Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 28, 2011

Napolitano says we will have the resources. Are we ready for the responsibility?

Filed under: DHS News — by Philip J. Palin on January 28, 2011

Yesterday Secretary Napolitano gave a “State of Homeland Security” address at The George Washington University.  Her prepared remarks are available from the DHS website.

I expect most news stories have focused on the replacement of the color coded alert system.  Good riddance.  Glad it is being replaced.

More substantively there is quite a bit of language — and amplified attention — to the role of the “whole of the nation” or “whole community” in preparedness, protection, response, and recovery.  Some excerpts:

Despite our title, the Department of Homeland Security does not possess sole responsibility for securing the homeland within the Federal government…

But the homeland security enterprise extends far beyond DHS and the federal government. As I said, it requires not just a “whole of government,” but a “whole of nation” approach. In some respects, local law enforcement, community groups, citizens, and the private sector play as much of a role in homeland security as the federal government. That is why I like to say that “homeland security starts with hometown security…”

A study just last year study found that, between 1999 and 2009, more than 80 percent of foiled terrorist plots in the United States were thwarted because of observations from law enforcement or the general public…

And so, every day at DHS, we are doing everything we can to get more information, more tools, and more resources out of Washington, DC, and into the hands of the men and women on the front lines.

Which the Secretary strongly suggests is where each of us happen to be.

Sort of related… Wednesday afternoon during rush hour the Washington DC area was hit hard by quickly falling ice and snow.   It turned into a nightmare commute home for many.  (See Washington Post story)   Evidently tens-of-thousands were surprised.  This is despite the metro area’s horrendous traffic in the best weather, despite last year’s snowpocalypse, despite the breathless warning of weather people all day long, and despite the real surprise of significant snow on Wednesday morning.

Last night we heard snow-thunder across the National Capital Region.  In a more superstitious era someone might have suggested the storm god was slapping his forehead in frustration with how so many could miss all the warnings.

The Secretary is right to push information, tools, and resources out of Washington.  For this to make a difference the rest of us will have to accept our responsibility to pay attention, plan ahead, and practice good judgment.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

January 28, 2011 @ 5:11 am

Whatever the rehtoric DHS still fails to understand its own guidance and policies are top-down and indicate a highly centralized operation. How could it not be when it has almost 100,000 employees that are in strict command and control organizations and ones where community contact is often looked on as a “Problem”!
Some new analytical framework is necessary for DHS and if that framework is delegating the problem to the interest and skills and competencies of the average citizen in preparedness and response there may be a problem. Let’s start with 1.5 million plus VOLUNTEER FIRESERVICE PERSONNEL. Selected with some rigor and obviously motivated what exactly does DHS do to leverage that voluntary effort? We know for a fact that PUBLIC SAFETY capability is off by 25% just since January 2008, three years ago, and what is DHS doing about that trendline? Special populations are now regarded as ones that need skills and competencies to deal with in disasters, children and the disabled for example, and is the effort of DHS for those and other special populations adequate? How about the transportation dependent in major metro areas? What exactly is being done in that arena? What is being done to incorporate the homeless, those without insurance, those who need more education into the preparedness and response fabric? I know why ask why? So Madam Secretary tell exactly how many in DHS during an average day interact with a member of the public and not just another bureacrat?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

January 28, 2011 @ 6:17 am

Bill, I like your suggestion that time-spent-with-the-public could be an important measure of shifting DHS priorities. I hope you might share a bit more on your experience and observation that community contact is a “problem.” How so? A problem for whom? Or a problem that gets in the way of achieving what other objectives?

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January 28, 2011 @ 10:20 am

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