Today’s post was written by Daniel W. O’Connor
What is the value of education?
With respect to my valued friends in academia, in my perhaps ill informed opinion, the standard education track(s) create a subject matter myopia that blinds one to ancillary domains and data. You get good at really deep introspection on one topic; but there is no lateral pollination.
There are some amazingly brilliant people working in and on homeland security issues. But does all this expertise create gaps in our observed reality and therefore pushes us to focus on the wrong issues?
What kind of knowledge worker/leader do we want in Homeland Security? Do we want experts or polymaths? Do we want specialists or generalists? Is it an education issue or simply a leadership one? Where does ideology come into play?
Recently two high profile positions in homeland security arenas in a large state were in the news. One gentlemen was leaving and one coming aboard. Highly educated, both these gentlemen talked about their accomplishments and the challenges ahead.
Their concerns were practically identical and mirrored a focus on one particular homeland security function: grants.
One said his primary concerns when he took his job were dealing with a major reduction in the state’s largest homeland security grant and getting more funding. The other gentleman said he was looking forward to managing federal homeland security grants.
Here’s Statement Analysis 101: first thoughts are usually their most pressing concerns.
Is this what Homeland Security has become? I mean is it all about the money? Where’s the depth, the knowledge, and understanding of the complexity and intricacy of homeland security?
I don’t see it.
Does the leadership these people represent either oversimplify their mission or simply want someone else to pay for their experiments and readiness?
Our security seems not hinge on behavior change or resilience, but on money. How much money will it take?
Grants are much like insurance. Those who have it and can get it take more risks than those who do not. The expectation that grants are the panacea for risk mitigation is miserably false, dangerous, and leads to elevated expectations.
How much money does it take to effectively secure a nation?
Does using the funds for more M4 rifles or computer terminals make us safer? What about the training required? What about their application? The requirement is never ending. Is this simply the homeland security manifestation of the military industrial congressional complex?
In homeland security, why don’t we talk about our risk acceptance index? What is our turbulence tolerance? Why don’t we talk about our economy as a risk? Why don’t we talk about our current immigration policy as a risk? What about our energy policy? What about our personal debt, housing, and of course, our expectations?
How smart do you have to be to see the trance-like focus on grants is wrong?
I see grants sort of like overtime pay. Some people become overly accustomed to overtime and create an elevated and false pay scale. Since overtime is not typically a budgeted item, paying it creates organizational shortfalls. Shortfalls create deficits. Then costs have to be trimmed. Since workers are the most expensive and easiest way to reduce budgets, they get axed — creating the need for more overtime. This is cyclical mania.
Grants are the crack of homeland security. If grants were reduced to near zero, what would the safety/security landscape look like?
How smart to you have to be to see grants aren’t too effective in meeting the expectations of the citizenry?
Perhaps a study is in order.