I am fortunate this week to spend a few days talking with state, local and federal public safety and military colleagues who are working on tasks Steven Covey would call “Important, but not Urgent.”
The mainstream homeland security enterprise is flowing along its multiple tributaries, working on important and urgent matters. Throughout the country, in meetings, workshops, conferences and the like, there are serious, thoughtful and dedicated people — similar to the ones I’m working with — looking at the pieces of the enterprise, trying to make things better.
Here are some of the issues the people I’m with are considering:
- Multiple methods for doing hazard vulnerability; trying to figure out why jurisdictions are not standardizing on one or several ways to do such an analysis; and why few jurisdictions seem to care.
- Can the Department of Defense actually create partnerships for civil support?
- How to reduce threats to the nation’s highway system, and why was the Highway Watch program canceled?
- How to get serious about the threat of chemical terrorism.
- How to make federal homeland security-related agencies (not just DHS) incubators for creative action.
- Developing a working definition of homeland security a state can use to develop coherent multi-agency strategies and policies.
- How to rapidly detect and respond intelligently to threats to the nation’s food supply.
- What to do about Special Interest Aliens who enter the country illegally.
- How agencies can get better at crisis communication.
- Developing more effective organizational arrangements for multi-agency coordination during a significant incident.
- Reducing the likelihood air cargo will be a tool of terror.
- Coordinating state and local law enforcement efforts to identify and protect critical infrastructure.
- How to standardize and deliver multi-disciplinary preparedness training and education within a state.
- Making more effective use of National Guard assets in homeland security.
- Integrating training for military and civilian disaster responders.
- Building effective working relationships between public safety agencies and civil support teams.
- Leveraging technology to increase public engagement with emergency management.
- Developing and sustaining incident management teams.
- Getting access to federal military reserve forces during a catastrophe.
- The implications of the shift from nation states to market states for counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism. (Well, someone has to think about that.)
Some of the problems and issues in the list are relatively “tame,” and can be addressed through solid research. Other problems are “wicked;” they resist precise formulation and resolutions.
How does one know which is which?
David Snowden offers, in an 8 minute video made available last week (and posted below), a useful way to think about this “sensemaking” activity. It’s one of the more conceptually expanding talks I’ve seen in awhile.