Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 23, 2006

Heritage Foundation event on DHS regional frameworks

Filed under: Organizational Issues,Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on January 23, 2006

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.

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1 Comment »


Comment by William R. Cumming

January 23, 2006 @ 10:38 pm

Consistently missing statutory deadlines to establish a regional structure, DHS has yet to determine to what extent field organizations will be involved in operations or policy formulation. Authority for standby organizational structures that could stand-up in emergency/crisis management situations was determined to not be appropriate for DHS in its organic statute. Accordingly, whatever existing field structures are developed or retained, they must be able to operate on a self-contained basis without direct support from headquarters DHS for up to 120 days at a minimum. Also, DHS has failed to develop COG COOP and mutual support plans adequate to operate should DHS HQ be rendered inoperative. Recently, CRS produced a report on COOP status within the Executive Branch that is instructive. DHS has yet to identify what staff and resources are necessary to operate the key elements of DHS that must be able to operate on a 24/7 basis for a minimum of 120 days. It is also instructive that DHS has not yet fully identified critical infrastructure that would be able to support continuous field operations. Nor has any part of DHS received training on the Constitution requirement that the federal government “guarantee a republican form of government” to the states which has been consistently construed in the past to require federal assistance to reconstitute state government even before reconstition of federal bureacratic organizations. One suggestion in the past was the elimination of FEMA field structure with a technical/financial assistance cell co-located with the Governors emergency preparedness staff in State EOC’s. The federal staff could then be allocated on a risk analysis basis and prevent the startup/deployment delays inherent in the current structure. Preassigned FCO’s could then operate immediately without even travel delays.

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