On May 26 the President announced, “The full integration of White House staff supporting national security and homeland security. The new ‘National Security Staff’ will support all White House policymaking activities related to international, transnational, and homeland security matters.”
I did not support this decision and, in fact, testified against it. But I was encouraged by the recommendation to establish a new Resilience Policy Directorate within the expanded National Security Staff. On June 2 this blog led with Resilience Policy Directorate: important, urgent, and open to definition.
It has now been three months, what more do we know about the emerging definition of the RPD? Not much, but following is what I have been able to piece together.
Richard A. Reed has been named Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Resilience. Under his direction are two policy portfolios: 1) Preparedness and 2) Response. The Preparedness portfolio is directed by Brian E. Kamoie. The Response portfolio is directed by Elizabeth A. Farr. (A principal recommendation of the report calling for the RPD was to relocate responsibility for long-term recovery issues to the Domestic Policy Council.)
The rumor mill suggests the Preparedness portfolio (and really the entire RPD staff) is deeply engaged in brokering the interagency process focused on resurgence of H1N1. A four or five person team organized around “All-Hazards Medical Preparedness” is the current center of gravity.
In contrast, one staffer is currently responsible for Community Preparedness and Population Resilience, National Preparedness, and National Planning. While this is a broad front for one guy to handle, it is worth noting that Community Preparedness and Population Resilience was not among the specific policy priorities called-out in the PSD-1 report. This strikes me as an addition with great potential.
The current intense focus on inter-agency coordination for a specific threat will be a defining experience for the RPD. It probably could not be — perhaps, shouldn’t be — any other way (see H1N1 post immediately below). But it highlights the powerful claim of what is urgent. It is tough to think through, craft, and cultivate support for long-term policy/strategy innovation when an unpredictable pandemic is breathing down your neck. It’s tough enough to defuse turf fights between departments when the threat is known.
There are still three or four staff vacancies to be filled. Altogether the RPD will consist of about sixteen folks. Right now the staff consists mostly of non-military federalistas. I have not been able to gin up background on every staffer and am not even sure I have identified everyone currently in place. But I have not yet found much state, local, or private sector experience.
The rumor mill (again) suggests that the RPD is charged mostly with riding herd on the federal interagency process. The background of the staff in place so far tends to reflect that mission focus.
The PSD-1 report — or at least the out-brief given at the Homeland Security Policy Institute – included as one of fifteen core recommendations, “Better integrate state/local/tribal, public and private sector into the policy process.” It is not yet clear how (even if) the RPD is organized or aimed to advance this goal.
Three months is not much time to stand up anything new, especially in the pressure cooker of the White House. To stand up this particular directorate in the midst of a pandemic adds to the complications. But pandemic preparedness may also be a great way to establish “street cred” with the other toughs on the federal block.
In another 90 days we will be able to assess how effectively the RPD performed its first urgent mission. It will also be time to determine how the new directorate is contributing to other less urgent, but equally important, mission areas. Resilience is much more than the very best preparedness and response.
Back in May listening to the roll-out of the new function, I heard the RPD conceived as a policy shop through which local priorities, impediments, needs, and strengths can have direct and early influence on shaping and executing global security.
Maybe I was just hearing what I wanted to hear. But I still think it is a good idea.