Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 26, 2009

Resilience Policy Directorate: 90 day review

Filed under: Organizational Issues,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on August 26, 2009

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.

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2 Comments »

Comment by Pat Longstaff

August 26, 2009 @ 8:04 am

I suppose, in this case, it is natural to focus first on how to do policy than decide what to do. There is little understanding (or agreement) on the goal we want to achieve. Only people who really understand all the dimensions of resilience know how difficult it will be since it interacts with so many other policy goals and is not cheap. But I remain encouraged as long as people continue to talk about the possibilities. It may never fit neatly into a sound-bite and real “experts “ will emerge only slowly from interdisciplinary work, but the destination is worth the journey – and we will do a lot of learning on the way.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 26, 2009 @ 10:20 am

Another great post by Phil! Thanks for the insights. Interest that Brennan has so little to do that he can run the HGI op discussed by Jessica earlier on this blog. Hey guess HOMELAND SECURITY might just be as complicated as dealing with proliferation and WMD issues at the NSC. Cannot find any info on Elizabeth Farr mentioned in the post but hey maybe “Almost Famous!” Obama did announce that there would be a WHITE HOUSE team dealing with H1N1 so let’s summarize what we know at this point. All the Emergency Public Information (PARs and PADs)[Protective Action Recommendations and Decisions] are somewhat conflicting if you look at what has been put out including the release of the White House Report in last few days with some possible statistical impact. Please remember that Public Affairs is far different that Emergency Public Information. The latter is highly technical NOT government propaganda. So let’s look at one little aspect of high quality EPI ops! Specifically who or whom or what org is in charge of RUMOR CONTROL? So far we see the WHITE HOUSE and all other officials involved in trying to anticipate problems (which is good) but openly speculating in the press and the press openly speculating. Much of this is RUMOR! For some background on this subject try Gordon W. Allport and Leo Portman’s published book in 1947 “the Psychology of Rumor.” Or a more fun read more recently “The Watercooler Effect”published in 2008 by Prof. Nicholas DiFonzo. Or you could just google “Rumor” or “Rumour”! What you will know is that the FEDS are really really serious about H1N1 when the President formally tasks some organization in the Executive Branch to work on rumor control. I have candidates but let’s see what he can come with.
Oh! WE DO HAVE ONE FACT that is solid on H1N1! There is currently NO VACCINE! Again my guess, none until after Thanksgiving and another insight to the seriousness of the WHITE HOUSE thinking on this problem which already has been labeled some version of is the FLU Obama’s Katrina! Okay what is that subject. Again equally tecnical driven and complex and not for amatuers. A formal system of priority and allocation of vaccine when it becomes available. Suggest that Richard Reed and Brian Kamoie make this their top priority and of course simple place to start. Just ask Eric Holder to render a formal opinion to the President on his authority to place priorities on vaccine production and distribution and its allocation! The question in case Obama as former Harvard Law Professor does not know how to ask his lawyers is simply stated: Do I have authority to develop, operate, and fund a system of priorities and allocations for H1N1 vaccine? If I do is it adquate or should further legislation be sought to enhance that authority?

Of course Eric Holder should be able to turn this one around fast because if he has not had his best minds working this one subject instead of torture then probably cannot prioritize well enought to be AG. Apologies in advance and past to all US torture victims while we give H1N1 priority.

Also what do we already know of deficiencies of the Bioshield law and program? How about recalling Congress from the beach to have them fix this one if required.

And again just for the record a fool can often ask more questions than a wise man can answer–but hey we (US) has to start somewhere.

Oh! One final note who is integrating foreign policy and foreign relations tradeoffs on H1N1? How about economic tradeoffs–Hey Larry Summers now that he does not have to worry about running the FED!

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