Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 15, 2011

PPD-8: The conversation continues

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on April 15, 2011

In my judgment the principal purpose of policy direction is to stimulate a broad and sustained discussion.   If a policy is capable of automatic and unthinking execution, it is probably not focusing on an issue of real policy.

There is a discussion underway on PPD-8.   Given the process-oriented focus of the PPD this is already a signal of some success.

Those involved in the discussion are working to draw meaning from the PPD, impose meaning on the PPD, undermine the PPD, and amplify the PPD.  This is all very worthwhile.

The discussion on the April 13 post (“Other Views”) is, at least to me, especially interesting.  Please see below.  But there may be other threads that are more interesting to you.  I will monitor all the threads and over the weekend bring forward any of the conversation that strikes me as especially useful… even, maybe especially, if I vigorously disagree. (UPDATE:  Given the amount of commentary over the weekend and the two new posts such aggregation is no longer needed.)

Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Laureate in economics, has found that resilience is a function of participation, collaboration, and deliberation.  I hope you will contribute to our shared resilience by participating in this discussion, collaborating in the meaning-making, and joining thoughtfully and constructively in the deliberation.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 15, 2011 @ 8:04 am

I could argue that Dr. Ostrom, PhD hits the nail on the head. But if that is so why are there so few examples of “resilience” grounded in participation, collaboration, and deliberation? Successful examples or are we just now starting from scratch? And is there any indication that HRO [highly reliable organizations] are part of resilience?

Comment by bellavita

April 15, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

Two Steps Backward: Homeland Security’s Presidential Policy Directive-8
Published on April 14, 2011 by Jena Baker McNeill and Matt Mayer.


Comment by William R. Cumming

April 15, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

Thanks Chris!

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 15, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

WOW! And Heritage cites a GAO report released yesterday. Must have missed it. But does look like they read HLSWatch.com

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 15, 2011 @ 8:52 pm

Still having trouble tracking down the GAO report cited by Heritage! Can anyone help?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 16, 2011 @ 4:59 am

Bill: I think Heritage was drawing on the following: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11318sp.pdf

Comment by HGRATTAN

April 16, 2011 @ 6:23 am

An urban cowboy boy “but” about preparedness.

Preparedness initiatives lend themselves to affirmation: what could be wrong with kaizen efforts to prepare for emergencies. But preparedness is more about tomorrow and for the most part homeland security practitioners are overwhelmed with today and their core functions.

Prior to September 11, 2001, some NYPD officials wanted to prepare for really bad things. In 1998, in preparation for the Goodwill Games, members of the NYPD’s eight patrol task forces were trained as Level-C hazmat response units to supplement the Department’s elite Emergency Service Unit in the event of a large-scale hazmat incident. The initiative was well intentioned but not well supported.

In the wake of 9/11, the initiative was renewed and the Task Forces were identified as the Department’s secondary for hazmat response. A pilot program was developed to qualify 200 task-force members as Level A hazmat techs and was facilitated on an ad hoc basis. Members of the Task Force were sent to the nations hazmat training facilities in New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, and Alabama. The training was extensive and took away from the Task Force’s core function which was to suppress crime in the City’s hot spots.

The Commanders of those units sometimes resisted efforts to multi-task their units because it debilitated unit effectiveness: arrest and summons numbers dropped [HLS-WTF!].

Consequence, the pilot 200 police officer level-A hazmat qualification metric became a reality but a nominal one. While the approximate 200 officers did achieve initial qualification few were allowed to renew their qualification. But all were required to take an annual OSHA Hazmat Tech medical. I believe, on paper, the 200 or so retained their qualification.
On July 18, 2007 NYC experienced a steam pipe explosion that was initially thought to be a possible terrorist attack. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_New_York_City_steam_explosion.

Someone in NYPD realized that the Department had a secondary hazmat capability and requested their response. The roster of 200 was dutifully pulled from a shelf and approximately 17 members were determined to be on duty and qualified to respond. On scene, 3 of the 17 were determined to be ready, willing, and able to facilitate the operation. The other 14 were not fully prepared. The failed response was the coup de grace for the Task Force initiative.

IMHO, the Task Force HazMat initiative was an affirmative effort to be prepared. I was part of the initiative and have to admit that qualifying as a hazmat tech was a full time effort and retaining it even harder when the unit was expected to maintain its core functionality, i.e., crime suppression. At one meeting, I was questioned about my units activity [arrests and summons]. I responded by mentioning that counterterrorism initiatives accounted for approximately 25% of the unit’s man-hours. It was suggested that I do more with less, counterterrorism efforts notwithstanding.

So, the urban cowboys went on [and go on ] nominally prepared for the next large-scale hazmat event.
I understand the NYPD’s decision, i.e. prioritization.

PDD-8 should consider “incremental burden;” are we really doing more with less or just saying so.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 16, 2011 @ 6:52 am

To the Right Honorable Henry Grattan (there’s a subtext if I ever saw one):

Wonderful case in point. Thank you.

The case demonstrates the limitations (even futility?) of depending on a command-and-control approach.

The case also clearly implies the limitations (even futility?) of engaging full participation, collaboration, and deliberation.

The fatal (but not inevitable) problem with command-and-control is the dishonest mask (to borrow a phrase) it has the tendency to create. The statistics are helpful, until the statistics become more the goal than authentic public safety. The enrolling and training for collateral duty can be helpful, until it becomes a bureaucratic exercise more than a meaningful investment.

The one — and perhaps only — benefit of the very difficult process of fuller and wider and authentic participation, collaboration, and deliberation is the troubles are seldom obscured. It is a masked ball, where the identities are in constant and confusing motion, but observable and undeniable. Rarely another benefit emerges: actual consensus and thoughtful progress. The masks continue in place, but the room — for at least a dance or two — whirls in a shared waltz in the same direction and to the same tune.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 16, 2011 @ 7:39 am

Thanks Phil and to Henry for his fine comment. Yes maintaining and verifying 24/7/365 capability is a very very tough chore. Even for the Armed Services.

Comment by bellavita

April 16, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

Grattan — your example is an outstanding case study about preparedness. I think it should get more visibility, so I will move it to a regular post.

Comment by Attorney in Pearland, TX

January 2, 2013 @ 4:21 am

Excellent. I agree.

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