Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 19, 2009

Homeland security how to’s

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on July 19, 2009

In the great American tradition of how-to guides, a few recent homeland security-related releases:

How to fix the Stafford Act

The National Critical Infrastructure Advisory Council has made several recommendations to amend the Stafford Act (PL 93-288). This is the core federal legislation for federal financial and physical assistance to states after a disaster. Among other suggestions, the NIAC said the aid available to private companies, which own much of the nation’s critical infrastructure, should be clarified. (For more see the NIAC PowerPoint, large file)

How to influence the future of homeland security

“What goals and priorities do you think should inform our nation’s Homeland Security policies for the next four years? Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano invites you to participate in the National Dialogue on the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR). This groundbreaking, web-based interactive dialogue is designed to allow a broader range of opinions and ideas to inform the QHSR process.” Please visit and contribute at www.homelandsecuritydialogue.org/

How NOT to provide meaningful Congressional oversight

Over 80 Congressional committees claim jurisdiction over some aspect of the Department of Homeland Security. “In 2007 and 2008, DHS officials attended more than 370 hearings and gave more than 5,000 briefings to staffers and members of Congress representing 108 committees, according to department records. No other agency spends as much time on Capitol Hill: Officials at Veterans Affairs, a department of comparable size and budget, testified at half the number of hearings, 183, before just two committees, and gave 413 briefings over the same time period.”  The Center for Public Integrity has launched a sustained program of investigation and advocacy.

How to replace REAL ID, PASS Go, and collect $200

Secretary Napolitano’s testimony on PASS-ID is available from the DHS website.  But it did not convince the Los Angeles Times, which in a detailed editorial rejoinder argued, “One question that neitherthe backers of Real ID nor of Pass ID have adequately answered is: If this law were in place before 9/11, would it have prevented the attacks? Given that terrorists would still be able to steal or forge identity documents, or even obtain them legally as many of the 9/11 hijackers did, the answer is almost certainly no. Tracking identity is a poor way to fend off terrorists; a better approach would be stronger measures to prevent them from smuggling weapons or explosives onto airplanes. Rather than trying to save Real ID with a less destructive bill, better to let it die of its fatal flaws.”

How to dismantle a nuclear bomb

The BBC tells you how in seven easy steps, just in case. “The aim is to develop methodologies we could use in inspections of a real nuclear facility but in an environment in which can do trial and error.”

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Comment by William R. Cumming

July 19, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

Some of the above are not “Wicked Problems” to use the Public Administration short cut term. But all reflect some needs and opportunities for reform. As to the first item–the Stafford Act first covered with public assistance (individual assistance is also available) non-profits in addition to local governments critical infrastructure to use the new term in passage and enactment of the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-236. The catch the non-profits had to be providing community service. Under this category many orgs such as community theaters, genuine public service orgs, got their organizational structures repaired or replaced. Some abuses of the system have occurred as a number of large non-profit medical centers were provided brand new structures even while the old were rehabititated. Also water systems are private in many areas of the country (the Germans have long been buying up US water systems when they come on the market) but you get the idea. There is no business interruption deduction in the Internal Revenue Code but business can take the casualty loss when uninsured losses exceed 10% of AGI! Should the Stafford Act be expanded to profit making Critical Infrastructure would be a whole new ball game. I was offered and declined the position of helping represent the Mississippi and Gulf Coast gambling industry after Katrina. Now 15 bright shiny new casinos line the shore line in and about Biloxi await the next storm. Is this Critical Infrastructure?
Eye of the beholder.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 19, 2009 @ 10:38 pm

Correction! The 1974 Disaster Act was Public Law 93-288!

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