Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 8, 2011

Quick Highlights: New directions in national preparedness

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on April 8, 2011

This morning, April 8, Brian Kamoie Senior Director for Preparedness Policy at the National Security Staff made a presentation on the new Presidential Policy Directive on preparedness.  Following is some real-time — unfiltered, decontextualized — impressions as I listen to the webcast.

A couple of weeks ago a colleague and I listened/watched a Congressional Hearing and came away with diametrically opposed take-aways.  We (too) often hear and see what we are prepared to hear and see.  I am, sadly, no different.  Further I prefer reading to listening, so when I have a chance to examine the PPD’s actual text I am likely to disagree with myself.

The text is scheduled to be released at noon today via DHS and FEMA


PPD-8 articulates the President’s vision for national security and resilience.

Three key principles:

  1. Whole-of-nation approach (see immediately prior post).  Reflected already in QHSR, Health security strategy, and in FEMA’s whole community approach on survivors.  Significant references to FEMA — and specifically Fugate — initiatives.  Focus has turned outward
  2. Seek to build key capabilities we need to for flexible, agile response to a wide range of incidences.  Reflective of FEMA’s Maximum of Maximums concept.
  3. Developing measurement systems and outcome assessments.  Are we prepared?  How would we know? Are we better this year than last?  Referenced FEMA’s preparedness task force recommendations.

PPD-8 replaces HSPD-8 (mostly).

Aims to articulate National Preparedness Goal, same details as mentioned  in immediate prior post.  Capabilities will be tied to specific performance objectives.

Critical few shared capabilities,  medical surge and information sharing, but capabilities will focus mostly on real risks.

Capability-based planning will encompass prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

DHS will lead on national preparedness goal, system, and report.

Significant discussion of individual and community preparedness, but I did not hear how this long-term goal is being re-framed or invigorated.

“The nation is better prepared to deal with a catastrophic incident than ever before.”  Example: DHS, HHS, and DOD collaboration on rapid distribution of medical counter-measures.

About 20 minutes prepared remarks.  Q&A followed.


First question, what is resilience?

The NSS Resilience Directorate approaches resilience as reflecting three key principles:

  • Withstand disruption
  • Adapt to change
  • Rapidly recover

These are at the heart of the National Security Strategy, QHSR, and other programs.

Second question, nuclear preparedness.

Referred to Japan lessons-learned, work being done on evacuation and shelter-in-place, and recent exercises.  Gave particular attention to role of public information and engaging the public prior to a nuclear emergency.

Third question, implications of Katrina.

Emphasizes value of core capabilities to respond flexibly to unexpected.

Fourth question, How to measure preparedness?  What are the standards?

Stakeholder engagement is key.  CDC has identified 15 core capabilities. Next step: consultations.  It would be a mistake to do this only within the federal community.

Fifth question, role of NGO in major disasters is taken for granted.  Particular problem assuming NGOs can be prepared to scale-up quickly to collapse of supply chains.

All-of-Nation certainly includes NGOs.  The tough issue is how we effectively collaborate.  This includes understanding what can — and cannot — be brought to the table by any collaborator.

Sixth question, interagency impediments especially related to Stafford Act authorization and resource availability.

There is no easy or automatic answer — especially in regard to resources — but how do we step outside our bureaucratic boxes through collaborative engagement?

Seventh question, is there a conflict between capabilities based preparedness and catastrophic preparedness.

Catastrophic scenarios do not go away.  It is mixing and matching capabilities through planning, exercising, and enhanced collaboration that results in authentic preparedness.

Eighth question, international risk readiness.

And I apologize, but I am being called away.  While posting I have received a copy of the six page PPD.  Rather than simply cut-and-paste (others will undoubtedly do this), please look here over the weekend for an exegesis.


I got back just in time for the last question related to the role of private-public partnerships.  Brian Kamoie’s answer was artful — and deserves a careful transcript — but I heard him say there are contexts where the government must be prepared to defer to private sector capabilities.   As readers know, I am especially inclined to perceive this is the case in many catastrophic contexts.  So, perhaps I am hearing what I want to hear.  But if the PPD is meant to encourage this sort of strategic stance, it would reflect a significant shift in our long-time policy.

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Comment by Peter J. Brown

April 8, 2011 @ 10:11 am

As the White House suddenly leaps aboard the preparedness bandwagon, will we better understand what happened downstream of Executive Order 13407 and how FEMA proceeded with implementation of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)? Is the funding for training – overseen by ASPR? – related to the “Hospital Incident Command System” in place? Do we now benefit fully from the implementation of the National Emergency Communications Plan? Of course, the answers to all three of these questions may not be the ones we expect, nor welcome.

Comment by John G. Comiskey

April 8, 2011 @ 10:38 am

I heard the term “streamlined guidance.” TBD, but I am not holding my breath.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 8, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

Thanks Phil and responding to your post as have not yet read the PDD-8!
First apologies to Brian Kamoie for misspelling of his name in early comments.

I did hear some but not all of his presentation due to streaming problems with computer and limited broad band here in hinterland so perhaps someone has ability to give new link where I can again try to listen.

Actually now thinking better of it will read the doc and then comment further. I do understand there was much discussion of FEMA by Mr. Kamoie and will be interested to know if his remarks cleared with FEMA before delivery and if they reflect the text of the doc.

Pingback by Milblogs | Blog | Getting Prepared for the Big One

April 18, 2011 @ 11:59 am

[…] guys at Homeland Security Watch have a number of posts talking about the new Presidential Policy Directive #8 titled "Preparedness." I wonder […]

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