The Heritage Foundation hosted an event this morning on “Building the Right Regional Framework for Preparedness and Response.” The event takes place amidst a lingering debate about whether DHS needs a regional structure – an idea that was promoted by former Sec. Ridge but not supported in the Department’s Second-Stage Review last summer. The supporters of a regional structure continue to make the case for it, undeterred; for example, Sec. Ridge published an op-ed last month that restated his case.
The first speaker, National Capital Region director Thomas Lockwood, described some of the steps that the DC metro region has taken to build regional capabilities via the Office of National Capital Region Coordination, established by the Homeland Security Act of 2002.
The second speaker, Gen. William C. Moore (ret.), talked in more general terms about the challenges of preparedness and response at the regional and local levels. In his comments, he noted that any regional structure should be first and foremost about the assured delivery of response for catastrophic incidents – not other responsibilities. He was dismissive of the importance of the National Response Plan, noting that we need an operational system, not just a plan, and proposed a “regional contingency support system” to fulfill that gap, which would address the three points of failure in the response to Katrina: command and control, logistics, and communications. On the topic of logistics, he suggested that the military model should be studied closely in terms of its relevance to emergency response.
Moore suggested that this system needed to be focused on three axes: (1) structure, with FEMA as a player, but not predominant, (2) requirements, in terms of what needs to be delivered, and (3) means. He noted that new DHS regional headquarters should be at the confluence of these three axes, arguing that “you can’t turn a Katrina over to a FEMA…DHS has to be there to coordinate.”
He then suggested creating “support commands” for each of these regional HQ’s on an outsourced basis, which would determining each region’s particular needs and requirements.
The final speaker was former Attorney General Edwin Meese, who noted that his comments were based in part on his tenure as Chief of Staff to then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, and focused on the need for Washington to look at these issues from the perspective of state and local first responders. Unfortunately I had to break away from the webcast at the beginning of his comments, so I’m unable to summarize them here.
The webcast of the event should be archived here soon.
Update (1/24): Here is GovExec’s story on the event.