Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 8, 2009

Is the National Security Staff Ignoring the Fram Oil Filter Law?

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Christopher Bellavita on December 8, 2009

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.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 8, 2009 @ 2:15 am

Quoting from Prof. Thomas Birkland’s (PhD)fine article on post 9/11 activity in the Washington Update section of the November 2009 Natural Hazards Observer [published free on-line and in hard copy]on page 18: State and Local emergency managers and academic researchers across many disciplines were ignored in favor of the untested “expertise” of federal law enforcement officals, military officers, and contractors, many of whom had little experience in disaster or emergency management”!
It now appears that in August 2009 FEMA contracted with a largely military oriented firm to produce its first effort at doctrine for disaster operations. What it really documents is that the over 25 planning and guidance documents issued by FEMA and others were not fully coordinated with each other and few if any even in FEMA now understand them or how they work together. It is a cinch that the effort to rewrite HSPD 8 is not being coordinated with that “doctrinal” production effort either and would be surprised if the product from the “doctrine” group due the end of the month will have any clue is might all be for nought with reissuance of HSPD-8 in modified form. Well the federal system is a Constitutional mandate so these efforts had better be fully coordinated with STATE and LOCAL governments because of great importance is that the bulk of the effort is local. Only money and information ususally is provided by the feds in large-scale disasters and of course should some involve technical support that might also need quality integration with ongoing STATE and LOCAL efforts.
By the way is the tasking to the group rewriting HSPD-8 available publically? That might be interesting reading if there is such a document! Signed by the President? Jim Jones? John Brennan? Who is in charge of this administration? Again documents lack of civil domestic crisis management system and chain of command with verified skills and competencies. Looks like ad hoc all the way again. And just as a footnote in 34 years of working for Uncle Sugar the military ad hocs as fast or faster in a crisis than the civil agencies largely due to what I now have concluded is turnover and ticket punching at the officer corps level. Perhaps the 20 years and out system means most of the above are hoping to not have major crisis on their watch. By the way a comprehensive emergency management system is a statutory mandate to the Administrator FEMA in Title VI of the Stafford Act. Perhaps Craig Fugate should be put under oath soon and asked after over 1/2 year in the job of Administrator if he found any evidence of a system, why or why not? And what is he doing to produce one as statutorily mandated? Sorry Craig but you don’t get a pass since you are “experienced EM” in accordance with PKEMA requirement for Administrator of FEMA. And if you think that Janet will be blamed not you you fail to understand DC and its Washington system. “Beware the Trust of Princes [or Princesses]” Advice from political observer of 16th Century Italian City State politics and governance.

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