Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 13, 2011

Other views from PPD 8: planning scenarios, capabilities and outputs

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on April 13, 2011

Two homeland security professionals I have a lot of respect for provided additional context on issues surrounding PPD 8.

I am reprinting (below) what they wrote.  The first was written by Bob Ross, the Chief of the Risk Sciences Branch in DHS.  Please note, his views are his own and are not meant to reflect the views of DHS or anyone else other than Bob.  Homeland Security Watch has published his work before (see this link).

The second was written by Dr. Dave McIntyre, who has been involved in homeland security since before it was homeland security.  Dave also maintain the ThinkingEnemy blog.

——–

“…capture the “extreme corners” of a response requirements polyhedron”

Well, I have read Chris Bellavita’s piece several times and I still don’t know quite what to make of it. But I know Chris and have read a lot of his stuff and don’t always know what to make of it. I guess he is a good teaching academic in the sense that he makes you think, rather than merely making you memorize the textbook answer. Not that there are many textbook answers in homeland security – speaking of which, I strongly recommend that you follow Chris’s link to the Jay Rosen piece on wicked problems. I very much like the wicked problem notion and have been trying to get people in DHS and the larger HLS community to grab onto the notion. One of the biggest problems in HLS and DHS are people seeking definitive deterministic (i.e., Newtonian/engineered) answers to questions we are not even sure how to ask.

It seems to me that Palin has it right toward the bottom of his response when he talks to the utility of a Newtonian approach, so long as you stay within its capability range. But when the problem exceeds the bounds of a Newtonian approach, then the Darwinian dynamic will, of necessity, play out. You always need some structure, but not so much structure than you are in an intellectual straightjacket when the unexpected happens.

I think Chris misunderstands the “maximum of maximums notion.” Just as I think most people misunderstand the intended purpose and potential benefits of the 15 planning scenarios.

Many people took the 15 planning scenarios as representing the biggest threats we had to worry about, from both the prevention and response perspectives. That was never their intent, especially with respect to prevention. Rather, they were intended to capture the “extreme corners” of a response requirements polyhedron. If you have the extreme corners accurately identified and are reasonably well positioned to respond to the identified extreme corners, then you should be reasonably well prepared to respond to real events which will almost necessarily fall within the volume encompassed by those extreme corners. The problem with this approach is that the extreme corners are determined by the type of the event (e.g., cyber vs. bio vs. nuclear vs. earthquake vs. ____) rather than by their magnitude or by other relevant issues such as simultaneity and impact on subordinate levels of government. Thus, the national planning scenarios approach focused on the type of required response capabilities rather than the potential total demand for response capacity.

As I understand it, the maximum of maximums approach is intended to get at the total demand for response capacity issue as well as the loss of subordinate levels of government issue. These issues were largely ignored in prior planning. Further, the so-called TOPOFF exercises were more PR events than real exercises and all the really hard logistics stuff was frequently “assumed” away. The upcoming New Madrid and NuDet exercise is intended to get across the capacity issues inherent in really big events, especially when they come, like rattlesnakes, in pairs (or, like Charlie Sheen, in an even larger grouping).

The problem with using the national planning scenarios for determining prevention requirements is that there can be many different paths that lead to a given extreme corner (e.g., a biological emergency can be deliberate, accidental or natural) and a prevention measure that works on one path to a given corner, but not on other paths to that same corner (e.g., screening 100% of containers but ignoring other kinds of ships and much of aviation), may have no real impact in reducing the probability of that corner event actually occurring. Different analytic and planning frameworks are required for prevention and response functions, as well as for different event scales.

Bob Ross

———

 

“…more focus on required outputs”

Chris’ comments reflect my own puzzlement.

As I remember it, the big stir around the 15 planning scenarios when they were announced was that they were outside the experience or vision or capability of many responders, jurisdictions, staffs and organizations. The focus as Bob says was on the types of events, not the degrees, so the focus that followed was on the types of capabilities required to respond, not the scale of those capabilities. This has been a useful endeavor.

And yes, organizations that had previously not considered response and recovery from most of these threats/scenarios began to look at the famous 15 as the upper limit of their challenges.

So I for one am very happy to see FEMA and others finally talk about MOMs and consider our inability to respond on the right scale, even if all the jurisdictions have all the right capabilities.

This takes my own thinking in a slightly different direction. I am concerned that focus on Preparedness has driven us to think about primarily INPUTS — what do we need to spend and buy to be prepared? I would like to see more focus on required OUTPUTS — what does success look like? what do we need to respond and recover properly? How do we share to minimize these requirements? What can we do to minimize the outcome? To protect against its being so bad if it occurs? To prevent it from happening in the first place?

In other words, my instinct is to back plan from effects to address what the scenarios and MOMs have in common, rather than planing forward from how the threats are different.

This back planning will require that we recognize what Bob and others are calling the wicked nature of our biggest problems — the feature they most have in common — the complexity that involves social issues, and leadership, and uncertainty, and communications . . rather than calculations of capabilities.

But of course, that would put more responsibility on leaders and decision makers and the active management of problems, and less on staffs and budgets and defensible procurement cycles.

I can see why this back planing approach is unpopular in DC.

Dave McIntyre

 

 

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11 Comments »

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 13, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

It is my strong impression that PPD-8 is very “output” focused. That is the motivation behind the clear requirement for capability-based planning in what is otherwise a process-oriented piece of guidance.

Further, based on my understanding of capability-based planning, what Mr. McIntyre has outlined is entirely within scope of the new policy… whether popular or not.

I especially like Bob Ross’ attention to the “capacity issue.” It has been my experience that capability-based planning (or moving back from effects, as Mr. McIntyre suggests) almost always exposes key issues of strategic capacity. This in turn facilitates mitigation in advance and much more accurate anticipation of consequences no matter what.

One of the reasons I am a fan and advocate for comparatively brief, big-picture policy guidance such as the most recent PPD is the encouragement of innovative thinking and substantive give-and-take on priorities, transparent trade-offs, and such.

We are accepting the invitation offered by engaging in this discussion. I hope this will lead to us (and others) to accept the invitation to participate, collaborate, and deliberate on how to articulate an effective national preparedness goal.

From Bob Ross I hear the need for (or at least benefit of)meaningfully engaging MOM and finding the capacity implications. While his lexicon is different, do I hear Dave McIntyre saying something very similar? If so, how might we articulate this element of the goal?

Comment by william R. Cumming

April 13, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

Nice post! I like
Bob’s paragraph that reads as follows:
“Many people took the 15 planning scenarios as representing the biggest threats we had to worry about, from both the prevention and response perspectives. That was never their intent, especially with respect to prevention. Rather, they were intended to capture the “extreme corners” of a response requirements polyhedron. If you have the extreme corners accurately identified and are reasonably well positioned to respond to the identified extreme corners, then you should be reasonably well prepared to respond to real events which will almost necessarily fall within the volume encompassed by those extreme corners. The problem with this approach is that the extreme corners are determined by the type of the event (e.g., cyber vs. bio vs. nuclear vs. earthquake vs. ____) rather than by their magnitude or by other relevant issues such as simultaneity and impact on subordinate levels of government. Thus, the national planning scenarios approach focused on the type of required response capabilities rather than the potential total demand for response capacity.”

You need some background for this analysis by me. First FEMA was prohibited by the specific terms of Reorganization Plan No. #3 of 1978 from dealing with catastrophic situations which was odd and reflects the incompetence [almost total] of the President’s Reorg team that put FEMA together. Why? Well technically FEMA was charged by statute with deal with execution of the Soviet Version of the US SIOP. SEE NAPB-90 once classified and now available on the FAS website.

MOM will never get off the ground. What does need to be done is to measure probably inputs and then decide how to increase outputs. We (US) should be studying closely how Japan prioritizes and allocates existing resources, surges resources and mobilize the entire country for this very big event although probabl not the MOM for Japan.
A post in the Christian Science Monitor about Japan’s recovery and contrasts with Katrina in NOLA by Robert Verchick former Deputy for Policy at EPA under Obama might be of interest!

Comment by Arnold Bogis

April 13, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

I don’t have a comment on PDD-8 as I’m still trying to grok it, but comments during both Kamoie’s Q&A and now Ross’s contribution above raise questions for me regarding the NLEs.

In response to the second question regarding preparedness for a radiation event (which initially made me wonder why didn’t the moderator Kaniewski ask if the U.S. was prepared for a mass casualty incident on the scale presented by the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami that caused tens of thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands of displaced people), Kamoie spoke of a September 2010 exercise as part of NLE-10 that involved an “accidental release of radiation from a nuclear power plant.” I was under the impression that even after Nevada balked at hosting the large scale portion of the exercise that it originally and in some eventual form dealt primarily with an IND. There is a world of difference between the two. Does someone have information regarding what actually “took place?”

Bob Ross in this post comments, “The upcoming New Madrid and NuDet exercise is intended to get across the capacity issues inherent in really big events, especially when they come, like rattlesnakes, in pairs.” Again I was under a different impression, that this year’s NLE was focused only on the New Madrid earthquake scenario. That plus a nuclear terrorist attack at the same time would truly be the Mother of all MOMs…

Comment by Don Lumpkins

April 14, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

Looking at William’s post I would disagree. MOM can – and must – get off the ground.

MOM affords an opportunity to focus on national-level capability requirements for response. By distilling from a number of potential threats / hazards, we can begin planning for national capabilities that are (to the extent possible) agnostic of the latest risk assessment. This is important because building these capacities will take time and resources, neither of which are in abundant supply in the short-term.

Properly implemented, MOM forces us to consider our worst fears – those “black swans” that otherwise seem easy to ignore. The process challenges assumptions about our own abilities and should lead us to find new solutions to problems other than simply throwing more money into the mix.

All of this said – the notion of MOM is not easy, and the success of the effort is not guaranteed. If we agree however that these unimaginable events must not only be imagined but also tackled then I feel MOM is an important first step in that process.

– Don (speaking for himself, not for his employer)

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 14, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

OkAy! Not just for the sake of argument! USA now cannot accomodate 1000 mass trauma victims in any major metropolitan area! USA cannot now provide emergency mass care for 500K or mortuary services for 10,000!
No STATE or Their Local governments can operate for as much as a month 24/7 without outside support, nor can the federal civil agencies without DSCA!
No organization in the USA can operate for more than 5 days with the electric grid out of service!

Comment by not inclined to tell you

April 14, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

Messrs. Ross and McIntyre embrace Maximum-of-Maximums. Mr. Cumming demurs. Mr. Lumpkin insists and Mr. Cumming defers.

Moreover, Mr. Cumming begins to flesh-out certain capabilities that spring (as if from the forehead of Zeus, Mr. Palin might claim)naturally from thinking about MOM.

These include:

Medical Surge
Mass Care Surge
Mortuary Surge
Power Grid Resilience and Continuity

What I quickly perceive emerging from this MOM-based, capability oriented analysis is a recognition that we are dealing with an issue far-beyond government-only capacities.

We have to look at all-Nation capabilities and capacities because MOM (or what others call catastrophic preparedness) require this reach-out. Meaningful and operational public-private relationships are not “nice to have” they are “must have”… at least if you engage MOM thinking in earnest… or pay any attention to what has happened in Japan.

So is there consensus that a National Preparedness Goal must aim at worst-case risks?

Comment by Don Lumpkins

April 14, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

As “Not Inclined” noted, cat prep / MOM require the out-reach to non-governmental partners. CatPrep becomes a factor to (hopefully) force this discussion, as smaller events allow F/S/L partners to simply elevate the problem to the next level of government or have too much faith in muutal aid alone.

Now CatPrep/MOM is a good (IMO) construct for Response / Recovery deliberate planning at a nation-state level, but what is not quite clear yet is if it is the best model for Preveniton, Protection, or Mitigation. Since the initial MOM focus is on Response, it is not a topic that has been particularly tackled -yet.

With this in mind, part of the challenge in the timeframe outlined for establishing the Goal will be to establish the consensus “not inclined” mentioned

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 15, 2011 @ 6:05 am

What we have seen in Japan, it seems to me, demonstrates that prevention, protection, mitigation (more broadly resilience) must become the primary focus if we are serious about CatPrep or engaging MOM.

Without the long-term investment in preparedness carried out by the Japanese, the consequences would have been even more deadly, costly, chaotic and beyond recovery. Arguably where the March 11 outcomes have been worst is the result of failed or misdirected preparedness to be resilient. The response has been courageous, competent, and robust.

Certainly we must be serious about responding to a catastrophe. But if that is all we do catastrophic potential is amplified. In terms of recovery, I think that is the wrong word for a truly catastrophic event. Japan will rebuild and move on, but it is unlikely to “recover” what has been lost.

MOM and catastrophic risk drives preparedness deep into the pre-event stage, which underlines the re-emergence of mitigation in the PPD.

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » PPD-8: The conversation continues

April 15, 2011 @ 6:24 am

[…] discussion on the April 13 post (“Other Views”) is, at least to me, especially interesting.  Please see below.  But there may be other threads […]

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 15, 2011 @ 8:01 am

I would argue that “mitigation” making it into PPD-8 was a throwaway. Not really understood and as to “resilience” the new paradigm for NSS and DHS and even FEMA track how it is used or not used in PPD-8!

Some tell me that PPD-8 was on the shelf last summer and brought out only to defend the Adminsitration against lack of preparedness progress. Don’t know if that is true. I could argue that HSPD-8 and its annex were never properly integrated into a single document together with HSPD-5 that for another time caused huge confusion in the BP catastrophe. Of course it was very very confusing in the early stages of H1N1 efforts.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 15, 2011 @ 8:18 am

Bill: I can confirm on the basis of close, personal experience that the PPD released last week is dramatically different from drafts I saw as late as September and October. And the time stamps on those docs suggested I was seeing work-in-progress.

While I saw much less paperwork, between October and December I heard reports and saw occasional “blasts” on the horizon arising from an ongoing battle over the PPD. Since sometime in early December I no longer had any visibility into the process and am not sure what happened. I am inclined to deal with what has been presented in current context.

Personally, I find the definition of resilience offered in the PPD to be helpful. As you know, I am inclined to obsess over resilience, Tom Barnett has said I am anal on the issue. Yet when I read the PPD in context — especially with the help of Brian Kamoie’s presentation at HSPI — I could certainly expand on resilience, but I am not troubled by what I hear and read regarding resilience.

On what basis would you argue that mitigation is a throw-away? Prevent, Protect, Respond, Recover had become a mantra. To add mitigate to the mantra seems to signal particular intentionality. I need some positive evidence to reverse the prima-facie priority being given mitigation.

Further, even if the addition of mitigation was less intentional than I perceive, do you now want to discourage greater attention to mitigation? If I have accurately read your previous inputs, you are a great believer in mitigation… so why not, embrace the opportunity presented?

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