The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review was released on February 1, 2010, and is available at this link.
Here are two quotes from the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review:
“The effort to strengthen the homeland security enterprise must begin with an evolution in how we think about homeland security itself.” [my emphasis]
“The QHSR process … and resulting report were designed to serve as a catalyst to spur the continued evolution and maturation of our Nation’s homeland security enterprise—the diverse and distributed set of public and private actors from all corners of this Nation.” [also my emphasis]
Evolution or one of its derivatives appears almost two dozen times in the Review.
At one level, perhaps the authors used it as simply a synonym for change.
I prefer to see something potentially more profound.
The biological world — and we are a part of that world — has faced threats for over 3.5 billion years. As Sagarin and Taylor write in “Natural Security,” biological organisms have developed millions of ways to respond to these threats.
Read in a particular way, the QHSR can be viewed as acknowledgement that there is room in homeland security for both design and emergence.
But unlike nature who shapes biological evolution with a blind weaver’s skill, homeland security offers an opportunity for conscious co-evolution. The QHSR calls it “stewardship.”
“Looking forward, and as we consider the evolution of homeland security and this enterprise, we recognize that the enterprise itself requires active stewardship.” [my emphasis]
I understand stewardship to mean taking care of something one has been entrusted with. It is a style of leading notably different — much of the time — from command and control.
If the Review is serious about augmenting the existing homeland security machinery with an explicit evolutionary strategy, it means creating an environment that encourages more variation and less standardization, that supports local and regional decisions about appropriate levels of preparedness and resilience, and that offers flexible grant programs to reproduce and grow smart ideas.
I think I see evidence of those strategic shifts in the QHSR.
On the other hand, I could again be reading way too much into what the authors intended.
The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review describes how the 21st century meaning of homeland security evolved from our history.
“…[H]omeland security traces its roots to concepts that originated with the founding of the Republic. Homeland security describes the intersection of new threats and evolving hazards with traditional governmental and civic responsibilities for civil defense, emergency response, customs, border control, law enforcement, and immigration. Homeland security draws on the rich history, proud traditions, and lessons learned from these historical functions to fulfill new responsibilities that require the engagement of the entire homeland security enterprise and multiple Federal departments and agencies.”
Figure 1 — from the Review — illustrates the evolution.
Biological evolution does not require a vision. It tries a great many things, mostly keeps what is functional and ignores what fails to add some sort of value to the gene pool.
Unlike nature, the QHSR has a vision.
A vision statement typically outlines a future one desires, in this case, a homeland security future for the nation.
According to the QHSR, the purpose of a homeland security vision is to help achieve “unity of purpose.”
“Unity of purpose” appears three times in the Review. “Unity of effort” shows up twenty three times. This suggests getting cohesion around the vision is a huge precondition to ensuring a unified effort in the homeland security enterprise
I use to ask people what the vision was of homeland security. I was not looking for an exact restatement, but rather the sense of it.
I had to stop asking. I rarely got even close to a response that matched the official vision.
Instead I almost always got a reformulation — in Vision Words — of what the person I asked was already doing under the homeland security penumbra.
Prior to 2003 — according to the first homeland security strategy — the United States “never had a comprehensive and shared vision of how best to achieve” the goal of protecting the homeland from future terrorist attack.
Characteristic of the “All Security, All the Time” days after September 11, 2001, the 2003 homeland security strategy sought to remedy the Vision Gap by identifying 10 of them.
The 2007 strategic recalibration included a single comprehensive vision:
The United States, through a concerted national effort that galvanizes the strengths and capabilities of Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments; the private and non-profit sectors; and regions, communities, and individual citizens – along with our partners in the international community – will work to achieve a secure Homeland that sustains our way of life as a free, prosperous, and welcoming America.
The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review reduced the number of words in the vision by half, and included safety and resilience as core ideas.
The new vision is “to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards where American interests, aspirations, and way of life can thrive.”
I did not find much of a difference in the Review between the vision and the definition of homeland security.
The Review defines homeland security as “a concerted national effort to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards where American interests, aspirations, and way of life can thrive.”
“A concerted national effort” is all that stands between the vision and the definition of homeland security. I wonder if that “actionable clue” was intentional.
As I mentioned in the initial QHSR post, the authors reinforce the definition/vision construction by highlighting what it connotes, as opposed to denotes:
“…[H]omeland security is meant to connote a concerted, shared effort to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards where American interests, aspirations, and way of life can thrive.”
Semantically, I think the QHSR could have made clearer distinctions between the vision of homeland security and its definition. But from the view on Mt. Connote, I think I get the point.
So, what is homeland security now?
As best I can tell from the Review, it is a concerted and shared effort to make sure the American homeland is safe, secure and resilient.
That’s the bumper sticker.
The Review summarizes where this effort should be directed:
“Ensuring a shared awareness and understanding of risks and threats, building capable communities, creating unity of effort, and enhancing the use of science and technology underpin our national efforts to prevent terrorism and enhance security, secure and manage our borders, enforce and administer our immigration laws, safeguard and secure cyberspace, and ensure resilience to disasters.”
I used to think “What is Homeland Security?” was a question that troubled only academics. Practitioners were too busy doing homeland security to be overly concerned with how to define it.
I attended a conference last week where the question came up again. Many of the practitioners in the room were concerned there is not a universally accepted definition of homeland security.
I think the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (especially Chapter III) does a more than adequate job clarifying the scope and depth of homeland security. By doing that, the Review contributes to the continued evolution of our understanding about homeland security.
But I do not believe it has much of a chance putting an end to the “What is Homeland Security” question.
I believe not having a precise definition is a good thing for homeland security.
We will know with increasing clarity what homeland security is only as we continue the co-evolutionary work of helping it emerge.