Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 27, 2009

Fussing over FEMA

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 27, 2009

On February 11 the Federal Emergency Management Advancement  Act was reintroduced  by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK).  With a much more promising launch, earlier this week Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN) Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced the FEMA Independence Act ( HR1174 has not yet been posted to THOMAS).  Both propose returning FEMA to the status of an independent agency.

Yesterday the House Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing entitled Disaster Response: Is FEMA up to the Job? The witness list included the acting FEMA administrator, a prospective FEMA administrator and the Adjutant General of Kentucky.  I was not able to view the webcast, but media reports indicate witnesses claim red tape complicated the FEMA response to the Kentucky ice storm.  What a surprise.

There are thoughtful and insistent advocates for FEMA being in or out of DHS.  Everyone agrees on the importance of a FEMA administrator who is experienced, competent, and savvy.  Whoever it is needs to be able to play at the top table when disaster strikes.  It would be great if he or she had the kind of credibility to push for meaningful mitigation and prevention before disaster strikes.   Maybe General Jones would be willing to take on this role too?

But whoever the FEMA administrator is and regardless of to whom the FEMA Administrator reports, there is a need to finalize the agency’s place and – even more important – its mission.  The perpetual fussing distracts from preparedness, readiness, and execution of current work.  (See today’s Times-Picayune for an example.)

FEMA is worth fussing over.  But it has been seven years now.  At some point the fussing needs to end.

DHS Budget Increase Proposed

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 27, 2009

The first Obama administration budget proposes to increase  DHS funding from an estimated (estimates vary) $42.2 billion in 2009 to $42.7 in 2010, not including the $2.8 billion included in the Recovery Act.  

The DHS budget overview from OMB is available here.  The President’s budget message gives particular attention to critical transportation systems, cybersecurity, border protection, immigration services, and a variety of state and local grants.

Specifically referenced is, “Funding of $260 million within the existing Homeland Security Grant program will fortify the Nation’s intelligence system by improving information sharing and analysis by adding thousands more State and local level intelligence analysts.”  This has been a priority for many State and local HS leaders.

February 26, 2009

Budget Day

Filed under: Budgets and Spending — by Philip J. Palin on February 26, 2009

At 9:30 Eastern this morning President Obama is scheduled to make comments on the 2010 budget.   At 11:00 OMB Director Peter Orzag and Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, will hold a news conference.

In her testimony yesterday (see two posts below) Secretary Napolitano seemed to promise – her language was a tad convoluted here – that First Responder grants will be on par with prior budgets as adopted, rather than the much reduced budgets  the Bush White House had proposed.

It is also likely disaster relief funding will show a significant increase.  The President and other administration officials have argued we can no longer claim to be “shocked, shocked” by floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires and other predictable disasters and the expectation of a federal financial response.

I will be airborne this morning and once landing will have professional obligations through the evening.  So on today’s budget announcements HLSwatch will play Monday morning quarterback.


Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 26, 2009

On February 23 President Obama signed Presidential Study Directive 1. This sets out a process for the oft-discussed potential merger of the Homeland Security Council with the National Security Council.  A pdf of the three pages is available here courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists.

The directive’s language pre-supposes some sort of integration.  The President states,  “I believe that Homeland Security is indistinguishable from National Security — conceptually and functionally — they should be thought of together rather than separately.  Instead of separating these issues, we must create an integrated, effective, and efficient approach to enhance the national security of the United States.  The White House must be organized in ways to reflect this reality.”

John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, is leading the study authorized by the PSD.  He is to report back within sixty days.

In her testimony yesterday (see immediately below) Secretary Napolitano declined to predict what the study might conclude regarding integration.

I agree that National Security and Homeland Security are tightly related.  Just as effective parenting depends on closely coordinated attitudes and actions by a mother and father,  we also need conceptually integrated National Security and Homeland Security functions.  It has, however, been my experience that the functions can be – and depending on the nature of the risk, should be –  meaningfully distinguished.

UPDATE: Karen De Young at the Washington Post scooped the rest of us on getting a copy of Policy Directive 1, the White House document resetting the National Security Council.  See her February 27 story: National Security Structure Set.   SECOND UPDATE: The text of PD 1 is available here courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists

(My thanks to frequent HLSwatch commentator William R. Cumming for bringing the FAS pdf to our attention.)

February 25, 2009

Napolitano Testifies

Filed under: Border Security,Congress and HLS,Immigration,Intelligence and Info-Sharing,State and Local HLS — by Philip J. Palin on February 25, 2009

If you missed the webcast, Secretary Napolitano testified this morning and into the early afternoon before the House Homeland Security Committee.

In a brief summation of her prepared remarks the Secretary highlighted three priorities for, as she said, “kicking the tires” at the Department of Homeland Security:
1. Immigration enforcement,
2. FEMA working with others, and
3. Sharing intelligence and analysis.

The committee’s follow-on questions did not give much attention to immigration policy, probably because this is mostly in the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction. But border security – and especially escalating violence in Mexico – was the focus of many members comments and questions. In response the Secretary noted the Mexican government is undertaking serious and much needed action against narco-terrorists. DHS is attempting to assist by reducing the southward flow of weapons and money. But the Secretary cautioned against militarizing the border, while promising a vigorous response if local authorities perceive the need for help with troubles boiling over the border.

(Shortly after the House hearing concluded Attorney-General Holder announced the arrest of over 750 individuals associated with Mexican drug cartels.  For more see an AP report and The Washington Times. )

When Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) asked whither-goest-FEMA, the Secretary noted,  “I have not yet had a conversation with the President,” and was clearly keeping all options on the table. Still neither the Secretary nor the Committee seemed enthusiastic about FEMA being decoupled from DHS. Several members of both parties expressed opposition to such a move.

On intelligence gathering and analysis the Secretary gave particular emphasis to the role of non-federal assets. She mentioned that state and local authorities have “more eyes and ears than the federal government will ever have.” In response to several questions she went out of her way to emphasize a leading role for state and local public safety in the national intelligence enterprise.

In response to a question regarding Mexican drugwar violence the Secretary mentioned, the “best intel is often available from the local sheriff.”  Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) commended the Secretary for her commitment to “bottom-up intelligence.”

This was the Secretary’s inaugural appearance before the Committee.  Some additional thoughts later tonight or early tomorrow.

(On Thursday morning the Secretary’s testimony was covered by the Washington Post, New York Times, and other media.)

February 24, 2009

Immigration Team Emerging

Filed under: Border Security,Immigration — by Philip J. Palin on February 24, 2009


Secretary Napolitano has appointed Esther Olavarria Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy.  The Olavarria appointment further strengthens the “fix immigration team” being assembled.  She was part of the Democrat’s so-called “shadow government” at the Center for American Progress where she focused on immigration policy.

John Morton, a Justice Department career professional, will be nominated by the President to serve as Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Until last month Morton was Acting Chief of the DOJ Domestic Security Section.

More background on both appointments is available in the DHS news release.

At the time of her nomination Secretary Napolitano was widely seen as a Governor who effectively threaded-the-needle with tough border security that avoided anti-immigrant fear-mongering.

In one of her first official acts the new Secretary directed “department offices and components to work together and with state and local partners to review and assess the plans and policies to address: criminal and fugitive aliens; legal immigration benefit backlogs; southbound gun smuggling; cooperation with the National Guard; widows and widowers of U.S. citizens; immigration detention centers; and electronic employee verification.”  On February 20 she was to have received oral reports on this review .

According to Monday’s USA Today, quoting DHS sources, the economic recession is contributing to a decline in illegal immigration.  This could contribute to a political environment more conducive to crafting an immigration policy fix.

New NIPP Now Available

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Infrastructure Protection — by Philip J. Palin on February 24, 2009

A new version of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) has been released. The complete report is available from DHS .

The 188 page report (with appendices) opens with the following purpose statement: Protecting and ensuring the resiliency of the critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) of the United States is essential to the Nation’s security, public health and safety, economic vitality, and way of life. Attacks on CIKR could significantly disrupt the functioning of government and business alike and produce cascading effects far beyond the targeted sector and physical location of the incident. Direct terrorist attacks and natural, manmade, or technological hazards could produce catastrophic losses in terms of human casualties, property destruction, and economic effects, as well as profound damage to public morale and confidence. Attacks using components of the Nation’s CIKR as weapons of mass destruction could have even more devastating physical and psychological consequences.

Some call-outs:

Resilience is an increasingly popular term-of-art. Bad things will happen. How can we bounce-back more quickly and completely? Is resilience the new “robust” – jargon to camouflage lack of thought? Or will the Obama administration be serious in cultivating true resilience?

The risk of catastrophic consequence requires prevention and mitigation. Response, no matter how effective, is insufficient.

CIKR are vulnerable to terrorist, natural, manmade and technological hazards. It not just a war against terrorism, it is a struggle to manage and mitigate risk.

CIKR can be weaponized. CIKR are not just potential targets. Transportation resources, material processing, financial systems and much more can be used to attack other targets.

Elephant, gorilla, or other significant aspect treated as if it were a kitten:

Private sector ownership and control of CIKR is acknowledged but not seriously engaged. The goals and processes of the NIPP will only be meaningful if enthusiastically embraced by the private sector. How this level of collaboration might be cultivated is not given serious attention.

This absence reminds me of Chris Bellavita’s (Director of Programs at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security) fabulous fable of what works and what does not work in planning of every sort. This is available on YouTube (have your audio on).

Hello to HLSwatch

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 24, 2009

On Monday Jonah Czerwinski announced he has asked us – Paul Stockton and Phil Palin – to contribute to HLSwatch on a sustained basis. That invitation is an honor and a significant responsibility. Under Jonah and his predecessor, Christian Beckner (who founded HLSwatch), this blog has provided a unique forum to identify and analyze new policy challenges. Sustaining that record of excellence will not be easy. We have two factors in our favor, however. First, and most important, we have you — the readers and fellow contributors to this blog — as partners. During our own years as readers of HLSwatch, we have learned a great deal from your postings and are counting on you to remain as active, and often feisty, colleagues in keeping the blog on the cutting edge. Our second advantage: there is no shortage of important new policy issues to address. Our own bias is that homeland security is very much a work in progress. Our gratitude goes out to those who serve on the front lines of homeland security in local, state and federal governments and in the private sector. Our commitment is to keep HLSwatch a valuable, provocative forum to support their work and to fuel broader debate over how homeland security should evolve in the years to come.

February 23, 2009

Farewell to HLSwatch

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on February 23, 2009

This is my final post on HLSwatch.com. This week I transitioned into a position in government and I will hand the blog over to new hands. It was a privilege to author this blog for two years, and I am thankful to the blog’s founder and original author, Christian Beckner, for inviting me to take his place in February 2007.

Since then, and nearly 300 posts later, it has been a learning experience like no other. To research and write for HLSwatch afforded me the opportunity to engage with you, the reader, as well as to know the dedicated men and women serving the homeland security mission in the Executive Branch, at states and localities, across the policy community, in the private sector, and overseas. The nearly six years since DHS stood up also represents a unique time in our nation’s history to witness – and to support – a significant governance and security challenge that requires the help of all these stakeholders. I hope that HLSwatch.com has helped them, too.

Two impressive individuals succeed me in contributing to HLSwatch. Paul Stockton and Philip Palin will write for HLSwatch on a weekly basis.

Paul Stockton is a senior research scholar at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). He was formerly the associate provost at the Naval Postgraduate School and was the founding director of its Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Dr. Stockton focuses on how U.S. security institutions respond to changes in the threat (including the rise of terrorism), and the interaction of Congress and the Executive branch in restructuring national security budgets, policies and institutional arrangements. From 1995 until 2000, he served as director of NPS’ Center for Civil-Military Relations. From 2000-2001, he founded and served as the acting dean of NPS’ School of International Graduate Studies. He was appointed associate provost in 2001.

Phil Palin is a senior fellow with the National Institute for Strategic Preparedness. Phil is the former CEO of Teleologic Learning Company. He is Principal Author of the book Catastrophe Preparation and Prevention for Law Enforcement Professional (2008), Consequence Management for CBRNE Events ( 2009, forthcoming), and Co-Author of Catastrophe Preparation and Prevention for Fire Service Professionals (2008).

I still seek a third contributor who could help manage the daily contributions that cover fast moving developments and provide timely reporting of newsworthy items in the homeland security space. If you are interested in this opportunity, please email me.

Thank you again for your readership and your partnership.


February 20, 2009

Napolitano to Appear at House Hearing

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on February 20, 2009

Next Wednesday, February 25th, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing entitled “DHS: The Path Forward” with Secretary Napolitano as the sole witness.

The hearing, which starts at 1000, will be in 311 Cannon HOB, but it will be webcast if you can’t be there. This blog may just cover it, too.

What should we expect? The Secretary’s prepared remarks will likely touch on a few key items. These include:

• The need to fill out the DHS leadership team, including getting her Dep Sec confirmed.

• A review of the initial results from her first ~8 action directives, most of which should have resulted in initial oral or written reports to her from the component agencies.

• A review of key programs in her crosshairs for change (i.e. state grants, REAL ID, SBInet, and Deepwater)

• Key offices in which she/the Administration plans to make changes, to include, possibly, the National Applications Office, the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), the National Cyber Security Center, and the Office of Policy. Oh, and maybe FEMA.

• An update on the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review

This is all speculation, and perhaps wishful thinking, but I hope to see her take up the necessary effort to elevate the DHS Policy Office to that of an Undersecretary. While org chart shifts rarely solve problems, much would improve from this kind of a change. The first Quadrennial Homeland Security Review is under the leadership of that office, and it needs bureaucratic heft to do the job right, not to mention its other important responsibilities.

February 18, 2009

DHS Undertakes “Efficiency Initiative”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on February 18, 2009

Secretary Napolitano yesterday issued what by my count is her eighth action directive. This one is not focused on an agency or component, but is department-wide and focused generating “new efficiencies and to promote greater accountability, transparency and customer satisfaction.”

This new Efficiency Initiative could be the result of an inventory of GAO reports over the last few years picking the Department apart for falling short on such things as accountability, transparency, and customer satisfaction. It’s the sort of thing the Presidential Transition Team likely conducted and the Secretary has even named an Efficiency Review Initiative Steering Committee to coordinate this DHS-wide initiative

The Efficiency Review Initiative Steering Committee includes “key office and component leadership,” Unfortunately, this is getting underway without the new Deputy Secretary in place. (I’m not even sure her nomination hearing is on the Senate’s schedule yet.)

S2 nominee Jane Holl Lute is being brought on for her “wealth of operational management experience,” according to the S1, and for her “experience leading large operations with broad and challenging missions,” according to POTUS.

The Steering Committee will have its initial meeting before the end of the month to focus on cost reduction, streamlined processes, duplicative activities, transparency, and customer service needs.

Each agency to initiate an internal review of current efforts related to improving efficiency, which will be incorporated into a department-wide inventory.

February 17, 2009

DHS IG Weighs in on FEMA Question

CQ’s Rob Margetta today published a white paper from DHS IG Skinner to Secretary Napolitano on the question of FEMA’s location as part of DHS or separate from it, likely reporting directly to the President as some critics advocate.

The paper is accompanied by a memo from IG Skinner to the Secretary explaining that it was written in response to a request from the Congress. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ordered the memo as part of an oversight effort focused on the question “FEMA: In Or Out?”


Skinner is a hold-over from the Bush Administration and in his memo to the new boss at DHS, he states outright that regardless of the decision to “remove FEMA or leave it in DHS, you may be assured that my staff and I stand ready to assist you and the President in helping DHS strengthen its capabilities and become the preeminent department in the federal government.”

I’m not quite sure by what metric Skinner and his team intend to measure preeminence, but I sure do appreciate the nonpartisan spirit.

Skinner’s memo recommends keeping FEMA where it is: a component of DHS that reports directly to the Secretary, or to the President in times of crisis.

Obama’s FEMA Choice Nears:
GovExec ran a story today by Eileen Sullivan and AP’s Liz Sidoti that suggests a few names are beginning to surface after a recent winnowing of the pack of likely nominees to head FEMA. Top choices include:

  • Craig Fugate, Florida’s emergency manager
  • Ellen Gordon, Iowa’s former emergency manager
  • Both Fugate and Gordon are seasoned professionals with more than 20 years of emergency management experience.

    As head of Florida’s emergency management agency since 2001, Fugate oversaw the response to several hurricanes, including 2005’s Dennis and Wilma.

    Gordon was head of the Iowa Emergency Management Agency in 2004 when storms tore across parts of the Midwest, hitting the hardest in Iowa.

    February 13, 2009

    HSC-NSC Merger Debated on the Hill

    Filed under: Budgets and Spending,General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on February 13, 2009

    Yesterday’s hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the question of whether to merge the White House National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council provided for a rare political science discussion with some pretty senior minds on the topic.

    First Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, who also led the Office of Homeland Security, which is a sort of predecessor to the HSC, came out opposed to a merger. Fran Townsend, the first and longest serving Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, also recommended against merging her old job.

    The opposition faced a difficult barrier to overcome. First, Fran Townsend has publicly described in the past that on two occasions – while serving as the head of the HSC staff – that it ought to merge with the NSC. Both National Security Advisers at the time (Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley) declined to take on the mission. Consider that, if you are Rice or Hadley, the homeland mission is viewed as second tier priority compared to NSC agenda items. Indeed, in his opening statement, Ridge acknowledged that the work of the HSC needed to be “elevated…and properly resourced.”

    Another challenge contrarians had to overcome was the line of argument that the NSC would be too burdened by the expanded mission to deal with both overseas as well as domestic issues. However, both Ridge and Townsend gave impassioned explanations that the Homeland Security Advisor is unique because this position actually handles issues on both the international and domestic fields. Well, if someone can do it….

    (Ranking Member Senator Collins gave a long list of reasons why she believes that a merger of the HSC and NSC would result in dangerous outcomes. She then concluded by assuring the witnesses that she approached the subject with an open mind.)

    And in the other corner, Christine Wormuth and Jim Locher delivered their reasons why the shared objective (elevated, accelerated, properly resourced homeland security policy at the White House level) can be achieved more effectively if some kind of merger is undertaken to give the HSC more clout and access while modernizing what Locher described as “the legacy structures and processes of a national security system that is now more than 60 years old and no longer help American leaders formulate coherent national strategy.”

    Christine focused on why the status quo isn’t working by citing a number of self-inflicted challenges. These include artificial bifurcation of national policy issues and unintended (and unwarranted) second-tier status in the interagency of the HSC staff and its work. She explained the results, but from my experience the impact is that the Defense Department almost always outweighs DHS in interagency negotiations. I had colleagues on both sides of the National Maritime Security Strategy process and DOD was always the heavyweight in an issue area that DHS out to lead in.

    All witnesses sought the same ultimate outcome: The most effective White House structure to advise the President and coordinate the interagency policy execution of the homeland security mission. They just viewed different routes of getting there. It is worth noting that all but Townsend advocated for immediate change. She recommended some very important criteria to be used in determining any reforms if reform is pursued, which she believes it needn’t. Ridge actually recommended a “Reform over relocation” approach in which the Secretary of Homeland Security gets a seat on the NSC, the HSC is given more resources to staff up, the counterterrorism mission is made equal to or less than the all-hazards protection mission for the HSC.

    In the end, the White House will make its decision based on its intention to achieve the same desired outcomes. Whether that comes in the form of a more unified structure that incorporates both the NSC and HSC or the more modest changes outlined by former Secretary Ridge, this will require more agreement between the Congress and President. Let’s hope a focus on the desired outcomes drives the discussion.

    Agreement to Stimulate the Homeland?

    Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on February 13, 2009

    As of 5:30PM last night, the stimulus agreement reached a compromise on the funds to made available for homeland security-related investments. House and Senate negotiators agreed to dedicate $2.75B to homeland efforts. In negotiations strategy, there is something called the “zone of potential agreement,” or ZOPA. Before yesterday, the ZOPA looked pretty small with the House offering $1.1B and the Senate at nearly $5B.

    According to the agreement released as of yesterday, the House pulled the Senate its way into the ZOPA. (The Senate came down $2.21B, while the House moved up only $1.65B.) Other trade-offs in the $789 Billion legislation just may balance this out. Here is the text of the announcement last night from the current conference agreement on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009:

    $2.75 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to secure the homeland and promote economic activity, including $1 billion for airport baggage and checkpoint security, $430 million for construction of border points of entry, $210 million for construction of fire stations, $300 million for port, transit, and rail security, $280 million for border security technology and communication, and $240 million for the Coast Guard.

    February 11, 2009

    Homeland Security Spending in the Stimulus

    Filed under: Budgets and Spending,General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on February 11, 2009

    Senate and House negotiators arrived at a compromise version of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“stimulus package”) tonight. I can’t get my hands on a final text, but I thought it might be useful to see where we started in this negotiation for funds going toward homeland security. Following is a breakdown comparison between the House and Senate versions of the bill as they pertain to HLS-related spending. Many thanks to the smart people at Wall Street Journal for scouring the two versions in their entirety. Dollars are in thousands:


    Note the disparity between the two chambers. The House pushed for a paltry $1.1B while the Senate won a grand total of $4.69B for homeland security spending. We can argue the merits of whether or not any of these items actually “stimulate” an economy, but it does indicate a lop-sided emphasis between the House and Senate.

    February 10, 2009

    Dep Sec Schneider Departs, Few Arrive

    Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on February 10, 2009

    Today, Secretary Napolitano named her counselor and DHS transition chief to serve as acting Deputy Secretary. Rand Beers takes over for the outgoing Paul Schneider. Mr. Schneider oversaw a significant improvement in the unglamorous, but inordinately important management initiatives after his more political predecessor departed. Schneider is credited with elevating accountability and management professionalism to the young DHS. While I have confidence in his successor, Jane Holl Lute, he leaves big shoes to fill.

    It is surprising that Schneider left before Lute’s nomination hearing is even scheduled. But I think it is more surprising how few appointees have been named so far for this massive agency. DHS has about 300 political appointee slots, and Secretary Napolitano has named only nine since being sworn in as the third Secretary of Homeland Security on January 21, 2009. The nine are:

    • Rand Beers as Counselor, and now Acting Deputy Secretary

    Jane Holl Lute at Deputy Secretary

    • Dora Schriro* as her Special Advisor on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Detention & Removal

    • Ivan K. Fong as General Counsel

    • David A. Martin, Principal Deputy General Counsel

    • Brian de Vallance* is Senior Counselor to the Secretary

    • Sean Smith as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs

    • Jan Lesher* as chief of staff for operations

    • Noah Kroloff* as chief of staff for policy

    Those with asterisks came with Napolitano from Arizona. The others are a combination of campaign hands and policy experts from Washington. It is possible that Napolitano is waiting for the seven directives she issued to conduct policy reviews across the Department. However, shouldn’t the appointees get involved with the reviews?

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