Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 10, 2009

Name the Top Homeland Security Story of 2009 and Win $33.62

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on December 10, 2009

How would you like to win a $33.62 gift certificate from Amazon.com?

Coincidentally, that happens to be the amount Amazon charges to buy Tom Ridge’s “The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege…And How We Can Be Safe Again,” and Michael Chertoff’s Homeland Security: Assessing the First Five Years” .

Both books are ideal holiday gifts for that hard-to-please homeland security professional.

Here are the details:

Please let us know what you consider to be the top homeland security story, issue, event, theme, idea, etc. of 2009.   And let us know – briefly – why you selected what you did. The topic should be something you think significantly shaped homeland security in 2009.

You can post your entries in the comments section of this post.  Or you can email them directly to us at homelandsecuritywatch[at]gmail.com (replacing the [at] with the @ sign).

You may enter as often as you’d like. Judges will decide the winning entry (and nine runners up — if we get that many entries) using the same epistemologically suspect criteria employed to create such other top ten lists as:

GAO’s Top 10 List for November 2009

The Top Ten Technology Failures of 2009

2009′s Top 10 Dirtiest Hotels in the United States

2009 Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens

The Top 10 Forecasts for 2009 and Beyond

The contest closes on Monday, December 28th.  The winning entry will be announced here on Thursday, December 31, 2009.

So take a few minutes and let us know what you think happened in 2009 that is important to the homeland security enterprise.

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6 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 10, 2009 @ 5:31 am

Okay here is my top 20 ranked by direct impact on civil crisis management and response!

1. Continued failure to create a domestic civil crisis management and response system [as mandated by statute] and chain of command.

2. Breakdown in implementation of vaccine production and distribution and utilization despite months of warning for current WHO Swine Flu pandemic.

3. Failure to improve federal efforts on cyber security.

4. Continued failure of Congress to assist in improving Executive Branch efforts on Homeland Security by failure to organize itself properly and going through the 1st session of the 111th Congress with no Homeland Security Authorization bill continuing the record since March 1, 2003, when DHS opened its doors.

5. Continued meaningless reorganizations of DHS and FEMA by their respective management.

6. Continued failure of the FBI to change its culture to fit the post 9/11 effort.

7. Continued failure of the DNI to produce update NIE that could assist in priortization of effort in US foreign policy and foreign relations.

8. Continued failure to produce adequate linguists for the military, state department, USAID, DOD generally, DHS, the FBI and of course the INTEL community.

9. Continued failure to defend against foreign INTEL penetration of US governmental and military systems and in particular the US Congress for its sensitive activities.

10. Continued failure to make progress developing resilency in US political systems(COG and COOP–e.g. no way to quickly replace Senators should there be a catastrophic loss of members)including STATE and LOCAL COG and COOP, economic systems, and military systems vital to national defense and homeland security.

11. Failure to prevent building of DHS HQs at former ST. Es for several reasons. First, targeting. Second, effort is largely a public works project with no real effort at resiliency or dispersal of critical staff and infrastructure.

12. Continued upgrading and building of fixed site EOCs, at FEDERAL, STATE, and LOCAL level instead of creating mobile EOCs.

13. Continued failure to fund, staff, and verify capability of technical response agencies like EPA and DOE that will be reuqired for domestic WMD incident/event.

14. Continued failure to document the exact capability of each STATE for responding to their greatest threats and risks.

15. Reductions in funding and staffs of STATE and LOCAL public safety [Fire Service and Police, EMT, EM, HAZMATS, Communications resiliency, interoperability, and redundancy]!

16. Failure to adopt rumor control mechanisms to deal with rumor spread by new social media in various crisis scenarios.

17. Continued failure of White House and MSM to understand the difference between Public Affairs and Emergency Public Information.

18. Continued failure to view the drug wars as part of the GWOT and prevent terrorist funding through illegal narcotics production and distribution including domestically.

19. Continued failure to develop understanding of what SCOTUS and federal judiciary is undertaking in its various decisons on GWOT!

20. Continued failure to understand that domestic production of terrorists might require different doctrine from the FBI and Law Enforcement Community.

I could easily focus on what the top 20 successes are also but will hold for later.

Just for the record having finally heard several speeches or presentations by FEMA’s new Administrator Craig Fugate I think he gets “It” and that is a big success. Perhaps tops my list. Unfortunately, he will have to succeed in spite of the system not because the system supports his intiatives. Now of course, unfortunately, the real litmus test is can he and FEMA deliver in a castrophic situation with wide-scale geographic impacts.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 11, 2009 @ 10:14 am

Perhaps another big story this year was the first really full year of FEMA handling an enlarged GRANT program to STATE and LOCALs under the revised organization of DHS due to PKEMA that became effective on March 31, 2007! In reality FY 2008 was almost a lost year in gearing up under that reorg for FEMA grants administration. So that got us to FY 2009 which ended in October except the key FEMA grants Administrator left in August 2009 and his replacement not yet confirmed by the Senate. Also only 150 of 198 authorized FTE’s on board in the Grants Directorate.
Of course what you might think if you knew that FEMA’s disaster ops were largely a large scale grant program–Public Assistance and Individual Assistance 9new name I blank on at moment) would have led FEMA over the years to be highly skilled in grant law, appeals etc. No Way. For years FEMA fought even the UNIFORM GRANT REGS now published at 44 CFR Part 11 for FEMA on the basis that the disaster program was the President’s grant program and not subject to OMB guidance or requirements. Of course that fiction ended but it does mean the culture of the disaster folks in FEMA is either ignorance of grant law generally or willingness to ignore its requirements. Now of course the entire separate and apart grant directorate means that competing grant cultures exist in FEMA! Disaster grants and other grants and perhaps even fire grants administered elsewhere. Remember that FEMA was set up in 1978 and implemented in 1979 by President James Earl Carter in part so that so-called one stop shopping by the STATE and LOCAL could be accomplished when it came to federal support. In large part, FEMA was a creation of the NGA and Governors and Mayors. Jimmy Carter in checking approval of the Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 checked off approval but in his own hand signed off with the word “Reluctantly” next to the check mark. Why is this important? Because the grants efforts, and what now I choose to call “resiliency” which is inclusive of mitigation and prevention and protection that should be promoted by the grants process which like the chicken and egg is a perpetual cycle hopefully reduces the need for future federal assistance. Unfortunately, the STATE continue to view both disaster grants and others as just counter cyclical stimulus that is permanent revenue sharing. FEMA of course is complicit in this because it has always failed to measure STATE and LOCAL capability honestly and the STATES continue to insist that all of its self-created 90,000 plus subjurisdictions, many that have less than 3 professional public safety/EM personnel should be major players and recipients of federal grant largesse. This is worse than a legal fiction it is a political fiction. Interestingly in the old federal civil defense program which ran from 1951-1994 under Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress, the program officials actually insisted on states and locals signing contracts enforceable in many ways grants are not for key portions of the Civil Defense effort. Of course in 1950 the modern grant universe did not really exist. In 1940 there were less than 5 million STATE and LOCAL government officials and employees including public safety for a nation that went into WWII with about 140M in population. Now with the effective real population of the US about to be documented by the 2010 Census at around 310M the STATE and LOCAL governments and their contract support number in excess of 40M. So this claimancy on federal support and outlays is a significant claimancy and yet no effort made to figure out whether it is effective for homeland security or emergency management. A subject completely ignored by the FEDERAL government, academics, and think tanks. Well as NAPA concluded in it great line-drawing report of February 1993 “Coping With Catastrophe” just as the President gets the Emergency Management he/she wants, the STATE and LOCALs also get the EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT and HOMELAND SECURITY they want. And what both seem to want is an unaccountable system of funding by and through the federal government to the State and local governments is a constantly enlarging stream of outlays. Based on personal estimate, my guestimate is less than a dozen FEMA officials and employees really understand the full gamut of the grant law that has developed in the US and rivals the regulatory aspects of federal administration. One of the few grant cases to make it to SCOTUS is PENNHURST SCHOOL v. CALIFANO (1982?) which should be mandatory reading for all involved in grant administration and its niceities.

I will save for another post another time that one of the reasons FEMA was a worry to the Cabinet and other independent agencies of the Executive Branch was that based on its “Expertise” it was to measure, document and improve the capabilty of those other entities in EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT! Of course that was never done. So a fun post would be the ranking by worst first of those Executive Branch components that contribute the least to HOMELAND SECURITY or EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT and reasons why! This of course would document there actual assignments in writing by STATUTE or EXECUTIVE order and their respective failures. Hey, why not Congressional oversight hearing Chairman Thompson since enactment of authorizing legislation seems beyond the competence of your committee for DHS. There is a direct parallel by the way. I wonderful (IMO) survey of federal preparedness efforts was sent out and completed under the auspices of the Joint Committee on Defense Production in 1976. That survey helped the NGA in its advocacy for creatio of FEMA.

And by the way, in the meantime does anyone reading this blog understand that their in fact is a National Security role still for FEMA even in the age of Homeland Security?

Comment by DCGomez

December 20, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

I think the top Homeland Security story of 2009 was the continuing concern over homegrown terrorism. It began with the FBI’s revelation, on 02/2009, of Shirwa Ahmed as the first USA citizen to carry out a suicide bombing. This revelation led to a series of stories about the radicalization of Somali youth in Minneapolis and Seattle, and finally to the current HLS concern over the “homegrown” terrorist.

As we look back on 2009 the Amhed story was just the first of many. He was soon followed by Najibullah Zazi, Major Nidal Hasan, David Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana from Chicago, and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee and Syed Haris Ahmed, recently sentenced in Atlanta.

The list continues with Brooklyn-born Betim Kaziu who was charged with attempting to join a Pakistani-based Al Qaeda affiliate in hopes of killing U.S. troops; Michael Finton, a 29-year-old Illinois man who idolized American Taliban John Walker Lindh, and was arrested on charges of plotting to bomb a federal courthouse; Long Islander Bryant Neal Vinas who was arrested in July for allegedly training with Al Qaeda in Pakistan, joining rocket attacks on U.S. forces and giving “expert advice” on the subways and Long Island Rail Road.

Finally, the recent arrest of five American men in Pakistan on suspicion of trying to join militant Islamist groups triggered significant concern about whether the United States has become complacent about homegrown terrorism.

To me, this is the number one HLS story of 2009.

PS. If I win, please donate the award to charity, as I have both books. They are nothing to write home to Mom about. A better selection would be “Terror and Consent” by Philip Bobbitt and “What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat” by Louise Richardson

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 21, 2009 @ 6:33 am

Three nominees:

In the category of top “domestic breaking news” in homeland security for 2009: Growing indications of home-grown terrorism of various sorts from el-Shabab recruitment in the Somali-American community, to jihobbey terrorism in Northern Virginia and elsewhere, to Aryan, survivalist, separatist and other fringe movements on both left and right. The accumulating evidence indicates that the best intelligence and preemption will not be sufficient to prevent renewed terrorist attacks inside the United States.

In the category for top “international breaking news” in homeland security for 2009: A renewed consensus by powerbrokers in both the US and amongst its principal allies to mitigate the terrorist threat in AfPak. Whether this proves to be efficacious or not, the investment of effort, treasures, and lives will frame our counter-terrorist policy for years ahead.

In the category for top “emerging trend” in homeland security for 2009: The critical and commercial success of Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell combined with Elinor Ostrom sharing the Nobel Prize for Economics for her work in polycentrism suggests renewed confidence in the competence of local governance and “informal” mechanisms of governance. Investment in authentic and meaningful local leadership would, overtime, transform homeland security.

Comment by Official Steelers Jersey

August 16, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

A better selection would be “Terror and Consent” by Philip Bobbitt and “What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat” by Louise Richardson

Comment by NFL Pittsburgh Steelers Jersey

August 19, 2011 @ 8:52 pm

Containing the Threat” by Louise Richardson

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