Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 4, 2010

Death Announcement: The National Strategy for Homeland Security — 2002 to 2010.

Filed under: Strategy — by Christopher Bellavita on March 4, 2010

In May, 1897, reporters gathered clues that suggested Mark Twain was dead.  But Twain lived another 13 years, time enough to write “[T]he report of my death was an exaggeration.”

In September, 1969, disc jockeys and other people collected (and manufactured) evidence proving Paul McCartney was dead.

Paul’s not dead, of course.  Apparently he’s still touring, and in fact is scheduled to appear in Phoenix, Arizona’s techno-euphonically named “Jobing.com Arena” on Sunday, March 28th.  Front row seating packages are available for $2,500 if you require absolute proof that Paul is not dead.

But I digress.

Following in the footsteps of those who tried to push Mark Twain and Paul McCartney to an early grave, I’d like to give six reasons for suggesting the National Strategy for Homeland Security is dead.

Clue number one: In her February 5, 2010 post titled “QHSR: We have a strategy, what now?”, Jessica wrote:

When Congress passed the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, it required the Department of Homeland Security to prepare a Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) to assess the status of our nation’s homeland security efforts and to “delineate and update, as appropriate, the national security strategy….”

One could reasonably infer  — as many people I’ve spoken with have done — that the QHSR is the ontological equivalent of a National Strategy.  The 3.0 upgrade — as it were —  of the two homeland security strategies that came before it.

But unlike the other two documents (the National Strategies of 2002 and of 2007), the QHSR does not refer to itself as a National Strategy for Homeland Security.  Instead, it describes itself as a “strategic document” and a “strategic framework.”

“A Strategic Framework for a Secure Homeland” says the cover of the QHSR.

Is there a difference that makes a difference between a national strategy and a strategic document or strategic framework?

I’m not sure.  But I do know that thinking about that question makes my brain hurt.

I will take the semantic uncertainty as one clue supporting the death hypothesis: the QHSR could have been called the new National Strategy for Homeland Security.  But it was not.

A second clue: I asked the DHS press office if the QHSR was basically the same as the national strategy.  I did not expect to get a response to that somewhat pedantic question from an office I know is probably understaffed and overworked.  My expectations were met.  And I get to create more “suggestive” support for the death hypothesis.

In keeping with the way rumors are created and spread, I heard from a friend in a position to know who was told by someone on the National Security Staff that for all intents, the QHSR is “the defacto national homeland security strategy.”

For my purposes, that’s even better than saying it is or is not the formal National Strategy.  Ambiguity is the fertilizer that gives life to rumor. And to a third clue.

Clue number 4: in Presidential Study Directive 1, the president writes

“I believe that Homeland Security is indistinguishable from National Security — conceptually and functionally, they should be thought of together rather than separately. Instead of separating these issues, we must create an integrated, effective, and efficient approach to enhance the national security of the United States.” [my emphasis]

That Study Directive led to the eventual integration of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council staffs into the National Security Staff (NSS). Could this be the institutional equivalent of the filial cannibalism practiced by wolf spiders?

(Probably not, but I had a bet with a colleague about being able to work cannibalism into a paragraph about homeland security.)

However, I do hear mixed reports about how that merger is going.  CQ Homeland Security (on February 3rd, subscription required), for example, reports some unknown person believes “the merger steers counterterrorism into ‘a mire of bureaucratic and administrative infighting.’”  Ah yes — bureaucratic and administrative infighting, unlike the good old days.  Sadly those rumors must be saved for another day.

But I digress again.  What else on the death hypothesis?

Well, there’s a February 23, 2010 memo descriptively titled “FEMA Administrator’s Intent for Building the FY 2012-2016 Future Year Homeland Security Program (FYHSP).”

That document is intriguing to me for several reasons.  For one, it redefines the QHSR’s barely one month old vision for homeland security.

The QHSR says:

“The vision of homeland security 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.”

The FEMA memo says the homeland security vision is:

“A safe, secure, and resilient homeland where American interests, aspirations, and way of life can thrive.”

I think the FEMA variation is more memorable and more grammatically cohesive than the QHSR version.  But if something as basic as the homeland security vision statement is being changed (improved?) by a component agency, could that be Clue 5?

The most interesting part of the FEMA document with regard to the death hypothesis is in the Overview and Context part of the memo.  It is there one find these words:

The capstone document for FEMA’s planning efforts is the National Security Strategy.”

How come the capstone document for FEMA’s planning is not the National Homeland Security Strategy, or at least the QHSR?

The sound I think I’m hearing is Nail number 6.

Where is the new and improved National Security Strategy, the one that will integrate homeland security, counter-terrorism, national security and who knows what else?

The FEMA memo says the new national security strategy is in the drafting phase.  I was told it was due in November, but since the world has changed so often since November, the strategy keeps getting pulled back into the White House to be modified and sent back out into the interagency world for comment and coordination.

“I’m troubled by that,” says a friend who works with Congress.  “It suggests that events are directing strategy, rather than strategy directing events.”

Not that it matters, but the delay doesn’t bother me.  There are almost 50 national security/homeland security related strategies.  Integrating them will take awhile.

As Dan O’Connor wrote in Tuesday’s post, “paperwork and bureaucracy are not what stop bad people from doing bad things.”

I think strategic leadership — the people guiding the evolving construction that is homeland security — matters more than strategy — the paper.  But I acknowledge there are other views about this.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote “Only when a tree has fallen can you take the measure of it.”

I think the same thing can be said about the National Strategy for Homeland Security.

I liked the National Strategy for Homeland Security.  I will miss it.

But life consumes the dead.  Homeland security keeps evolving.

If the National Strategy for Homeland Security is dead,  long live the National Security Strategy.


Update: The original version of this post incorrectly stated the first National Homeland Security Strategy was published in 2003.  The date of course should have been July 2002.  The Strategy’s not even dead yet, and I can’t remember its birthday.  Thanks to the hypnomogiacally aware Bill Cumming for keeping me honest.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 4, 2010 @ 9:48 am

Well Chris I think you are correct in your assumptions and analyis. So here goes! DHS should have its missions pared down and the fact that the QHSR failed (see footnotes #1 & #2) to accomplish the bottom up review required by statute [now suggested that will be accomplished by the end of this month but I doubt it] it is fair to state that strategically speaking DHS is in total disarray. Even a crazy budget submission e.g. the reduction in the Coast Guard accounts when the Coasties need immediate doubling in size in personnel and funding.
So here is my pare down. Priority for a Homeland Security Strategy and note these do overlap with the National Security apparatus but that sector is so poorly managed and so overfunded and so contractor dominated that the US is now almost powerless as a military force without its contractors. And note that in forced democratization on the Bundewher which replaced the former Wherhmacht i 1950 the US insisted that all logistical support had to be in the private sector. This was to prohibit revanchist revival of the offensive capability. US even dictated uniform styles and shoes and boots.

Okay so again, what is the core of the Homeland Security Strategy and mission. First, prevent utilization or threats of utilization of WMD! Second, effective cyber security, computer security, and critical infrastructure protection. The new “resiliency” aphorism is useful in my opinion. Third, strict border control and tracing of foreign nationals and other who might threaten domestic security. Transportation security should be returned to DOT!

To show how dominated FEMA is in DHS no mention of FEMA in the National Disaster Recovery Framework (draft February 5, 2010) now criticized in writing by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

I think the Obama Administration missed it and the National Security Community is now totally driven by funding issues no longer policy or strategy. It turns out that each Presidential disaster declaration is now being delayed while it is reviewed by NSS (National Security Staff) demonstrating that they either don’t know what they are doing and have no other priorities or just worried that somehow they must be in the rangefinder on domestic disasters but of course as always with absolutely no public accountability. So now the declaratio packages slowed down before by FEMA entering into DHS with probably 5 additional rungs of review under the George W. Bush administration now have half a dozen more under Obama. Someone does not get it.

And more and more the Armed Services Committees and the related appropriation committees of the Congress covet the President’s disaster revolving fund and hope to make inroads on its use for traditional DOD purposes.

What is the bottom line? Under President’s Clinton and Obama the greatest erosion of civilian dominance of the Armed Forces and National Security apparatus in history. Hey DOD desperately publishes report after report that indicate people are NOT joining the military for economic reasons but simple patriotism. Some may fit that mold but I am betting not the majority.

If the Obama statement in the Post is accurate that Homeland Security is National Security then let’s give the DHS types, in particular the Coast Guard, a shot at the DOD budget. And the STATE Dept. and USAID and OFDA. If the only power projection in international disaster situations is DOD is it any wonder that the US is feared and not respected.

If there was a major failure in designing the culture of DHS it was to allow it to pattern itself on DOD and its contractor relationships.

Here’s to an honest bottom up review in which each program, function, and activity is reviewed for the following:

1. Date of first authoriztion or authorization by appropriation:

2. An analysis of how it contributes to protection or prevention of terrorism or acts of terrorists;
3. Whether there is any other element of the Executive Branch involved in adminstration of that program, function or activity, and is there duplication or overlap or another organization that can accomplish the goals and missions more effectively;
4. Whether the program, function, or activity is a line item in the budget;
5. Whether the program, function, or activity depends on its success totally on DHS resources or other departments and agencies of the Executive Branch or State or local resources;
6. Whether the program, function, or activity has been reviewed in depth of currency and effectiveness since its establishment and dates and availability of those reviews;
7. Oh unlucky seven–have the other departments and agencies or the interested public been given an opportunity to comment on those reviews.

This should be enough for starters. I predict DHS does not have the competence to do a bottom up review but as always could be wrong. Why not just let the GAO do it since with a statutory mandate almost 4 years old not yet accomplished by DHS.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 4, 2010 @ 9:53 am

Oh and Chris the first Homeland Security Strategy was issued in July 2002 also under a Congressional mandate. So please change the heading to 2002-2010.

It certainly would be helpful if NO document impact existing documents or strategy or policy would be issued except with at least a brief discussion of their relationships, to include of course amendment or revision, or rescission or supersedence. What there are not enough bureacrats available to accomplish that?

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 5, 2010 @ 1:26 am

Hey I can’t even spell “hypnomogiacally”!

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