Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 24, 2009

The Watch: Six month self-assessment

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 24, 2009


Six months ago, on February 24 , I made my first post to Homeland Security Watch.  I expected to make one or two posts a week.  But in the weeks ahead, others who were expected to join The Watch received offers to join the new administration.   (You know what that says about me.)

In March Chris Bellavita began contributing.  You can now catch Chris’ cogent comments most Thursdays.  In May Jessica Herrera-Flanigan joined The Watch.  She is in charge most Tuesdays.  Any of us can blog anytime, but we all have “real” jobs too. Unless something big breaks — or our fancy is tickled — we tend toward our assigned days.

On March 16 Chris Bellavita posted what remains one of the most read pieces we have had: 85% of what you know about homeland security is probably wrong.   Slightly more readers accessed an August 13 post entitled Govs to DOD: Thanks but no thanks.  Unfortunately, not nearly as many read the helpful DoD response.

In April we hit our peak number of readers.  Without really trying, on April 12 The Watch was involved in “breaking” a story on a poorly crafted DHS intelligence product.  This  brought several days of heavy readership.  In late April we were one of the first non-medical blogs to give sustained attention to the emergence of H1N1.  Even more readers.

The back-to-back big stories caused our number of  new readers to surge. But looking back to mid-April, I judge it was the diversity of stories that kept readers coming back.  Along with many more “uniques,” our pageviews per reader also grew.  By the end of April our number of readers was about 40 percent higher than when I started in February. 

Since April we have lost about half that gain, but August (weirdly) looks to be our best month since April.  Readership is already more than 20 percent above last August — with seven days remaining. 

We continue to have our largest concentration of readers in the DC area, with 40 to 60 percent depending on the day.  But our spread is wider than six months ago.

I have been surprised that quantity of readers does not correlate with quantity of comments, and even less with quality of comments.   The topics attracting the most conversation have been (at least to me) unpredictable.  I spent a number of years in higher education and accreditation.  I would have never expected a guest post on accreditation of HS education to attract such sustained discussion.

Another guest post, this time on issues of leadership and command in dynamic situations generated even more comments (in response to the latter and a follow-on post).   Further, your comments were considered, detailed, and expert.

The Watch has given considerable attention to resilience and our readers have contributed a great deal to moving this from concept, to strategy, to implementation.  (See in particular here and here.)  Blogs that matter spark discussion, here’s  hoping that in the months ahead, I write less and you write more.

Some self-critique and thoughts for the next six months:

I have been too responsive.  It is much easier to respond to unfolding events than to dig deep and think fresh. 

Partly because I have been so responsive, I have not given enough sustained and focused attention to the development (emergence?) of  homeland security strategy.   Maybe strategy is being developed through the Secretary’s Five Priorities, or the QHSR, or beneath the high ceilings of the OEOB (or even in cramped cubicles across DC).  Strategy might even be bubbling up from State and local innovations (or stubborn resistance).  But in any case, my attention to strategy has been episodic and inconsistent. 

I have not given enough attention to prevention and mitigation of catastrophic risk.  I am pretty sure  this must be at the core of an effective homeland security strategy. It will be expressed through a positive program to cultivate psychological, social, physical, economic, and constitutional resilience.  But until more sustained consideration is given, that is barely a defendable hypothesis, not yet a theory, much less a practice.

Especially given your demonstrated interest in accreditation (who’d a thunk it!), I should give much more attention to  education and professional development for homeland security.   A strategy of resilience — or whatever we might talk through — will depend greatly on interagency, intergovernmental, and public-private research teaching, learning, and exercising together.

In the Night Watch, above, Rembrandt shows us a self-organizing Dutch homeland security force preparing itself for an evening’s work.  It is a wonderfully compelling chaos.  May the creative chaos of our Watch be as inspiring three years hence as Rembrandt’s is three centuries later.

Please use the comment function to tell us what would make Homeland Security Watch more meaningful to you over the next six months.  Many thanks for your contributions.

(See a larger and clearer Night Watch at the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, select extra large view)

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 24, 2009 @ 5:32 am

Thanks Phil, Cris, and Jessica for your outstanding efforts. And hope all remain like Phil hopeful and interested and informed. Just wishing my comments reflected the high quality of the posts. With approximately 3 and 1/2 decades doing HS and EM I know my judgement is the clouded one of the practioner who always hopes for a better day, more efficient and effective solutions and reform of some of the tried and tired approaches that have failed. Beginning to see some real crisis beginning however in the federal approach to (1) WMD preparedness, response and recovery; (2) Cyber Security separate and apart from CIP; (3) military/civil relationships in HS and EM; (4) stovepiping of PUBLIC HEALTH and HS and EM; and continued lack of resilience from individuals to organizations in all sectors of American society! Much of all this is because unlike the POSTERS but not unlike the commentators on the posts lack of critical thinking about many of the above. And of course worried continually about the continued incompetence and corruption of the Congress and its short term thinking and the failure of the Executive Branch to develop policies and first principles before expending resources. I think much of this comes down to lack of prioritization by the Executive Branch, Congress, and other organizations. Even if I disagree hoping some sorting out will occur at to priorities.
Again Phil, Chris, and Jessica keep posting, thinking hard and letting we readers have the benefits of your very quality insights. And Phil always loved the Pic in the Post and seem to remember some mystery about it but also always wondered why the subject was the subject?

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