Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 14, 2009

Homeland security short stories

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 14, 2009

Mystery SolvedKaren Kaplan in the Los Angeles Times tells us about the newly uncovered origins of H1N1.  She writes, “The new H1N1 strain is based primarily on an unusual influenza virus that has been circulating widely in U.S. pigs since the mid-1990s. That “triple reassortant” flu is actually a combination of classical swine flu, a North American avian flu, and a strain of human flu. Somehow, a single pig became simultaneously infected with that virus and a pure swine flu strain found in pigs in Europe and Asia.”

All Alone and No-where to Go — Writing in the Guardian, Ian Black and Richard Norton-Taylor tell us, al-Qaeda’s

activity is increasingly dispersed to “affiliates” or “franchises” in Yemen and North Africa, but the links of local or regional jihadi groups to the centre are tenuous; they enjoy little popular support and successes have been limited. Lethal strikes by CIA drones – including two this week alone – have combined with the monitoring and disruption of electronic communications,  suspicion and low morale to take their toll on al-Qaida’s Pakistani “core”, in the jargon of western intelligence agencies…”Core” al-Qaida is now reduced to a senior leadership of six to eight men, including Bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to most informed estimates.

Tag-Teaming Northcom — In an unusual display of bicameral cooperation, on Friday, September 11 both the House Homeland Security Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee gave headline attention to “insufficient coordination and synergy” between Northern Command and the state and local civilian authorities the DoD operation was established to support.  Both committees point to a GAO report, obviously timed to be released on 9/11, entitled, Homeland Defense: U.S. Northern Command Has a Strong Exercise Program, but Involvement of Interagency Partners and States Can Be Improved.  As of early Monday morning, GAO has not yet made the report available to the public, but the House Committee website is providing a link to the full report.

The Watch will give extended attention to the GAO report and related issues on Wednesday… if not before.

Mystery Continued —  Jason Gale, with Bloomberg, reports on continuing efforts to determine why and how H1H1 “is lethal to a portion of young people in good health.”  He leads with the attention-grabbing tale of  “a 34-year-old New Zealander with no pre-existing medical conditions, (who) spent 11 days in a coma induced by doctors in a last-ditch effort to save his life.”

I like to Watch — California Watch, a new project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, is premiering with an indepth series on alleged fraud, waste, and abuse in expenditure of Homeland Security funds.  According to the CW blog, the “series of stories written by reporter G.W. Schulz focus on waste and mismanagement in the state’s homeland security grant programs. He had a lot to work with. Schulz, a staff member at the Center for Investigative Reporting, found scores of examples of waste, questionable expenditures and a lack of oversight.”

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 14, 2009 @ 10:30 am

All the above is interesting and helpful and there is some relationship between them all. Here goes for the connections for better or worse!

Underlying the stories above is the failure of STATE governments to pull their load in the federal system, from public health, to stewardship of federal funds. Is it incompetence? Is it deliberate? Is it waste, fraud and abuse? A background story from my personal experience! The Federal Civil Defense Program lasted from its inception in 1951 under Public Law 920, 81st Congress until its repeal by Public Law 103-337 in 1994. Essentially a grant program for the states to promote civil defense against strategic nuclear attack. The funding was never huge–biggest under JFK–but ran around $150M annually for all 50 states and for most of its life house in a civilian agency whether in or out of DOD. Housed in FEMA from 1979 to 1994! Remnants exist today in the EMPG program that supports state EM officers. In sworn testimony in the late 80’s the Secretary of Public Health for NY STATE testified before the NRC that the CD funding which also mandated STATE civil defense plans (similiar guidance now in CPG-101–Spetember 2008) and were mandatory for those reciving funding under the statute. There is no mandatory requirement now despite the WMD threat. Anyhow the Secretary testified that NY State treated the CD funds as General Revenue Sharing. I sent copies of the transcript marked up to the Program Officials and OIG/FEMA. Nothing happened. Additionally of course the STATE was allowed to take overhead off of the top under OMB Circular A-87. Many many federal programs, functions, and activities send funding to the STATES and almost nothing obtained in return. Under the Single Audit Statute and other Cognizant Federal Agency arrangements dictated by OMB the individual agencies and departments are almost unable to police federal grants and see that they are used for intended purposes. Now over 50% of all state expenditures come from the Federal Government. Looking at chart in the September 21, 2009 Business Week the states get 46% of their revenues form sales tax and gross receipts taxes, and 36% from the individual income tax. Basically the state are in competition with each other to see who can have the lowest total taxe load. In Louisiana the starvation of STATE and LOCAL governemnt resulted in part in the results of Katrina. Bond funding of infrastructure with no real capitol investment in maintenance and operations resulted in failure of the state and locally maintained pumping system. An item seldom mentioned in review of what went wrong with Katrina.
Personally, I think the STATES need to find and assert their agreement on what the role of the STATES should be. If default the FEDS do more and more this is not a healthy federal system. Yet federalization of both Medicaid and Unemployment would help the states while in the meantime if the feds stop funding disasters that result from STATE and LOCAL negligency that ever increasing load would be diminished. In other words, with all the Commissions and Boards perhaps time to review the real state of our Constitutionally mandated federal system rather than treating all as a joke and pointing fingers ex post facto at who was to blame and then to blame lack of money for no preparedness. The Secretary DHS should take a lead on this and draw some lines based on the fact that she has to do it anyway between DHS and DOJ/FBI and other federal law enforcement entities and of course DOD with its vast civil assets, combined of course with the Armed Services and National Guard.
In my opinion putting roadblocks in the way of other federal agencies creating new problems of prevention and homeland security could be a worthy goal of the QRHS! Unfortunately the lawyers that have headed DHS so far don’t seem to understand the current crisis in the federal system. Pandemic Flu and vaccine issues will soon be documenting the true lack of preparedness of the country for public health and bioterrorism.

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