Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 23, 2009

The Long Blog: Four preliminary deductions from seven premises

Filed under: Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on October 23, 2009

Editorial Note:  This is the third in a series of posts on resilience as a proposed focus for a homeland security strategy. 

The Long Blog:  A strategy of resilience (October 19)

The Long Blog: “Basic features” of US risk and resilience (October 21)


In his February 1946 Long Telegram from Moscow to Washington D.C., George Kennan set out reality-as-perceived-by-our-adversary.  He then derived four deductions from this analysis.

So much for premises. To what deductions do they lead from standpoint of Soviet policy?

Kennan’s deductions de-mystify the strategic perspective of the Soviet leadership.  It is a reality warped by ideology.  But precisely because Soviet perception is so ideologically blinkered, it is predictable. Kennan argued the US could best advance  its interests when it acted with this  predictable worldview as a principal target.

If the prior post’s assessment of  our context — and the National Intelligence Strategy — is reasonably accurate, the other-awareness advocated by Kennan is no longer sufficient. 

Many of the threats confronting the United States today are beyond the scope of accurate analysis or, even, consensus judgment.  The unpredictability of the H1N1 pandemic is good evidence. The potential implications of  climate change, resource shortages, and the range of weapons and targets available to our adversaries challenge the imagination and arguably exceed our analytical capacity.

A colleague who served for many years in the intelligence community has critiqued the National Intelligence Strategy as fatally flawed because it is so far-reaching.  In his view it is undisciplined in target-selection and thereby condemns the intelligence community to almost certain failure.  Their limited assets will be stretched too thin.

His operational concern is undeniable.  Yet I perceive the greater flaw is in too narrowly defining  threats as externalities.   In 1946 the Soviet threat was clearly primus inter pares.  In 2009 choosing among threats can sometimes seem a game of musical chairs.

A deep knowledge of an other is helpful, but no longer sufficient. Other-awareness must be complemented with self-awareness.  Risk emerges from threat and vulnerability.  Threats are often beyond our reach, vulnerabilities  are usually self-generated.  We require a deep understanding of our self.  

Kennan found four action principles flowing reasonably from his seven perceptual premises.  For a Soviet leader who has confidence in his  perception of reality, the prescriptions for action are self-evident.  Kennan encourages his Foggy Bottom masters to recognize the internal logic of the adversary’s worldview.

Broadly accepting the worldview set out by the National Intelligence Strategy, I propose four action principles:

1. The United States is, by-far, the most powerful single player on the planet.  More than most, we are masters of our own fate.  We have the resources, systems, and culture to actively participate in shaping the future.  Despite this, some perceive the best days are behind us.  Certainly,  many would say, 1946 was golden compared to our reduced  current  condition.  That could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But three factoids:
GDP compared to principal putative adversary:  

1950:  US:$1.45 trillion v. Soviet Union: $510 billion (1991 $)

2007: US: $14.2 trillion v. China: $4.4 trillion

US federal deficit as a percentage of GDP:

1946: 121.7 percent

2009: 66.2 percent (projected)

US median household income (constant 2007 dollars):

1947: $25,260

2007: $46,207

Some will argue China’s trajectory is stronger than the Soviet Union’s.  I do not disagree, that seems likely.  But in 1946 central planning  had not yet fallen out of favor.  That year Britain nationalized both the mines and banks. Many in the capitalist world were expecting a repeat of a big post-war depression, “just like” 1929. Communism was still seen as a realistic alternative to capitalism in producing reliable economic prosperity. Present problems can diminish our memory of past concerns.

2. Despite our great power, the United States confronts a strategic context  much more unstable than 1946.  Today there are many more nodes of significant influence than in the immediate post-war period.  The interactions — social, intellectual, economic, and political — between the various nodes constitute a rich web  much beyond that of 1946.  The spread of H1N1 was much faster than any prior pandemic and going viral is no longer limited to viruses.  The pace of change has accelerated.  We have much more virtual proximity to — and real dependence on — decisions and actions occuring well-outside the direct influence of the United States. 

3. As a result, the contemporary strategic context is much less predictable than 1946.  Kennan’s fundamental thesis was that the ideological rigidity of the Soviet regime made it predictable and thereby manageable.  There is evidence he was right and during the Cold War US policymakers and strategists often (not always)  were guided by this insight.  But the range and type of challenges facing the US today are not anything as predictable. Rather than a  “simple” bi-polar (pun intended) world, we are surrounded by random outbreaks of mass neuroses and peculiar psychoses.

4. With very limited predictability regarding our threats, national policy and strategy should aim to optimize our adaptability to a range of risks.  

In his four deductions Kennan is more concise — perhaps purposefully provocative –than the preceding.   But then in Part 2 of the Long Telegram he proceeds to analyze “certain aspects” of what he has confidently exposed.  Please come back on Monday as we undertake to do the same.

(Some readers have indicated their intention to take up the discussion over the weekend, so you might even look in — and join in — before Monday.)

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Comment by Philip J. Palin

October 23, 2009 @ 5:22 am


A straightforward reading of the NIS more naturally emphasizes US vulnerability than power. Yet I chose to lead with power. Might be an error of logic and/or argument.

Recognition of vulnerability is crucial to a strategy of resilience. But I perceive — vaguely, at this point — that many are flummoxed and frustrated with how often our power can be ineffectual.

If we were less powerful, we might not be as troubled by our limitations. But precisely because we are the “last superpower,” the “world’s biggest economy”, the “most generous people in the world”, the “most creative”, and other superlatives, the persistence of trouble is profoundly troubling. We should be able to fix this, some insist loudly and others more quietly agree.

When we do not fix it — and may even contribute to making “it” worse — many are left confused, dissociated, suspicious, and in other ways out of balance, irritated, unhappy, angry and more. This is not too far from becoming a victim, fixated on a supposed external cause for what may be self-generated.

So… I decided (obviously with some uncertainty) to insert the enormous power of the US as the first of these preliminary deductions. This is not absent from the NIS, so I am not indulging in spontaneous generation.

Just as Kennan succeeded in exposing the self-definition of the Soviet leadership, I am trying to make sense of our self-definition. Just as the Soviet leaders’ self-definition was their greatest single vulnerabilty, I expect something similar is true for the United States.

How we as a democratic society view and deal with the paradox of power is, I am hypothesizing, at the core of our current discontent… and therefore a key aspect of any effective homeland security strategy.

Kennan’s four “deductions” are more hypotheses than logical conclusion and so are my preliminary deductions. The hypotheses require testing in the next part of the Long Blog.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 23, 2009 @ 11:12 am

Well another excellent stepping stone in the “Long Road.”

Respectfully though I must disagree with the paragraph in the post set forth below:

“Many of the threats confronting the United States today are beyond the scope of accurate analysis or, even, consensus judgment. The unpredictability of the H1N1 pandemic is good evidence. The potential implications of climate change, resource shortages, and the range of weapons and targets available to our adversaries challenge the imagination and arguably exceed our analytical capacity.”

And just a short comment, many other countries are doing far better with H1N1 Pandemic then the US.

Okay so I have decided to make the followinging arguments:

First and foremost our lack of languages, culture, demographics, religions, tribal arrangements and many other things concerning the Islamic World (note not confining it to the Arabic world) is absolutely appalling. Where for example was the equivalent of the National Defense Scholarships devoted to learning about the Soviet Union. The US decided that and probably an erroneous presentation of Churchill’s ideas but we (the US) did decide to unwrap the puzzle wrapped in an an enigma that was the Soviet Union. We should make the same effort vis a vis the Islamic World and readers of my past comments should know that I personally believe whatever the demographics, wars, and politics, by the end of this Century the countries identified By Professor Paul Kennedy (author of the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers) in his book on the 21st Century and its possible great powers will be much more important. The fact that he (like Myself)missed the goings-on in the Islamic World not completely but partially does not detract from his identification of certain countries as being definite players and factors in the 21st Century. I seem to remember Brazil and Turkey being two of the dozen or less he mentioned.
Okay that stated–briefly my concern that we lead from ignorance, hubris, and ego as opposed to knowledge, competence, and understanding means we are likely to be sucker punched again and again. I guess Phil this adds up to rejection of the all-powerful image of the US that your post projects, and now on to vulnerabilities.

So decided that I would provide a brief outline of the NIE on the US by funadmentalist radical Islamists, but I believe even if not fully documented then someone somewhere in that world below the horizon of the US understands US very well. Egotistically, I would argue that I could have picked better targets than the WTC and Pentagon and perhaps even the Capitol but not a bad choice given what we know of economic and political and cultural impacts. Although I would argue reorganization of the Executive Branch building blocks did not necessarily enhance efficiency or effectiveness on Homeland Security. Many of the day jobs of DHSers prior to March 1, 2003 when DHS were formed still distract from the HS mission.
Okay so the Islamic Fundamentalist Jihadi NIE of the US. Of course these are brief points but many more could be added and obviously the effort is provide a comment not an answer. Assuming an answer exists.

Well, heregoes:
First, vulnerability! The US political and economic leadership class really have no concerns to the retention of the US political system as a democracy (republic)! Of course this is evidenced merely by glancing at international non-biased statistical rankings of the US in many many categories that might impact resilienc from switching both the health care industry to a profit making mode and the educational system. Many more examples exist. One key one of course is that by budget almost 40% of discretionary spending is on the military/industrial/academic complex which has largely failed the US over the last 40 years. Won’t go into my proofs of that argument. Much of government is also secret operations and non-transparency to even interested citizens.

Second, and again a vulnerability! Decline of basic information that is accurate to the interested public. More de facto censorship and spin.

Third vulnerability: Even when against common sense, technical sense, scientific, and engineering sense government at all levels operates as if there are no real consequences to its decisions, except as to who are the beneficiaries, and making sure those who benefit are the biggest contributors. Perhaps an example might help! And of course not sure it is a correct example. Based on guilt, shame, and contributions the US decided when authorizing civilian nuclear power reactors that the free market would reign even as to plant design and operator controls. In FRANCE and JAPAN (both countries with total dependence on nuclear power plant generation in excess of 70% of all domestic power needs–an neither with an offsite safety program that involves the public)entrance into any operational reactor control room reveals the same setup. Not so with the US. Many other examples exist but perhaps the biggest travesty is the breakup of AT&T in 1982 under the Anti-Trust Consent order and now the on-going reconsolidation of the industry but now subtantially less governmentally regulated. With 85% of adult Americans with cell phones the AT&T business model was soon to be obsolete even before the breakup.
Fourth: Both Congress and the Executive Branch are easily penetrated by foreign operatives. Counter-intel is almost non-existent in the US. So K St lobbyist who for financial gain put the gloss of knowledge in lobbying for foreign governments, business, or interests allows an effective cover with a non-enforced and defective Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Fifth: And remember could think up many more but the sheer incompetence of the physical and cyber security arrangements of the US. First reason for reaching that conclusion–Governments have almost no regulatory or standards setting authority over physical and cyber security nor do they appear to want any. Instead basically arguing well 85% of critical assets in private hands and therefor up to private sector. This as previously discussed on this blog is an incorrect estimate for many reasons but it does continue to give the bureacracy an excuse to do nothing.

Well okay! Hoping this stirs the pot so to speak. Have fun!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

October 23, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

A quick response on analytical ability, predictabiilty, and US power. Tomorrow morning I will try to respond to your excellent list of vulnerabiities.

Prior to last Spring there was a very broad, well-informed consensus judgment that the next pandemic would feature the H1N5 strain and probably emerge from avian stocks in Southeast Asia or China (For awhile I was looking hard at North Africa). Instead the pandemic starts in North America and features H1N1.

For me this is good evidence of our analytical limitations. This doesn’t mean we should stop scanning the horizon, anticipating what we can, and so on. But I am arguing we should not be surprised to be surprised (so to speak).

With this clarification, do we still disagree?

Regarding US power, I think we actually agree. While powerful the US is very far from all-powerful. You have added further evidence.

But I perceive quite a few — and perhaps most — Americans believe the US has sufficient power to “fix” things, if we would just get our act together. (There is significant difference of opinion on precisely what this act would look like.) This attitude toward power –more than the power itself — is something that I perceive is essential to any effective homeland security strategy.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 23, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

As always Phil good retort. Hope does spring essential that adequate power exists in US system of government, culture, and spectrum of real assets to fix or address problems. Always have someone at the masthead examining the horizon. Hey the earth is not flat despite what some think. Proof if ever needed is the earthrise NASA pictures. But hey here’s to those who opposed Copernicus! The sun does rise and set so it must be revolving around the earth? Of course not but intuition said the earth centric version correct. Hey too bad they did not know of earth spin, coriolus effect, and other factors. By the way it does seem that earthly “spin” is a huge problem right now. What happened to Sgt. Joe Friday and “Just the facts, Mam.” Does the MSM follow its current spin practices to its reductio ad absurdem? Is it “Brave New World” or “Farenheit 451”?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

October 24, 2009 @ 6:59 am

Not sure I am retorting as much as probing, thinking through with you, and trying to clarify what each of us are thinking/meaning and what I am writing.

Further to predictability, again, I am not being fatalistic or dismissing full application of resources and reason to observe accurately and be proactive. But as you indicated, even as insightful an observor as Paul Kennedy missed something big hiding in plain view. This is the human condition.

I like your vulnerabilities. Following is an effort to frame in my own way:

1. Given our lack of cross-cultural competence the United States is “poorly connected” to the rest of the world. Others expend significant effort to understand us, speak our language, and adapt effectively to our expectations. It is almost as if they have broadband connections with us, while we are still on dial-up with them.

2. Is there a problem with mis-information — or information overload and lack of filtering devices? I agree there is both, but I think the mis-information has always been there. Now it is amplified and multiplied. Sort of like dial-up with static, so the baud rate on what we download is now under 12 kps, and we keep being diverted to porn and spam sites.

3. There is very little mindful maintaining of the system we all share. Somehow we have so misundertood Smith’s “hidden hand” as to dismiss the common sense that “many hands make light work.” Cooperation is not necessarily competitive with individuality. Cooperation is especially needed when we benefit from sharing a common resource. Cooperation is often the most effective form of regulation. (See Ostrom et al.) Probably straining the metaphor, but sort of like pretending it doesn’t cost someone something to maintain servers, transmission lines, routers, etc.

4. I am probably not as concerned as you may be regarding foreign agents. But I do perceive we are uncomfortable accepting the trade-offs involved in having a highly accessible system. I have probably experienced too many military systems that are so protected as to be of no practical use. So, I am more interested in back-ups, redundancy, checks-and-balances, and other ways to mitigate misuse of the accessibility I value.

5. I read this as another example of number 3.

So… what I perceive in your vulnerabilities is a dynamic network that is underperforming because we are not investing in reasonable care.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 24, 2009 @ 10:21 am

Should have said “Long Blog” not “Long Road” in my original comment.

Like your restatement of listed vulnerabilities and agree numbers 3 and 5 closely related sets.

Reacting to the quote below from you comment on your own post I first restate the quote:

“How we as a democratic society view and deal with the paradox of power is, I am hypothesizing, at the core of our current discontent… and therefore a key aspect of any effective homeland security strategy.”

This I think is a truism but important to restate from time to time. I firmly believe power can be used for many things, some better than others (some would say for good or for evil) and perhaps valid but refraining from that language for now. Personally just for the record I believe that the Biblical/religious good versus evil is just recognition that in all of us (US?) exists what is called good and evil. Hoping for good to dominate of course over evil.
Anyhow my basic point about power is that it is never, or almost never, given but taken. Since most Americans don’t want to be perceived as grabbing for power they refrain from expressing the view stated above. Probably the first President who held absolutely vast power in his hand was Truman after July 1945. Did that change the US mindset as to its role in the world? Yes! Did it change the world’s mindset vis a vis US? Yes!

My problem with your quoted statement is not the first part but its relationship to Homeland Security. And remember I always will believe “Civil Security” was a far better term to have adopted for what is now HS than that term.
And perhaps it should be noted that the first Reagan FEMA Director, Louis O. Guiffrida had formed a “Civil Security” unit that was viewed as a proactive force against terrorism. That unit and its functions ceased when the famous William French Smith, Attorney General of the US wrote a memo to Director OMB saying that FEMA should not be the civil security “CZAR” and Guiffrida resigned under pressure. Years-1984/5!

Okay, what does this mean now? My problem is that DHS is so-unskilled politically, leadership wise, statutory authorities, realationships with the rest of the Executive Branch and the White House that it is largely powerless! I reach this conclusion reluctantly but have 8 years to arrive at that position. Part of the reason is the Congress wherein organizational issues are subject to authorization and oversight by one committee and other committees have actual authority over it statutory authority to do anything. The DHS leadership has failed almost completely by being reactive and in articulate in expressing its needs and concerns as to what has been accomplished, will be accomplished, and should be accomplished. The result is that DHS itself is one of the primary public administration reasons that the nation is vulnerable. Most of the appointees don’t have a clue about their own portfolio and even more so are almost totally ignorant of the roles, authorities, and relationships in the rest of the federal system and executive branch that need identification, stimulation by collaboration and cooperation, and even funding assistance. Here is a highly specific example! Adminstrator Fugat and his subordiates, John Brennan, NSC head Jones, any member of the White House, the AG, the SECDEF and others could not tell you right now today whether the Stafford Act should or does operate where other departments and agencies have a statutory mission and funding, however inadequate either. Why is this important? Because issues have been raised as to whether the FEDS need to design an effective safety net and a starting point is trying to figure out vulnerabilities and lack of resilience. We (the US) has a highly dramatic example right now of federal government failure and incompetence. According to Bloomberg News Service, HHS is now blaming its vaccine contractors for slow deliveries and other problems. Instead of investing the same amount in a federal owned and operated major vaccine facility, the US relied on the private market to answer the need. And it has failed. The one thing the private market can never provide is “time” and “government foresight” no matter how much needed depending on the circumstance.

And yes Phil “retort” was the wrong word choice since it is dialogue and understanding I am trying to develop.

Comment by christopher tingus

October 24, 2009 @ 10:50 am

The vulnerability and identity of our beloved Republic in this technologically oriented 21st century is foremost in jeopardy from within as depicted by what apparently is the void in local, state and national leadership while at the same time, in great peril from the “elitist” self-agenda professing “change” in election theme….

“The US political and economic leadership class really have no concerns to the retention of the US political system as a democracy (republic!)” To William Cumming – a superb and thought provoking statement which says so very much about a world so riddled with injustice and in much peril….

Enlightened more and more from the information age and a White House so threatened by this focus on Fox News, as each day passes, we here on Main Street USA are quite uncomfortable and more and more pervaded with anxiety not as much for the recruitment of trainees for AQ camps or the Afghan who have had generations of “stone walls” to dispute over and will continue to do so whether we have 40,000, 80,000, or the entire US and Russian Army march, but rather the character of those whose “elitist” agenda seems to be some sort of “new world order” and – in the pews, whispers grow louder of a conspiracy – led by the true elitists – a select few – and their fed, central bankers and as knowledgeable protagonists using their pawns, the Gore, Pelosi, Frank, Reed and Obama wannebes!

In subjecting the populace to further impoverishment and enslavement whereby taxes and fees, the intentional “turning of cheek” to the principles of the US Constitution which has been quite evidently eroded by you Mr. President and other “entrusted” supposed public servants who seem to have other motive and this inherent belief that men and women cannot think for themselves and prefer a government imposing itself on the will of the people –

It is not the swine flu virus or the lack of regular flu vaccine available never mind the promised swine flu vaccine to protect our children, or the scientific and engineering astuteness of China or the evil ways of the “KGB Putinites” and the “Brutes of Tehran” we perceive here on the street which disturbs us as much as finding the United States with its “power” to afford Hope to those so globaly oppressed as you accurately reflect – bankrupt – certainly a course never imagined, yet a partisan effort to dupe us as to somehow portraying Congressional membership either knowing what it is doing and its lust for power and greed, self-agenda has failed us or an elitist agenda following a well defined “fantasy” that mankind’s global pursuit of individual liberty and freedom is not what they prefer for man, woman and child.

The future has already been written not by the “KGB Putinites” or the “Brutes of Tehran” or more importantly by the select few “elitists” who truly believe that they have duped us and have enslaved us by impoverishing us and our tenacious will to protect man’s liberty – no – the inherent resilience which God has given each of us with compassion and good will towards our family and neighbor will prevail against the tyranny which besieges our chambers within.

To the White House staffers and to you Mr. President so incredulous as to the most recent Gallop poll which depicts this growing number of your own supporters as well as – independents like myself – who are concerned with the course you and your cohorts have chosen for our nation with so little disregard for the principles set forth by our forefathers and your staffers flexing – muscles of power in their contentiousness over Fox News and to the many other esteemed professional journalists and media outlets who we turn to in amassing “breaking news” information to enable us to evaluate and formulate our own perceptions in the most objective way possible –

I do admit though that in seeing a protest sign this past week on the steps of the Massachusetts State House stating that the “Massachusetts Department of Revenue” per statute orders the Registry of Motor Vehicles to suspend one’s “Right” to operate a motor vehicle to enable one to go to the grocery store, to pick up meds, to help a spouse with responsibilities of raising children, etc. pertaining to only an income tax dispute or a tax appeal having nothing to do with a motor vehicle issue – a license to drive a car which is a necessity and levy to bank account, lien on property, even court ordered “garnishment of wages” is reasonable remedy, not taking one’s mode of transportation away from an individual and his / her ability to earn a living to pay back such obligation if in fact determined by due process owed….well, this is what we see here on Main Street USA see here in Boston as a much too lusting and imposing government willingly placing children and parents in peril.

This is only one issue which should demand an immediate – elimination – of such ill inspired statute, yet it is this unreasonableness by those usurping their power without disregard for undue punishment to fellow citizen which is very, very worrisome, not necessarly the problems which lurk from those across the great pond and with the corrupt ways of the Pakistan government.

If we cannot straighten our home from such disarray, such abhorrent lustfulness, more often than not provoked by the dysfunctional office holders who quickly forget their pledge in oath to protect and preserve our Constitution, our Rights and the – due process of the law – and our Rights to stand before our peers, we will cease to exist and we are worried that we may well be on the way and the world seeking hope will again be shrouded in darkness which this time may prevail without the resiliency and conviction of America and understanding that Liberty does not come without commitment in heart and soul!

God Bless America!

Christopher Tingus
64 Whidah Drive
Harwich, MA 02645 USA

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 25, 2009 @ 5:30 am

ONe of the defects in current public administration that is directly impacting Homeland Security is the determination of what is an “Inherently Governmental Function.” This term was floated around a long time before it became the subject of a published (in the Federal Register)policy guidance document in the 1970’s if my memory is correct.

Okay why is this important? In 1940 there were less than 5 million STATE and LOCAL employees and contractors. Today there are almost 40 million. As to the Federal Government, Professor Paul Light, currently at Pew Foundation I believe, indicates that the true figure for the Federal employee and contracting community may be has high as 10-15 million. The bottom line is no one knows either of these statistics for sure. Well here is the issue and its relationship to resiliency? What can be done in house for resilency and what can be done out-house for resilency? Long ago most governmental entities gave up trying to police contractors to ensure deliverables. This failure gets lumped into overhead but also gets lumped into resilience. How much could be spent on resilience by the US if waste, fraud, and abuse or just plain incompetence could be eliminated? I go back to breaking out in the federal budget resiliency as a major category for analysis! Of course that is where a definition comes in and a really close reading of Phil’s now extensive comments over several months does seem to indicate that a core analytic framework on resilience exists that could be adopted. Hoping so! Why? Because I think that determining the level of societal resilience is in fact an “inherently governmental function.” No broader policy impact could occur from almost any subject area than resilience. That is why my curiousity is peaked at John Brennan and the President’s establishment of a Resiliency Unit in the newly combined staff of the NSC and HSC! Never have so many owed so much to so few IMO! I wonder if that group views the current Pandemic as a crisis to be surmounted or an opportunity? Or both?

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 25, 2009 @ 5:41 am

I should have added that prior to the formation of FEMA and DOD dropping the ball on mobilization issues because of the notion of the “Come as you are” war, the old FPA (Federal Preparedness Agency) part of GSA had a polciy guidance document out numbered FPC-6 which attempted to break mobilization preparedness down into two categories as far as the Executive Branch–(1) Resource Providers; and (2) Resource Claimants. To some extent this analytic framework may help with issues and analysis of “Resilience” policy or policies. Clearly given the numbers referenced in my immediate comment above the vast numbers of governmental employees and contractors at all levels are both resource providers and claimants as is the private sector. And now of course to figure out the priorities and allocations of resources should there be an incident/event impact there accessibility or availability (or affordability)! This surely is an “inherently governmental function” to make such determinations. Actually there are restoration priorities buried in the Constitution, amazing huh!

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 25, 2009 @ 5:44 am

Post Script! Resiliency might be promoted by either (1) reducing claimants and claimancy in certain incidents/events! It also might be enhanced by (2)increasing resources. Or combinations and permutations therein.

Comment by CIP Guy

October 25, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

I’ve been working on infrastructure security research at work a lot lately, and one of the things that I haven’t seen in the discussion here so far, certainly not to the degree that it seems important, is already poor state of our infrastructure in the US. This is important, because it means the first priorities are more likely to be 1) restoring and expanding infrastructure to meet baseline needs, 2) expanding for future needs, and only then 3) improved security and resiliency, except insofar as you can bake 3 into 1 and 2.

American Society of Civil Engineers and National Academies of Science are still giving us near failing marks in nearly every infrastructure category they have. Tens of billions are needed to get us to baseline needs, tens of billions that are not really easy to come by these days, especially given competing priorities. That’s not to say that other priorities (e.g., social health care) won’t contribute to socioeconomic resiliency.

The problem’s complicated by the fact that infrastructure investments can be performative: investments now shape needs / wants later, but we’re not sure what people will want otherwise in the future.

For the issue of global competitiveness, this becomes important when you consider the ratio of infrastructure to economic productivity between countries, and this is where our geographic expanse becomes problematic. Most of our GDP comes from a handful of regions clustered around cities (think Bos-Wash, Dallas-Houston, and San Diego – LA – Frisco). However, we’ve got infrastructure between all these places and political competition for resources from a ton of places in between that aren’t as productive. Density makes focusing investments in infrastucture more manageable, especially for purpose of security. China, for example, can squash political resistance to concentration in one area over another; but witness DHS’s struggle over the number of recipients of grants for its UASI program, where the list grew from about the space I identified earlier to 70ish cities, then shrank again. This gap between economic productivity and geography seems to be a primary difficulty with making a business case for taking action on American infrastructure protection and resiliency.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 25, 2009 @ 6:44 pm

CIP GUY! Excellent points. As I understand it China has 175 cities exceeding one (1) million in immediate geographic area while US has 10! Not sure if this is correct.

Stephen Flynn’s 2007 book “The Edge of Disaster” focuses on infrastructure deterioration and replacement needs and resilience. Somewhat superficial but good read.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

October 25, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

So many good points already made by both Phil and all the commentators I’m not sure where to begin.

Until we see what is on tomorrow’s menu, please allow me just a few initial thoughts (apologies for the bullet point like format, but I don’t want this entry to get too long).

–Given the short time frame for this exercise (Phil’s very unfortunate November HLS Watch exit), I would argue that it should remain focused on the homeland security task at hand. This means that while the Long Telegram is a helpful model in terms of structure, it was focused on the primary threat to the U.S. that existed in the international system at the time. The National Intelligence Strategy cited in the previous post is also concerned with the “outside” threat. Both helpful, but potentially misleading for homeland security strategy (not wanting to start the conversation about national vs. homeland security strategy). As Phil mentioned in passing, earthquakes and hurricanes (along with other natural events) are obvious concerns for homeland security. They just aren’t issues with which the IC concerns itself. The internal threat (natural and man made) should be put on equal footing with the external threat in this analysis.

–In terms of the external, we should remember that that period following WWII was much more unstable than it now seems. Europe and much of East Asia was in ruins. Despite the ridiculous damage and number of deaths that the USSR sustained on the Eastern Front, they emerged from the war as the direct competitor to the U.S. Not only militarily, but in direct competition along all fronts. Western Europe was not a sure thing to remain outside of that sphere of influence. China was in turmoil and Japan in ruins. There is no similar threat or comparable situation today. While China and (to a lesser degree) Russia could cause trouble for the U.S., they are both firmly dependent on and work within the international system and are not acting to create an alternative.

–This brings up vulnerability. While not convinced we are not more vulnerable, I’m also very hesitant to agree that we are. Two oceans and international travel several orders below current levels pre-WWII did not keep us safe from the flu epidemic of 1919. For every health, cyber, and terrorist-related vulnerability, I’m willing to wager I could cite a strength or capability that now exists that was unimaginable in decades past. By almost every measure our current power is unequaled. We should realize that doesn’t mean our ability to affect events (whether domestic or international) is unlimited. But when considering potential strategies to promote resilience, we ought to take into account our current strengths and weaknesses, as well as account for future fluctuations.

–I absolutely agree on the need for flexibility. For every concern about Islamic fundamentalism, I will cite animal rights, environmental, and right-leaning militia groups as other possible threats. For every earthquake plan, I worry about a nuclear terrorist attack.

–My last point (for now), is that this uncertainty about threats and vulnerability should drive the most adaptable strategy concerning resilience. While I’m in favor of the concept in general, I am a pessimist when it comes to talk of resilience as a government strategy. The talk is either to vague (infrastructure spending! in the old days we were tougher!) or sounds like repackaging of existing programs (see something say something; make a plan, get a kit, learn…). I believe strategy should have specific goals with the side effect of bolstering society resilience. It is a marathon, not a sprint, and the next homeland security strategy should aim at getting us in shape for the resilience marathon as opposed to pretending to set goals for achieving such an ill-defined goal in the next four years.

Comment by Pat Longstaff

October 26, 2009 @ 12:29 am

Perhaps resilience is not a race at all. There is movement that is observable and testable but it is more like growth than running (interesting that the cold war was thought to be a race). I think of more like the growth of a human person – very vulnerable in the early stages, but it can develop into something that is capable (or not) of dealing with whatever life throws at it. And the more we look at systems that have this capability the more we are able to make some statements about how to encourage it. Notice I did not say “build” or “design” it. It usually grows in an environment where variables can’t be that controlled. Ironically, controlling the environment where someone lives in order to eliminate danger may make them less resilient because human systems need practice dealing with adversity. And, to my knowledge, resilience does not grow on election cycle timetables. If this sounds like new-age fuzzy thinking, believe me it is not. There is hard science behind it for many systems. We are just beginning to apply it to the most difficult and complex systems of all, human systems. It should make us humble but not fearful. Resilience is, as Phil suggests, a long road through uncharted territory. Who says the Age of Discovery is over? A new one is only just beginning.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 26, 2009 @ 6:13 am

Again ARNOLD and PAT have their usual excellent points and insights. I like Pat’s take on the use of the word “race”in the cold war! Perhaps athletic aphorisms used to make understandable but erroneously much in American life. The British Coat of Arms contains but a single word “ENDURE.” Was the race to endure (survive)? Or was it to accomplish some purpose! Bottom line (another aphorism that I dislike) to what end “Homeland Security”?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

October 26, 2009 @ 8:29 am

Regarding critical infrastructure, a couple of responses:

First, I cannot think of a better example of self-generated vulnerability than what has happened over the last generation regarding a wide range of infrastructure. Operationally I understand the potential efficiency of geographically focused investments. But doesn’t recurring (and increased?) investment in the biggest of our economic/ technological nodes actually increase our strategic vulnerability? Isn’t a widely distributed network of medium sized nodes more resilient than a network featuring fewer large nodes?

Second, in the spirit of Monday’s post on neurosis and homeland security, there is a reasonably well-known example of post-Jungian analysis where the woman under analysis reports the following dream:

I am standing in ruined cottage in Wales, planning to rebuild it. I realise tha it is not going to be as easy as I thought because I do not know how to put in the basics, such as plumbing and electricity. I look up, and I see a power station on a distant hilltop. I feel that, though this building is ugly, it will somehow help to solve the problem. The power station has two enormous chimneys.

It is a radical over-simplification, but until the woman under analysis was able to draw fully on the resources of the power station,she was vulnerable, unhappy, and weak. The power station was ugly, but fulfillment required dealing with it. I am suggesting an analogy between the woman and the US.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 26, 2009 @ 9:18 am

Deterioration of critical infrastructure was not just a matter of lack of funding for last 4 decades. It also involved many of the same factors described by Jared Diamond, a self-described environmental ecologist, as factors that might lead to “Collapse” of various civilization past and present. The interesting thing about this book is he opens with the STATE of MONTANA once self-sufficent and now no longer. Self-sufficiency probably long gone as a concept but does seem that N.American integration of critical infrastructure makes sense from any standpoint. Of course when we (the US) tried to convince Canadians and their government that the GREAT SLAVE LAKE should be piped to the formerly productive but now soon to be dried up area of the OGLALLA Acquifer the Candians might resist. Of course (and now being facetious)if I was going to wage premptive war in future seems the benefits of invading Canada as opposed to other choices far would exceed the costs. And yes soon the LOONEY will be worth more again than the dollar. So again maybe we (US) should invite CANADA to invade US!

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 26, 2009 @ 9:21 am

Post post script! Since 1850 more sheep than people in Wales. Here’s to celebration of St. David’s DAY! And the Welsh always have a good time in the woods and around Maypoles on Mayday. Ah! To the Druids and their “natural philosophy”.

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