Todd Keil of DHS Talks Partnerships & Priorities

10 mins read

dhsTodd Keil serves as the assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security. Recently, ExecutiveGov had the opportunity to sit down with Keil to discuss his top priorities, forming partnerships between the public and private sectors and his experience transitioning from the public to the private sector and back to the public sector.

ExecutiveGov: Tell us about your recent partnership with the sports league subsector.

Keil: Over the last two days DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection sponsored a table-top exercise with the sports leagues. It was a great conference. It started off as a conference on the first day and then we went into an actual tabletop exercise the second day. It was a good event because it involved a large group of folks in both the private sector, critical infrastructure owners and operators, and also government entities as diverse as the State Departments Diplomatic Security Service, the FBI, the FAA, TSA, and obviously a number of DHS components. On the private sector side, we had sports leagues representatives from the National Hockey League, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and then we also had representatives from individual teams and arenas and stadiums, owners and operators.

ExecutiveGov: How does this partnership fit in the bigger picture of DHS’ mission?

Keil: As Secretary Napolitano stresses, DHS and the U.S. government can’t guard against terrorism alone and we look at the partnership as the only way that we can effectively address the ever-evolving threats we face. It has to be a collaborative effort to strengthen our capabilities to face this dynamic threat environment. We can’t do it alone, the private sector can’t do it alone, state and local, law enforcement can’t do it alone, we have to work together.

ExecutiveGov: How do you approach a public-private partnership?

Keil: First, we take a look at the nation’s critical infrastructure and key resources sectors. We have 18 critical sectors, so we bring people of like interests and concerns together and then we sit down and talk about what the issues are. We talk about tools and capabilities, we talk about strengths, we talk about weaknesses, and then we identify areas where we can work together to collectively come out of it stronger than when we went in.

ExecutiveGov: Are there any future partnerships you are pursing now at DHS?

Keil: We pursue a lot of partnerships. This was a sports league table-top exercise. In December, we did a table-top exercise that involved the lodging and retail industry. This year I believe we have three or four more exercises planned with different sectors.

ExecutiveGov: How did you get started in this field?

Keil: I spent most of my career with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. I worked almost 23 years there and retired. I went into the public sector for about 2.5 years after that and then I was asked by the President to take this position with Homeland Security, so it was quite an honor and quite a challenge.

ExecutiveGov: Why do you enjoy coming to work everyday?

Keil: I think what we do and the value of the partnership. It’s the value of the partnership that makes it so exciting and so interesting, and the fact that we can collaboratively take this approach to face what we see as this very dynamic threat environment. It makes it very exciting, and it is very challenging, but the excitement really brings me to work every day, and the fact that we are really doing a lot of good for the American people. Watch video here.

ExecutiveGov: Did you face any challenges going from the public to the private sector and vice versa?

Keil: I think there are definitely some challenges. The one thing I like in the public sector is the level of job satisfaction — that you are doing a greater good is very gratifying. That is something that has always attracted me to government service.

ExecutiveGov: What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

Keil: I actually enjoy foreign languages, and it is probably based on my background in the Foreign Service ward of the State Department. Looking at other languages enthralls me and I hope to learn more.

ExecutiveGov: Which languages do you speak?

Keil: I’m fairly good at speaking German, I speak a little bit of Indonesian, and I am okay with some others, but I don’t want to say that I am good at them.

ExecutiveGov: What are some of your priorities right now?

Keil: One of our priorities is focusing on the efforts and the tools and capabilities we can bring to the field. We are taking a regional focus across the United States. Right now we have 93 Protective Security Advisors deployed throughout the United States. They are working within their communities to understand issues of concern in a particular region and they are bringing them back to Washington so we can determine what we need to do to better support our state, local, territorial and tribal partners across the country so they can fulfill their mission.

ExecutiveGov: How does what you do effect the American people?

Keil: We have done events like the sports leagues table-top exercise and the retail and lodging table-top exercises, and we continue to do outreaches to other commercial facilities such as malls and shopping centers. We have worked very closely with this group and put out a lot of products, both informational and training, to ensure that those who come in close contact with a potential attacker are aware of suspicious purchases and behavior. But we need the American people to also be a partner in our efforts. We need the public to look at what’s going on around them. We don’t want to them be overly concerned, but when you get that instinct that something is wrong, that awareness, that instinct – it is critical for you to report it.  You have to tell somebody about it. We want the American people to partner with us and be our eyes and ears all over the country. We are all partners in this together to keep our country safe.

ExecutiveGov: How do you keep America safe, and try to make sure people are aware, without instilling fear? How do you strike a balance?

Keil: We want the American people to go to shows, concerts, games, and any other event they want to attend across this country. There are a lot of iconic American events that we want American people to be able to go to as well as visitors from other countries and, most importantly, we want them to enjoy it. At Homeland Security, there is a lot that we do that people don’t see. We don’t want people to see this heavy-handed security, but we want them to be comforted in the fact that they know it’s there. We want a level of awareness from the American people so that if they see something that’s wrong they know enough to tell somebody about it so we can react to it, but we don’t want that to overshadow the experience of going to the event. We want the public to get out there, to have fun, and know that we are behind the scenes doing the best possible job we can to keep that event safe. Watch video here.

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