Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 4, 2010

“Check Six” — The Ethics of Anthrax Knowledge

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Technology for HLS,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Christopher Bellavita on February 4, 2010

Ethics question: Let’s say you are a military officer whose Oath of Office requires you to disobey an order that violates the Constitution of the United States.

You believe – for reasons that appear almost Talmudic to someone unversed in the details – that the order to be inoculated with an “unapproved anthrax vaccine” is illegal.

You go through the authorized procedures to make your case, including going to federal court.  You lose your case, but not — you believe — on the merits.

Almost one thousand service men and women refuse to receive the inoculation and are punished. You think the punishment was wrong because the order they are accused of disobeying was illegal.

You go on with your life and career.  But you learn that many more doses of the unapproved vaccine are now included in the Strategic National Stockpile.  What do you do?  Do you let it go and just keep your fingers crossed hoping the vaccine is never needed?  Do you trod further down the Quixotic path to battle even more windmills?  Do you stop trying to have the records expunged of those service members you believe were illegally punished?

A few days ago, Edward Jay Epstein  published an article in the Wall Street Journal claiming the Anthrax Attack of 2001 is still an open case.  Reading the article reminded me of the officer’s dilemma.  And a confusing story — at least to me — gets even more confusing.

In a May 2009 article the officer wrote about the vaccine, he noted the

Justice Department alleged the anthrax vaccine program’s “failing” status served as the stated motive in the 2001 anthrax letter attacks. By sending anthrax through the U.S. mail system, the perpetrator was attempting to create a situation where the government might recognize a renewed need for the vaccine.

What does all this mean?  As best as I can summarize:

  • The particular anthrax vaccine was never proven effective.
  • Allegedly, one of the U.S. scientists involved with developing the vaccine sent anthrax through the mails to create demand for more research.
  • It was that vaccine service members were required to take.
  • It is that vaccine that has been included in the Strategic National Stockpile, to be used on civilians if there is a need.

What is the ethically correct action for the officer who believes this to be the case?


The guest author for today’s post is Lieutenant Colonel Tom Rempfer.  LtCol Rempfer is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and an Air Force Command pilot, experienced in F-16s, F-117s, A-10s, and MQ-1s. His prior service included membership on the U.S. Air Force Cyberspace Task Force, as well as flight safety and operational risk management duties. He recently graduated with a homeland security master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School.  His thesis — available at this link — is titled: ANTHRAX VACCINE AS A COMPONENT OF THE STRATEGIC NATIONAL STOCKPILE:  A DILEMMA FOR HOMELAND SECURITY.

If you are one of the people interested in the 2001 anthrax attacks, or anything related to it, LtCol Rempfer’s thesis is worth a read.

“Check six.”  Fighter pilots use this term to warn fellow aviators to look to their six o’clock position and avoid impending threats.  This is the objective of Lieutenant Colonel Tom Rempfer’s Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security thesis.

The thesis details the history of the anthrax vaccine incorporated into the Strategic National Stockpile after the anthrax letter attacks of 2001.  Prior to that time, the vaccine suffered from unapproved manufacturing changes, GAO documented potency increases, controversies over Gulf War Illness, quality control problems, threatened FDA notices of license revocation, Department of Defense (DoD) plans to replace the vaccine and recommendations by the George W. Bush administration to minimize its use in August 2001.

According to the FBI, the anthrax letter attacks in the fall of 2001 by a US Army scientist successfully rekindled demand and overcame the vaccine’s “failing” status.  Since those attacks, DoD leaders leveraged the crimes to revive the anthrax vaccine program and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) endorsed the purchase of over $1 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile, all while federal courts declared the program illegal due to the vaccine’s lack of proper licensing.

The author’s involvement with the DoD anthrax vaccine controversy spanned the ten years preceding his Master’s degree.  He challenged the program in accordance with his Oath of Office, which demanded military orders adhere to the law.

LtCol Rempfer testified to Congress and his legal efforts to seek accountability continue with a recently filed Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court and an ongoing case with the Board for Correction of Military Records.  Well documented alliances in his pursuit of justice include Connecticut legislators such as Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Senator Christopher Dodd,  former Representative Christopher Shays, and a tenacious Veteran advocate, Mr. H. Ross Perot.

The author’s ultimate goal to expunge the records for the almost one thousand Servicemembers wrongfully punished for refusing to comply with the illegal mandate serves as a backdrop, as well as his goal for proper care for those harmed by the vaccine.

The thesis describes unhealthy precedents where illegal policy, resuscitated through bioterrorism, could lead to dramatic expenditures and expanded use of the vaccine for the civilian population.  The author recommends the government resurvey the use of the vaccine for the American people and suggests the new administration should “check six” by ensuring Homeland Security Presidential Directive reviews support vaccine stockpiling in light of the proven efficacy of antibiotics, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The thesis encourages a Presidential Study and Policy Directive process to review systemic problems associated with the anthrax vaccine from a historical lens.  In doing so, DHS Secretary Napolitano protects the Obama Administration from being duped into adopting historically plagued, unnecessary and wasteful policy.


Update: I received the following additional information from LtCol Rempfer a few hours after the original post:

One clarification: the current “lost” case is under appeal, so it’s not over ’till it’s over.

Plus, there’s another case at the corrections board which is an effective win.  The court agreed with my position, ordered the DoD to address records corrections, but the DoD has simply done nothing to correct the wrongs. That case is now headed back to court too, to compell the DoD to do the right thing.

These two latest cases were preceded by a complete win in a separate case.  The government was found to have violated the law because the vaccine was never licensed by the FDA until 2005, six years after they ordered service members to take the vaccine and punished those who refused.

February 3, 2010

Resilience: Recovery Requires Reflection

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Mark Chubb on February 3, 2010

The responses to last week’s post were a bit different from what I expected. But they raised some important questions about resilience that warrant careful consideration in light of this concept’s prominence in the proposed DHS budget request to Congress.

Conventional models of disaster resilience, like the one developed by Michel Bruneau and Kathleen Tierney, characterize resilience as a function expressed over time and domains – physical/technical, organizational, social, and economic – as robustness, redundancy, and resourcefulness. Others add a fourth element – re-design or re-engineering – to express the extent to which resources have to be reprioritized or repurposed to achieve the goals of a given recovery.

In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, many people are wondering how anyone, much less a whole society, can overcome such a catastrophe. This question strikes at the heart of resilience.

From a distance, Haitian infrastructure, government, civil society, and the economy have looked decidedly non-robust. The apparent dependence on outside aid suggests no real redundancy or resources beyond those available in the form of international aid and institutional relief.

Most of Haiti’s institutions and much of its infrastructure were either primitive or in poor condition before the disaster struck. But evidence has already begun to emerge that Haitians are getting on with their lives in a social and economic sense despite the institutional and physical devastation that surrounds them.

The limited and focused effort to grasp recovery so soon suggests something important about Haiti (if not human nature itself) and offers insights into what we can expect from its people in the short-term. This nascent recovery requires little re-engineering or reprioritization on the part of Haitians: Most will do their best to take care of one another, as they always have.

These people, so accustomed to deprivation and loss, given few options besides continual struggle will strive to make the most of any opportunity. The question for the international community and Haiti’s leaders is more complex. How much control will they cede to engage the Haitian people in a recovery effort that addresses the fundamental technical, organizational, social and economic vulnerabilities that created the current catastrophe?

Haiti’s recovery is not just a question of how long it will take to clear debris, restore services, and rebuild infrastructure. In Haiti, as elsewhere, recovery requires reflection. What kind of country does Haiti want to become? What will it take to get there? How can the Haitian people turn this challenge into an opportunity to move beyond their past? What is the international community willing to do to foster sustainable development that engages the Haitian people in determining and achieving their aspirations?

February 2, 2010

Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christopher Bellavita on February 2, 2010

From a colleague:

Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community

ODNI released today: http://www.odni.gov/testimonies/20100202_testimony.pdf

DNI says the strategic landscape has changed in the past year and hits on the major points and threats.  Cyber threat is at the top of the list; Terror is #3:

– Far-Reaching Impact of the Cyber Threat
– The Changing Threat to the Global Economy
– Terrorists Under Pressure; Terrorist Threat to Homeland Remains
– The Growing Proliferation Threat
– Afghanistan
– Pakistan: Turning Against Domestic Extremists
– India
– Mixed Outlook Middle East
– China’s Continuing Transformation
– Outlook for Russia
– Latin America Stable, but Challenged by Crime and Populism
– Continued Instability in Africa
– Mass Killings
– Potential Flashpoints in Eurasia and Balkans
– Regional Impacts of Climate Change
– Strategic Health Challenges and Threats
– Significant State and Non-State Intelligence Threats
– Growing Threat from International Organized Crime

QHSR Released

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on February 2, 2010

Unless you’ve been in a windowless meeting room all day, you already know this: the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review was delivered to congress today.

You can find it on the DHS site by going to this link: http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/gc_1208534155450.shtm

Or, if you prefer to download your copy from the House Committee on Homeland Security, you can use this link: http://homeland.house.gov/SiteDocuments/20100202095427-07430.pdf

Happy reading.  Looking forward to your reaction to this first Review.

Budget in Brief. But not the Questions.

Filed under: Budgets and Spending — by Christopher Bellavita on February 2, 2010

The 159 page DHS Budget in Brief is a page turning read — for many reasons.

One of those reasons is to give you an opportunity to go through the document and capture (with only a bit more rigor than randomness) sentences and phrases that peaks one’s interest to know more.  Or at least it peaked my interest.

I assume authenticity and dedication on the part of those who provided language for the budget in brief.   I understand the Culture of Legislation requires the kind of writing used in the document.  But one can still admire and learn from east coast mountains, even if they long ago eroded into a terrain feature.

Here is Page 1 —

The Vision: Preserving our freedoms, protecting America …we secure our homeland.

[Great vision.  Where do we go to see what freedoms we envision preserving? Or is this one of those things that everyone knows, even without saying?  Could it be “our freedoms” go without saying?  That doesn’t seem right.]

The Mission: “… lead the unified national effort to secure America. We will prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the nation. We will ensure safe and secure borders, welcome lawful immigrants and visitors and promote the free-flow of commerce.”

[That’s the mission. Is it unreasonable to see in a budget document how that leadership will happen?  Is it mostly by writing rules governing how money will be spent?  What is the theory of “leading a unified national effort” embedded in the budget?]

Page 2 was blank.

I assume it was not left blank intentionally otherwise  THIS PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK would have been written on the blank page.

I believe we have René Magritte to thank for this apparent contradiction.

But I digress.

Page 3

The number 56,335,737,000 appeared on Page 3.

My brain is too small to grasp what that number could possibly mean.  So I went to Page 4.

Page 4

Page 4 was also blank.

I still could not tell if it was intentional or an oversight.

Snippets from Page 5 through 11.

[If many of the following italicized phrases –taken from the budget — seem out of context, they slightly are.  The context is available by going to the actual document.]

The FY 2011 budget continues efforts to use our resources as efficiently and effectively as possible. We must exercise strong fiscal discipline, making sure that we are investing our resources in what works, cutting down on redundancy, eliminating ineffective programs and making improvements across the board.

[One cannot go wrong with the promise to use resources as efficiently and effectively as possible.  The “as possible” part is an especially graceful touch.]

To institutionalize a culture of efficiency across the Department, Secretary Napolitano launched the Department-wide Efficiency Review Initiative in March 2009.

[First came the Culture of Preparedness.  Now the Culture of Efficiency.  The Culture of Resiliency may be on its way.  Culture of Legislation does not stand a chance.]


Here’s the theme for what comes next in this Page 5 through 11 review:
DHS secures the United States against all threats through five main missions, each of which is strengthened by this budget:

I took the “five main missions” (the document itself suggests 6 — see Maturing and Strengthening The Homeland Security Enterprise, below), and selectively highlighted programs under each one, along with a phrase or two about some dimension of the program. It’s often a phrase that “speaks for itself.”  Again, a more complete speaking (at least in the context of the Budget In Brief) is in the document.

Taken together, these small sections of the budget give a reminding glimpse of what a massive work this homeland security business is.


1. Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security — “Guarding against terrorism …remains our top priority” [Any questions?]

  • Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT): — 500 advanced imaging technology machines at airport checkpoints
  • Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) — to operate additional AITs at airport checkpoints
  • Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) — additional FAMS to increase international flight coverage
  • Portable Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) — 800 portable ETD machines
  • Canine Teams  —  an additional 275 proprietary explosives detection canine teams….
  • Behavior Detection Officers — enhance TSA’s Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques program [Is the acronym really SPOT?  Who comes up with this?]
  • Address vulnerabilities in the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture — enhance the nation’s ability to detect and prevent a radiological or nuclear attack.
  • Radiological/Nuclear Detection Systems — procurement and deployment of radiological and nuclear detection systems and equipment
  • Law Enforcement Detachment Teams  — LEDETs aboard U.S Naval and partner nation assets accounted for over 50 percent of total maritime cocaine removals.
  • 2012 Presidential Campaign  –  including training for candidate/nominee protective detail personnel. [I like this one the best.  Pundits are pundicating about the 2010 election, and the DHS is way past that, getting ready for the next presidential campaign.]
  • Secret Service Information Technology – provide a multi-year, mission-integrated program to engineer a modernized, agile and strengthened IT infrastructure to support all aspects of the Secret Service’s mission. [Bingo, anyone?]

2. Securing and Managing Our Borders: “We will continue to strengthen security efforts on the Southwest border to combat and disrupt cartel violence and provide critical security upgrades–through infrastructure and technology–along the Northern border.” [South is south, and north is north….]

  • Journeyman Pay Increase – raising the journeyman grade level for frontline Customs and Border Protection Officers Border patrol agents and Agricultural Specialists from GS-11 level to the GS-12 level.
  • CBP Officers funding — The decline in the number of passengers and conveyances entering the United States in FY 2009 resulted in an almost 8 percent decrease in revenues from inspection user fees. CBP therefore has fewer resources to maintain critical staffing levels for CBP officers. [A bad economy is bad for homeland security]
  • Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BESTs) — teams work to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations posing significant threats to border security, including terrorist groups, gang members, and criminal aliens.
  • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Enforcement – An increase of $5M is also requested for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center). [I wonder how many coordination centers there are in the homeland security enterprise.]
  • Intelligence Analysts — fund 103 Intelligence Analysts for Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Coast Guard Asset Recapitalization — continue recapitalization of aging Coast Guard surface and air assets.

3. Enforcing and Administering our Immigration Laws  “…[target] criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety and employees who knowingly violate the law.

  • E-Verify — enhance E-Verify’s monitoring and compliance activities through analytical capabilities that will support more robust fraud detection and improved analytic processes
  • Secure Communities — the identification, apprehension and removal of all Level 1 criminal aliens in state and local jails through criminal alien biometric identification capabilities
  • Immigrant Integration support — national and community- based organizations preparing immigrants for citizenship, promote and raise awareness of citizenship rights and responsibilities, and enhance English language learning and other tools for legal permanent residents.

4. Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace  “DHS … coordinates the response to cyber incidents….” [Any questions?]

  • National Cyber Security Division (NCSD — support the development of capabilities
  • National Cyber Security Center — enhance cyber security coordination capabilities across the Federal government

5. Ensuring Resilience to Disasters  “DHS will continue its increased efforts to build a ready and resilient nation….”

  • Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) — provides a significant portion of the total federal response to victims in declared major disasters and emergencies.
  • FEMA Facilities — address critical FEMA real estate needs.
  • Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grants — support the development and enhancement of hazard mitigation plans, as well as the implementation of pre-disaster mitigation projects.
  • Flood Map Modernization — analyze and produce flood hazard data and map products and communicate flood hazard risk
  • Rescue 21 — The Rescue 21 system replaces the U.S. Coast Guard’s legacy National Distress and Response System and improves communications and command and control capabilities in the coastal zone.

6. [Maybe] Maturing and Strengthening The Homeland Security Enterprise

  • St. Elizabeth’s Headquarters Consolidation:  consolidate executive leadership, operations coordination and policy and program management functions in a secure setting at St. Elizabeth’s. [There’s a wonderful story — for another day — about how St. Elizabeth’s got the apostrophe.]
  • Lease Consolidation – Mission Support;  align the Department’s real estate portfolio in the National Capital Region (NCR) to enhance mission performance and increase management efficiency.
  • Data Center Migration– system and application migration of legacy data centers to two enterprise-wide DHS Data Centers
  • Acquisition Workforce – mitigate the risks associated with skill gaps of the acquisition workforce
  • Science and Technology — S&T Safe Container (SAFECON) and Time Recorded Ubiquitous Sensor Technology (TRUST) programs.
  • Grants – A total of $4B is requested for grant programs to support our nation’s first responders.


Page 12 was blank.

I stopped reading.

But there’s lots more to come in the 2011 budget dance.

February 1, 2010

Budget Day – Part 2 Homeland Security Winners and Not-So-Winners

Filed under: Budgets and Spending — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on February 1, 2010

As noted in my earlier post,  the Department of Homeland Security would receive $56.3 billion, a two percent increase over its FY2010 enacted budget, under the President’s Budget released today.  Of this, $43.6 billion is discretionary, a 3% increase over FY2010.

So who are the winners and losers under the budget?


  • The Analysis and Operations (Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning) would get a 4% increase to $347,930,000.
  • The Office of the Inspector General would get a %14 increase to $129,806,000.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would get a 2% increase to $5,835,187,000.
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would get a 7% increase to $8,164,780,000.
  • The U.S. Secret Service would get a 6% increase to $1,811,617,000.
  • The Office of Health Affairs would get a 53% increase to $212,734,000.
  • FEMA would get a 5% increase to $6,527,406,000.
  • The Science & Technology Directorate would get a 1% increase to 1,018,264,000.


  • Customs and Border Protection would get a -2% decrease to $11,180,018,000.
  • The National Protection & Programs Directorate would get a -3% decrease to $2,361,715,000.
  • FEMA: Grant Programs would get a -4% decrease to $4,000,590,000.
  • US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would get a -2% decrease to $2,812,357,000.
  • >Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) would get a -2% decrease to $278,375,000.
  • Domestic Nuclear Detection Office would get a 20% decrease to $305,820,000.

A few items of note that surely will gain the attention of Congress:

  • Secure Freight Initiative/Container Security Initiative downsizing.  CBP is requesting that the SFI Program be reduced by $16.6 million and that three of its five existing SFI ports (Honduras, Southampton, and Korea) revert to Container Security Initiative program, for which CBP requested a reduction of $50.7 million.  What does this mean?  A focus of remote targeting and examinations, as opposed to 100% scanning of all cargo.  With the Safe Ports Act up for reauthorization this year and focus on DHS implementation of  the port-related provisions in the 9/11 Act,  it is worth watching how Congress reacts to these reductions.
  • The Secure Border Initiative – $574 million, down 20% or $158 million, from FY2010.  How does this affect border security efforts and how will Congress respond?
  • Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines –  $214.7 million increase to procure and install AIT machines at airport checkpoints to detect dangerous materials, including non-metallic materials.  Expect this effort to be well-publicized and lots of review in light of the December 25th attempted bombing.

Budget Day – Security Stays Strong?

Filed under: Aviation Security,Budgets and Spending — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on February 1, 2010

Today is budget day for President Obama.  Expect a Fiscal Year 2011 budget of $3.834 trillion, of which $1.415 trillion is in discretionary funding.   The budget includes a three-year freeze on a number of discretionary program. The budget, if implemented, puts our 2011 projected deficit at $1.267 trillion or 8.3 percent of GDP.

Homeland Security, which has been rumored before Christmas Day to be facing a freeze and possible cuts to programs, will receive a bump up of 2 percent to $46.3 billion.  It is safe to say that the December 25th underwear bomber incident influenced the agency’s budget, with early information released by the White House highlighting $734 million to support the deployment of up to 1,000 new Advanced Imaging Technology screening machines at airport checkpoints and new explosive detection equipment for baggage screening.  There will also be an increase in the number of international flights covered by Federal Air Marshals to “defend against attempted attacks on aviation.”

Interestingly, in the quick overview released at 6am this morning by the White House, there was not a single mention of border security.   Numbers for Customs & Border Protection and related border/immigration programs are worth watching when the budget is released later today, especially as it might give some insight into where immigration reform may fall in terms of priorities for the President this year.

Also of note, the budget includes $33 billion for a 2010 supplemental request and $159.3 billion for 2011 to support overseas contingency operations, including those in operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  DoD family support programs will grow 3 percent to $8.8 billion and State Department funding (excluding war costs) will increase by 2.6 percent.   The President also intends to provide $50.6 billion in advance appropriations for the VA medical care program.

Look for a deeper analysis later today/this evening.

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