Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 15, 2009

Friday round-up of stray stories

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 15, 2009

The New York Times scooped its competition reporting Dr. Thomas Frieden, New York City’s health commissioner, will be nominated by President Barack Obama as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Health investigators are trying to figure out why swine flu has spread erratically — moving quickly through a few schools but slowly elsewhere — after an outbreak closed three more New York schools. The decision on Thursday to shutter the schools follows an outbreak that left an assistant principal in critical condition and sent hundreds of kids home with flu symptoms, in a flare-up of the virus that sent shock waves through the world last month,” reports the Associated Press.

WHO has moved quickly to debunk the suggestion that H1N1 is the result of a “laboratory escape,” the New York Times is reporting.  To read the full WHO statement on this matter, please access a transcript of the May 14 media briefing.  The explanation begins on the bottom of page 1 and continues onto page 2. The WHO has also  produced a helpful review of current indicators of H1N1’s severity.

As aggressive military operations continue and the refugee count approaches 1 million, some cracks are appearing in the Pakistani national consensus regarding tough action against the Taliban.  DAWN reports that, the leader of a current coalition party has said beginning military operations in Swat “was a mistake.”

As reported here yesterday by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, the White House has formally announced its decision to preserve FEMA’s place in the Department of Homeland Security.  But a Thursday House hearing to make the case for an independent FEMA went ahead.  The Committee’s Summary of Subject Matter is available online.  The prepared testimony of five witnesses can also be accessed through the Committee’s website.

Please scroll down for detailed coverage of four DHS budget-related hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday.  A transcript of the Secretary’s oral summary for the House Homeland Security Committee is worth a glance.  The Secretary’s five strategic priorities are being repeated and repeated and repeated…

Thursday Secretary Napolitano made her first visit to USNORTHCOM’s headquarters in Colorado Springs.  The local newspaper’s coverage suggests the Secretary’s recent performance as Principal Federal Official for H1N1 response has reminded some of Catherine the Great.  “The nation’s czar of defense against terrorist attacks and responses to natural disasters had her first peek Thursday at the nation’s nerve center for homeland security. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base,” reports the Colorado Springs Gazette.  Here’s hoping Gen. Renuart never reminds anyone of Prince Potemkin.

The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission is now making available uncorrected transcripts of the hearings.  Transcripts for the first five days are now online.

Today, May 15, is the first day of Pacific Hurricane Season which runs through November 30.  The Atlantic season opens on June 1.

A new issue of the Jounal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is available online.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2009 @ 10:52 am

Phil your roundups contain some real goodies. How exactly did the White House announce as you put it the FEMA in or out decision? What really worries me is not the announcement or decision but the sort of disrespect shown to those advocating FEMA out and their arguments! Also the lack of transparency, and failure to document arguments and reasons for the decision seems to have left a gaping hole in the record. Perhaps OBAMA just thought time was being wasted on that issue but as I hope to document later in this post comment I think if so it shows a really critical failure in how the President is briefed and acquires his information. In particular it does look like another campaign promise (not in my judgement but others think so) has been reneged on. I hope there is at least some kind of record of the Presidential decision and this major major decision was not left to the Secretary DHS. Some very good issues were raised in the House Transportation and Infrastructure hearing yesterday and those deserve some kind of policy document out of DHS documenting how those concerns are being addressed. I am just hoping this was not an off-the-cuff decision by whomever. It deserves better and will explain more fully in this comment and other posts why that is the case. Because of length of my comments are breaking them into sections.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2009 @ 10:58 am

As to the source of the H1N1 virus, why did WHO choose to debunk the stories when it appears that no one yet has established with certainty the source of the virus, nor to my knowledge has appropriate genetic material been isolated for shipment to potential vaccine providers! Well time will tell but it is very odd how this virus spreads and where it is spreading in my ill-informed opinion> Perhaps others can enlighten me?

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2009 @ 11:04 am

On the Pakistani front, and yes I guess this is germaine to HLSWatch.com however distantly. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the Taliban have in fact accomplished their primary goal of destabilizing Pakistan and while not a failed state certainly a laundry list of failed states characteristics (is there a good one someplace?) might show a majority of those criteria met by Pakistan. The BBC map Phil discovered is a real eye-opener to me. The problem is that SWAT seems to have triggered finally realization in the Pakistan governmental arena that the TALIs are doing much better in meeting their objectives and goals than the government. A wonderful post on Sic Semper Tryannis by a retired Pakistani General living Canada on the ethnic situation in Pakistan should be read by all who are interested. That blog is referenced here on HLSWatch.com under other National Security blogs. It seems to be a serious and informative blog to me. Just like this one.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2009 @ 11:10 am

The DHS Secretarial visit to NORTHCOM (which is not really the nerve-center of either Homeland Security or Homeland Defense) probably was an eye opener for
the Secretary DHS. Hey why not collocate the new Department HQs for DHS with NORTHCOM? Just as NORTHCOM has an extensive liaison operation in DC area so could DHS and still be much less vulnerable to attack or whatever than the ST. E’s site.

With over 500 civilian agency and department liaisons assigned to NORTHCOM that must be quite a show. Shiny new HQs with all sorts of gadgets you can bet the Secretary DHS was impressed and given normal ego probably told aides that hey DHS HQ’s will be even better (and certainly more expensive although only the immediate construction costs of $80M for NORTHCOME Hqs is really known). My guess by the way given the way DOD operates is that the NORTHCOM set up is closer to $300 M. GAO are you reading?otrwillsores it

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2009 @ 11:11 am

Australia just learned some really hard lessons about the wildland fire/urban interface and bet the Commission documents them carefully. The defend or evacuate policy in Australia is bound to get a really close look.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 15, 2009 @ 11:37 am

Listed now in the JHSEM journal is an article by DR. Sharon Caudle, PhD, formerly at GAO and now at University of Texas–Austin–on the universe of homeland security and homeland defense. It is in my opinion a significant and interesting article and does do what I think should happen more–discusses the issues using comparative analysis of other countries approaches. As readers of my comments know, I believe as the oldest and richest democracy (republic) we (the US) is looked to in many ways but how we handle homeland security, domestic crisis management and response, and Emergency Management is going to be not just influential but persuasive with many other countries. Let’s hope we get it right but not arguing there is only one “right” or “correct” solution.
This is intro to a longer comment prompted in part by reading this blog and reading this article. And of course I may be wrong but IMO (In my opinio) the Obama Adminstration while not lacking in intellect or instincts may be about to make one of the biggest decisions in the history of our country. And that decision is not going to be made fairly, honestly, and openly with public discussion and Congressional input. This conclusion is based on the insidiousness of the penetration of the National Security State post fall of the Berline Wall with its basic brain power and funding allowing it to creep into largely domestic affairs while no one was paying attention. Remember the National Security State thrives first of all on secrecy which to a major degree is antithetical to our democracy (repbulic) and Constitution which is premised on an educated and knowledgable electorate, whatever the merits of that premise, it IS the PREMISE. Power flows in the US from the people upwards, not from the government downwards as it does in dictatorships and other governmental forms like those headed by a sovereign.

Okay so what is the big issue that Obama and his administration appear almost ready to make? First a tremendous expansion of the National Security State into what I believe are largely domestic civil issues. This is beyond civil liberties, civil rights, and privacy issues although those are also impacted. Always remember that in the National Security Community to be a full-fledged member or high priest you must give up virtually all of your rights to gain membership. Why, would take a long time to explain? Also whether that surrender is justified is also worth exploration but in other forums. An example open criticism of a President by an officer is now a court-maritial offense, but in the largely drafted ARMY in which I was a member criticism of the President was both tolerated and used to create a deeper understanding of “Why WE Fought” so-to-speak. Thus censorship both official and self-initiated is a chief characteristic of the National Security State and the self corrective of constructive criticism does NOT exist within that areana.
Okay to finish up with some other points! DHS clearly is a Department that is being good to veterans but there is a very different culture when employees are former vets or wear guns and badges. What concerns me about DHS all along is that it is deeply penetrated by the National Security State and unfortunatley except of Michael Chertoff who saw many DOD abuses of that condition by DOD when as Assistant Attornery General for Criminal Division he ran the DOJ national security portfolio. Now that there is an Assistant AG for National Security it is largely the responsiblity of that division to see that the Constitution and democracy is protected. After all the Constitution CANNOT be waived. Hoping this comment prompts comments but look for some tell-tales in near future. Location of cyber-security! Merger of HSC and NSC! Retention of FEMA in DHS! Oh that’s right that one already accomplished. What is the saying about “Well meaning men without understanding” Justice Oliver Wendall Homles. Or is it Edmund Burk–“Evil triumphs when good men stand silent.” Excuse any misquotes. I am not equating the National Security apparatus to evil but like nuclear weapons and power it is a “Technology” really a culture–that requires extreme watchfulness.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

May 18, 2009 @ 6:46 am

While William R. Cumming should be heading up DHS as far as I am concerned for his knowledge and experience is so evident and refreshing given the good ‘ol beltway boy mentality which is leading us, Mr. & Mrs. Joe Citizen into impoverishment and eeking out a third world living as darkness begins to cloud over clarity in judgement evolving from arrogant self-serving “public servants” whose greed and self-agenda, their lustfor power incestuous in their applause of one another, well, let’s hope others reading this very informative blog would contribute their knowledge and concerns as well.

The clock is ticking. This is our watch. We must all be vigilant, however itis men like William R. Cumming in their Love of our great nation, their willingness to serve and utilize their insight to afford us hereon Main Street confidence in our local, state and national leadership.

We would like to see others reading this blog contribute so that we might learn more about the reality of our country’s preparedness and the prerequisite decision-making which we will support to assure our Republic stands tall against any and all seeking our demise.

Pls share your thoughts and suggestions….We are all making every effort to contribute to making this country a strong defense against the woeful deeds portrayed by others.

Christopher Tingus
Harwich, MA 02645 USA

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