Secretary Napolitano has five priorities:
- Guarding against terrorism
- Securing our borders
- Smart and tough enforcement of immigration laws
- Preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters
- Unifying and maturing DHS
The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review — or at least the public dialogue around the QHSR — is organized around these priorities. A “senior official,” who would never talk to me again if I mentioned his name, told me the use of the Secretary’s priorities to frame the QHSR is an example of “over eager staffing” and a “bad idea” that is skewing strategic thinking. He added that, “the Secretary probably hasn’t even noticed yet.”
The senior official is trying to “open up the discussion to more interesting, or just more frames.” Good idea. Good luck. I’m hoping this post helps and thanks for giving me permission to report your concerns.
I have already offered my own oblique critique of the current process, even while I commend the Department’s intentions and efforts.
The Secretary’s priorities are entirely fine. They are perfectly reasonable operational goals. I have not, however, been able to — without considerable creativity — convert them into a meaningful strategy for homeland security.
According to the White House website, President Obama frames homeland security around some “guiding principles” and seven verbs.
The President’s highest priority is to keep the American people safe. He is committed to ensuring the United States is true to our values and ideals while also protecting the American people. The President is committed to securing the homeland against 21st century threats by preventing terrorist attacks and other threats against our homeland, preparing and planning for emergencies, and investing in strong response and recovery capabilities. We will help ensure that the Federal Government works with states and local governments, and the private sector as close partners in a national approach to prevention, mitigation, and response.
The verbs with their objects are:
Defeat terrorism worldwide
Strengthen our bio and nuclear security
Improve intelligence capability and information
Ensuring a secure global digital information and communications infrastructure
Promote resiliency of our physical and social infrastructure
Pursue comprehensive transborder security
Ensure effective incident management
Interesting to compare and contrast these seven with Secretary Napolitano’s five.
By weaving together the President’s Cairo speech (and his remarks on Ramadan last evening) and John Brennan’s CSIS speech I have a pretty clear framing of a policy-strategy-operations continuum for counterterrorism. In most other areas of homeland security I hear and read about priorities, goals, operations, budgets and tactics. But I have a hard time finding anything that strikes me as homeland security policy or strategy.
Some will say policy (and strategy) is a matter of pretty is as pretty does. I take the point. My colleague Chris Bellavita would, probably, argue that it doesn’t matter all that much what is said, written, or earnestly intended, but what actually emerges in behavior. Yes, that is the real world.
But it is also my experience that what is written can, especially overtime, influence how we think and what we do. Writing exposes sloppy thinking and hidden attitudes. Writing exposes relationships and opportunities. Writing is — or can be — the genesis of new worlds.
For Karl Popper writing is as “real” as the physical world and the world of human perception. He called the physical, world 1, and perception, world 2. Popper named the written word and its products world 3. In 1978 Popper concluded a University of Michigan lecture with this explanation of how these three frames interact.
Our minds are the creators of world 3; but world 3 in its turn not only informs our minds, but largely creates them. The very idea of a self depends on world 3 theories, especially upon a theory of time which underlies the identity of the self, the self of yesterday, of today, and of tomorrow… Our relationship to our work is a feedback relationship: our work grows through us, and we grow through our work. This growth, this self-transcendence, has a rational side and a non-rational side. The creation of new ideas, of new theories, is partly non-rational. It is a matter of what is called ‘intuition’ or ‘imagination’. But intuition is fallible, as is everything human. Intuition must be controlled through rational criticism, which is the most important product of human language. This control through criticism is the rational aspect of the growth of knowledge and of our personal growth. It is one of the three most important things that make us human. The other two are compassion, and the consciousness of our fallibility.
I wonder if the paucity of attention given — so far — to a written homeland security strategy is due to the criticism it will inevitably attract. The criticism will be delivered with little compassion and even less consciousness of fallibility. Much of the criticism will be gratuitious and self-serving, won’t help much, and may even hurt in substantive ways.
Better to just keep our heads down and do, instead of writing or saying much about it, I can imagine practical men and women concluding.
But still, without world 3 our experience of world 1 and world 2 is narrowed, impoverished, and even threatened.
As you contribute to the QHSR — and please do contribute — season your criticism with compassion and significant creativity. It seems to me that the QHSR is the most promising process for producing a meaningful expression of homeland security strategy.