying that the usual ‘who you know’ is not in play. Rather, the goals of education and training and size of the entity needing that training are the criteria. “We are here to protect our keiki, families, and kūpuna,” Pace said.

Threats to safety and security can come from within a community whether at home, at school, at a house of worship, or in the workplace. The best defense is proactive preparation, with plans developed by Homeland Security. Among the guidelines of the OHS are observational assessments of mental health in the hopes of helping troubled individuals before they create a danger to others. Teachers, mental health professionals, and local law enforcement are the moving parts that create an unseen but important safety net.

Pace observed that unlike in many mainland municipalities, many Hawai‘i residents have a personal connection, or lack a negative experience with public servants. “There is a presence and a relationship,” he said, and in doing so summed up the state ­ focused goals of his division.