Editorial Note: This is the seventh in a series of posts on resilience as a proposed focus for a homeland security strategy. This strategizing is organized around the approach taken by George Kennan in a seminal 1946 document. Links to prior posts are provided below.
A bit more than a year after sending the Long Telegram, George Kennan reworked his analysis of Soviet neuroses and published “Sources of Soviet Conduct“ as an unsigned piece in Foreign Affairs magazine. This revised and expanded text included a top contender for the most important single sentence of any strategy document of the Cold War.
In these circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.
I have been trying to argue that in our current circumstances it is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the risks we face must be that of long-term, patient but firm and vigilant extension of the boundaries within which we can achieve equilibrium. If this sounds odd, listen again to Brian Walker’s 7 minute explanation of resilience.
This strategy is fully cognizant of our limitations, which I have suggested can best be approached by embracing the tragic. This is also a strategy that recognizes the potential of complex adaptive systems to preserve core identity in the midst of profound flux.
While depending on your mastery of last week’s literary analysis and the insights drawn from the study of the commons and complexity, I will take the risk of translating these arcane analogies into a direct — if very wonkish — statement of homeland security strategy. You should hear echoes from the last six posts.
A STRATEGY OF RESILIENCE
(With an Operational Example)
The United States faces a range of natural, accidental, and intentional threats that cannot always be accurately predicted, as a result these threats cannot always be prevented.
Accordingly, the homeland security strategy of the United States seeks to maximize individual, local, regional, and national capacity to:
1. Absorb or buffer disaster while preserving and, if possible, advancing physical, psychological, social, economic, and constitutional integrity.
2. Effectively observe and adapt to change while preserving or advancing physical, psychological, social, economic and constitutional integrity.
3. Learn and increase capacity to adapt to changes experienced at the local, regional, and national level and across social and economic sectors.
The Secretary of Homeland Security, in cooperation with the President and other departments and agencies, shall undertake to:
Support and facilitate community-based Risk and Resilience Assessments. These Risk and Resilience Assessments shall be undertaken on a voluntary basis. The Department of Homeland Security shall provide conferences, training, and expert facilitators to assist in completion of the Risk and Resilience Assessments. Completed Risk and Resilience Assessments shall qualify to compete for up to $1 billion in federal grants.
Every level of government, major agencies of government, private sector organizations, and neighborhoods shall be encouraged to undertake Risk and Resilience Assessments . The Department of Homeland Security shall contract with well-established voluntary, not-for-profit organizations to serve as legal liaison and grant administrators for informal organizations or other parties (e.g. a neighborhood) wishing to participate in the Risk and Resilience Assessment process but not having status to receive federal funding.
The Risk and Resilience Assessment process shall include local, regional, statewide, multi-state, and national workshops, conferences, and related digital resources to encourage participation, collaboration, deliberation, and interaction among those undertaking Risk and Resilience Assessments.
The Citizen Corps program of the Department of Homeland Security shall be funded and organized to provide facilitation and expertise in the Risk and Resilience Assessment process.
The Risk and Resilience Assessment process, as outlined above, shall be monitored by a team of expert observers/evaluators who will rapidly share lessons-learned. A web-based, peer-to-peer network will also serve as a dynamic and growing knowledge base for the Risk and Resilience Assessment Process.
The Department of Homeland Security, the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School, and the National Academy of Sciences shall cooperate in establishing the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for Risk and Resilience to develop, conduct and encourage others to develop and conduct professional development, educational, and other learning programs related to Risk and Resilience.
All parties completing Risk and Resilience Assessments shall be eligible to compete for a total pool of $1 billion per year in federal grants to address the findings of the Risk and Resilience Assessments. Every three months $250 million shall be awarded in the following tranches:
- Up to five grants of $5 million each,
- Up to 25 grants of $1 million each,
- Up to 50 grants of $500,000 each,
- Up to 100 grants of $250,000 each,
- Up to 200 grants of $125,000 each,
- Up to 1000 grants of $40,000 each,
- Up to 2000 grants of $20,000 each, and
- Up to 4500 grants of $10,000 each.
Recipients shall be chosen by majority vote of 500 electors drawn from nominations submitted by the Governors of the States and territories of the United States and apportioned by population. After one year of service, 125 electors shall retire every three months and be replaced by a new class. (So that, of the inaugural class, 125 shall serve one year and nine months.) In this manner, beginning in the second year of operations, the electoral body will receive new members each quarter.
I never voted for Ted Kennedy. For most of my youth he represented the ultimate personification of the “other side.” But I cannot think of anyone who better personifies resilience.
The foregoing program is mostly offered to demonstrate how the strategic principles drawn out in prior posts might be reasonably implemented. There are practical ways to encourage broadbased participation, collaboration and deliberation. It is possible, even for a large bureaucracy, to offer facilitative leadership and eschew authoritarian tendencies. It is possible to encourage local creativity and accountability. It might even be possible to encourage communities and the system to embrace tragic potential.
I hope you can see how these common attributes of resilient systems can be applied to a wide range of programming across the Department of Homeland Security’s mission beyond this example.
I don’t expect the Department of Homeland Security, much less the entire homeland security establishment, to suddenly adopt a strategy of resilience. But the foregoing strikes me as a doable, potentially powerful means of seeding resilience thinking and behavior. It would probably cost $1.3 billion per year. But please give more attention to how the attributes of resilience are being seeded.
The seeds of the first season should multiply in subsequent seasons. With care — and some fortuitous emergence — we might even be creating a new commons, a widely shared resource for enhanced understanding of risk and resilience.
Previous posts in this series:
The Long Blog: A strategy of resilience (October 19)