Last summer in a dim bar near the Capitol I was pushing resilience as a first-principle of homeland security. A wise woman with long experience in mitigation and disaster response worried aloud about both the concept and the word-choice. “It sounds like a cute brand for a California wine,” she remarked.
I was drinking sauvignon blanc. She was, I think, drinking scotch. Maybe that tells you enough — too much — about each of us.
Last week the PSD-1 Review recommended, and the President’s decision referenced, creation of a Resilience Policy Directorate within the new National Security Staff. At a briefing on the study the co-chairs called the new directorate a “center of gravity” for state, local, tribal, and private sector engagement in homeland security policymaking.
In her remarks at the Homeland Security Policy Institute briefing on the entire study, Dr. Michele Malvesti indicated the new Directorate will address issues including, preparedness, response, infrastructure protection, continuity, training, and exercises.
In a follow-on discussion with an individual involved in drafting the PSD-1 Study I am told, “it is only an organizational construct at this point. We still need to have the right people and the right policy direction in order to move resiliency policy forward.”
W. Edwards Deming argued that while people are crucial, it is the management system — especially goal-setting, measures, and sanctions — that either empowers or subverts people’s performance. Is resilience just a re-branding of an old and undistinguished wine; is it a new way of staffing the typically ad hoc White House role in responding to natural disasters? Or is it — could it be — a fresh approach to prevention, mitigation, training, education, public engagement, and strategic risk-readiness?
As of June 1, it is an open question. The question will be answered as the new Directorate’s people are selected and the policy direction is set-out both explicitly and implicitly. The opportunity exists for new wine in a new wineskin (or even a single malt scotch in a vintage oak barrel). But a combination of crises, inertia, and neglect could easily conspire to produce satisfaction with the thin, sour wine of the past.
Last summer — and before and since — I advocated resilience as an organizing principle around which homeland security, not just the Department, could be helpfully organized. Here again and without the benefit of an alcoholic beverage is the pitch:
Our goal is resilience.
We recognize natural, accidental, and intentional hazards will be experienced. But we can take steps now to maximize our physical, institutional, economic, technological, psychological, and constitutional resilience.
We seek to prevent harm. We will be vigilant and disciplined in assessing threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences. We will be vigorous in working together to reduce our vulnerabilities and preempt or deter the threats confronting us.
When prevention is not possible, we will take action to mitigate the consequences of harm. We will make the modest but sustained investments needed today to avoid unnecessarily catastrophic consequences tomorrow.
When prevention fails, we will be effective in response. We will be fully prepared to take collaborative action to reduce harm and speed recovery. We will demonstrate the courage and competence of a free people who care for one another.
We will manage recovery so as to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
I see resilience not just as an organizational construct, but as a linch-pin of policy. Push back. Refine. Redefine. Redirect. Given the very present opportunity, please address how resilience can become an effective center of gravity — not just for state, local, tribal, and private sector contributions — but for the field of homeland security.
(If reference to old and new wine in old or new skins is unfamiliar, please see origin here.)