Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 12, 2011

“There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness”

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on April 12, 2011

“There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretend order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.”

The harsh quote is from Jane Jacob’s 1961 masterpiece, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I thought of the quote as I read Presidential Decision Directive 8, harshly titled — but in a different sense of harsh — National Preparedness.

Jacobs was not talking about homeland security as we know it now. She was writing about a different kind of government program focused on a different kind of homeland security:

… there is a housing project with a conspicuous rectangular lawn which became an object of hatred to the project tenants. [Government representatives were] astonished by how often the subject of the lawn came up, usually gratuitously… and how much the tenants despised it and urged that it be done away with. When [a goverment representative] asked why, the usual answer was, “What good is it?” or “Who wants it?” Finally one day a tenant more articulate than the others made this pronouncement: “Nobody cared what we wanted when we built this place. They threw our houses down and pushed us here and pushed our friends somewhere else. We don’t have a place around here to get a cup of coffee or a newspaper even, or borrow fifty cents. Nobody cared what we need. But the big men come and look at the grass and say, “Isn’t it wonderful! Now the poor have everything.”

I do not mean this as a criticism of PPD 8. I tend to agree with Palin’s analyses over the past few days. PPD 8 seems to be a modest evolution of HSPD 8, with more attention to a broader set of stakeholders, and with at least the hint of more flexibility about what preparedness means.

I also do not intend this to be a critique of the men and women who worked (I am told) even before the Obama Administration to author and socialize this evolution of homeland security doctrine. I agree with Teddy Roosevelt’s words, spoken more than 100 years ago:

It is not the critic who counts…. The credit belongs to the man [and woman] who is actually in the arena….

I translate his words to mean it is easier to comment on PPD 8 than it was to bring it to fruition.  Here are some initial reactions to PPD 8.

——————————————————-

PPD 8, to me, is another example of “the dishonest mask of pretend order, achieved by ignoring … the real order that is struggling … to be served.” Such dishonest masks characterizes much contemporary rhetoric marking the struggle to make room for something other than a technicist worldview about governance.

It might be less pretentious to express more narrowly my view PPD 8 is a recent example of the struggle in homeland security between an effort to impose pretend order and the burgeoning emergence of real order.

I wrote about this dynamic in 2010 for an analysis of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.  It is a struggle — in bare metaphorical terms — between Newtonians and Darwinians.

Newtonians see homeland security as a machine whose parts need to be integrated into a cohesive whole, a whole – perhaps — governed by a National Preparedness Goal. Darwinians see homeland security as the emergent product of multiple complex adaptive systems.

Both approaches value order.  Newtonians achieve order through understanding how to use power. Darwinians achieve order by shaping — as they can —  variation, selection, and replication.   One approach is not troubled by pretend order.  The other approach avoids the artificial, not for esthetic reasons, but because of its waste.

When I compare PPD 8 with the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, I am encouraged to think the Darwinian forces are edging ahead in the struggle. But when I compare PPD 8 with HSPD 8, the questioning WTF? refrain comes to mind.

Was the squeeze that produced PPD 8 worth the juice?

——————————————————-

PPD 8 supports an “all of Nation” approach.

The 2007 National Homeland Security Strategy’s vision was:

The United States, through a concerted national effort that galvanizes the strengths and capabilities of Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments; the private and non-profit sectors; and regions, communities, and individual citizens – along with our partners in the international community – will work to achieve a secure Homeland that sustains our way of life as a free, prosperous, and welcoming America.

So how is PPD 8 different? If anything HSPD 8 is more expansive with its “all of planet” approach.

——————————————————-

PPD 8 supports “an integrated, all-of-Nation, capabilities-based approach to preparedness.”

Or, as several analysts have already noted, we now focus on capabilities, not scenarios.

As I understand it, rather than relying on a dozen or so major catastrophe scenarios, the new emphasis will be “maximum of maximums (MOM).” As best as I understand MOM, it means figuring out the worst of the worst things that can happen to a particular jurisdiction, and then working on figuring out what capabilities that situation would require.

How is this not switching from 15 really horrible scenarios to 1 outright ugly and horrible mega-monster scenario?

I know some Newtonians felt chained to the 15 scenarios (almost all of which ended up with the feds showing up to help).  I know Drawinians who treated working on the 15 scenarios as the price they had to pay to get the grants to develop capabilities they wanted.   Is the evolutionary advance that the Newtonians will now be chained to a different rule set?  The Darwinians are already strategizing about how to use PPD 8. Newtonians are waiting for implementation guidelines.

And maybe I’m missing something really significant here, but what is new about the emphasis on capabilities based planning?

Surely one recalls the HSPD 8 spawned Target Capabilities List (TCL):

The TCL describes the capabilities related to the four homeland security mission areas: Prevent, Protect, Respond and Recover. It defines and provides the basis for assessing preparedness. It also establishes national guidance for preparing the Nation for major all-hazards events, such as [my emphasis] those defined by the National Planning Scenarios.

HSPD 8 went from the 15 planning scenarios to 37 TCLs that would allow one to prepare for those scenarios. The TCLs were (are?) grouped according to common, prevent, protect, respond, and recover capabilities.

Does the PPD 8 focus on prevent, protect, mitigate [new?], respond, and recover mean a new set of “core” capabilities are needed? Or are the old ones still ok?

Can Jurisdiction X, whose MOM differs from Jurisdiction Y’s MOM choose to focus on capabilities that are different from Jurisdiction Y?  Does the homeland security ecosystem allow for different “scalable, flexible, and adaptable” capabilities in different parts of the enterprise, or does the homeland security machine demand “a unified system with common terminology and approach?” Or is the answer both?

——————————————————-

And then comes the national preparedness goal (NPG). The PPD 8 version of the NPG is due in September 2011. I say “version,” because I thought we already had a national preparedness goal.

On March 31, 2005 (six years and a day before PPD 8 was signed), DHS issued its interim national preparedness goal:

[The] vision for the National Preparedness Goal is: To engage Federal, State, local, and tribal entities, their private and non-governmental partners, and the general public to achieve and sustain risk-based target levels of capability to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from major events in order to minimize the impact on lives, property, and the economy.

That reads like “whole of nation” and “preparedness capabilities” to me. The words may differ, but the semantics seem the same. Where is the evolutionary advance here?  Do we really need a new national preparedness goal?  If so, where is the demand coming from?

——————————————————-

Then there is the matter of metrics in PPD 8:

… a comprehensive approach to assess national preparedness that uses consistent methodology to measure the operational readiness of national capabilities at the time of assessment, with clear, objective and quantifiable performance measures, against the target capability levels identified in the national preparedness goal.

Assessing preparedness — a code phrase that can be approximately translated into “what has all the money spent on homeland security bought the nation, and how do we know?” — has proven a hellish task.

Some people have suggested the way the Centers for Disease Control assess their capabilities of interest might be a model for the rest of homeland security.

I looked briefly at the CDC March 2011 report, “Public Health Preparedness Capabilities: National Standards for State and Local Planning.”

The 153 page, very well organized, document — based on lots of stakeholder input — describes 15 capabilities, further subdivided into functions, that are still further divided into tasks. (The report is structurally similar to several early DHS publications.)

The document deserves a closer reading than I gave it. It does include a number of measurable objectives (e.g., “Production of the approved Incident Action Plan before the start of the second operational period.”)  But I ran across the following phrase 43 times: “At present there are no CDC-defined performance measures for this function.” (For example: Provide methods for the public to contact the health department with questions and concerns through call centers, help desks, hotlines, social media, web chat or other communication platforms.)

Like the rest of homeland security, the public health community still has some work to do on the measurement issue.

As I wrote in this blog two Octobers ago, there have been at least 6 well-funded pilot efforts to figure out how to measure preparedness. They all proved fruitless for reasons that have more to do with the wickedness of the assessment problem than with the lack of talent, skills and intellect of the people who worked the problem.

Jay Rosen provided a good synopsis recently about the nature of wicked problems that speak to this dilemma. After summarizing the characteristics of wicked problems, he writes

… we would be better off if we knew when we were dealing with a wicked problem, as opposed to the regular kind. If we could designate some problems as wicked we might realize that “normal” approaches to problem-solving don’t work. We can’t define the problem, evaluate possible solutions, pick the best one, hire the experts and implement. No matter how much we may want to follow a routine like that, it won’t succeed. Institutions may require it, habit may favor it, the boss may order it, but wicked problems don’t care.

Rosen suggests a way to treat wicked problems that might be considered for the preparedness effort:

Wicked problems demand people who are creative, pragmatic, flexible and collaborative. They never invest too much in their ideas because they know they are going to have to alter them. They know there’s no right place to start so they simply start somewhere and see what happens. They accept the fact that they’re more likely to understand the problem after it’s “solved” than before. They don’t expect to get a good solution; they keep working until they’ve found something that’s good enough. They’re never convinced that they know enough to solve the problem, so they are constantly testing their ideas on different stakeholders.

Assigning such creative, pragmatic, flexible and collaborative people to the measurement issue might be an evolutionary advance. My guess is they would include many of the people who developed and staffed the PPD. (Many. Not all.)

——————————————————-

I think there is a simple test for the success of PPD 8:

Within 1 year from the date of this directive, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit the first national preparedness report based on the national preparedness goal to me, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. [my emphasis]

In case that language sounds familiar to you, here is something similar from the December 2003, HSPD 8:

The Secretary shall provide to me through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security an annual status report of the Nation’s level of preparedness, including State capabilities, the readiness of Federal civil response assets, the utilization of mutual aid, and an assessment of how the Federal first responder preparedness assistance programs support the national preparedness goal. The first report will be provided within 1 year of establishment of the national preparedness goal. [my emphasis]

I don’t think this requirement to submit a national preparedness report was ever met.

The Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 also required an annual federal preparedness report. I think one such report was written, and completed a few days before the end of the Bush Administration.

——————————————————-

PPD 8 is a 6 page page stone tossed into the water. Its impact on the homeland security enterprise is neither predictable nor knowable. This is one of those situations where we will see causes retrospectively.

But we can fairly accurately predict how stakeholders will respond. As one either cynical or experienced person (or both) noted in a comment to one of Palin’s posts:

Just what we need, More Frameworks, yay! Let the interagency flogging begin and let the state and local stakeholders stand-by to shift course again and relearn new Federal stuff for the 3rd or 4th time this decade.

It need not be that way. PPD 8 is very clear that stakeholder involvement is an important part of turning words into actions that increase the nation’s preparedness.

PPD 8 notes several times that the Secretary “shall coordinate this effort with other executive departments and agencies, and consult with State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public.” [my emphasis]

I do not know what “coordinate” or “consult” means in a Newtonian world. But it is the sine qua non of a social world that values variation, selection, and replication as the path to order.

Watching the changes in the homeland security enterprise over the past decade leads me to believe there is a real order struggling to exist and to be served in homeland security.  The one word name for that order is federalism.  It is accompanied by messiness, inefficiency and other faults that drive Newtonians crazy.  But — like our republican democracy — pretend order is not one of federalism’s faults.

Let’s see how PPD 8 does without a mask.

 

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

10 Comments »

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 12, 2011 @ 6:39 am

Chris:

The principal evolution I perceive in the shift from HSPD-8 to PPD-8 is precisely an earnest opening to involving the “residents” in choosing where (and how) they will live.

HSPD-8 was, for both good and thoughtless reasons, much more federal-government focused (which is distinct from “federal” in your more Madisonian usage). PPD-8 is intended, and I think reasonably well articulated, to open up the process and to move from a largely Newtonian to a more Darwinian approach.

Your usage of “mask” and especially “dishonest mask” suggests to the casual reader that something — probably nefarious — is being consciously hidden. In my judgment, that is not the case with PPD-8.

There is a lack of clarity: common to evolving systems and wicked problems. But if anything PPD-8 is self-conscious of this characteristic and points toward a messy, collaborative, open process for effectively engaging (more than resolving) this reality. If there is a mask, it is an honest mask: This is who I am today, I cannot be sure who I may become.

Moreover, I expect the “owners” of PPD-8 read your Rosen quotes (especially the second) and entirely agree.

To remove any mask I might be accused of wearing: I was sufficiently involved in early work on the PPD to see Darwinians and Newtonians in full battle. Early-on (as usual) Newtonians had the advantage. One of the reasons it has taken so long for the PPD to appear was the unwillingness of a gallant band of Darwinians to give up.

Since December I have had no visibility into the internal process — and being a Darwinian, assumed the worst (especially when no one sent me a preview copy). So I was pleasantly surprised by what emerged last week.

Perhaps you are trying to challenge the Darwinians to eschew the occasionally Newtonian style of the PPD. William Sloan Coffin once told me “the most dangerous revolutionaries are usually in button-down collars.” There is a kind of mask here. Some of it is due to the process of evolution, old forms persist even as new functions are taken on.

But more germane in this case, I perceive, is the Darwinian sense that in some contexts Newton is also correct and helpful and practical. Many Newtonians would annihilate the Darwinians if they could. Darwinians generally value — and even depend upon — Newtonians to do what they do in the context where their wisdom applies.

Much will depend on how PPD-8 is rolled-out, implemented, and engaged. In the near-term Newtonians may well hi-jack the process. But I hope Darwinians will recognize and seize the opportunity being presented.

Phil

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 12, 2011 @ 7:57 am

A great great post by Chris! Newtonian world view now proved wrong by modern Physics. Also the Japanese event now moved to the top of the radiological crisis scale. So here is to Darwin and evolution and spontaneous mutation. As to Darwin I recommend E.O. Wilson’s book “Creation”! I also would recommend Charles Perrow’s “The Next Catastrophe” now out through several editions. That recommendation is issued with a caution that his history in his FEMA and civil defense history is almost totally wrong and could have and should have been rewritten when I provided him documentation through an intermediary at the Hoover Institute (for some of that documentation go to http://vlg338.blogspot.com on the home page)! Civil defense as a factor in policy and strategic balance had been discarded all the way back to the Nixon Administration. After that it was largely just a grant program assisting the STATES EM with the dual use concept.
I am deeply troubled by PPD-8 and don’t defend it. I have learned that its somewhat odd issuance and timing was largely defensive by the Obama Administration in light of the Japanese Nightmare now occurring.
I do think as always that helping to make it meaningful is a worthy task. My problem with this and even past administrations is that the “mask” is to pretend something exists and was not flawed when in fact it was not.

The QHSR is an example. NO bottom up review of DHS programs, functions, and activities was accomplished and if it was certainly not published. This is a statutory mandate. The promise to submit a BUR with the FY 2011 budget was not delivered to Congress or the interested public.

That BUR might well have revealed that much of DHS is not an operationally oriented unit. There are some like the Coast Guard and Secret Service.

Some like FEMA give out money and information and are formulating fill in’s to gaps in State and local capabilities but since FEMA largely relies on self-assessment by its STATE and their local governments FEMA actually has no exact idea of what it find should there be a catastrophe as in Hurricane Katrina in NOLA. FEMA also conducted a Preparedness Review in accordance with another statutory mandate released last fall to Congress and conducted by a commission largely headed by STATES and their locals representatives. It is an extremely strange document that did not refer to the annual preparedness report requirement or even mention the one issued in January 2008 by the departing administration.

But I have a suggestion for Secretary DHS and WH aide John Brennan. Before even starting with the rest of the nation how about a brutal close review of federal capabilities, systems and processes, including legal authority issues. Just such a review was ordered by Director Julius Becton in 1988 in FEMA and conducted under the leadership of Dr. John Powers, PhD (physics) and had Director not been fired over the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station by WH Chief of Staff John Sunnunu might have had a dramatic impact on FEMA. Instead Hurricane Hugo in 1989 almost put FEMA out of business with a total turnover of its programs, functions, and activities to DOD. Always remember that FEMA’s legal authorities were largely delegations from the President and could be transferred on very short notice.

So PPD-8 is an Obama Administration attempt to have a fresh start hopefully accomplishing a lot before any large scale domestic disaster. I ask the question “Will Democracy survive in Japan” to indicate my alarm at what I perceive is the real scope of the event in Japan.

Perhaps PPD-8 should have come out as a new “narrative” on preparedness such as the paperon a new “National Security Narrative” by Mr Y published by the Woodrow Wilson Center and explained in a recent web broadcast event featuring Tom Friedman, Brent Scowcroft, Anne Marie Slaughter, Robert Kagan, Congressman Ken Ellison, and others.
Perhaps oddly that paper and discussion focuses on issues closely related to this post.

Right now this administration is hiding the country’s lack of preparedness. Not unexpected since most administrations in the past have done the same. Black Swan’s do occur and Mother Nature Does NOT GRANT VARIANCES.

I would argue that in a federal system the need is for prioritizing what each level of government can do best, what NGO’s and the private sector can do best and what citizens can do best. This prioritization is never the approach adopted because to do so would bring accountability and that seems the last thing any level of government really wants, and the same goes for most of the citizens and residents of the US.

So time will tell how this all plays out.

Comment by Christopher Bellavita

April 12, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

Phil — thanks for your clarification. I also do not see anything intentionally nefarious in PPD 8. I get somewhat cautious when I see language like “series of integrated planning frameworks.” It returns me to things like the “homeland security management system” and its ilk. But — as you helpfully remind me — there is still lots of room for and value to the Newtonian perspective, in both the political and the operational world. As I think you and I have discussed, I’m not looking to get rid of Newton. I do want him to move over a bit and make room for Darwin. I think, like the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, PPD 8 provides an opportunity. You expressed it more effectively: my hope is homeland security mechanics do not successfully impose a pretend order over the “appropriate” order that continues to emerge in jurisdictions across the nation.

Bill — to your point about the Bottom Up Review (BUR). I believe a BUR (great acronym, actually) was published in July 2010 (http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/gc_1208534155450.shtm). I think GAO assessed the BUR in a december report 2010. Senator Collins was quoted as saying, “The review is disappointingly short on the programmatic and organizational details that would be necessary for it to serve as a roadmap for advancing the goals outlined in the [Quadrennial Homeland Security Review]….” Representative Thompson had a similar critique: “While the BUR provides more context for how DHS intends to execute its missions, it is not the deep dive that Congress was promised….” I think both objections are characteristic of efforts to apply newtonian procedures to a darwinian process.

And a friendly amendment to your claim, Bill, that modern physics proves the newtonian worldview is wrong. I think the “proof” is Newtonian logics do not explain everything; they certainly explain a lot (and I think about that every time I start my car and then direct it to a different space time coordinate). But they don’t explain everything.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 12, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

Thanks Chris for the link. That report failed to cover the various mandates in the statute requiring a QHSR but hey perhaps it has its purposes.

Personally I like Heisenberg and Fynman of the 20th Century physicists.

Comment by John G. Comiskey

April 12, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

“PJs” [housing developments'] rectangular lawns from outright ugly to handsome and pretty every Sunday morning.

The PJs are a world to themselves. I walked and sometimes ran through New York City’s housing developments for 23 years. I know I was sometimes viewed as an occupying force and on other occasions as someone there to help. I smelled the sometimes times urine stained elevators and hallways and all too often heard the sound of gunfire and saw the resultant bodies.

But most Sundays are different. Early Sunday morning armies of Church ladies, clothed in their Sunday best, march around those rectangular lawns to fill the aisles of many a church. An unnamed CODE [or maybe the hooligans were just sleeping Saturday night off] provides safe passage. In the summer, those rectangular lawns are replete with the smell of barbeques and cornbread.
Note: In those same 23 years things have gotten a lot better: instead of 2600 homicides a year NYC is down to less than 600 and I was sometimes invited to those barbeques. I love homemade cornbread.

So a new code or a revised CODE called PDD-8 offers us whole of nation way to prepare for wicked catastrophes. Sounds good.

Chris,

Some thoughts on your thoughts.
1. A good starting point for a PDD on preparedness should start with identifying preparedness as a wicked problem.
2. PDD should “clearly” offer federal-state-local-tribal-private sector-citizen preparedness integration as an ideal AND
3. Acknowledge Newtonian efficiency and promote [or just allow] Darwinism. Acknowledge that there is little in the way of metrics for wickedness, except if you count the box office take for the Broadway play Wicked.
3a. [example] The Cowboy Code: see http://cowboyethics.org/TenPrinciples.php
4. Tell it like it is -in the real world things get done because real people do them in real time.
People should be asking and sometimes telling [themselves] what they can do for themselves and their neighbors and there government too.

Comment by Christopher Bellavita

April 12, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

Thanks, John. I had not seen the cowboy ethics before. http://cowboyethics.org/TenPrinciples.php

Although the Code of the West was unwritten, every cowboy knew what it was. The Ten Principles are Jim Owen’s distillation of the timeless, universal cowboy values that are still relevant to our lives today. They are at the heart of cowboy ethics and of Jim’s book, Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.

1 Live each day with courage
2 Take pride in your work
3 Always finish what you start
4 Do what has to be done
5 Be tough, but fair
6 When you make a promise, keep it
7 Ride for the brand
8 Talk less and say more
9 Remember that some things aren’t for sale
10 Know where to draw the line

Comment by R.C. Hutchinson

April 12, 2011 @ 10:34 pm

As with many other updated homeland security documents since 2001, PPD-8 includes the newer challenges and terms (buzz words) such as resilience, pandemic and interoperability since Hurricane Katrina. It also resurrects the earlier capabilities and priorities such as prevent, protect, mitigate, respond and recover that were more strongly stressed before and especially after the 9/11 attacks.

Nevertheless, will PPD-8 really affect the concept, definition and/or level of preparedness in and by the United States? Does it bring preparedness back into the national discourse, especially after the recent cascading disasters in Japan? Or is it just pushing the preparedness reset button to develop new national preparedness goals and a new national preparedness system with a likely, similar level of subsequent compliance and implementation? And yes, what is preparedness ? What does it cost? Is it achieved to an adequate level when the budget runs out?

“Coordinate” and “consult” sounds a lot like the development of NIMS 1.0 verses NIMS 2.0 and NRP verses NRF for federal, state, local and tribal interaction and involvement. Due to the rather short time frame for governmental and other bureaucratic organizations to tackle these taskings, I do expect the reoccurrence of the accusations that the documents or products shall be viewed as more federal-centric or driven to meet the time requirements. If nothing else, I expect that NIMS and NRF shall receive a review as a part of the national preparedness system, if they need it or not. This may not be a bad thing since the review was not driven by a failed or poor response to a significant incident or disaster (the usual modus operandi). It may be beneficial to review our strategies and plans without a driving failure or commission findings, but rather through the prism of less or limited resources for truly enhanced collaboration.

However, I fear that Cowboy Ethics shall not be part of the process.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 13, 2011 @ 5:37 am

Presidential Preparedness Directive 8 reflects the strengths and weaknesses of a policy that is realistic regarding complexity, emergence, and resilience. Some cowboys will take pot-shots just for fun. Being realists, most cowboys will wait to see if the city slickers from the White House and DHS are for real. Assuming the authors are for real, if cowboys (and others) with ethics actively engage the opportunity and invitation, PPD-8 will produce helpful and potentially important outcomes. The real problem will be if cowboys (or whoever) are just too busy and decide preparedness does not have to be done (see Code of the West, part 4).

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Not Grokking PPD-8: I’m a stranger in a strange land

April 18, 2011 @ 12:02 am

[...] found myself nodding my head in agreement with Chris’ post underlining the similarities between the new and old preparedness pronouncements (these events, in [...]

Comment by Dale Rose

April 20, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

I’m actually involved in measures development for CDC’s main public health emergency preparedness program. Although this post is purely my opinion, and not a view of CDC, I thought I’d respond to the original post, which pointed out that public health has a ways to go in developing measures in relation to the Public Health Preparedness Capabilities: National Standards for State and Local Planning document. This is undoubtedly true. The readers of this blog might wish to know that CDC has begun to act on this in earnest, which is why we (I’m tipping my hand here) have accelerated the process to develop performance measures for all 15 of the public health preparedness capabilities identified in the document noted above. As the new CDC grant for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program (a cooperative agreement with 62 awardees, including all 50 states, 4 cities, 8 insular areas) rolls out this coming August, performance measures for 8 of the 15 capabilities will be on line – with a mix of both accountability and program improvement-related measures. This is a fact obscured by the (necessary) early publication of the Standards document. By the following budget year, the remaining 7 capabilities will have performance measures as well (although not for all functions across all capabilities). All measures will have been substantially vetted and, in fact, largely developed with the input of state and local awardees, key national association partners, and a host of other critical stakeholders – including various federal agencies (interestingly, some of these agencies are proposing, or have already begun, utilizing a similar measures development process).

All of which is to say: measures have been slow in coming, yes, although for reasons that go significantly beyond the commonly heard refrains of incompetence or ineptitude – although those have probably played a role, too. If an undefined program changes every year or two, either via new policy directives, overhauling legislation, political appointees, different administrations, etc etc., valid, reliable measures that need to track improvement and progress over time go out the window. When the scope of a program is well defined – as in the document mentioned above – measurement development becomes much more feasible and, frankly, quicker. There is, after all, now something structured and enduring to measure. So, stay tuned for more, and keep your eyes peeled over the next year or two. The measures aren’t perfect by a long shot (they never are), but they are a very significant step in the right direction.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>