On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security opened the second phase of its national dialogue about the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR). You can participate in that dialogue (through September 6th) by clicking on this link. And you can see the results of the first dialogue by clicking on this link.
I am a sucker for people who are trying to do the right thing in homeland security. I think DHS is trying to do the right thing by getting stakeholders involved in the review process while the review is still going on – rather than waiting until the review is over before asking for outside opinions.
But what can one realistically expect from this process? Is it possible that someone will contribute an idea so innovative, so creative, so useful that DHS will holler “Stop the Presses!” and reshape homeland security as we have come to know it?
Yes it’s possible. But not very probable.
Why should you take time from your other priorities this week and devote it to navigating through a web site that — although improved over Round 1 — still gives new meaning to the word “linear?” What is the big picture value of any idea or comment you might contribute? Is it likely people who are not the usual homeland security suspects will suggest something that hasn’t been considered before?
And let’s say you have a great idea. Is it likely to make its way unscathed through the largely opaque decision process that will eventually churn out the QHSR?
I was thinking about these questions as I looked at the suggestion one person posted in the second dialogue: we should put land mines along the border to discourage illegal entry. Nothing like blowing up a few people to show how serious we are about enforcing Title 8, Chapter 12, Subchapter II, Part VIII, Section 1325 of the US Code.
I was also thinking about the “why bother” questions as I read a thoughtful plea in another post to “integrate psychosocial preparedness, response and resiliency building education, training and practice into the full sphere of Homeland Security activities related to disasters.”
Albert O. Hirschman wrote a book called Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. In simplified form, the actions in the title represent three possible responses if you don’t like what’s going on. You can exit the system and just refuse to participate. You can be loyal to the status quo, and wait to be told what to do next. Or you can use your voice — as quiet and small and hopeful as it may be.
We don’t know what value homeland security ideas might have until we get them into the conversation. The national dialogue is an opportunity — without guarantees that anyone will listen or act – to use “voice.”
Alan Cohn, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the strategic plans part of DHS policy, spoke yesterday about his expectations for the second dialog:
“We want to increase the number of people who come to the website and we want to increase the number of comments we get from the people who come.”
Since the Dialogue was first announced (on July 16th) over 20,000 people visited the QHSR site. There were more than 8200 unique visitors to the first dialogue, and about 200 discrete ideas contributed.
Those numbers may seem small, but they come quite close to fitting the 90-9-1 social networking principle: 90 percent of the people who visit a networking site are just there to read; 9 percent make an occasional comment — often just a single comment; and 1 percent of the visitors account for most of the contributions.
So if you really care about homeland security, the Dialogue provides more of an opportunity to be heard than one might think.
Apparently Secretary Cohn and the working groups actually read and — when appropriate — use the comments. The second dialogue features language that is less wordy, more concise and direct. “Pretty much every [working] group went back and made their visions and goals” more concise and more explicit, Cohn said.
The site is easier to navigate, and — unlike Round 1 — one can now write comments off line and then paste what you have to say into a text box.
In Round 1, the term “man-made hazard” was used in discussions of counter-terrorism. But not any more.
It’s a start. People are listening.
After the QHSR is finished, DHS plans a bottom up review, trying to match what the Review says should be happening with what DHS programs and budget suggest is actually being done.
But that comes later. For Round 2, the goal is clear, direct and concise: “to increase the number of people who come to the website and … increase the number of comments we get from the people who come.”
So what will it be for you this week: exit, loyalty, or voice?