Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 8, 2010

Holistic national security: Transforming belief into reality

In the opening days of his administration, President Obama wrote, “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.” (See: Presidential Study Directive 1)

I testified against this proposition before the House Homeland Security Committee.  I continue to have conceptual and functional reservations.  But today I will embrace the President’s belief and offer a prescription for improving integration, effectiveness, and efficiency.

For this purpose, greater energy and attention  should be given to a specific recommendation of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.  From page 71 of the QHSR:

Build a homeland security professional discipline: Develop the homeland security community of interest at all levels of government as part of a cadre of national security professionals. A well-documented need within the national security community is a professional development program that fosters a stable and diverse community of professionals with the proper balance of relevant skills, attributes, experiences, and comprehensive knowledge. Executive Order 13434, “National Security Professional Development,” initiated a program for developing interagency national security professionals through access to an integrated framework of training, education, and professional experience opportunities. We must work together with our national security partners in bringing that important idea to fruition. As part of that effort, we must take steps to create a homeland security community of interest across the enterprise. Three elements of professional development are education, training, and experience via developmental assignments. State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, DHS and other Federal agencies, and academic institutions have taken important steps to build programs to support these key areas and will continue to emphasize enterprise-wide approaches to enhancing homeland security professional development.

The National Security Professional Development (NSPD) program established under Executive Order 13434 (May 17, 2007) has, to date, been implemented with a bureaucratic minimalism that  has done nothing to enhance capability or capacity in either National Security or Homeland Security, much less for the Platonic form in which these security shadows become an indistinguishable whole.

Today (and for most of the last seventy years) there are various orders of a national security priesthood.  The combination of rigorous education, apprenticeship, mentoring, and field experience required for ordination is reminiscent of the Jesuits at high tide.   There is also competition — sometimes friendly, sometimes not — between the national security analogs of Jesuits, Benedictines, and Franciscans spanning the military, diplomacy, intelligence, and related.

Into this mix the so-called homeland security professions — law enforcement, fire, emergency management, public health, and more — arrive like so many fancy-dressed laity. We are Knights of Columbus who the priestly orders tolerate, encourage, or dismiss depending on personal taste or particular need.

EO 13434 and PSD-1 and the QHSR seem to say that priests and laity should learn together and collaborate toward the same purpose.   If the NSPD  program was undertaken earnestly and mindfully over the next thirty years then, perhaps, the President’s vision could be achieved.   Such is not the case today, to our detriment.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

July 8, 2010 @ 4:41 am

An interesting post!
Focusing on the paragraph following:
“Today (and for most of the last seventy years) there are various orders of a national security priesthood. The combination of rigorous education, apprenticeship, mentoring, and field experience required for ordination is reminiscent of the Jesuits at high tide. There is also competition — sometimes friendly, sometimes not — between the national security analogs of Jesuits, Benedictines, and Franciscans spanning the military, diplomacy, intelligence, and related.”

I would add of course in many instances the notion that elitism, secrecy, and abuse of our Republic held full swale in the National Security state. Was this necessary? Only for self protection of the priesthood and not for protection of the country. Where do we really stand after the efforts of that priesthood over 70 years? A weaker country with the existential threat of WMD still in existence, in fact proliferated into the chaos of the 21st century now with organized violence and threats no longer the exclusive perogative of nation states and the system created post treaty of Westphalia [1648] when the wars of religion evolved in the wars of nation states. Now the gifts of technology have been determined to not be so benigh nor necessarily controllable by the current levels of governance and its institutions including multilateral ones and therefore
a more dangerous world than any.
But hey you have to admire the priesthood for being so skillful in deflecting any criticism on that basis that critics are unpatriotic and just “don’t know the real story”!
Is there really civilian control? Well the fig leaf continues to have some value but if the last two decades are closely examined it is not really a system of control but a system of negotiated mission and goals.
Well time will tell whether what was founded on July 4, 1776, a new society in a new world will even be around by the tricentennial. And as for the Constitution does it thrive? Eye of the beholder perhaps! After SCOTUS issued unanimous opinions in 45% of its decisions last year.
I still like the Andrew Jackson quote when President “the purpose of government is NOT to make men rich”!

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 8, 2010 @ 7:52 am

Apparently there has been a leak of the bottom-up-review portion of the HSQR. It has made its way to the Homeland Security Committee on the HILL which already has criticized its contents and quality. That review was statutorilly mandated but NOT included in the originally release document. In fact it is the heart of any quadrennial review.

Comment by Mark Chubb

July 8, 2010 @ 10:02 am

Phil, your comparison of the homeland security laity and priesthood to Catholic holy orders and monastic traditions brought to mind the widely circulated “A Short Guide to Comparative Religions,” versions of which can be found here, here and here, as well as t-shirts practically anywhere. As a recovering Catholic and polyglot humanist I find myself drawn to such analogies, and always find them at least a little bit humorous as well as intensely instructive. The lesson for us in such comparisons always seems to be, “Don’t take yourself, your ideas or your symbols too seriously.”

Comment by John Comiskey

July 8, 2010 @ 11:52 am

Homeland Security 2010 – a time for metaleadership.

In a war such as this, when high command invariably involves a president, a prime minister, six chiefs of staff, and a horde of lesser planners, there has got to be a lot of patience- no one can be a Napoleon or a Caesar.

-Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1942

Ike was anointed Supreme Allied Commander because he was able to get disparate groups to do great things –D-Day and the allied victory in Europe. The situation required no less –the Axis powers were an existential threat.

Rhetoric and political correctness aside, National Security, by necessity, subsumes Homeland Security and always has. We delude ourselves when we say otherwise. Prior to 9/11, the Feds routinely called upon state and local agencies and the private sector, albeit mostly on an ad hoc basis, to facilitate national security. The system worked most times and on certain occasions failed dismally.

National Security Professional Development seeks to correct those failures and create national and homeland security professionals that will secure the nation.

Like Eisenhower, post-9/11 leaders at all levels will require meta-leadership:

Overarching leadership that connects the purposes and the work of different organizations or organizational units. (Marcus, Dorn, & Henderson, 2006).

Assuming that the Homeland Security Era began on September 11, 2001, the United States’ situation looks like:

1. Terrorists weaponizing airplanes and everything under the sun including their bodies to terrorize mankind.
2. Two preemptive wars that have cost the lives of 4,000 + military personnel and billions of dollars. Iraq offers some hope and Afghanistan less –the long wars seem to be longer and longer.
3. Catastrophic natural disasters plague the nation and its ability to both prepare and respond to them.
4. Our and the world’s economic system is in turmoil –a system that seems to find middle ground between a secure and equitable system and a meta-Ponzi scheme.
5. Deepwater Horizon –a manmade disaster of epic proportions threatens our economy, environment, energy resources, and military resources.
6. Other

To address these threats, whole-of-government initiatives are proposed and sometimes implemented. Today’s Ike-like-leaders are called upon to meta-lead absent an overt existential threat. Most agencies have a core function by which they are measured. Unfortunately, the collateral duties and particularly those that might effectively serve the governed are not readily identifiable. The challenge to the meta-leader is to announce the overarching mission, effectively integrate the instruments of government, and accomplish the mission.

Deepwater Horizon is both a challenge and opportunity for meta-leaders. The ostensible Unified Command is necessary for mission success –stopping the leak and mitigating the spill. The Unified Command in this instance requires government to simultaneously partner with the private sector i.e. BP and regulate and possibly (likely) punish BP civilly and or criminally.

At the same time, the WH has announced via Presidential Memorandum: Long-Term Gulf Coast Restoration Support Plan that the Navy will be in charge. Implementation of that strategy will test meta-leaders and the nation. It raises another issue that is relevant to the national and homeland security discourse: transitional capability.

My fourteen year old daughter plays travel soccer. She has been playing with the same team for the eight years. As the team progressed, the coach emphasized offense-defense transition –the ability to instantaneously transition from one to the other continuously. The stated purpose is to maximize your ability to execute your tactical requirements.

War fighters and homeland security practitioners are by their nature multi-mission and typically in a state of constant transition.

War fighters have traditionally conducted, albeit in military fashion, civil operations either in occupied lands or the homeland as circumstances required them to do so. Likewise, homeland security practitioners have always conducted quasi-military operations in the homeland and in limited circumstances abroad.

The challenge to Meta-leaders is to engender transitional national spirit –to ask and tell all what the government can do and can’t do for them and likewise tell all what they should and shouldn’t do to serve their hometowns and the nation and humanity and to do so as every changing circumstances require.


Marcus. L.J., Dorn. B.C., & Henderson. J.M. ,2006, Meta-Leadership and National Emergency Preparedness

Comment by Dan O'Connor

July 8, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

Excellent point John;

Meta leadership or leaders of leaders execute and lead outside their assigned or traditional professional subject matter expertise. They are usually situationally aware and have high emotional intelligence. It is an influential disposition that is an effective skill in leading teams in and through crisis.

It well may be our future “need” for effective cross discipline emergency response.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 8, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

Post Script: Homeland Security did not start on 9/11/01! STATE and LOCALs were almost entirely frozen out by the National Security priests prior to 9/11/01. The National Guard used to be primarily a state asset. Note activated from Viet Nam to Desert Storm [individual callups did occur}!
As Phil keeps stating–resilience means many things but first are resilient institutions. I could argue that the National Security community has now created at vast expense and effort a non-resilient nation because of its failures of leadership. Many failures elsewher also of course so plenty of blame to go around. That is not however my purpose. My purpose is increasing resilience by appropriate investment and effort and decreasing resilience will continue to occur as long as few willing to speak out on why our governance systems and processes, and economic systems and processes, and non-governmental organizations continue to worry about themselves and not the survival and strengthening of the basic resilience and capabilities of the US polity in general. This is obviously a statement or position requiring documentation. I would start first with the American Empire project of Tom Engelhard and Chalmers Johnson but in a way that effort is naive and does not come close to the need to minimize glorification of and resort first to armed force as the policy of this nation before all others. Chalmers Johnson book “Blowback” and perhaps the book “Charlie Wilson’s War” are filled with examples of the ignorance and lack of sophistication of both our national security and foreign policy elites past and present. Today’s NY Times has an article extolling the deceptions and deceptive strategies of Kissinger and Brezineki (sic)when national security advisers. Perhaps it was in WAPO. Whatever, realpolitik may have its place but how about trying to utilize other than armed force and thereby demonstrate other ways and means of protecting national security.
As I recall the burning of heretics did not save the Catholic Church from the great schism.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 8, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

In the vast majority of traditions priests are, among other duties, custodians of mystery. I honor this role, even when I am pretty sure the custodians are overcomplicating the mystery.

There are plenty of true mysteries in the national security domain. Above John Comiskey does a nice job of outlining a few.

For several years I was a postulate in one of the national security orders. I never took the mysteries seriously enough to be ordained. But here I am all these years later trying to push a new mystery — resilience — into the liturgy.

The priest and laity analogy has the purpose of pointing to a national security hierarchy.

This hierarchy is supposed to serve the needs of the laity. But this is not always the case. The laity is supposed to be very diligent about its own learning and role within the wider faith, but this is seldom the case. The senior priests – bishops if you will – often speak a language and deal with issues totally unknown to most laity. There are, as I mentioned, mysteries.

But two very different chief priests and a major encyclical have now called for priests and laity to seriously engage in shared learning and collaboration and – yes – a common understanding of meta-leadership.

There are small efforts — entirely good and helpful in their way — isolated monasteries nurturing this mysterious vision. When will we see more? NSPD is an obvious means, but I see little evidence it sees itself as a radical agent in the fundamental reform of the “church” of national security.

Comment by Ed Beakley

July 9, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

Leadership is most needed on the edge, when for even the best of leaders, results of their decisions are unknowable and indeed may be faulty. Time is not on their side as they wait for “enough information,” follow the planning, or act to basically contain while gathering more info. Waiting, acting, either is a decision made in critical crisis time.

A good post and worthy of much discussion, IMO. I have comments which I will hopefully keep short. I have spent some significant time in and around exploring the issue of how decisions are made in severe crisis… a couple of points offered.

1)While you use National Security and Homeland Security as the describing actionable terms, it’s worth noting that their is a specific functional difference in USA context of defense (DOD) and security (DHS), different than most of the world in terms of organization, development of leaders, and funding, etc., etc. AND span of control when carrying out their operational functions.

2)When “general or admiral meets war” he well understands the context of decisions/actions at all levels – strategic, operational, tactical. He exists whithin a framework and organization that “owns” him, his people, his equipment, the mission, and eventual outcome.

I don’t believe this can be said of the situation when “SES’er meets disaster” event. That said, for most conventional diasters, it is of little importance that the battallion chief on scene is not in the DHS chain of command. What is important is that if required, the bureaucratic (meant in a good sense) process provides appropriate support at the local level. Indeed, the experience of the security environment leadership in response to Washington type day-day emergencies serves well in times of crisis at some level. Leading to..

3)At the “operator level” whether firemen, police officer, infantryman, or fighter pilot, and the next few levels of their leadership one would find little difference in training, performance, dedication and attitude. But as senior levels are selected, there are significant differences between defense and security. As noted above, given the nature of the crisis, this is an acceptable aspect of much of emergency response. But when faced with the hyper complex type of low probability high impact event, the behavioral response planning, leadership in a sequential process stle may be at least ineffective and possibly negative in effect. This comment is not a ding on one and praise of another, it is rather a comment on the nature of the type of event – an unconventional disaster (as discussed briefly in a previous comment) and what has been done to create avenues of time critical response. Leading to..

4)Initial, time critical response to an “Unconventional Crisis” (as explored and discussed by Dr. Erwan Lagadec at The Center for Transatlantic Relations, Paul H. Nitze School of Adavanced International Studies, The John Hopkins University), requires not a sequential strategy but rather the initiation of a cumulative one – meaning not following some plan that will immediately fall apart because the situation won’t match the occurence, but rather bringing all possible resources to bear so as to limit damage where possible, short circuit potential for snowballing, all the while operating to gather as much information as possible. Some write of swarming attack, this is swarming defense, and while it requires time critical decision making and adaptability, it cannot come about by reaching in one’s hip pocket. Leading to…

5)For the effect desired of a class of leaders to exist that can address serious crisis across multiple complex aspects, the environment in which they are required must be refined. Defining unconventional crisis as unique unto themselves with different process required – one that recognizes time criticality – and application of resources vice sequential behavior is the first step, setting the stage for what needs to be learned, and then what is “leadership” under those conditions. Here the military including NORTHCOM, FEMA, the private sector, and citizen groups are not where we go when things get overwhelming, but rather they are part of that initial “contain and gather info attack as defense.” This is the attitude and approach “I don’t care what it really is, it really is a battlefield, as starting condition.”

As Dr. Lagadec noted unconventional crisis requires unconventional leadership, leadership that starts with defining the problem set as different than the current perspective, and then beginning a different type planning. The necessary participants are what is called a team of leaders.

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