Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 1, 2009

Exit, Loyalty or Voice: The 2nd Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Dialogue

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 1, 2009

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?

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5 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 1, 2009 @ 6:36 am

First, readers of this blog know that I want a fundamental change in the Paradigms that control relations between the US and Mexico including removal of Mexico entirely from discussions of illegal immigration which is sympton not cause of very deep problems in both the US and Mexico.
That stated I have always wondered that we (US) seem willing to drown Haitians and Cubans, so wondered when we might start shooting down Mexicans. Perhaps the Land Mines are one solution to an awful problem. But hey hoping the US never adopts the policy of landmining its borders or shooting down anyone attempting to enter US without notice. Even trespassing laws in most states require notice by the landowner to the trespasser before anything else. And of course firmly believe that the failure of the US to adopt the Convention Against Landmines is both a national and international tragedy! I will post a second comment following on thoughts on the QHSR!

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 1, 2009 @ 7:01 am

Second, to address further the QHSR! Alan Kohn is a smart man and deeply involved with the success of DHS and its policies. That stated always remember that the QHSR was a mandate imposed on DHS by statute. Congress is doing it repeatedly now since it undermined its own strategy of sunsetting federal programs by eroding its own authorizing authority through appropriation acts. That stated the QHSR is a good mandate in my opinion because often the longer term is overlooked during the pell mell rush to deal with the short term. Hoping the Public Adminstration types are analyzing the successes and failures of this concept. Still, I am strongly in favor of this process. It does allow some end run around the tendency of all bureacracies to do what is repetitive, what they can do, what they want to do, but many times they avoid what should be done, or what might be done that they don’t want to do.
With that premise, the QHSR will actually be a good biospy of DHS and whether it is fit or finished. Why do I say that? In a brilliant piece writing by a distinguished Prof. of Public Administration at Ohio State University (Wilson?) he layed out that Homeland Security and its organizations must in fact be “Learning Organistions.” Certainly organizations are designed for collective success not to showcase individual brilliance! But with the significant passage of over 1/2 decade as an organization, next March 1st [2010]DHS will have been in business sever (7)years! Organizations and the people within them can learn from internal and external events that occur. What are the key events that have occurred since 9/11 that impact DHS? I have my own list and I am sure there are many readers of this list with their own. The leading event for me is the non-event of no further successful direct attack on the US! There may be many reasons for this non-event but I am uncomfortable with most that have been expressed. But to the context of this comment on this post–What does DHS meaning its appointees and officers and employees make of this non-event? Are they self-congratulatory? Do they get bragging rights? Are they just lucky? Has AQ changed its tactics? Can DHS rest on its laurels? And on and on!
Now for a second event and really again a non-event! NO CONGRESSIONAL AUTHORIZATION STATUTE HAS BECOME LAW since DHS was formed although some significant legislation has occurred. The Post 9/11 Commission Implementation Act for one PKEMA for another! And who could foret the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act that within the first year of DHS operations almost totally undercut its INTEL role and rationale for existing.

Okay could go on and on but comment already too long! Hoping for the best for the QHSR and that whatever the outcome it establishes DHS as one of the foremost learning organizations in the Executive Branch. In a field where first principles are not yet firmly established it does seem to me that “learning” even from things like TOPOFFS and National Level Exercise V are extremely important. As many know the choice of issues to be discussed by DHS management in the QHSR to me were incorrect. Why, because policy not issues should have been chosen but maybe in DHS few know what the policy really is or how it can be established, developed and modified. So hoping Jay Carafo and Alan can do what needs to be done. I would start with who collects statistics in DHS and why do they collect what they do? And do their numbers really mean anything. October 1st I will have been retired 10 years from FEMA after 20 years of service there and my constant advocacy for a sound statistical operation to underpin the policy and eval effort still yet to be accomplished. Some wit once said he who controls the government statistics controls the policy. Well in the Energy world the so called Energy Information ops of DOE are totally dependent on the industry. Is that true of DHS?

Comment by Patrick Coyle

September 1, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

Participation in the QHSR Dialogue is much akin to the act of voting. My vote is but one vote, but it is one vote; and it may be the deciding vote. My idea is but one idea, but it may be the catalyst to bring about change.

When ever one is given the opportunity to participate in government, one has the obligation to participate for the chance may not come that way again.

Comment by pozycjonowanie

February 8, 2011 @ 10:58 am

3978 Florine January 1987 pozycjonowanie

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » FEMA’s Think Tank

January 31, 2012 @ 1:22 am

[...] before.  But this effort looks like a significant improvement over initial DHS efforts (e.g., Quadrennial Homeland  Security Review) to incorporate stakeholder ideas through wisdom-of-the-crowd-like social [...]

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