The Bush administration was criticized frequently for neglecting the part of the National Strategy for Homeland Security that said:
To best protect the American people, homeland security must be a responsibility shared across our entire Nation. As we further develop a national culture of preparedness, our local, Tribal, State, and Federal governments, faith-based and community organizations, and businesses must be partners in securing the Homeland.
Fast forward to the new administration. Here are some words — with my emphasis — from the Obama White House homeland security issue page.
“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.”
Here are some more words — with my emphasis — from Secretary Napolitano’s testimony a few months ago to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
“As a critical part of our efforts, DHS is reinvigorating its coordination and collaboration with our state, local, and tribal partners—the Nation’s first preventers and first responders.”
An uncritical reading of those two quotes would suggest the Obama administration wants to work with, coordinate with, and collaborate with state, local and other non-federal stakeholders in the homeland security enterprise.
Considering what seems to be obvious, I was surprised last week to learn from a group of honorable state and local homeland security leaders the promised coordination may not be happening. At least not when it comes to revising Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8.
Apparently, as a part of a revised HSPD 8, the National Security Staff is developing a list of things state and local agencies will have to do to demonstrate how prepared and resilient they are. I am told it is a list that will make stakeholders yearn for the succinctness of the 37 (or so) Target Capabilities and 1600 (or so) items on the Universal Task list. And — as was the case with the previous administration — grants will be tied to performance, or what can be presented convincingly as performance.
It was difficult enough to demonstrate “preparedness.” (I’m not sure anyone ever did demonstrate it objectively.) Now agencies will have to get ready to demonstrate preparedness and “resilience.”
OK. But if there is one thing to be learned from the previous administration’s efforts to create standards in a vacuum, it is the importance of consulting with representatives from the state and local agencies that will be on the receiving end of new federal “guidance.” Apparently, efforts by legitimate stakeholders to participate in the HSPD 8 revision process are being ignored.
As one leader told me, paraphrasing the 1971 Fram oil filter commercial, “They can take the time to consult with us now, or they can pay later when they have to deal with the push back.”
I wonder if what I heard from those honorable homeland security leaders is correct. Is the National Security Staff drafting a revision of HSPD 8 without involving other homeland security partners?
Assuming there are at least two sides to a story like this, I’d be interested in learning another way to perceive what I’m told is going on.