Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 30, 2006

DHS releases final National Infrastructure Protection Plan

Filed under: Infrastructure Protection — by Christian Beckner on June 30, 2006

Here’s the link. It’s been a busy day, and the server on which the blog is hosted has been fubar all day, until a few minutes ago (as many of you might have noticed), so I’ll have to comment on it next week.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend! (Posting on the blog will be light).

Senate approps bill chops nuclear detection budget

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Christian Beckner on June 30, 2006

The Senate Appropriations Committee moved the DHS FY 2007 appropriations bill out of the full committee today; this press release summarizes their version of the legislation.

At the beginning of the budget season, I predicted that this would be a painful budget season for DHS. The Department’s decision to propose a fee increase for TSA that they knew would be dead-on-arrival created a $1.2 billion hole in the middle of the budget; a hole that both the House and the Senate appropriations committees have struggled to fill. The new operational costs created by the border funding (e.g. the National Guard deployment) in the FY 2006 supplemental made this an even deeper hole.

As a natural result, both versions of the bill propose funding decisions that would be real setbacks to U.S. homeland security, in a number of different areas. The programs that were cut or not fully funded are generally newer programs; it’s much easier to scale back new programs than to propose cuts to programs that have existing workforces and established cost structures. But the result of this is that some of the most important and urgent DHS missions are likely to be underfunded this year, in areas like infrastructure protection, preparedness, and science & technology.

Take the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, responsible for developing a national architecture to detect and prevent the use of nuclear or radiological weapons on U.S. soil. By all accounts the DNDO has been doing a solid job in its first 17 months of existence. The DHS budget request proposed $536 million for the DNDO in FY 2007. The House bill cuts this funding level to $500 million, and the Senate bill scales it to $442.5 million – all out of the DNDO’s R&D budget.

Preventing a nuclear attack on U.S. soil is, for my money, far and away the most important mission of the Department of Homeland Security. And the technologies to detect radiological and nuclear materials are by all accounts inadequate today. Given these realities, how can it be a good idea to roll back the DNDO’s R&D budget by $93 million (nearly one-third of the total)? The security return-on-investment from the DNDO is potentially enormous. If anything, I’d suggest spending more. A comparison of its value to U.S. national security with many big ticket items in the DOD’s procurement budget (for example, the Air Force’s F-22A Raptor at $361 million per plane) raises profound questions about whether we are truly serious about stopping mass casualty terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

June 29, 2006

DHS set to release final National Infrastructure Protection Plan

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on June 29, 2006

From PR Newswire:

ICIS news quoted Robert Stephan, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security, as saying the department has completed work on a comprehensive national infrastructure protection plan (NIPP) and will meet its end-of-June deadline for publication.

Prompted by the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the infrastructure protection plan is designed to assess the threat against and vulnerability of 17 major industries, including chemicals manufacturing. It also is designed to assess the possible consequences of a terrorist attack against key national resources such as pipelines, rail traffic, the electric power grid and others.

Speaking at the Chemical Security Summit in Baltimore, Stephan said the plan to be announced tomorrow “is the first national blueprint to secure this country from terrorist attacks.”
“Whether we like it or not,” Stephan said, “we are living in the 21st century threat and risk environment and we have to deal with it. There’s no going back.”

The report should presumably show up here tomorrow.

House introduces chemical security bill

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Infrastructure Protection — by Christian Beckner on June 29, 2006

The House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing this morning on the issue of chemical plant security, discussing a new, bipartisan bill on chemical plant security, H.R. 5695, which looks like it will be the companion bill to the Senate’s chemical security legislation (S. 2145). The prepared testimony by the witnesses at the hearing is available here.

The bill is similar to the Senate’s version of this legislation. As with the Senate bill, it sidesteps the issue of inherently safer technologies (ISTs). It contains a section on federal preemption of state laws, but the language is murky, noting in Sec. 1807 that “a State or local government may not prescribe, issue, or continue in effect a law, regulation, standard or order that may frustrate the purposes of this title or any regulations or standards prescribed under this title.” What does ‘frustrate’ mean here? Depending upon your point of view, it could mean state measures that weaken federal law; or it could mean measures that are stronger and/or complicating to federal law. The testimony from the American Chemistry Council indicates that they are also confused about this section; their representative argues for language that would clearly preclude states from establishing stronger security standards. I still maintain that this would be a bad idea; states should have the right to set stronger standards to protect their citizens, and state laws such as the New Jersey law can fill the breach where federal law does not exist or is poorly enforced. (As an aside, Sen. Voinovich has proposed a compromise in the Senate that grandfathers existing state laws but forbids other states from taking action; but Sen. Inhofe is still maintaining his hold on S. 2145).

The House bill does differ with the Senate legislation in one important respect. It gives DHS the authority to hire third-parties to carry out the validation of chemical plants’ compliance – an idea that Sec. Chertoff had promoted in March.

Overall, this seems like a reasonable bill. Hopefully the House will ignore the absolutists on both extremes of this issue (cf. this press release) and move forward expeditiously on the bill. As I’ve said repeatedly, it would be an act of profound neglect for the Congress not to pass meaningful chemical security legislation in the 109th.

Chertoff stumps for border legislation

Filed under: Border Security — by Christian Beckner on June 29, 2006

Sec. Chertoff spoke at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) this morning – you can watch the video here. The speech covered a familiar list of border security and interior enforcement issues: the Secure Border Initiative, the National Guard deployment at the border, activities to end “catch and release”, strengthening worksite enforcement – in a plea to the Congress to move forward on immigration and border security legislation that includes a temporary worker program (describing it as a “spillway to a dam”), rather than scuttling it, as is now the inclination of the House leadership. But the event produced no real news.

New report from PPIC on port security

Filed under: Port and Maritime Security — by Christian Beckner on June 29, 2006

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has released an excellent, authoritative 296-page report entitled “Protecting the Nation’s Seaports: Balancing Security and Costs.” The report is a must-read for anyone who works on these issues; and folks who are time-constrained can settle for browsing the two-page summary of it.

The report has three main parts. Chapters 2 and 3 examine the potential economic consequences of a terrorist attack on a seaport, with the goal of establishing a baseline that allows informed risk assessment and resource allocation decisions. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 looks at best practices in port security, focusing on “how to seal the container supply chain, how to get the most out of billions of dollars worth of technology development, and how to prepare for emergency response in the case of a terrorist incident at a port.” Chapters 7 and 8 analyze the government response to the port security challenge to date, assessing programs on the basis of cost, effectiveness, clarity of authority, and financing.

The analysis in the report leads the authors to seven concluding recommendations:

  1. The federal government should focus its efforts on preventing the misuse of the supply chain as a means to carry out a terrorist attack by “sealing the supply chain and improving targeting capabilities.” The physical security of the ports themselves should be an important but secondary priority.
  2. A well-honed “rapid response and economic reconstitution plan” is necessary to minimize damage from an attack, given that “how the government reacts to the many problems created by an attack could be as important as how well it anticipates those problems.”
  3. A layered strategy for port security is appropriate, given that “no one measure can provide 100 percent security against the shipment of terrorist materiel in containers’; although it’s difficult to determine how many inspection points or layers are indeed necessary.
  4. Elected officials and senior appointees in the U.S. government needs to do a better job of offering policy guidance to those who must implement port security, rather than “demanding the implementation of multiple programs simultaneously, without setting priorities.”
  5. Port security needs “a more coherent technology policy” that promotes “technology development by the private sector, the purchase of commercial technology and subsequent modification for security purposes—rather than the special development of new security technology—and encouragement of greater international collaboration in technology development.”
  6. More attention needs to be paid to response and recovery activities in the port security system.
  7. The Coast Guard and CBP need additional resources and staffing in order to carry out their assigned port security missions.

These are all important, useful recommendations – and ones that Congress has the opportunity to take action on this year, via the SAFE Port Act (which has already passed the House) and the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act (which is stalled in the Senate).

Overall, an excellent report, and a very important contribution to the public understanding of port security – well worth a close read.

New report on “The Forgotten Homeland”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on June 29, 2006

The Century Foundation is releasing a task force report today on homeland security policy entitled “The Forgotten Homeland.” The recommendations, introduction, and several chapters are available here on their website. The report is divided into three sections, on the roles of state & local governments, the private sector, and the federal government respectively. The top-level recommendations in the report are summarized here.

There are some good ideas in the report, and the task force rightfully spends a chapter looking at the issue of chemical plant security, the most significant homeland security vulnerability in the United States today. And its argument that investments in homeland security need to be weighed against obselete military projects (examples given include the F/A-22 Raptor, the Osprey, and Virginia-class subs) that suck up billions of dollars is spot on.

But there are also a number of ill-advised ideas in the report. The authors argue that the government should “resist structural solutions to functional problems” but then contradict themselves by proposing removing FEMA from DHS and offering several other structural recommendations. As I’ve argued before, removing FEMA from DHS would be precisely the wrong step to take at this time, because it would create the illusion of a solution to what are functional problems at their core.

The chapter on state & local government make a compelling argument that homeland security efforts need to be more focused at the metropolitan level in the coming years, but then proposes a uniform, federally-driven approach for this, rather than devolving authority to states & cities to take their own initiative and trusting the power of decentralized, networked governance. For example, the task force argues that every major metropolitan area needs personal protective equipment for all first responders, a city-wide CCTV system, and a number of other requirements. But that one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t trust cities to make their own decisions, in a way that is commensurate with their original argument that metropolitan areas need to take a leading role in homeland security. Moreover, this approach is likely to be inconsistent with a risk-based strategy; it would probably lead to funding decisions that would harm NYC and DC much more than this year’s UASI allocations, unless billions of new dollars were suddenly available.

Overall, it’s an OK report, but it suffers from the malady that often afflicts these group projects: the penchant for “laundry lists” of recommendations rather than a consistent, unified vision for homeland security.

June 28, 2006

A cybersecurity conflict-of-interest at DHS?

Filed under: DHS News — by Christian Beckner on June 28, 2006

From the AP tonight:

The Bush administration’s cybersecurity chief is a contract employee who earns $577,000 under an agreement with a private university that does extensive business with the federal office he manages.

Donald “Andy” Purdy Jr. has been acting director of the Homeland Security Department’s National Cyber Security Division for 21 months. His two-year contract with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has drawn attention from members of Congress. By comparison, the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, is paid $175,000 annually.

Purdy is on loan from the school to the government, which is paying nearly all his salary. Meanwhile, Purdy’s cybersecurity division has paid Carnegie Mellon $19 million in contracts this year, almost one-fifth of the unit’s total budget.

Purdy said he has not been involved in discussions of his office’s business deals with the school. “I’m very sensitive to those kinds of requirements,” Purdy said. “It’s not like Carnegie Mellon has ever said to me, ‘We want to do this or that. We want more money.’ “

What’s most galling about this story to me isn’t the potential conflict-of-interest. I have no reason to believe that Purdy has done anything inappropriate. But what gets me is the fact that it’s been almost a year since Sec. Chertoff announced the creation of a position for an assistant secretary for cybersecurity, and DHS has yet to nominate anyone to fill the position full-time. This outcome is a bad deal for the American people. As this story points out, it’s a bad deal for taxpayers, and it also means that the office lacks the authority that it needs to carry out the cybersecurity mission.

HSINful behavior at DHS

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on June 28, 2006

The DHS inspector general published an excellent report yesterday on the shortcomings of the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) and the Department’s woes in developing effective information-sharing with state & local officials.

The report tells the history of the development of the HSIN, pointing to a number of decisions that have hurt the adoption and effectiveness of the HSIN, including poor choices of technology, failure to integrate with existing law enforcement systems, minimal training & guidance, and inadequate consultation with state & local officials.

The result? Low usage of the HSIN among its registered members:

Although the total number of accounts for the law enforcement portal has grown over the past year, only a small percentage of account holders log onto the system daily. As Figure 6 indicates, of the approximately 3,000 account holders on the law enforcement portal, an average of only six percent logged on daily in December 2005. The peak average daily logons for any given month in the year 2005 was 12 percent.

Further, of the approximately 4,000 accounts on the emergency portal, an average of only two percent logged on daily in December 2005. Average daily usage reached its highest monthly level, 11 percent, in September 2005, due to inquiries during the Hurricane Katrina response. Usage of the counter-terrorism portal was similar: of the approximately 9,500 account holders on this portal, an average of only about two percent logged on daily. Again, usage peaked in September 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina; the highest level of average daily logons for that time was three percent.

If few people are using the system, then it will continue to spiral downward; a system like this is only useful if there is a critical mass of participants who actively use the site. Clearly a course correction is necessary for DHS’s information-sharing efforts – toward an approach that is much more consensus-driven and participatory, rather than imposed by DHS.

Congress looks at intelligence and border security

Filed under: Border Security,Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christian Beckner on June 28, 2006

The House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing today to look at the role of intelligence in the border security mission. The prepared testimony by DHS chief intelligence officer Charlie Allen, intelligence officers from the Coast Guard, ICE, and CBP, and outside experts Michael Cutler and Michael O’Hanlon. is available on the committee website. GovExec provides a good summary of the hearing:

The Homeland Security Department’s chief intelligence officer acknowledged Wednesday that the department is still in the “early stages” of developing a strategic plan for capturing and disseminating intelligence along the nation’s borders, an admission that drew immediate criticism from Democrats who said such a plan should have been done years ago.

“I think we are in the early stages of developing an overall strategic picture and landscape,” Charles Allen told the House Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee during a hearing. “I agree with you that we should have done this earlier.”

Allen said one of his top priorities since joining the department last fall has been developing “an intelligence campaign plan” for the borders that includes surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. “We have a good deal to do but I have some good ideas about how to get this done,” he said. Allen was not asked about and did not offer a timeline for when the plan would be completed.

….Responding to a question, Allen acknowledged that Customs and Border Protection officers do not readily have access to all databases that might contain information on persons of interest. But he added that the agency could access those databases if it wanted.

This is a critically important part of the border security challenge, especially the element of it that I consider to be preeminently important: stopping potential terrorists from entering the country. If border agents can’t access the nation’s reservoir of intelligence, then that’s a serious gap in our border security. The issue doesn’t have the same political impact as physical or manpower investments on the border, and it sometimes gets lost in the broader debate, so I’m glad to see Congress focusing on the issue today.

June 27, 2006

Ex-Navy research chief nominated to head DHS S&T

Filed under: DHS News — by Christian Beckner on June 27, 2006

From the White House website:

The President intends to nominate Jay M. Cohen, of New York, to be Under Secretary for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security. Admiral Cohen is currently a Retired Rear Admiral of the United States Navy. He has served the United States Navy for over 35 years. He most recently served as Chief of Naval Research at the Department of the Navy. Earlier in his career, he served as Deputy Director for Operations to the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. Admiral Cohen received his bachelor’s degree from the United States Naval Academy and his master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Cohen’s full bio is available here.

DHS approps moves forward in the Senate

Filed under: Budgets and Spending — by Christian Beckner on June 27, 2006

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security moved forward on FY 2007 funding for the Department of Homeland Security today, as detailed in this press release. At first impression, it looks like the infrastructure protection and science & technology accounts are the big losers in the Senate’s version of the budget – a potential solution to the TSA fee issue that I described in Febuary as the “easiest politically, but probably the most damaging to homeland security.”

More analysis to follow.

Homeland security, the eBay way?

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Technology for HLS — by Christian Beckner on June 27, 2006

Dan Prieto at the Reform Institute had an interesting op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle last Friday, suggesting the need for innovative, out-of-the-box thinking in the nation’s preparedness and response capabilities:

Disaster response is complex. It involves a dizzying array of players, from federal to state and local governments, to the private sector, to citizens and nonprofit organizations. According to the homeland security report, the “Achilles’ heel” of our national preparedness is the ability, among all those players, to identify critical supplies and resources before a disaster strikes and finding and delivering them quickly afterward.

Everyday technology, properly harnessed, can help address some of the most glaring deficiencies identified by the study. EBay became a huge success by matching specialized wants and needs: Bottle-cap collector in Iowa, meet bottle-cap seller in Texas. Craigslist succeeded by matching buyers and sellers in the same city. Sites such as Match.com couple the tastes and desires of singles, and DonorsChoose.org matches private giving with the specific needs of classrooms.

….Building an eBay-like system to match regional disaster-response needs with companies that can pledge assistance ahead of time or help out in real time would save dollars and lives. Properly built and maintained, it would ensure that the vast majority of private pledges and donations are put to good use, instead of going unused. It would allow state, local and federal governments to inventory available critical assets rapidly and would be much faster than relying on government bureaucrats to create a resource database on their own. Such a system would effectively harness the enormous, but untapped, goodwill of the private sector to play a leading role in homeland security.

I don’t know know if eBay is the best example, but I agree that systems that facilitate self-organization in disaster response are needed – and are certainly much more agile than hierarchical, command-and-control systems for disaster response.

One additional question that the op-ed provokes is whether the federal government should operate such systems, or leave them to the market to develop. If the former route is taken, then there’s a risk that systems will be overly complex or rigid. If the latter route is chosen, there’s a high probability that no single system will emerge – and you won’t develop the benefits of scope & scale that online markets like Craigslist and eBay are able to leverage. Perhaps the right route is for DHS to fund the start-up of these types of online marketplaces, and champion them, but then leave their ownership and operation to the private sector.

NYPD names new counterterrorism head

Filed under: State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on June 27, 2006

The New York Daily News and the New York Sun report today on the naming of Richard Falkenrath as the new Deputy Commissioner of Counterterrorism at the New York Police Department.

It will be interesting to see whether this leads to stronger ties between DHS and the NYPD, which have often seemed more like rivals than partners. The Sun story notes that Falkenrath intends to represent NYC more strongly in the chase for homeland security grant funds:

Mr. Falkenrath told the Sun his priorities for protecting New York City include securing specific terrorist targets, with the subway system “at the top of our list of concerns.” He also said he would work to secure more federal antiterror dollars: “I believe New York is, from a terrorist perspective, the highest priority target in the world. And the federal grants need to reflect that.”

One potential challenge facing Falkenrath will be whether he can rapidly assimilate into the culture of the NYPD and master the operational dimensions of the job. Falkenrath’s expertise on homeland security is unquestioned, but he comes from an academic, policy-focused background, while his predecessors in this job (Michael Sheehan, Frank Libutti) both had military backgrounds, and more extensive management experience coming into the position.

DHS breaks ground on biodefense center

Filed under: Biosecurity,DHS News — by Christian Beckner on June 27, 2006

DHS yesterday broke ground on the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) at Fort Detrick, MD, as noted in a press release from the Department. The Frederick (MD) News Post reported on the ground-breaking, and the Baltimore Sun ran a story that considered some of the security-related and ethical issues surrounding the work of the NBACC.

June 23, 2006

HLS in DC, June 26-30, 2006

Filed under: Events — by Christian Beckner on June 23, 2006

Below is a list of homeland security policy events in the DC area next week (as well as the occasional listing outside of DC). I post a list each week and will sometimes update mid-week when I find new items. You can always find current and previous postings under the “Events” category tab at right. And please note that many events require prior invitations and/or RSVPs.

6/25-6/30: International Conference on Complex Systems features a number of sessions relevant to homeland security. Boston, MA.
6/26-6/28: U.S. Coast Guard Innovation Expo features keynotes by DHS Dep. Sec. Michael Jackson and USCG Commandant Thad Allen. Tampa, FL.
6/26-6/28: IDGA conference on critical infrastructure resilience. Westin Arlington Gateway, Arlington, VA.
6/26-6/29: 2006 International Conference on Data Mining. Monte Carlo Resort, Las Vegas, NV.
6/26: Homeland Security Advisory Council meeting. St. Regis Hotel, 923 16th St NW, 11am.
6/27-6/29: Homeland Security Europe 2006 conference. Brussels, Belgium.
6/27: Heritage Foundation event on the Visa Waiver Program and US-Korea relations. 215 Massachusetts Ave NE, 9:30am.
6/27: Senate Appropriations subcommittee markup of the FY 2007 DHS appropriations bill. Dirksen 128, 9:30am.
6/27: Congressional Internet Caucus roundtable on RFID. Rayburn B-339, 12 noon.
6/27: House Small Business Committee hearing on “Immigrant Employment Verification and Small Business.” Rayburn 2360, 2:30pm.
6/28-6/29: 2nd Bird Flu Summit. Hyatt Regency Crystal City.
6/28: START (DHS Center of Excellence) Research Symposium. Marriott Inn and Conference Ctr, 3501 University Blvd E, College Park, MD. 9am.
6/28: House Homeland Security Committee hearing on “DHS Intelligence and Border Security: Delivering Operational Intelligence.” Cannon 311, 10am.
6/28: Utica College news conference to announce the creation of a new “Center for Identity Management & Information Protection.” National Press Club, 14th and F St NW, 10am.
6/28: Center for American Progress event on “The Terrorism Index: A Survey of the U.S. National Security Establishment on the War on Terror.” 1333 H St NW, 10th Fl., 12:30pm.
6/28: Towson University event with former Attorney General Edwin Meese on “Civil Liberties vs. Terrorism: The Constitution and Post 9-11 Realities.” Towson, MD, 7pm.
6/29: House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Act of 2006 (H.R. 4999). Cannon 311, 10am.
6/29: House T&I Committee hearing on airline passenger baggage screening. Rayburn 2167, 10am.
6/29: House Financial Services Committee hearing on “Pandemic Influenza Preparedness in the Financial Services Sector.” Rayburn 2128, 10am.
6/29: Century Foundation event to release a report on “The Forgotten Homeland” with Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley, Dick Clarke, Rand Beers, et al. National Press Club, 14th & F St NW, 12 noon.
6/29: Senate Appropriations full committee markup of the FY 2007 DHS appropriations bill. Dirksen 106, 2pm.
6/30: Emergency Management and Individuals with Disabilities and the Elderly conference features remarks by Sec. Chertoff. Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 9am.

(Please e-mail me if you have suggestions about additions to this list for this week, or future weeks).

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