Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 24, 2009

Insiders reading list for homeland security, what’s missing?

Filed under: Organizational Issues,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on March 24, 2009

Over the weekend a few stalwarts of homeland security noticed they were regularly referencing the same written documents.  A quick inventory found that the nine of them shared five core documents:

Forging a New Shield: The report of the Project on National Security Reform proposes a fundamental shift in how we think about and organize our national security system.  Some vigorously disagree with the PNSR, but all respect the thinking and intent.

Safe at Home: P.J. Crowley’s suggestions for reform of the Homeland Security system.  Whether they liked it or not, everyone agreed this document – and P.J. – would be influential with the new administration.

Protecting Americans in the 21st Century: The National Homeland Security Consortium’s White Paper on reforming federal relations with non-federal partners.  There was uniform amazement that so many organizations could even agree on a title, much less substantive content.

The 9/11 Commission Report was a sort of secular old testament for those around the table.  One participant argued not old testament, but King Lear or Macbeth.

Because one of them had brought along copies of the new Markle Foundation report Nation at Risk they were all familiar with this proposal for improved information sharing.

All but two of the nine were intimate with DOD Joint Doctrine for Homeland Defense and all seven of those said to be on the look-out for the new Army Field Manual 3-28 on Civil Support Operations.  Some HSPDs, the National Response Framework, and other artifacts of  official guidance were claimed by six of the nine.

Sharing documents faciliates discussion and sharpens points of disagreement.  Because the discussants share these documents they could use conceptual and explanatory short-cuts with each other.

But the nine – by the end of the weekend they called themselves the “supremes” – also noticed that the documents lacked a shared vision or common strategy. Most of the documents recommended important operational reforms, but reforms toward what end?  The nine’s discussion had also reflected this absence, this lack of positive and explicit purpose.

Several suggested that Steve Flynn’s work on resilience might fill-the-gap.  One pulled up the White House webpage on homeland security.   Most agreed the preamble to the Constitution was a good beginning, but the  implications for homeland security need strengthening and elaboration. 

A retired military man offered, “Got my tactics down.  Constantly improving my operational capacity.  Even have some pretty solid strategies.  I just don’t have any way to define victory.”

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4 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 24, 2009 @ 8:30 am

Hoping Brennan and his colleagues conducting PSD-1 review read the National Homeland Security Consortium’s report “Protecting Americans in the 21st Century.” Despite the many logos on the cover would be helpful if I knew exactly who prepared it (contractors?)and actual date of release.

So far I find it of great interest that we know nothing about the initial feedback the Secretary DHS got from her press releases requesting status reports on a dozen programs, functions, or activities in her department. We had the outline of an Obama Administration budget but when will an actual submission complying with the Budget Act of 1949 be submitted to Congress and available to the public? I thought we were going to have transparency?

Comment by Arnold

March 24, 2009 @ 10:02 am

Mr. Crowley is headed for the State Department in a communication role and his desire to reorder national security priorities seems to be in some conflict with candidate Obama’s statements. So perhaps his influence is not preordained simply because of his previous position at CAP.

And it is a bit unclear about what the Supremes expected out of this collection of documents. Is it that none of them articulated a strategy or that as a group they did not share a strategy or something close to a similar overarching idea? If it is the second, why would they? They all come from different authors, groups, and processes with different goals and backgrounds. It is not as if they are all government documents lacking a shared vision or strategy–that would be a problem.

And I would throw out there that this search for “victory” in homeland security may be part of the problem.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

March 24, 2009 @ 11:24 am

Regarding authorship of the NHSC White Paper: From watching some of the sausage being made I can attest that this is not the typical contractor-generated document. Those representing the logos on the front cover (and more) struggled together over the priorities and how they could be communicated. Eventually the group did compensate one of their peers to play “Thomas Jefferson” and bring together their deliberations in a coherent way. I am not sure why this individual is shy about sharing his name, but he is, so I will respect his preference. The White Paper went public in very early 2008 in an effort to influence the presidential campaigns.

Regarding the “Supremes”: The uncovering of these documents was serendipitous and, perhaps, just a snapshot of what nine individual happened to have read. What they did not share was a much longer list and potentially more meaningful. Arnold’s critique is close to the group’s self-critique. They have been imbibing alot of ad-hoc reading. But at the same time (maybe as a result of too much ad hoc reading?) they are uncertain – and I share the uncertainty – regarding the current state of Homeland Security’s “Grand Strategy.” Your point related to victory, per se, is absolutely on-target. To defend the original source, I am pretty sure he meant to use the term as a stand-in for some sort of measureable goal, objective, or destination. This is usually what a meaningful Grand Strategy helps us articulate, even if we disagree with it.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

March 26, 2009 @ 4:00 am

Regarding authorship of the NHSC White Paper: From watching some of the sausage being made I can attest that this is not the typical contractor-generated document. Those representing the logos on the front cover (and more) struggled together over the priorities and how they could be communicated. Eventually the group did compensate one of their peers to play “Thomas Jefferson” and bring together their deliberations in a coherent way. I am not sure why this individual is shy about sharing his name, but he is, so I will respect his preference. The White Paper went public in very early 2008 in an effort to influence the presidential campaigns.

Regarding the “Supremes”: The uncovering of these documents was serendipitous and, perhaps, just a snapshot of what nine individual happened to have read. What they did not share was a much longer list and potentially more meaningful. Arnold’s critique is close to the group’s self-critique. They have been imbibing alot of ad-hoc reading. But at the same time (maybe as a result of too much ad hoc reading?) they are uncertain – and I share the uncertainty – regarding the current state of Homeland Security’s “Grand Strategy.” Your point related to victory, per se, is absolutely on-target. To defend the original source, I am pretty sure he meant to use the term as a stand-in for some sort of measureable goal, objective, or destination. This is usually what a meaningful Grand Strategy helps us articulate, even if we disagree with it.
Sorry, forgot to add great post! Can’t wait to see your next post!

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