Monthly Homeland Security Advisor Profile October 2012: Alabama
NAME: Spencer Collier
TITLE: Director, Alabama Department of Homeland Security
BIO: Spencer Collier joined Governor Robert Bentley’s cabinet in January 2011 to serve as Director of the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, HSA and SAA for the State of Alabama. Prior to his appointment, he was elected three times to the Alabama House of Representatives. While serving in the legislature, he served on the Judiciary and Public Safety Committees. Also, he served as the Director of Economic and Community Development for the City of Bayou La Batre, Alabama where he was responsible for coordinating disaster and economic recovery efforts following the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. After the BP oil spill, he was named a member of the Executive Committee of the Coastal Recovery Commission, which helped formulate Alabama’s strategy for economic recovery following the disaster. Prior to that, he served as an Alabama State Trooper in the Alabama Department of Public Safety for 10 years in both the Highway Patrol and Administrative Divisions. During this time, he also worked in the Department’s Special Operations Unit and served as spokesperson for the Department following hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. He was appointed in June 2012 by Governor Bentley, to serve as Chairman of the Integrated State Law Enforcement Task Force which was commissioned to streamline the 22 state agencies with law enforcement capabilities. The Task Force is looking at ways to create more efficiency and reduce costs without sacrificing public service.
Six Questions for Spencer Collier Homeland Security Advisor Alabama Governor Robert Bentley
Q1: Tell us some of the unique homeland security challenges your state faces (i.e. nuclear power plants, large bodies of water, volcanoes, border challenges).
Alabama has a diverse and important critical infrastructure, and faces a wide variety of natural disasters, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Alabama has two nuclear power plants, four major military installations, the 2nd largest research park in the nation in Huntsville, and the Port of Mobile is the 9th largest port in the nation. We are a predominantly rural state with agriculture being our largest industry valued at $5 billion. We have global Fortune 500 industries such as Mercedes, Hyundai, Toyota, and Honda. Recently, Airbus announced they will build their first American assembly plant in Mobile. As you can see, we have a variety of challenges from a homeland security standpoint.
Q2: Tell us what being a homeland security advisor means to you.
Most importantly, I view it as a position of trust. I report directly to the governor on all state issues related to domestic security. The largest responsibility is to provide the strategic guidance to all state agencies in Alabama regarding homeland security and coordinate the state’s overall effort. As HSA, it is also my role to act as the conduit for information from federal intelligence and security partners. In return, we work very hard to work collectively with local partners. Q3: What has been the biggest challenge since moving into the position? Our largest problem probably mirrors the same challenges that most other states are facing and that is the reduction in funding. The State Homeland Security Grant Program has been cut dramatically and as a predominantly rural state, Alabama does not have any UASI’s. As a result, we are struggling to maintain our core capabilities in the homeland security enterprise.
Q4: How do recent budget cuts affect new and existing homeland security projects in your state?
To expand on the previous question, we have a significant challenge in sustaining the capabilities that we built over the past 10 years. During the April 2011 tornado outbreak, we were able to respond predominantly with Alabama assets. Alabama established eight Regional Homeland Security Law Enforcement Teams and 54 Alabama Mutual Aid Fire Fighter teams with a variety of expertise and disciplines. All teams were utilized in April 2011 and proved invaluable while responding to the largest natural disaster in Alabama history. With the current trend in homeland security funding, Alabama will have a difficult time maintaining and training this valuable asset. Additionally, the Alabama Fusion Center will face reduced funding.
Q5: How do you see the public/private relationship changing within the homeland security as budgets are tightened and discretionary funds are decreased?
I hope to see it continue to improve. We have good relationships with the companies that I mentioned as part of our critical infrastructure. Like most other states, the majority of our critical infrastructure is privately owned. Government has to engage the private sector in a partnership in respect to homeland security. With respect to the budgets, our reduced resources will cause our private sector partners to shoulder more of the burden with respect to their facility. We will still be there and be ready to prevent, protect, and respond to an incident, but we need to work closely together to do so.
Q6: Has your state implemented any innovative practices to improve information sharing and public communication at the state level? Please explain.
Information sharing is a priority for us here in Alabama. We have a robust toolbox for information sharing. Alacop is one of the most efficient forms of communication currently being implemented in the state. Law enforcement officers, through the use of their MDTs or smartphones, can receive alerts in real-time with the Alacop system. The Alabama Fusion Center is working to tie together existing local law enforcement intelligence gathering and information sharing programs into a state-wide system. We are also working with state agencies, such as our Department of Corrections, to include them in this initiative. This is one in a series of monthly Homeland Security Advisor profiles. If you are interested in being featured in an upcoming edition of