Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 14, 2010

Should there be a Goldwater-Nichols for citizen engagement in homeland security?

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Organizational Issues,Strategy — by Arnold Bogis on October 14, 2010

“We will support the development of prepared, vigilant, and engaged communities and underscore that our citizens are the heart of a resilient country.”

–National Security Strategy, May 2010

In defense-oriented circles, “Goldwater-Nichols” is shorthand for activity that improves cooperation and integration through reorganization and other measures.  It refers to a law passed by Congress in the 1980s that reorganized the Department of Defense and promoted unity among the various services.  In essence, Goldwater-Nichols is synonymous with the concept of jointness.

What does this have to do with the public’s role in homeland security?  Isn’t it pretty straightforward—get a kit, make a plan, be informed?  In addition, if you see something, say something. Oh, and if someone in your community exhibits signs of becoming “radicalized,” inform the authorities.  And don’t forget to buy the appropriate insurance for the risks present in your area. Etc., etc., etc.

According to national strategies and cabinet secretaries, the citizen plays a central role in homeland security.  There is a lot asked of the public, and the focus areas of these activities are spread across different disciplines and departments.  So is it fair to ask whose job in government it is to wake up everyday and think “how can we better engage the public across the full range of homeland security activities?” “Are there synergies that can be exploited?”  Or, instead, is this an area where the fabled “silos of excellence” are important—due to their distinct natures, keeping the particular responsibilities closest to their related government agencies?

Whole-of-government approaches are sexy (as government goes), theoretically efficient, and bring the promise of relatively quick results.  Yet they are difficult to implement in practice as bureaucracies are not configured to encourage or facilitate this type of approach.  A traditional approach where each department or agency concentrates solely on the area of engagement that coincides with their mission intuitively sounds wasteful, and given the level of success to this point, likely to fail.  However, it could be that given increased priority within their mission sets would result in each distinct effort achieving far greater gains when worked in (practical) isolation.

Personally, I have not yet made up my mind on the possible merits of a comprehensive vs. narrow approach, but it is a discussion that should happen.

For an idea that is considered central to our concepts of homeland security and resilience and as an anointed partner of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities, there is comparatively little effort or resources put towards strengthening the public’s role.

Just for perspective, here is a short list of citizen activities:

Prevention

See something, say something perfectly describes the actions of the Times Square street vendors who noticed Faisal Shahzad’s parked SUV was out of place and alerted passing police.   This campaign is going nationwide as DHS and DOJ promote it in conjunction with a Suspicious Activity Reporting initiative that hypothetically will allow law enforcement personnel to translate the somethings being said into useful information without infringing on civil liberties.

For a supportive view, see a recent New York Times op-ed by John Farmer Jr., a former senior counsel for the 9/11 commission, “How to Spot a Terrorist.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/opinion/28farmer.html?ref=contributors

Preparedness

This aspect has been covered many times by contributors and others on this blog, so I will simply add that an invaluable source of information on public preparedness from a citizen’s point of view is John Solomon, author of the blog “In Case of Emergency, Read Blog” (http://incaseofemergencyblog.com/).  He covers the subject from multiple angles, from innovations in public engagement to interviews with top homeland security officials, and practices what he preaches as a CERT member in New York City.

Mitigation

As the waters receded from the terrible spring flooding in Tennessee, some thoughts turned to steps that residents could take to help mitigate the damage from the almost certain next catastrophic deluge:

http://theklaxon.com/as-tennessee-dries-residents-mitigate

Response

FEMA Director Craig Fugate not only uses the word “survivor” instead of “victim” when describing those impacted by disasters, he recognizes that it is the public that will be the true first responder during any large incident.  In that spirit, Gregg Lord of the George Washington University led a project on “community medical resiliency,” a part of which is the idea that citizens can (and during a catastrophe, will have to) rely upon themselves to provide some measure of basic medical care as officials will be overwhelmed. (Disclosure: I worked on this project so I might be biased concerning the validity of the concept):

http://www.gwumc.edu/hspi/policy/commentary018_supplydemand.cfm

Recovery

It seems obvious that the public will be engaged in recovery activities following a disaster—they are personally involved.  What might not be so obvious is that there are steps that can be taken before an event that will help with recovery afterwards.  The theory behind this concept comes from Harvard Kennedy School professors Herman Leonard and Arnold Howitt, who have written that balancing resource allocation across leverage points (prevention, mitigation, preparedness, preparing to recover, response, and recovery) is vital for crisis management.  In their view, preparing to recover activities have been almost entirely neglected.

For the theory: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/var/ezp_site/storage/fckeditor/file/pdfs/centers-programs/programs/crisis-leadership/Acting%20in%20Time%20Against%20Disaster.pdf

For information on real world application: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/programs/crisisleadership/projects

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12 Comments »

Comment by Dan O'Connor

October 14, 2010 @ 9:39 am

The Goldwater–Nichols Act was an attempt to fix problems caused by inter-service rivalry, which had emerged during the Vietnam War, contributed to the catastrophic failure of the Iranian hostage rescue mission in 1980, (Marine pilots, Navy helicopters, Air Force refuelers, and Army operators= really bad day in American History) and which were still evident in the invasion of Grenada in 1983

Goldwater/Nichols is great in theory but still has not had the impact it hoped to, IMHO. The Interservice rivalries are still prevalent, competing programs/projects and lack of a common language all hampers the “purple” movement.

By and large, it is more a “ticket punch” for a Field Grade Officer or General Officer to land a staff billet to be promotable. To have the joint designation moniker is more important to have worked in the joint arena. Again, this is my opinion, based on some experience and observation.

Culturally, it doesn’t work. If it did, we’d all have the same uniforms, lexicon, weapons, and rates of promotion, schooling, and opportunities. I would never want to be part of the Dept of Defense, Offensive Maritime Division… I want to be a MARINE. The differences and culture are important, albeit to those who want to differentiate.

And finally;

When the Senate Armed Services Committee held its first hearings to consider reorganizing the Pentagon in July 1983, Senator Barry Goldwater opened the proceedings thus:

“The question is, can we, as a country, any longer afford a 207-year-old concept that in military matters the civilian is supreme? Now, I realize the sanctity of the idea of the civilian being supreme. It is a beautiful thing to think about. The question in my mind is, can we any longer afford to allow the expertise of [professional
military] men and women . . . to be set aside for the decisions of the civilians whose decisions have not been wrapped in war[?] We lost in Korea, no question about that, because we did not let the military leadership exercise military judgment. We lost in Vietnam. . . . If that is the way we are going to do it in the future, I think we are in trouble.

In many posts read on this blog, there have been comments about the militarization of homeland security, the DHS focus on hiring veterans, etc. If you add this to the debate of the Posse Comitatus Act, the Patriot Act and other laws and a evolution in military use during crisis/natural disaster, how would Goldwater/Nichols II accelerate this trend?

I think it’s an excellent point for debate and a continuation of the “messy equilibrium” we call American democracy, as it related to preparedness and resilience.

You cannot regulate and legislate reason, yet every day we seem to try. Thanks for an interesting post and look forward to more of your point of view.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 14, 2010 @ 9:59 am

Well Arnold great post. And Dan interesting comment. To deal with DAN first the fiction of Civilian control over the military exists but in reality it does NOT exist any longer. Why and wherefor I leave to others to decide.

As to ARNOLD’s post I think the problem is that all the response mechanisms of federal, state, and local government are somewhat uncertain.

In reality an interested and informed citizenry is deprived of critical information needs in a variety of events. This comes down to informing the citizery who will show up and in what circumstances, what will their training be, what will their equipment be, what will they be doing or trying to do, and how will funding of that response be made or the followup. NO SECTOR of HS/EM really wants the interested public to do anything but accept that the National Emergency System as currently operated is not all-hazards and is NOT repeat NOT accountable for its discretionary actions or failures to exercise discretion. Examples abound. The BP Catastrophe. The recent CA pipeline explosion. Hurricane Katrina. Well how about helping define the sytem in ways that can be translated to the average citizen so that he/she can understand the tremendous gaps and the fact that the SYSTEM may well fail as currently designed despite citizen expectations, whether just or unjust.

And yes Goldwater Nichols should have specified when in JOINT Assignments those in those assignments would wear PURPLE suits or some other dedicated color other than green, blue, white or whatever. And yes the military should be required to wear their uniforms daily so that the coverage of mufti camouflage does not decieve the public as to the size and scope of the military.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

October 14, 2010 @ 10:03 am

In contrast to Dan, I perceive Goldwater-Nichols has been — as major policy reforms go — a big success. While the outcome is not always “purple” and there continue to be plenty of turf-wars, the level of jointness — strategically, operationally, and tactically — is much better than the status-quo-ante. (Dan’s civil-military concerns are important, but I will move on to the HS implications.)

Where I think the Goldwater-Nichols analogy is most appropriate to citizen engagement in homeland security is in how the policy reform embraced and articulated a “ground truth.” From at least Alexander the Great until today Combined Arms has most often determined military effectiveness. Because this is true, the reform was more likely to have some positive impact.

The ground truth for effective homeland security is that we must shift from emphasizing the federal role to emphasizing the state and local role. And we must shift attention from the public sector role to the private sector role. In this nation, given its size, diversity, and core characteristics, a largely decentralized and heavily privatized homeland security strategy is the only really effective strategy.

Paradoxically, it would probably require federal legislation (with teeth) to make this shift. Arnold raising the analogy helps me see this for the first time. Fundamental to the effectiveness of Goldwater-Nichols is how funding is generated and spent. In public policy reform I suppose it is ever thus.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

October 14, 2010 @ 11:32 am

Phil;

My myopic view is a bit jaundiced as an end user of “jointness”…

The policy maybe indeed a success, but at the user level, the practical application was less than optimal. Anytime you compete for funding, recruitment boat spaces, and mission allocation, there is reluctance to work together.

Also, you can also see its relative value (jointness) to the SECDEF by throwing JFCOM(Joint Forces Command) on the savings pile;

Pentagon admits savings unknown if JFCOM closed The Virginian-Pilot Sep 30, 2010

“Several members of the House Armed Services Committee, including its chairman, voiced concern Wednesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to close the Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command would deal a severe blow to collaboration within the military.
As expected, the three Hampton Roads lawmakers on the committee raised objections to the Pentagon’s seemingly abrupt plans to close JFCOM, but they were not alone.”.

Their objections I believe, have nothing to do with joint capability but money and jobs in and around Hampton Roads.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

October 14, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

Phil;

Phil;

My myopic view is a bit jaundiced as an end user of “jointness”…

The policy maybe indeed a success, but at the user level, the practical application was less than optimal. Anytime you compete for funding, recruitment boat spaces, and mission allocation, there is reluctance to work together.

Also, you can also see its relative value (jointness) to the SECDEF by throwing JFCOM(Joint Forces Command) on the savings pile;

Pentagon admits savings unknown if JFCOM closed The Virginian-Pilot Sep 30, 2010
“Several members of the House Armed Services Committee, including its chairman, voiced concern Wednesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to close the Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command would deal a severe blow to collaboration within the military.
As expected, the three Hampton Roads lawmakers on the committee raised objections to the Pentagon’s seemingly abrupt plans to close JFCOM, but they were not alone.”. Their objections I believe, have nothing to do with joint capability but money and jobs in and around Hampton Roads.

Comment by John Scoggin

October 14, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

Back in the 1960′s, we were taught Medical Self-Help (basically Red Cross first aid, CPR and childbirth) and family-level shelter management as part of our required health class. It wasn’t optional, and it even included how to use dosimeters and survey meters. Every high school in the state required this course toward your diploma.

Of course, in those days, we had a somewhat functional RADEF program and quite a few other things which simply don’t exist these days – even after pouring billions into the DHS money-pit.

john

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 14, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

John Scoggin comments require this footnote. Director James Lee Witt of FEMA eliminated the RADEF program over the objections of the National Security Council staff. He was not an all-hazards director but instead followed President Clinton’s direction to focus on natural disasters. Unfortunately neither Director Witt nor President Clinton understood that off site safety of nuclear power plants had been assigned to FEMA in 1979 by President Carter via WH press release and not much more but that program did have a several fundamental underpinnings including the RADEF program which ended under Clinton and Witt. The ignorance of FEMA’s health and safety officer Monica Parsley was partially to blame.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

October 14, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

Thanks for all of the interesting comments.

Dan, your insider view of the success (or lack thereof) of Goldwater-Nichols reforms is very interesting. I have to admit that I was using the term here in its “popular” sense (popular in DC anyway) suggesting the need for jointness and cooperation.

Bill, you make some great points. In particular about information and attitudes. When I was tossing around this idea a while back, the one string that seemed to connect all the activities was the need for information. And while the current ability for a member of the public to gather information and make informed choices is fantastic, there is much government at all levels still needs to provide. And your attitude of planners comment always strikes me as well–plans and top officials point out the central role of the public, while planners often (not always) treat them as just another block on the board to move around.

Phil, I am in absolute agreement. A bottom-up approach is needed, but to work it will require guidance from above. To that point, my favorite Obama quote concerning homeland security (though he wasn’t talking about homeland security):
“What if a politician were to see his job as that of an organizer, as part teacher and part advocate, one who does not sell voters short but who educates them about the real choices before them?”

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 14, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

Whatever the future of this Administration most of its “successes” and “failures” did not involve educating even the interested public. All done by inside the beltway types and their minions. Outside the beltway few understand the stakes. Just as inside the US few understand the stakes of success in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Mexico, East and South Asia generally, and of course Africa. The world is not a “free market” and never will be and now the third major devaluation of the US dollar is underway {the first by a Dem President-the others by Nixon and Reagan] and few inside the US perhaps even the FEDERAL RESERVE understand the full implications for the US future. But hey no shortage of decisions being made in Washington just not with consent of the governed.

Comment by John Scoggin

October 15, 2010 @ 8:37 am

I was Delaware’s RADEF Officer (as an unpaid volunteer, mind you) for several years. What really burns me is the spending of billions for portal detectors which don’t work well enough to do the job, yet DHS isn’t spending a dime on population protection. The old RADEF program and simple instruments did the job for very little $. It should be resuscitated and incorporated in the CERT program.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 15, 2010 @ 10:46 am

Agree completely with John’s comment.

Hey many of the dosimeters were manufactured on an Indian Reservation in Rolla, N.Dakota.

Here is to getting Native Americans involved in HS/EM just like they fight forest fires. Actually fires in the newly annointed wildland/urban interface. My how we progress. Sessue Hayakawa was probably correct: semantics is everything! Could we think before we could think?

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 16, 2010 @ 9:35 am

CORRECTION: Meant to say Could we think before we could “speak” which apparently occurred about 50-75,000 years ago beyond the level of distinctive noises and hand signals.

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