Last night I heard from the third “reliable source” in two weeks that a decision has been made to replace the current collection of Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPDs) with much more concise and truly strategic Presidential Statements of Strategy or some other nomenclature to be decided.
I hope these rumors are accurate. It’s the right direction. Like most previous administrations, the White House was stumbling into the trap of mistaking effective policy guidance with operational micro-management. Two of my three sources suggest a senior official finally recognized that this tendency– among other problems — is a colossal waste of time.
As reported previously, I am a life-long Republican who volunteered on candidate Obama’s Homeland Security Advisory Council. My last assignment was to work with a set of state homeland security leaders to review and suggest a revision strategy for the HSPDs. I am sure this work has been lost and long forgotten. Not all the ideas were mine. Several of the co-authors are now senior administration officials. I think it is worth retrieving… and in the spirit of transparency promised during the campaign, here is the memo.
A Review of Current Homeland Security Presidential Directives and
Recommendations for Action after January 20, 2009
SECOND DRAFT: December 11, 2008
Statement of the Problem
The twenty-four existing Homeland Security Presidential Directives (HSPDs) often obscure and complicate the identification and understanding of strategic priorities for Homeland Security.
Sources of the Problem
1. Many of the HSPDs serve an interagency coordination function that has been superseded by creation of the Department of Homeland Security (e.g. enhanced INS and Customs cooperation).
2. Many of the HSPDs are operational rather than strategic. Moreover, the operational frameworks set-out may not be well-suited to current and emerging conditions and complicate strategic adaptation.
3. Taken together the HSPDs give much more attention to response than to prevention, preparedness, or recovery. Mitigation is seldom considered.
4. Between the first HSPD in October 2001 to June’s publication of HSPD 24 there is increasing attention to threats other than terrorism. Beginning with HSPD 5 (February 2003) a goal is articulated to be prepared for all-hazards (or “terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies”). But there is an ongoing threat-orientation as opposed to a risk-orientation. This is inconsistent with the risk-based foundations of both the existing Homeland Security Strategy and the strategy signaled by President-elect Obama.
5. There is no significant or sustained attention to resilience and the distinction between catastrophic risk and other risk is implicit at best. The current collection of HSPDs offers a broad view of the threat horizon, but very little guidance as to strategic priorities along that horizon.
Proposed Approach for Engaging the Problem
The most serious problems with the current HSPDs will be resolved as the new administration releases its own strategic guidance for Homeland Security. The early publication of an explicit White House Homeland Security strategy will be crucial to giving the current HSPDs badly needed strategic context.
But especially because so many HSPDs have considerable operational implications there is a need for diligence in adapting the HSPDs to emerging needs and the new strategy. Simple abrogation would cause difficult and sometimes unpredictable consequences.
To clarify strategic priorities while avoiding operational discontinuities it is recommended that most current HSPDs be treated in one of three ways:
Affirm and Adapt: Six of the HSPDs focus on strategic goals that are coherent with those communicated by the President-elect during the campaign. In most of these more-strategic HSPDs modest edits will be needed. The one exception in this category is HSPD 8 which should be affirmed, but will need substantial adaptation.
Delegate and Revise: Twelve of the HSPDs focus on operational processes that will benefit from review, updating, possible revision, or other actions but should not require a renewed statement of Presidential priority-setting. Homeland Security Council staff should work with their departmental colleagues to “devolve” these ongoing operational matters to the most effective structures outside the White House. Final devolution may be formalized through Presidential action.
Communicate Strategic Intent of Classified Documents: This review does not address specific revisions to the six classified HSPDs. Declassified versions of these key statements of policy and strategy should be made available, as is the case with HSPD 4 and HSPD 10. Given the nation’s risk environment it is critically important that there be substantive understanding across the law enforcement, fire service, public health, emergency management, related disciplines and the private sector regarding core strategic perspectives and goals.
The exception to these three categories is abrogation of HSPD 1. This document sets out how the Homeland Security Council is organized. This should be replaced. A draft replacement is attached as an annex to this review.
Monday: Specific Recommendations for each HSPD