Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 3, 2009

Resilience Policy Directorate continued

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Organizational Issues,State and Local HLS,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on June 3, 2009

The Pleasure of Your Company

is Cordially Requested

to Dinner with the

Honorable John O. Brennan

on Wednesday the Third of June

at Virtual Citronelle

on the Browser of Your Choice

If tonight you were seated next to John Brennan at dinner, what would you ask or tell the the Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (aka Deputy National Security Advisor)?

Since May 26 we have been having a conversation among ourselves regarding the establishment of the new Resilience Policy Directorate of the National Security Staff.  Scroll below.

What if someone within the gray granite and marble wedding cake next to the White House is assigned to summarize for Mr. Brennan the “chatter” regarding this proposal.  What would you want the top bullet point to read? The final bullet point?

Steve Flynn, the Reform Institute, the National Homeland Security Consortium, the House and Senate Homeland Security committees, and many others have had their input.  What is yours?

Expert analysis is so common inside the beltway as to have modest value.  It is almost (not quite) taken for granted.  There are  good substantive reasons for the Resilience Policy Directorate.  These arguments have been heard and largely accepted.

Persuasive presentations of self-serving proposals are even more common.  There is some element of this in the Resilience Policy Directorate.  State, local, tribal, and private-sector “stakeholders” are being given a specific seat at the table. 

Informed and thoughtful and constructive and personally disinterested  comments on important topics of the day are, however, so atypical that they can command unusual attention.  Evidence that ten or twenty of you consider this important will have much more impact than anything I write.

Readership over the last two days has increased substantially.  Lots of folks are listening.  I wonder what you are thinking?  More importantly, others are wondering too.  Is resilience just a new name for an old bucket?  Or does it, can it, should it signal a different strategic approach to homeland security?

Last night I was at dinner with two admirals.  They discussed and described how one of the most important aspects of today’s Maritime Strategy emerged over a dinner conversation in 1999.  How would you handle a dinner conversation tonight with Mr. Brennan?

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6 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 3, 2009 @ 8:07 am

Okay here goes! Mr. Brennan what is your answer to the question “Which came first the chicken or the egg?”

And my second question would be “Which came [or comes] first, crisis management or resilience?

Okay only fair that I provide my answers but of course don’t want to spoil the fun so no rationale. Of course the EGG came first. And of course resilience comes first.

So have a nice dinner!

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 3, 2009 @ 9:04 am

Okay relenting a bit as to providing rationale! If egg is not “resilient” then no chicken!

Comment by Pat Longstaff

June 3, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

Yes, the word has taken on many meanings. And I guess that is OK as long as people know which meaning they are using. But it is NOT a new name in an old bucket because it goes beyond “emergency management” planning to the broader question of what do individuals need to survive a surprise (of the type we are addressing here) and how can we make them ready to bounce back AND adapt to any significant change in the local environment. It is the difference between controlling the situation and enabling individuals get beyond “victim” status as soon as possible and be proud of both their government and themselves.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

June 3, 2009 @ 10:55 pm

First of all, I am obviously too late for dinner. But hopefully Brennan is up for continuing the discussion over a few cocktails at The Gibson.

Not to drive the discussion away from the importance of resilience as an overall philosophy/homeland security strategy, but given that I’m only going to be coherent for a few drinks I think it would be prudent to get down to some shorter-to-medium term business. In other words, while I feel the term itself has been co-opted by many parties to push their own agendas, in the long run and in some form it is an important concept to flesh out and hopefully implement.

But in the shorter run we have an opportunity to talk about a reorganization at the highest level that can both connect with and take into account non-federal stakeholders to a degree yet unseen, while laying the groundwork for long-range strategic homeland security-related thinking.

After trying to pry good “war stories” from Mr. Brennan, I would first suggest that the role of the Resilience Directorate should line up with the idea that this NSS is not operational but policy driven, and that it must represent itself as an impartial judge among the stake holding departments. Not only that, but it is vital to take full advantage of existing synergies among the departments and the state/local/tribal/public and private sectors.

So the Intergovernmental Programs office in DHS; FEMA with it’s regional structure; EPA with it’s decentralized, regional structure; HHS with connections to state and local public health offices; etc. These are the building blocks of a system that might effectively funnel a tsunami of information up from the non-federals levels through relevant departments to the NSS.

Second, that while experience/knowledge/understanding/etc. of these non-federal levels is vital, it will also be important to hire people who can leave their hats at the door. In other words, while the military has had almost two decades of “thinking purple,” local responders, health officials, and others entities have not. While they may “play” together in some jurisdictions better than others, it will be of vital importance that whomever is attempting to coordinate policy from the NSS can understand these cultures while at the same time not favoring any particular one. While this sounds simple, it is likely to be quite difficult to implement.

And, if we make it to this round of Old Fashioneds or Side Cars or Alaska cocktails, to discuss the hope that the promise of constant collaboration made in the HSPI event comes to fruition. Scales of events will always remain fluid depending on the areas afflicted. A line will have to be drawn at some point so certain events will not reach the level of NSS involvement, while others hardly imagined or planned for by most local/state/… jurisdictions are aggressively pursued (i.e. nuclear terrorism). This will require close work between the Resilience Directorate with the WMD terrorism desks, as well as long term strategic planning, counter-terrorism, and others.

These are just the starting nuggets of a possible framework able to be touched upon before last call.

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 4, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

Quality comments, Arnold!

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June 5, 2009 @ 5:08 am

[…] Richard.  Please see many substantive comments by readers by scrolling below, but especially here and here and here.) Share This […]

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