Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 2, 2009

Resilience Policy Directorate: important, urgent, and open to definition

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Risk Assessment,State and Local HLS,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on June 2, 2009

In his comments on the PSD-1 Review, Randy Beardsworth, one of the study’s co-chairs, notes  that implementation of the recommendations will, “expand the spectrum (of the White House security staff) from global to local.”

Global knows its way around the West Wing and the old State, War, and Navy Department offices next door.  Local security – despite delegations of sheriffs, police chiefs, and firefighters arriving for photo ops — not so much.

Creating the Resilience Policy Directorate, Beardsworth says, may be the “most significant aspect of the reorganization.”  The RPD is conceived as the policy shop through which local priorities, impediments, needs, and strengths can have direct and early influence on shaping and executing global security.

A slide displayed during the HSPI forum listed the following functions as belonging to the Resilience Policy portfolio:

  • Domestic Critical Infrastructure Protection
  • Planning Policy and Coordination
  • All Hazards Preparedness and Grant Policy
  • All Hazards Medical Preparedness
  • Domestic Incident Management and Response Coordination
  • Short-term Recovery Policy and Coordination
  • Continuity
  • Homeland Security  Professional Development
  • National Exercise Program

Depending on how these functions are framed, this is either an enlargement of something familiar, say,  emergency management on steroids.  Or this is the opportunity to think anew about the nexus of local and global risk-readiness.  Beardsworth commented that the reorganization creates spaces and places for engaging new possibilities.

Since Saturday reader comments (and here) have ranged from skeptical to expansive.  There is a shared recognition that “resilience” is not well-defined.  The lack of mature definition could result in resiliency becoming, as one reader writes, “just another buzz word.”

I agree this is possible.  Especially if state, local, tribal and private-sector stakeholders do not seize the present opportunity.  

It is always tough, in the White House or the neighborhood fire station, to effectively  engage both urgent and  important.  But defining the scope and purpose of the Resilience Policy Directorate is important (do I really need to make this case?) and urgent.  A de facto definition will emerge in the next 100 days or so.  If our first responders don’t respond quickly — and strategically — to this alarm, a similar opportunity will not happen until after the next catastrophe – or presidential election.

The PSD-1 Review has identified Resilience as one of a dozen “essential portfolios” for a new national security architecture.  Here’s their list:

  • Intelligence
  • Cybersecurity
  • Transborder
  • Resilience
  • Non-Proliferation
  • Counterterrorism
  • US Border
  • Preparedness
  • Counterproliferation
  • Transnational
  • Transportation
  • Response

It is, I suggest and hope, meaningful that in this list of places, functions, and states-of-being that resilience is the only word that describes a broadly positive outcome.  Maybe Non-proliferation comes close, but  like Counterterrorism it is focused on stopping something bad.

Resilience can — I am arguing, should — be the cultivation of an innate condition.  The word is derived from the Latin — resilire — meaning to leap back,  gush forth, and spring forward.  To be resilient is to be active, energetic, engaged, able and ready to stretch ourselves, test ourselves, self-correct, and rapidly recover.  Resilience is not about responding to threats, it’s about embracing our full potential.

We should leap at the chance.

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13 Comments »

Comment by Peter J. Brown

June 2, 2009 @ 6:35 am

I hope the US Postal Service is well represented, and not just in a back row capacity.

Comment by Nick Armstrong

June 2, 2009 @ 8:13 am

Defining resilience is undoubtedly problematic and varies across disciplines – natural, physical, and social sciences, alike. However, scholars have recently moved toward advancing a definition of resilience in a HLS setting and identifying key factors that enhance a complex system’s adaptive capacity.

See workshop report at http://insct.syr.edu/Research/publications/INSCT%20Publications/INSCT%20Workshop%20Report_Resilience%20and%20Security.pdf

Comment by Quin

June 2, 2009 @ 8:52 am

Having worked in a small county government (30k) in the midwest, and now working the federal side, there are two sets of key issues. The first key will be in getting the word out. The gulf from the west wing to a local county board meeting in the midwest (as an example I’m very familiar with) or for that matter anywhere in this country, is vast in both distance and culture. That said, if the NSS, with the assistance of DHS and FEMA can articulate and explain what they have to offer, why its important, and why it’s important to have the participation of local governments, this initiative can succeed. The key to getting the word out will be to leverage the resources of Federal institutions that either already have connections to local governments, or can adapt themselves to do so. In my opinion, FEMA’s regions are well positioned to do this if given the resources and leadership to serve as the bridge between NSS policy and local implementation of that policy.

In this weakened economy, however, it’s going to be difficult to get these jurisidictions to spend additional money and/or divert additional resources to planning and preparing for these hazards. States and local government’s are quite wary of unfunded mandates, and if this smells of this in any way, participation will quickly disappear. However, if these policies can come packaged with seed money and grants, and/or picking up the costs of additional training, it may allow for it to proceed. But anyone who’s watched a county board meeting struggle with a deficit will know that the NSS must be prepared to provide some financial support.

Summing up, if the NSS can provide a clear statement as what they have to offer, and why its important; accompany that offer with some financial assistance, and; leverage its regional presence (FEMA’s region structure being uniquely situated to do that), this could suceed. But it can not be rolled out piece meal. It must be a comprehensive plan incorporating all of these issues up front.

Comment by Peter J. Brown

June 2, 2009 @ 10:33 am

Mindful of the above comment regarding the FEMA regional structure, it would be nice to know what is going on with the Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Groups (RECCWGs) which are in motion — supposedly –in each of the 10 FEMA regions, “to assess emergency communications capabilities within their respective regions, facilitate disaster preparedness through the promotion of multijurisdictional and multiagency emergency communications networks, and ensure activities are coordinated with all emergency communications stakeholders within the RECCWG’s specific FEMA region.”

And how will this Directorate benefit from the Task Force for Emergency Readiness (TFER) concept, or will TFER be discarded altogether in the process? I sense there is some considerable synergy here, but as in the case of the RECCWG’s, it is hard if not impossible to know where things stand today.

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 2, 2009 @ 11:37 am

Always liked the Indian Treaty Room myself in the Old Executive Office [former War department etc. prior to the Pentagon.]By the way why were some tribes more resilient than others?

Okay sometimes I just can’t visulize like some of you. If you converted the list of the PSD-1 review into a series of sets or Wenn diagrams how would they relate or not relate. Too big a set when all encompassed.
I also like to start from history. What do we know about how the sinews of our world relate and are they in fact an effort to make more resilient some version from the past. Looks to me like no real focus just the usual effort by the usual suspects so they can foster their own personal interests and careers and can argue they have jurisdiction. Personally I would start with the federal government! I don’t think the feds are resilient at all. State governments even less resilient–how much do they spend on COOP and COG and continuity? Local may be the most resilient just because of dispersal! Hey dispersal is that a factor in resiliency? Maybe the White House should move the Pentagon to Ft. Riley and DHS to W.Virginia? Are we now overlooking the reduction in CPE [circular probable error] for missle strikes?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 2, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

Last evening I spent an extraordinary amount of time playing and replaying the HSPI briefing video (on a bad connection)in order to discern what I could from what was said and shown on the screen.

I have made both official and unofficial requests for the actual PSD-1 report and a copy of the HSPI PowerPoint. I have also been checking cryptome.org and the secrecy project hoping for a leak there. As of yesterday morning I was told no one on the Hill had copies of the report or PowerPoints .

At some point the complete gospel according to Randy and Michele (or maybe it will be claimed by John) will emerge. Until then — and especially last evening pouring over the grainy video footage — I feel a bit like a scholar trying to discern the Sermon on the Mount from a fragment of four sentences.

Based on what Randy Beardsworth said at HSPI, I think we do ourselves a disservice spending too much time waiting or even trying to make sense of what we have. He said over and over — in different ways — that the reorganization is far from “a finished product.” I hear an invitation — especially in regard to the Resilience Policy Directorate — to take the concept and run with it.

Washington is, famously, a small town. The policy neighborhood is even smaller. The homeland security policy world is barely a village. If John Brennan was coming over for dinner tomorrow night, what would you tell him he should do with the Resilience Policy Directorate?

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 2, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

Well I would probably invite Steve Flynn to dinner also! And maybe whomever leads resilience in DHS! And whomever is in best shape to comment and criticize the efforts and successes and failures from the fall of 1997 (the PCCIP report and the night of the dinner.) Why do I feel like Obama and Brennan are going through the motion but are not real believers in Homeland Security! Meaning of course that they have been so-locked in their careers assuming the existence and operation of the US that they really failed to understand the fragility of the US governmental system due largely to corruption, foreign and domestic lobbying, and campaign contributions. While the infrastructure and systems and processes begin “to wink out as night settles over the industrial and ecomonic might of the country.” A madeup quote paraphrasing Churchill. Clearly WALL STREET still has not learned how deeply the ravages of 9/11 on WALL STREET as a resilient financial centers have led to the rest of the world seeking alternatives. And now of course the depression seems not to have registered on WALL STREETS sense of hubris, ego and self-importance. Hey did we need a resilient Detroit–maybe yes and maybe NO because we need one producing and refining mass transit vehicles because this country largely meaning Detroit will never again produce 15 Million vehicles a year and be able to sell them. By the way are there any foreign producers of armored humvees? Why or why not?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 2, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

Inviting Steve Flynn to join you is a great idea.

I don’t know Mr. Obama or Mr. Brennan well-enough to make a confident judgment regarding the place of homeland security in their mindshare. Whether they have a sense of fragility regarding our republican and democratic foundations is also beyond my knowledge.

The reason I share some of your concerns is having spent an inordinate amount of time with Plato, Thucydides, and Cicero… each eloquent witnesses to the gradual diminution of freedoms in Athens and Rome.

The analogy to Athens and Rome that worries me most is not what the leaders — republican, democratic, aristocratic, or dictatorial — did or believed. What captures my concern is what the free people of each city did not do. They failed to keep faith with the political values they inherited. They became cynically disinterested, skeptically ironic, and subversively self-interested. When a Cicero appeared on the scene, they lumped and dumped him with all the other politicians. They used their leaders’ shortcomings as smoke and cover for their own failure to positively engage in political life.

On Monday I listed constitutional resilience as one of my principal concerns. This is why.

The President ordered PSD-1. The major outcome of the study is not what I would have preferred, but I see no reason to question the stated intention of those undertaking the study or their recommendations. They are seeking to protect the United States and preserve its institutions. John Brennan came to the HSPI briefing and actively participated. He struck me as thoughtful. Mr. Brennan suggested he had learned quite a bit from going through the run-up of H1N1. Others who have been on teleconference briefings and such with him say it sounds like he has become an advocate for the Resilience Policy Directorate largely because he recognizes the realities of State, local, tribal, and private sector needs, concerns, and authority.

So… taking them at their word, what do we tell them tomorrow night at dinner?

Comment by Peter J. Brown

June 2, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

But PSD-1 and this standing up of RPD now, is it really little more than a culture shift and an attempt to make “fresh start” instead of stressing continuity and getting a real handle on what has and has not been executed on successfully over the past 5 years or so? I notice that when I dangled my TFER question out there, for example, nobody took the bait. And as for all the unspent money out there too, how much is there and what does it represent from both a program and management standpoint?

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 3, 2009 @ 8:22 am

Really time to set some major priorities for two reasons! Time to accomplish a great deal may be short. And two not sure that talent and competency exists in the Administration or nation to accomplish all that needs to be done.

As to the populace of Rome and interest in politics, a wonderful series of books by McCulloch including such as “The Grass Crown” and “First Man of Rome” although historical fiction are heavily researched and bring life to the 100 years BCE and shortly after. Hey reading a British historians recent work called from “Homer to Hadrian” discovered that most of the settlement by Greeks, including Syracuse and Rome came from those Ostracized from Athens. So I guess if we had that system the American system would have spread faster and not required so much armed force. As a firm believe that demographics conquers all [disclaimer-not a demographer] US birthrate from 1820-1840 was highest ever documented still in world history. Twenty (20) years in FEMA gave me a real taste for trivia.

Comment by Mike McAllister

June 4, 2009 @ 8:21 am

Resilience is certainly a key aspect of Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) as promulgated in the DHS National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP). That plan is produced within the Infrastructure Protection Directorate (IPD) of DHS. If FEMA is to engage in matters of resilience, this could be a welcomed added aspect of CIP. However, without intra-agency coordination it could adversely impact effective implementation of the needed cultural changes in the emergency management community with respect to critical infrastructure support of community resilience. One way to bridge the gap between FEMA and IPD regarding matters relating to resilience would be to include a community resilience component within NIPP Sector Specific Plan development.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

June 4, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

Since “Dispersal” of CI can be a resilience strategy perhaps off-shoring is promoting “resilience”? Wow what a controversy that could become. The only real dispersal I would like immediately is the Pentagon complex to Ft. Riley, and DHS to all move to W.VA. except for a small Congressional relations staff. St.E’s believe me is a prime target for whomever! River launched missiles?

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