Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 10, 2010

Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood and the place of homeland security

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS,Technology for HLS — by Philip J. Palin on December 10, 2010

             Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-Kentucky).  Picture by the Associated Press

Earlier this week the House Republican Steering Committee and House Republican Conference tapped Harold “Hal” Rogers as the next Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.  Selection of the senior member of Kentucky’s House delegation was greeted by protests from Left and Right.

Mr. Rogers previously served as both chairman and ranking-member of the Homeland Security subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.  He also served on the transportation and defense appropriations subcommittees. (See his official biography.)

Elected in 1980 to represent one the nation’s most economically challenged congressional districts, Mr. Rogers has been effective directing federal funds to a wide array of local wants and needs.  As such he has been assailed by the Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), New York Times, and others as the “Prince of Pork.”  This accusation headlined most of the news coverage given his pending role as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.  Mr. Rogers has joined other GOP leaders in pledging no-new-earmarks.

Constituting less than .05 percent (half of one percent) of the federal budget I perceive outrage over earmarks to be one of those symptoms that complicate diagnosis and treatment of the underlying disease.  In this particular case the pork barrel critiques of Mr. Rogers also obscure his substantive legislative record and specific interest in homeland security.

Full disclosure: from 2005 through 2007 I was Chairman of the Board of a company with a facility in Mr. Rogers congressional district.  As such I often participated in local economic development activities and met with Mr. Rogers or his staff.  During several of these discussions, homeland security was a topic.  While we would not have turned down an earmark sponsored by Mr. Rogers, the company I served did not receive such support. 

From this experience I came away with three strong impressions:

1. Mr. Rogers is an accessible and intelligent man.  He has a particular interest in homeland security and especially in how science and technology can be a force-multiplier.  In my first encounter with the Congressman he quizzed me on homeland security like the former prosecutor he is.  He knows the issues. He understands the complications. He is sophisticated in his strategic approach to homeland security challenges.  He listens.  This personal impression was confirmed by watching him question witnesses in subcommittee hearings. 

2. Mr. Rogers is consistently bipartisan in his approach.  The old saw says there are three parties on Capitol Hill: Republicans, Democrats, and Appropriators. While Mr. Rogers is certainly conservative in most ways, appropriators tend to be pragmatic and less partisan.   This approach served him well in the Minority, it is likely to mark his return to the Majority and to leadership of the full Appropriations Committee.  Chairing Appropriations has been a long-time personal ambition.  On December 31 he will turn 73.  Mr. Rogers is not looking to squander this opportunity.  Leaving a meaningful legacy is one of the more constructive motivations.

3. Like all members of  Congress and most busy professionals,  Mr. Rogers is — at least in part – a creature of his staff and contacts.  Every staff member I met was smart, competent, and wildly over-worked.  Both on Capitol Hill and back in the District what I observed was a tendency for the most narrowly self-interested people to be the most assertive and effective communicators, proposers, and planners.  On several occasions I saw senior public servants choke and defer when Mr. Rogers or his staff were entirely prepared to listen to alternatives.  In retrospect I was one of a whole host of folks who should have — could have — pushed harder on key issues of homeland security.  My hesitation — our hesitation, or cynicism, or laziness, or disdain — just offers opportunity to others who are more willing and ready claim a Congressman’s attention.

Because homeland security — the mission, not the budget per se – is important to me, I will be glad to see Mr. Rogers become Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.   He is more interested in and better able to meaningfully engage homeland security than any other serious candidate for the leadership role.  

As always in democracies — even those with republican constitutions — the quality of leadership will reflect and largely depend on the quality of those who choose to seriously engage the process.

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4 Comments »

Comment by Arnold Bogis

December 10, 2010 @ 1:20 am

While I certainly do not set out to diminish Congressman Roger’s service to our nation or anyone’s political beliefs, I also simply can’t let a few interesting questions and quotes from his website go without inquiry.

–In the larger context, it will be interesting to see the tension between him and Peter King. Unless he considers all homeland security spending falling under the heading of defense spending (and I could understand that argument), he and King will eventually butt heads on programs such as Securing the Cities. It is setting up to be a classic UASI vs. rural royal rumble.

–Speaking of spending, on his website he states, “For the past two years, the Administration has been given a free pass with an unlimited credit card. The results are mind-boggling: 27% growth in non-defense discretionary spending since 2008 – and that’s not including the bailouts and failed stimulus! Meanwhile, the Appropriations Committee hasn’t done its job. No checks, no balances, no discipline.” (http://halrogers.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=216509) Again, no indication if homeland security falls under the larger rubric of “defense spending.” And also no explanation that defense spending (the Pentagon portion) makes up roughly 50% of “discretionary” spending. So what exactly does he propose to cut? Is unlimited defense spending sacrosanct? What about homeland security funding?

–”No plan! No priorities! No product! No commitment to security!” (http://halrogers.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=209583) Again, I would like to point out the part where he accuses the Democratic-led Congress with “No commitment to security.” That honestly doesn’t sound too bipartisan to me. Democrats aren’t any better, but I guess my message is let us not anoint anyone a bipartisan bridge until the results are in.

–This point isn’t a partisan indictment, but more a concern about the whole homeland security enterprise at all levels of government: “While it is unusual for this Subcommittee to hold an open, unclassified hearing on DHS’s intelligence programs, I believe today’s hearing gives us the opportunity to thoroughly discuss what are perhaps our most important homeland security assets: leadership and information.” (http://halrogers.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=174615) The one thing about homeland security, if it requires a role to be played by everyone from the private citizen all the way up to the President, it should not be talked about behind closed doors. While sources and methods do require secrecy, the vast majority of homeland security-related information is kept confidential (if only FOUO) for no good reason. Operational security is not compromised if the vast majority of such marked reports are released, and the public might even become more engaged. So here is hoping that Representative Rogers can drive this agenda.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 10, 2010 @ 4:35 am

Arnold,

While I live on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge and prefer to remain there, I often travel to the deep, dark valleys inside the Beltway. I may spend entirely too much time in those shadowy venues.

Whether it is realism, cynicism, or denial, I tend to read, hear, and dismiss most of the sort of rhetoric you have referenced… especially if it is contrary to perceived behavior. In the case of Mr. Rogers the bipartisanship I have seen relates to how he maintains productive relationships — especially with Democrats on his committees — and ensures that the “other side” is not cut out of the appropriations process.

On the other hand, your point regarding the Republican Mr. King and the House Homeland Security Committee is, I think, precisely on-target. The partisan divide here is between Appropriators and Authorizers (if Chairman King can actually gin up an Authorization Bill). This division is profound. I expect Pelosi and Boehner have a better relationship than that between the chairs of most Authorization committees and most Appropriations committees. The rural-urban split it also real… with implications far beyond homeland security.

In terms of your specific questions, I too am keen to see the answers unfold.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 10, 2010 @ 8:26 am

Well of course posted on my blog at http://vlg338.blogspot.com about Mr. Rogers also.
In the interest of full disclosure give out the following infomation.
I have some unusual history with respect to the great state of Kentucky. As leader of a church youth group we were asked and did several times exchange trips with a church in Pike County. It opened my eyes to a vision of how there was NO real equality in the US since I was raised in the relative wealth then (we were almost all children of serving military officers or civil servants–now Arlington long past being the residential area for those professions–now mostlyl two income households with multiple graduate degrees) but it was still a shock. I read as a young teenage all the books by a former teacher Jessee Stuart and in particular “The Thread That Runs So True” about becoming a teacher and teaching in KY. I have recommended that book to many young and old teachers as giving insight into that profession. And of course I choose to be a second generation civil servant rather than a teacher largely based on the economic hardship my family would face if I became a K-12 teacher. That preference was not even deflected when as a potential draftee teacher deferrments were being offered.
My point is that I have some sympathy deep in my heart for the poor blue-eyed blond master race (being facetious) people that dominate the Appalachian highlands and Eastern KY. The pictures from the Great Depression of those peoples largely the victims of large corporations involved with extractive industries were virtually the same that I saw in the 50′s in my church group visits to Pike County. And of course I am familiar and have read books and seen movies about the “Harlan County” wars. My father (another Welshman) and mother lived when first married on Orinocco Street in Alexandria in a wing of the house of John L. Lewis, President of the UMW, and the two Welsh-Americans were sympatico. My Welsh ancestors largely small farmers and small businessment left Wales in the 1840′s when the facts of economic life were that it was better to raise sheep for English woolen mills than Welshman. The other choice was going into English owned mines for tin and coal and whatever. Given his name and looks I am guessing that Mr. Rogers is in fact of Welsh ancestry. There is a Welsh current that runs deep in the soul of most of that ancestry including some poetry. Not me unfortunately as the poet. But I did grow up with a reading each Christmas of a famous Dylan Thomas poem.
Then in 1972 the daughter of a first cousin twice removed was murdered in Owensboro KY. Note I almost was name Owen. The father was editor of the Owensboro newspaper. Eventually he moved to Parkerburg, W. VA. where he edited a paper until he died. I spent several days in Owensboro and my cousing the editor spent time with me talking about his city and KY.
I also have flown over parts of KY where if you want a modern vision of the NO MAN’s Land of WWI you only have to look down to see man’s savage damages to mother nature.
And then in the fall of 2005 I was asked to prepare coursework for the Police and Fire Chiefs of Missouri for a week. In preparation I spent a week in Lexington, a jewel in the crown of KY. Again I was housed and guested by someone with deep deep knowledge of KY and I found out for the first time how his small firm had been shepharded by Mr. Rogers interest in HS. So I guess that history must and should be revealed now.
At any rate, Mr. Rogers has some strong views on defense and homeland security. Whether he accepts my view that both arenas are in failure mode remains to be seen. Of course my belief is that in a modern technological world it is brains not necessarily money that leads to national resilience, adequate defense of the nation and homeland security.

Thus, I have focused efforts to the end that DHS itself, largely created in the summer of 2002 should focus on several missions and objectives.
First, WMD and concerns about that threat.
Second, Cyber Security and concerns about that threat.
Third, Critical Infrastructure Protection and concerns about threats to that sector of the nation.
Fourth, the gathering and collection, analysis, and dessimination of domestic INTEL but doing so in a way as to protect the civil rights and civil liberties that provide the real foundations of our democracy (Republic)!

FEMA is a problem for Mr. Rogers because money and staff for that organization has always been an issue. What has also been revealed over several decades is that what FEMA does and should be doing is not based on conscensus but merely gratuties to the STATE and their local governments in the large part of its business. In short, promoting disasters, not preventing, protecting, or mitigation of disasters has been the FEMA mission as was the worry of more thoughtful people when it was formed.

Well now Mr. Rogers will have to decide if he wants to find out and encourage the important HS and EM missions of other departments and agencies, like HHS and EPA. He may not know it but the current HS/EM system is built on linkages outside DHS and FEMA except that those linkages are not thoughtfully made or even resilient. Also the federalism aspects of HS and EM will be strengthened or weakened by Mr. Rogers actions and decisions.
Phil argues for the intelligence of Mr. Rogers and I believe that is the case. Now is power is enormous and much good and much harm can be caused by this single man and his staff. Let US hope absolute power does not corrupt him too soon.

Comment by Mr. Rogers and the Global Neighborhood

December 11, 2010 @ 10:42 am

Mr. Rogers,
cc: Madame TSA Secretary

Learning recently that the FAA has missing information on aircraft licenses and other pertinent aircraft information very necessary to proper Homeland Security Operations is more distrubing news and is unacceptable. Get it right! 9/11 happened far too long ago to have such fact.

Given the information at hand, now that we have shared such even with those whose intent is to do us harm and We not knowing who is flying the skies above the “neighborhood” -

….maybe you, Sir can appropriate immmediate monies from our bankrupt coffers as a result of the obvious incompetence and void in leadership from both sides of the Congressional aisle.

…just maybe you can get this right and you, Sir can immediately demand that someone capable address this appalling and unacceptable information, demanding an immediate investigation.

For one who must be groped enroute to Haiti or Africa and soon to India to address prerequsite wastewater and water purification project development “water issues” – by the way with no State Haiti desk assistance or anyone else in the US government or Canadian govt for that matter who profess commitment to those less fortunate in Haiti or in Ghana, Rwanda, the Sudan….offer any such assistance in any way….

….or in my travel to the embarassingly gridlocked beltway comprised of those seemingly bedazzled only by their self-serving and self-indulging ways, so impressed with their “entrusted” position as they lust for power and control….

….not you Mr. Rogers as evidently from those who know you are well respected and afforded well derved accolades, but folks like “Mr. Barney” and his Freddie Mac entourage, with my wondering when I look up to the skies over the White House with Cessna and F-16 in escort, if anyone even knows who is in the Cessna or who owns the plane…Get it right for a change! My Asian and EU colleagues hush up when in attendance with them for their opinion of America is no longer something We can defend, it is fact!

….the clock is ticking and these continuous blunders in obvious incompetence and indifference by especially those political appointees at DHS, FEMA and other…compromising the professional commitment in 24×7 diligence of those at DHS, FEMA, DoD, NSA, FBI and others who take their “flag pin” – salute our flag – and take our beloved Republic serious…This is serious business and whether one Cessna or one crop duster, com’on –

….and further Mr. Rogers, did you not scratch your head as well when learning that a teenager, a youngster fell from a 737 jet aircraft – wheel well – over my hometown, Milton, MA — George Bush Sr. birthplace and boasting the best local (MPD) police department found anywhere) in the 737′s southern approach to Logan International from Charlotte Douglas which carries numerous aircraft in this flight path near to or over Milton – what does this say about TSA and airport security. Not much…Let’s get some more dogs trained.

….in fact, 72 reported stowaways since 1996 on jet aircraft…as you Madame Secretary tell those of us who frequently travel of the importance of security and the necessary inconvenience(s) and intrusiveness we must endure at your charge…Get it right! Take some of Nancy Pelosi’s “intentional and abusive travel expenses” and take a trip to Tel Aviv and meet with El Al officials and learn what it takes to safeguard against the evil doers. When my aircraft’s cabin door closes this week as I ambark seeking funding to help ramp up much needed infrastructure work in addressing “water issues” most assuredly sitting next to a Chinese busienss counterpart who has complete support of his government’s reach into such projects in Haiti or throughout Africa, I will be wondering who or what is in the wheel well of the aircraft?

Unfortunately we do not live in Mr. Roger’s PBS world….

….and we have folks that seek our demise and see such continued vulnerabilities which strongly suggest whether it be Congress, the Excutive Branch so inexperienced and so narrow-midned in perspective with a US First Lady who removes the bust of Winston Churchill and replaces it with the bust of Martin Luther King at a time when it is in fact a Winston Churchill we need to give us the leadership, the fortitude to overcome so much adversity and…

….you Madame Secretary who has also failed us at the borders or in the wheel well or in not keeping tabs on people entering this country with visa and later holding expired visas issued five and ten years ago, not citizens, using fake social security numbers, driving without license and registration, law breakers, but Madame Secretary, the simple tracking on the ground and in the air over the White House of a Cessna aircraft, a rather simple record keeping and even this obviously befuddling to you.

Get it right!

By the way, as an American born secord generation Hellene, obviously quite open to my identity and address, since you keep pulling me out of line and continue to look at my briefcase stitching and inside my cell telephone at a time when you do not like a respected and endearing NPR announcer to share his thoughts on when he boards an aircraft at one of our airports, at least from my perspective and most likely the Pakistani fellas and others how board the same flight, it is ok to profile them as they understand better than anyone

God Bless our beloved Republic!

Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah to the majority of this nation founded on Judeo-Christian values and ethics!

Let’s finally get it right!

After all, 9/11 is now almost a decade ago and with so much technological innovation to assure that the world has far more oil than it needs and computer technology which will create computers in the not-too-distant future at incredible speed, let’s get it together and address what is necessary and with our American enterprise lead all to look beyond such dastardly dysfunction and see the possibilities with America again the “beacon of hope” to so many oppressed and so abused.

To this administration and both side of the Congressional aisle and to those in State government, keep your intrusive ways out of the internet unless only for – national security purpose or law enforecement with any such in full support of the American public. You have not enslaved us to your devious perceptions which unfortunately you have perceived to your own demise.

We are the People and it is we through precious vote who have “entrusted” you and you have failed us!

Mr. Rogers, I believe you would koin me in sending – kudos – to those professionals whether here or in London, in Accra, in Cairo and wherever such vigilance is displayed in professional commitment to thwart the efforts of those who prefer compromising mankind and placing a shadow of evil over the good people who everyday truly strive to make this a better for for those who understand the value of each and everyone of us.

I am off to see if I can circumvent with other “experts” the rampant corruption within and outside Haiti as we work tirelessly to address much needed – water issues and housing issues – corruption and turning the cheek towards the children of Haiti, like Pakistan and Palestine and so many places where today some 1 billion people have little or no access to a clean glass of water and children, nearly one year since the devastating earthquake in Haiti have left them in tattered tents, with cholera causing much more uneeded bereavement….

Let’s all do it Right! Let clasp hand, not necessarily embrace, but work together despite our differences and see our similarities and together look beyond the horizon for much promise is our Blessings, yet we must overcome this uttrely selfish existence….

….for each of us deserves dignity and the opportunity to share in the serenity and beauty of our earth in the presence of so many universes beyond even our own.

From a distance, we are but a mere spectrucm of the universe, let us do it Right in every way and share the richness of humanity and for instance, object to the “Brutes of Tehran” who willingly spill the richness in history and of youthful, educated Persian blood on the streets of Tehran as a young woman portrays courage and strives to do it Right! God rest her soul as she should be one more inspiration that all of us circumvent the devious ways of those preferring all their agenda. This is our watch! The children as well as each of us everywhere deserve far much more than the depair and grief which we see everywhere…

“Let’s all do it Right!” That’s the “change” We seek, not the change taken from our pockets by the politicians for their own campaogn coffers….

Christopher Tingus
CEO & Managing Director
GlobalH20Solutions
PO Box 1612
Harwich, MA 02645
chris.tingus@gmail.com

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