Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 27, 2009

HSPD Update Part II

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on January 27, 2009

In the spirit of one of yesterday’s posts concerning the HSPDs from the Bush Administration, this update highlights HSPD 14, 17, and 18.

I worked on the process to draft HSPD 14, which established the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office in 2005. (The DNDO began work in mid-2004.) I was one of several involved in the effort to accelerate and integrate national efforts to combat the smuggled nuclear weapons threat. This included dedicated professionals from the national labs, experts from the intel community, Hill staffers, service labs, DHS leadership, and White House staff (mostly OVP and HSC).

The SAFE Port Act authorized DNDO into law with language very similar to HSPD 14. Much of this directive could be overtaken by the establishment of a new White House advisor on all things nuclear (MPC&A, detection, nonproliferation) as then candidate Obama indicated he would do. Section 1 of this PD is worth keeping regardless, but Sections 2-3 are dedicated to establishing and empowering the DNDO, which the President may choose to alter. In my opinion, some changes are necessary.

Section 4 of HSPD 14 assigns nonproliferation R&D and dual-use counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism nuclear detection R&D to the Secretary of Energy. See the forthcoming report of the Stimson Center taskforce on the nation’s nuclear research and weapons labs for guidance on how this role could be separated from the Department of Energy, which should be responsible for energy in general, not nuclear weapons. Sections 5-8 (interagency coordination with the DNDO) are all dependant on whether the DNDO continues to exist.

HSPD 17 deals with the Nuclear Materials Information Program (NMIP). I believe this PD is still classified. The NMIP is an information management system that consolidates all-source information about global nuclear materials and their security status. This would be useful for the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture, but it is unclear how much of this Program is available to DHS or other agencies involved in nonproliferation, counterproliferation, and counterterrorism efforts.

NMIP also orders the establishment of a national registry for identifying and tracking nuclear material samples that are held throughout the U.S., which would be directly beneficial to the charter of the DNDO under HSPD 14. The Securing the Cities Initiative actually claims to do this “identifying and tracking” as part of its mission.

Mitigating illness and preventing death are the principal goals of medical countermeasure efforts, which are designed to address bio-, nuc-, and chemical terrorism. HSPD 18 – Medical Countermeasures Against Weapons of Mass Destruction – requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to lead the research, development, testing, evaluation, and acquisition efforts related to this directive. This also includes an interagency coordinating activity, a strategic plan, a private sector engagement effort, and “a strategic, integrated all-CBRN risk assessment that integrates the findings of the intelligence and law enforcement communi¬ties with input from the scientific, medical, and public health communities.”

All efforts related to this policy as it pertains to WMD, however, are assigned to the Secretary of Defense. All CBRN activities include vague roles for the interagency (i.e. leverage, ensure, facilitate). Perhaps Secretary Napolitano’s reviews will include the outputs of this PD and weigh in on a specific role for DHS.

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Comment by J.

January 27, 2009 @ 8:26 am

“All efforts related to this policy as it pertains to WMD, however, are assigned to the Secretary of Defense. All CBRN activities include vague roles for the interagency (i.e. leverage, ensure, facilitate). Perhaps Secretary Napolitano’s reviews will include the outputs of this PD and weigh in on a specific role for DHS.”

The DOD has this mission because WMDs (and nukes especially) are, at the end of the day, primarily a threat to warfighters. Have been since 1945 or so. Why it has taken 5 years for DHS to develop an MOA to cooperate on CB defense technologies with DOD is beyond me, but it’s clear where the preponderance of R&D has been and will continue to be.

DHS’s role ought to be to work with DOD on the interagency equipment board to identify relevant, commercially-available equipment for emergency responders to use in all-hazard responses. Using the DOE national labs as ancillary research facilities for CB defense capabilities was never a good idea and has yet to yield good products. But one can hope, I suppose.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 27, 2009 @ 9:37 am

Really hope the respective Secretaries of Defense, Energy, DHS are reading this post and HHS nominee also!

I really wonder exactly what MOU’s or MOA’s have been fully staffed, executed and necessary funded to implement these HSPDs. They are certainly important. If they are executed then it would be interesting to note what organizations and personnel in each Department are tasked for implementation and how are they funded. What contractors support these programs, functions, and activities. If all is classified then we can only hope there is NOW a system and its is working 24/7. For example, there are indications that the NEST has fallen off dramatically in capability since when operational it falls under DHS. Other crucial technical teams also need to be verified as fully operational NOW.
Last I heard the TSWG (Technical Support Working Group) was still doing good work on CBRNE and hope all the agency reps are still fully involved and supported by their respective management. WMD is still the crucial ballgame in my view. Will OBAMA be naming a White House WMD Czar as promised in the campaign, who knows? Question is what is the system NOW? Sounds broken from the post.

Comment by Arnold

January 28, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

Just FYI: “NEST” has been broken up into its component parts/teams so no longer goes by that moniker. I’m not clear when it would ever operationally fall under DHS, unless a team is involved in post-event activities. Regarding prevention/pre-event detection or bomb disposal it would come under FBI control, as they have the lead for any suspected terrorist investigation/action.

The current rumor is that Gary Samore, currently at the CFR, will be the WMD czar. But most conceptions of that role include very little in the way of domestic detection. So he will not have to worry about all of those radioactive cats threatening us: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/dannywestneat/2004300343_danny23.html

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