Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 3, 2010

The B Team’s Beachhead

Filed under: Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on June 3, 2010

In my principal post, immediately above, I argue the National Security Strategy relegates homeland security to the status of a strategic B Team (or continuing with Chris Bellavita’s basketball motif, homeland security is the Junior Varsity).  

If you disagree, it is probably because of the language excerpted below from pages 18 and 19 of the strategy. 

At the very least this section — especially the attention to increased public-private partnerships and engaging communities and citizens — provides a sliver of strategic justification for homeland security to continue positive efforts to cultivate meaningful risk readiness and resilience.   We may still be able to demonstrate homeland security’s potential to contribute to the core of our national security effort.

I don’t doubt the potential of homeland security to confront our challenges.  But convincing our foreign policy, defense, and intelligence colleagues of this potential is quite another matter.  The following is a thin beachhead on which to establish our credibility.  I hope we can make it work as well as Normandy and avoid the pitfalls of Anzio.

Strengthen Security and Resilience at Home

At home, the United States is pursuing a strategy capable of meeting the full range of threats and hazards to our communities. These threats and hazards include terrorism, natural disasters, large-scale cyber attacks, and pandemics. As we do everything within our power to prevent these dangers, we also recognize that we will not be able to deter or prevent every single threat. That is why we must also enhance our resilience—the ability to adapt to changing conditions and prepare for, withstand, and rapidly recover from disruption. To keep Americans safe and secure at home, we are working to:

Enhance Security at Home: Security at home relies on our shared efforts to prevent and deter attacks by identifying and interdicting threats, denying hostile actors the ability to operate within our borders, protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure and key resources, and securing cyberspace. That is why we are pursuing initiatives to protect and reduce vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, at our borders, ports, and airports, and to enhance overall air, maritime, transportation, and space and cyber security. Building on this foundation, we recognize that the global systems that carry people, goods, and data around the globe also facilitate the movement of dangerous people, goods, and data. Within these systems of transportation and transaction, there are key nodes—for example, points of origin and transfer, or border crossings—that represent opportunities for exploitation and interdiction. Thus, we are working with partners abroad to confront threats that often begin beyond our borders. And we are developing lines of coordination at home across Federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, nongovernmental, and private-sector partners, as well as individuals and communities.

Effectively Manage Emergencies: We are building our capability to prepare for disasters to reduce or eliminate long-term effects to people and their property from hazards and to respond to and recover from major incidents. To improve our preparedness, we are integrating domestic all hazards planning at all levels of government and building key capabilities to respond to emergencies. We continue to collaborate with communities to ensure preparedness efforts are integrated at all levels of government with the private and nonprofit sectors. We are investing in operational capabilities and equipment, and improving the reliability and interoperability of communications systems for first responders. We are encouraging domestic regional planning and integrated preparedness programs and will encourage government at all levels to engage in long-term recovery planning. It is critical that we continually test and improve plans using exercises that are realistic in scenario and consequences.

Empowering Communities to Counter Radicalization: Several recent incidences of violent extremists in the United States who are committed to fighting here and abroad have underscored the threat to the United States and our interests posed by individuals radicalized at home. Our best defenses against this threat are well informed and equipped families, local communities, and institutions. The Federal Government will invest in intelligence to understand this threat and expand community engagement and development programs to empower local communities. And the Federal Government, drawing on the expertise and resources from all relevant agencies, will clearly communicate our policies and intentions, listening to local concerns, tailoring policies to address regional concerns, and making clear that our diversity is part of our strength—not a source of division or insecurity.

Improve Resilience Through Increased Public-Private Partnerships: When incidents occur, we must show resilience by maintaining critical operations and functions, returning to our normal life, and learning from disasters so that their lessons can be translated into pragmatic changes when necessary. The private sector, which owns and operates most of the nation’s critical infrastructure, plays a vital role in preparing for and recovering from disasters. We must, therefore, strengthen public-private partnerships by developing incentives for government and the private sector to design structures and systems that can withstand disruptions and mitigate associated consequences, ensure redundant systems where necessary to maintain the ability to operate, decentralize critical operations to reduce our vulnerability to single points of disruption, develop and test continuity plans to ensure the ability to restore critical capabilities, and invest in improvements and maintenance of existing infrastructure.

Engage with Communities and Citizens: We will emphasize individual and community preparedness and resilience through frequent engagement that provides clear and reliable risk and emergency information to the public. A key part of this effort is providing practical steps that all Americans can take to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbors. This includes transmitting information through multiple pathways and to those with special needs. In addition, we support efforts to develop a nationwide public safety broadband network. Our efforts to inform and empower Americans and their communities recognize that resilience has always been at the heart of the American spirit.

The National Security Strategy, pages 18-19

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Comment by Mark Chubb

June 3, 2010 @ 9:30 am

Phil, I wouldn’t be too surprised if some people in the traditional defense establishment would argue this point. To them, homeland security may not have become favored-son, but defense’s influence is clearly diminished going forward as well. If anyone can claim top spot, it’s the Department of State.

In many ways, the NSS views the homeland as less something to defend than something to develop. My issue with this is about both direction and degree. I remain uncertain how the administration intends to achieve its vision of renewal. That makes me more of a skeptic than a cynic, because I agree that the nation and its people possess the essential attributes to exceed their former greatness.

My reservations hover around the emphasis on education, energy and science, which come across as the Obama Administration’s strategic triad. If we’re depending on science as the foundation of energy independence and educational achievement, we are doomed. Science alone, uninformed by fundamental values expressed in the virtues of prudence, temperance, felicity, and justice (among others), lead us to seeing our situation simply as one of making better choices. If these choices are not seen for what they are, which is to say often bad and worse because of our past decisions and actions, we will not take the requisite level of responsibility for reforming ourselves that greatness demands.

For me, this can be summed up nicely by reactions to last night’s blown call by veteran umpire Jim Joyce, which arguably robbed Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. Most observers and commentators have focused on Joyce’s all-too-obvious error, and used it to justify pre-existing biases about umpires. Some have argued that it makes their case for introducing instant replay in baseball. But here’s the irony: We don’t need instant replay to see the truly remarkable thing that DID happen. After the call, Galarraga smiled, continued the game and got the last out. After the game, Joyce reviewed the videotape, acknowledged his mistake, accepted responsibility, and apologized personally and publicly to Galarraga. The two men embraced, and Galarraga was said to have remarked, “Nobody’s perfect.”

We need less focus on pitching perfect games, and more emphasis on the virtues that informed the actions of these two men in the face of their adversity.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 3, 2010 @ 10:31 am

Mark, The grass is always greener, I suppose.

But every flag officer I know supports a significant enhancement of our diplomatic capacity. This will not — however and unfortunately — come quickly. I would say homeland security capacity, as tough as it is, is easier/quicker to establish than diplomatic capacity.

To your main point, I don’t disagree substantively. But I don’t expect this sort of fundamental reform to originate with government.

Our political leadership can help or hurt, but until most of us behave more like Galarraga and Joyce than the typical radio call-in show (leftist or rightist) we will not hold our representatives or our government accountable for your virtues.

Where I think homeland security can assist in reclaiming your virtues is doing our level best to foster communication, collaboration, and resilience between the “tribes” I referenced and in each or our communities and neighborhoods. There are clear prevention, response, and recovery benefits of such work… and there might just be some broader side-benefits as well.

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 3, 2010 @ 10:57 am

Okay back to basics. I view “resilience” as a bottom to top approach but that is not the US current system. Most if not all business plans in the US economy and we could analyze each SIC separately (Standard Industrial Classification) and measure that average security costs and who bears those costs in each sector of the economy, and of course adding the governmental sector also, as well as NGO’s, then we might finally understand that risk is socialized and reward is privatized. Let’s take the airlines that are heavily subsidized from the Weather Service/NOAA, to the building of Airports with tax breaks, to TSA and even in other ways through the tax code. But that industry still cannot make a real profit. But hey if we really believed in the free market why not let foreign airlines take over US airlines or whatever. Perhaps the airlines are a poor choice but what I really find aggravating is the hidden corporate and other subsidies that require federal outlays that actually do nothing but allow almost direct pass through to the private sectors profits and salaries. Why not fully disclose? Because the MEMBERS OF Congress and the Administration and those who feed off the pubic fisc have not interest in doing so. Let me pick on one federal department other than DHS. The Department of Housing and Urban Development. I spent five years there and found out to my chagrin that the department had no intention of housing the people of American no promoting sound community development but was in fact a front for the middlemen of the Housing and Community Development sector. That department opened its doors in 1966. It did nothing to prevent a financial collapse of the housing sector and even now few new starts despite a growing population. Well perhaps redesign is in order, even for DOD. Before that can happen the mistakes and deals and hidden subsidies must be disclosed. No! Well then we will not survive long as the world’s only superpower. Homeland Security should make the “Homeland” safer and more resilient. I would argue much of DHS activity makes it weaker. Pretend security will ultimately fail and that thin veneer makes US less safe. Is that what we (US) wants, to be less safe despite our investments?

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