Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 31, 2008

DHS-wide Review Focus of Congressional Hearing

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on July 31, 2008

Section 2401 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to “conduct a review of the homeland security of the Nation.” The review is called the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR).

As part of this review, the Secretary will examine the homeland security strategy, make recommendations regarding the long-term homeland security strategy and priorities, and provide guidance on the programs, assets, capabilities, budget, policies, and authorities of the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS has designated a core staff for the QHSR within the Office of Policy, as well as “work teams” to manage and conduct the Review. The work teams include employees dedicated full-time to the QHSR, detailed personnel from DHS and other Federal departments and agencies, and contract support.

DHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Plans, Alan Cohn, is responsible for managing this first QHSR. Yesterday, Alan testified before a House Subcommittee hearing about where things stand on the current effort. Christine Wormuth, Senior Fellow in the International Security Program at CSIS, also testified at the hearing.

Christine made a solid point: Despite having an able leader in Alan Cohn, don’t expect the QHSR to meet its goals with a budget as small as $1.5 million and 6 full time staff. As a comparison, DOD has multiple offices throughout the Department working already on their 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review with substantially larger budgets available to them.

Section 2401(b)(2) of the 9/11 Act directs the Secretary to provide Congress, and make publicly available, a resource plan for the QHSR. The Resource Plan explains the implementation phases, estimates of the required resources, and explainst the QHSR Work Teams.

According to the resource plan, the QHSR report will be written and delivered to Congress at the end of 2009. The interim work is to lay the foundation for the ultimate deliverable next year. Nevertheless, DHS is at a disadvantage due to a few critical factors:

1) Disengaged senior leadership
2) Massive turnover at the transition
3) Temptation to offer recommendations covering an unwieldy scope

On the disengaged leadership, I’ve seen no evidence that Secretary Chertoff is as engaged in the QHSR as the Secretary of Defense is in the QDR. On the occasions when I’ve met with him, the Secretary responded to my questions about the QHSR with minimal detail. The budget request alone is evidence of lacking buy-in, but its proof, too, that the White House doesn’t understand the potential value of this Review.

The implications of substantial turnover for the Department of Homeland Security include the risk that Christine pointed out during the hearing:”No matter what party wins the presidential election, the incoming team will want to take a fresh look at DHS and is likely to be somewhat skeptical of work done in advance for the QHSR.”

Finally, while the review is mandated by Congress to make recommendations regarding the long-term homeland security strategy and priorities of the Department of Homeland Security, the maxim of “know your audience” enters in. The QHSR is more for the Department than for the Congress. With the new Administration coming in, there will be a premium placed on assessing the programs, assets, capabilities, budget, policies, and authorities of the Department, not normative statements.

The next Administration will craft its own national security strategy and, possibly, a new homeland security strategy (the latter may be folded into the former). Therefore, the recommendations will be less valued than the net assessment of the DHS landscape, which is challenging enough as it is. Alan and his team are uniquely capable of doing this.

The next Administration would be wise to avail itself of the QHSR deliverables and the career staff leadership who are responsible for it. The current Administration would benefit from committing more resources – leadership buy-in and financial support – to the QHSR process if it intends to make good on its commitment to a smooth transition to the next Administration.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 31, 2008 @ 10:13 am

The QHSR is a useful concept. Even in DOD not all that successful given time and effort expended on it. Often used to avoid making tough decisions that should be obvious to senior management and appointees. Your post covers the basics well. What is interesting to me is that given the lapse of time since Nunn-Lugar-Domenici’s DEFENSE AGAINST WEATONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION ACT (Title XIV of 1996 DOD Authorization) and reports such as the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection (Fall 1997) and other basic reports such as the 9/11 Commission and the various Katrina report there really has been very little recalibration with DHS and on HS generally. I am beginning to think the reason is basic defects in the orginal concepts and strategy for DHS itself. In reality, with almost 85,000 employees in a gun and badge culture and another 30,000+ in uniformed militarized positions the culture of DHS is largely criminal law enforcement not intelligence, adminstrative of programs, or otherwise such as R&D. And of course the unweildy management structure of DHS is appalling. Neither Congress nor DHS leadership can figure out how to manage it. Here is a suggestion? For a start for the QHSR look at all fully authorized programs in DHS and their sunset dates, if any. Then looks at all unauthorized DHS programs, functions, and activities that are funded by appropriations and thus authorized through the backdoor so to speak. Some of these might be more important than the authorized programs, functions, and activities. When I say authorized I mean that a specific statute (or statutory section) or delegation from the President mandates the program function or activity. Second look at all the State and Local assistance programs and how they operate via grants, cooperative agreements, or contract! Finally look at the contractor support base of DHS and what is funded and contracted for? Goods and services hopefully but perhaps even basic manpower. Once this is done then perhaps the entirely of the criminal law effort should be put under one management chain of command. The administrative programs, functions, activities put under another. Perhaps the S&T Directorate should not just be the research arm but also the scientific and engineering manpower of DHS including all contracting for those skills. Finally, it is clear that almost 7; years into post9/11 the stovepiping on bioterriorism and pandemic issues between DHS and HHS calls for full scale review to make sure that both sides of the coin have integrated efforts and we don’t have separate preparedness,prevention, mitigation response, and
recovery mechanisms. I am very worried that with no real documentation of what the states have accomplished since 9/11 on HS the money has been wasted. The States are not responders and perhaps a DHS model should be developed and promulgated for the states that would make everyone understand the real role of the states in HS in a federal system. I am less worried about how the local governments have used their funding because at least even if DHS funds have displaced local initatives basic capability has been assisted or maintained. Actually, I think work on planning basis for various scenarious is one of the best things to come out of the Bush Adminstration. This started before 9/11 when Joesph Allbaugh at FEMA started reversing the long-term ban on catastrophic consequences planning for which FEMA was restricted by Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978. We are going to have the big one someday in the form of a large-scale earthquake or a true CAT 5 hurricane. We hope no dirty bombs, or NUDETS in a major city yet still possible. I recently attended the public meeting for North Anna Nuclear Power station held last Friday after a large scale exercise. Oddly in spring 1981 North Anna was the first nuclear power station to recieve a reasonable assurance finding from FEMA even before full regulatory guidance was in place. I mention this because if I was Secretary of DHS I would want to make absolutely sure that I and all of my chain of command understand exactly what, who, when, and how DHS would be involved in a WMD event. This includes detection, monitoring, decontamination, recover and re-entry should there be an actual event. I now understand that in general TOPOFF exercises in general have not only not have lessons learned captured but the original concept that top officials would play, not just observe, has been avoided. It was interesting that a large full scale field exercise of the FRERP (Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan–note mandated for incorporation into the NRP and then NRF by various statutes and other mandates–HSPD-5 for example) was cancelled by James Lee Witt in April 1993 because of a real world major flood event in the midwest. This event was never rescheduled and now a FFE for the FRERP has not been held since Zion nuclear power station in 1986. We definitely need tough full scenariou no-notice exercises to make sure that capability is verified and deficiencies are identified and corrected. It will be no excuse if a major incident or event occurs in the first year of a new adminstration and no institutional memory exists of what to be done. So I argue that for now the QHSR should lay the ground work for that institutional memory and detail studies, sysems, processes and plans and knowledgable individuals that provide a basis for understanding of the current HS strategy and system and then can be used to reveiw and if necessary change it. Good luck Alan Cohn.

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