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.

April 14, 2011

We can be our own worst enemy

In the last week or so:

Rival military factions clash in Yemen’s capital

Pakistan tells US to pull out CIA

9/11 mastermind will be tried by military tribunal after all

In Georgia a white supremacist was found guilty on weapons and explosives charges

A mass grave is uncovered with 116 victims of Mexican drug violence

Wildfires are raging in West Texas and Oklahoma

The Coast Guard told itself (and us) that it was unprepared for last summer’s oil platform explosion and oil spill

The Red River is flooding (again)

The White House releases Presidential Policy Directive 8 on Preparedness

Current fiscal year DHS budget is cut by $784 million

Fukushima nuclear emergency is recalculated as “equal to” Chernobyl

One month after 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan water, electrical power, and gasoline supplies continue to be seriously disrupted. More than 150,000 continue to depend on the support of emergency shelters.

I am sure you can list several more headlines that have nothing to do with each other and, yet somehow, have everything to do with each other.

This is the homeland security domain.  These are our challenges, our risks, our wicked problems, and our recurring events.

Earlier this week I was on a webinar.  I was probably the only “civilian” (non-government employee) on the call. I am volunteering and had been asked by my sponsor to just listen.  The webinar’s purpose was to re-start a regional planning process.  The webinar had been rescheduled several times, trying to achieve a reasonable quorum.

This particular region is especially concerned about an abundance of toxic agrochemicals very close to schools and residential areas.  There is a significant flood threat.  Earthquake is infrequent, but possible.  There are no doubt other vulnerabilities and threats, but this is a re-start and risks still need to be identified.

Organizers did a reasonable job setting out the issues.  Japan was vaguely referenced.  A law enforcement participant shared some startling stats on a surge in drug violence.  A state environmental protection official distributed a scary map and photographs.

There was not much discussion.  The only questions were about the budget and how it could be used.   Whatever energy was present at the start of the call seemed to seep away about 20 minutes in.  The low point — about 30 minutes in — was when someone thought they had hit mute (but had not) and we all heard someone being chewed out for taking 10 minutes more for lunch than allowed.

It’s difficult to recover from that sort of interruption.

I think most readers of this blog might agree I tend to be a glass-half-full kind of guy.  After the webinar ended I needed a drink.

This work — homeland security, emergency management, public safety and related — has not been my life’s work.  I am a parvenu, an outsider, an interloper.  In any substantive way I have been at this barely ten years.

But perhaps it takes an outsider perspective to feel how privileged we are to have the opportunity to do this work.

Especially when we are asked to reach beyond our typical boundaries: jurisdictional, professional, intellectual, and otherwise.

Consider again the list at the top of this post.  For most of us at least two-thirds of the headlines have local implications. We are tasked to work on behalf of our neighbors, friends, families and others to prevent, protect, mitigate, respond, and recover from these and other prospective threats.  Don’t we need all the help we can get?

For the modest regional effort re-started with the webinar, funding and other resources are provided to bring together neighbors who will depend on each other in a crisis, but most of whom have never met.  What a simply great idea.  What an opportunity, what a privilege, what a practical step in regional risk readiness.  (My principal recommendation after the call was to not have another webinar or teleconference, but to first get people together face-to-face.)

The results of this unfortunate webinar seemed to me an especially dramatic example of a persistent pattern in homeland security.  There is a tendency to undervalue the opportunities presented.  There are several sources of this tendency: over-work, under-appreciation, budget-reductions, urgent demands, political stupidity, media idiocy, jurisdictional and professional parochialism, and the list could continue.

But I will offer at least one other impediment to meaningful regional risk readiness. In the midst of complexity and chaos we encounter a paradoxical threat: our own expertise.

As a species – and as professionals – we depend on experience to predict the future. We craft plans and procedures to ensure our future, reflecting what reality has taught us. We take pride in our practicality.

The more accurate our predictions, the more successful our course, the more assured we become of our future. Until… reality steps beyond our experience, undoes our predictions, and we stand vulnerable and uncertain before the truly New.

Catastrophe — such as we have seen in Japan — is beyond predicting. But catastrophe can be anticipated. To predict is to precisely foretell. To anticipate is but a foretaste, something much less suited to specific definition.

When you encounter the New, it is unlikely to come in the form of a 9.0 earthquake, thirty foot tsunami, and a six-core nuclear emergency. But when it arrives it is quite likely to cascade across your capabilities and challenge your essential capacities in a way that may just now leave a sour taste along each side of your tongue.

Even as we taste the bitterness, we are inclined to avert our eyes and remain fixated on what our experience has taught us. Experience is an effective teacher.  The School of Hard Knocks is a good school.  But there are other teachers also worth our time and attention.

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



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.



April 11, 2011

Happy National Robotics Week

Filed under: Technology for HLS — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on April 11, 2011

This week marks the 2nd annual National Robotics Week. The celebration,which technically started on Saturday and runs through Sunday, is designed to:

  • Celebrate the US as a leader in robotics technology development
  • Educate the public about how robotics technology impacts society, both now and in the future
  • Advocate for increased funding for robotics technology research and development
  • Inspire students of all ages to pursue careers in robotics and other Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math-related fields

In honor of the week, I thought I would highlight some of the ways that robots are contributing to our homeland security mission. According to the report First Responder, Homeland Security, and Law Enforcement Robots Market Shares, Strategies, and Forecasts, Worldwide, 2010 to 2016, the market for first responder and law enforcement robotics is expected to reach $3.7 billion by 2016.  Among the areas where robots are and could be providing services to homeland security interests are:

  • cyber-physical systems security
  • CBRNE/WMD detection
  • Explosive and bomb disarmament
  • UAVs and UGVs for surveillance and border security
  • Underground/tunnel operations
  • Robotic search and rescue
  • Underwater/Coast Guard functions
  • Perimeter security

In order to be successful in the homeland security space, experience has shown that cost-effective robotic systems must move and navigate in a physical world and interact with first responders, law enforcement, and citizens in an effective manner.

Happy National Robotics Week. If you are looking for activities in your area, they can be found here.




April 9, 2011

PPD-8 as a natural evolution of HSPD-8

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on April 9, 2011

I do not read PPD-8 as a repudiation of HSPD-8.  It can even be seen as renewing attention to the fundamental purposes of HSPD-8. Given the comparative paucity of officially promulgated Presidential guidance in this administration, the priority attention being given to preparedness is, at least for me, encouraging.

The December 2003 document directed development of  a “national domestic all-hazards preparedness goal” to include, “readiness metrics and elements that support the national preparedness goal including standards for preparedness assessments and strategies, and a system for assessing the Nation’s overall preparedness to respond to major events, especially those involving acts of terrorism.”  The new PPD is entirely consistent with this purpose.

The new PPD is also an important reframing of strategic intent. What is new — and important — in PPD-8 is the inclusive character of the goal-development process and the focus on capabilities-based planning.

The capabilities-based focus comes closest to a repudiation of past practice.  In part — but only in part — this is direction to stop requiring every county, village, and such to organize its preparedness around all fifteen national planning scenarios.

As Brian Kamoie emphasized in his Friday remarks at the Homeland Security Policy Institute, this is not a rejection or even a critique of the national planning scenarios.   But it returns the scenarios to what I perceive was their original purpose as provocative touchstones for thinking and training.  The scenarios have gradually morphed into the foundation of a nationwide threat-based planning regime that too often distracts from — and even discourages — authentic local and regional risk analysis.

But the focus on capabilities is much more important — and creative and positive — than correction of past practice.  In his influential 2002 monograph for the Department of Defense, Paul Davis explained that capabilities-based planning is:

  • A conceptual framework for planning under uncertainty by emphasizing flexibility, robustness, and adaptiveness of capability.
  • An analytical framework with three components:1) understanding capability needs, 2)assessing capability options at the level of mission or operation, 3)choosing capability levels and choosing among capability options in an integrative portfolio framework that considers other factors (e.g., force management), different types of risk, and economic limitations.
  • A solution framework that emphasizes “building blocks.”

Where PPD-8 especially expands the scope of  HSPD-8 is in its embrace of non-governmental capabilities.  There is much more emphasis on involving “everyone”.   It does not reject the good work achieved since 2003, but PPD-8 certainly encourages an aggressive outreach effort to “galvanize action” and to facilitate an “integrated, all-of-Nation, capabilities-based approach to preparedness.”

When I read the PPD in the context of Brian Kamoie’s explanations, a variety of remarks by Craig Fugate, and my own experience what I take away is something close to: Preparedness will always be insufficient and unsuccessful if it focuses mostly on what the government can do.  Government’s most important role is to involve, engage, collaborate, and deliberate with the non-governmental sectors.  Preparedness is primarily a non-governmental function.

If this is an accurate interpretation, I agree and admire the courage and intelligence of the policy guidance.  I also wonder and worry if there is a realistic understanding of the strategic, operational, and tactical challenges (and changes) this implies.

PPD-8 and HSPD-8: Comparing and Contrasting Language

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on April 9, 2011

The new Presidential Policy Directive includes several definitional paragraphs.  So did the 2003 predecessor policy HSPD-8.  Below are all of the definitions listed in the new PPD.  In italics is a comparison to HSPD-8.


(a) The term “national preparedness” refers to the actions taken to plan, organize, equip, train, and exercise to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation.

HSPD-8: The term “preparedness” refers to the existence of plans, procedures, policies, training, and equipment necessary at the Federal, State, and local level to maximize the ability to prevent, respond to, and recover from major events. The term “readiness” is used interchangeably with preparedness.

(b) The term “security” refers to the protection of the Nation and its people, vital interests, and way of life.

HSPD-8: Not specifically defined.

(c) The term “resilience” refers to the ability to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies.

HSPD-8: Not specifically defined.

(d) The term “prevention” refers to those capabilities necessary to avoid, prevent, or stop a threatened or actual act of terrorism. Prevention capabilities include, but are not limited to, information sharing and warning; domestic counterterrorism; and preventing the acquisition or use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For purposes of the prevention framework called for in this directive, the term “prevention” refers to preventing imminent threats.

HSPD-8: The term “prevention” refers to activities undertaken by the first responder community during the early stages of an incident to reduce the likelihood or consequences of threatened or actual terrorist attacks. More general and broader efforts to deter, disrupt, or thwart terrorism are not addressed in this directive. (Full disclosure: When this definition was first offered by HSPD-8 I was horrified by how narrowly prevention was framed and actively worked to get it changed.  While I (and others) failed in changing the words, the definition as practiced became much closer to that now offered in PPD-8.)

(e) The term “protection” refers to those capabilities necessary to secure the homeland against acts of terrorism and manmade or natural disasters. Protection capabilities include, but are not limited to, defense against WMD threats; defense of agriculture and food; critical infrastructure protection; protection of key leadership and events; border security; maritime security; transportation security; immigration security; and cybersecurity.

HSPD-8: Not specifically defined.

(f) The term “mitigation” refers to those capabilities necessary to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. Mitigation capabilities include, but are not limited to, community-wide risk reduction projects; efforts to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure and key resource lifelines; risk reduction for specific vulnerabilities from natural hazards or acts of terrorism; and initiatives to reduce future risks after a disaster has occurred. (Personal Note: This shout out to mitigation is, depending on what is done with it, potentially one of the most important aspects of the new PPD.)

HSPD-8: Not specifically defined.

(g) The term “response” refers to those capabilities necessary to save lives, protect property and the environment, and meet basic human needs after an incident has occurred.

HSPD-8: Not specifically defined.

(h) The term “recovery” refers to those capabilities necessary to assist communities affected by an incident to recover effectively, including, but not limited to, rebuilding infrastructure systems; providing adequate interim and long-term housing for survivors; restoring health, social, and community services; promoting economic development; and restoring natural and cultural resources.

HSPD-8: Not specifically defined.


April 8, 2011

PPD-8 for dummies or, if you prefer, a crystallization of key concepts

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

Previous drafts of the new Presidential Policy Directive were twenty and more pages long.  One aspect of PPD-8 that I especially appreciate is its brevity: six pages.   What would a one-page wonder — about 450 words — look like?

Below is how I imagine the President might talk to us in person about this PPD.  The quotation marks indicate where I have drawn directly from the Presidential Policy Directive.


National security and homeland security are complicated, complex, and multi-layered.  Still choices must be made. In terms of preparedness I am choosing to give particular priority to “terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters.”

While there is good cause for these four threats to receive particular attention, we cannot be sure when, where, and how our nation might be threatened.  As a result, in planning, training, resourcing, and exercising to be prepared we should take a capabilities-based — rather than a threat-based — approach.  This means developing a strategic understanding of our vulnerabilities and the operational/tactical requirements that extend across threats.  This means being risk ready, rather than preoccupied with any particular threat.  Specialization has real limits in dealing with uncertainty, complexity, and chaos.

“Everyone can contribute to safeguarding the Nation from harm.”  And we need everyone’s help.  I don’t care if you call this all-nation, whole of nation, whole community, or whatever. We need to involve as meaningful a cross-section of our nation as possible.  For too long we have treated the public as potential victims to be served rather than active and resilient citizens. When and where the people are prepared, the nation will be prepared.

To engage as many as possible, I am asking John Brennan and Janet Napolitano to work with others to articulate “a national preparedness goal that identifies the core capabilities necessary for preparedness and a national preparedness system to guide activities that will enable the Nation to achieve the goal.”  (FEMA’s National Preparedness Directorate has already begun this process.)

We want broad-based ownership of the goal and common capabilities.  We want a goal that will bind us together, survive election cycles, and drive autonomous decision-making across jurisdictions, across agencies, and across the public, private, and civic sectors.  If the goal-setting and capabilities identification are done well, rigorously, and inclusively it will have traction and amplification that will never emerge from the words of a Presidential Policy Directive alone.

Once we have the goal and common capabilities articulated, this administration is committing itself to implementing a national preparedness system to support achieving the goal and common capabilities.

Whatever the goal and common capabilities — and this capabilities-based approach is non-negotiable — “the national preparedness system shall include a comprehensive approach to assess national preparedness that uses consistent methodology to measure the operational capabilities at the time of assessment, with clear, objective, and quantifiable performance measures, against the target capability levels identified in the national preparedness goal.”

A key element of the national preparedness system will be an annual  National Preparedness Report.  If delivered with integrity, the Report should serve to regularly refocus our attention and encourage sufficient resourcing.

The way I view preparedness is as a balanced, integrated approach “to prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the nation.”

Next: Looking at some interesting definitions and how PPD-8 is distinct from HSPD-8


Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on April 8, 2011

This link will download a copy of presidential policy directive 8 — PPD-8-Preparedness


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.

Be prepared to consider preparedness

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

What: Briefing on the new Presidential Policy Directive on Preparedness

When: This morning, April 8, at 10:30 Eastern Time

Where: At the Homeland Security Policy Institute at The George Washington University

or via a live webcast.

Who: Brian Kamoie is Senior Director for Preparedness Policy on the White House National Security Staff

Why: Well, if I need to explain why to any regular HLSWatch reader, I’ll just give up. But before listening to Mr. Kamoie it might help to scroll down the current front page of HLSwatch. Or just consider the three posts I have offered today on issues related to private sector risk readiness, supply chains in catastrophe, and fear of radiation. How will the new approach to preparedness enhance our ability to engage these issues?

According to a DHS preview:

The Directive emphasizes three national preparedness principles:

  • An all-of-Nation approach, aimed at enhancing integration of effort across Federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial governments; closer collaboration with the private and non-profit sectors; and more engagement of individuals, families and communities;
  • A focus on capabilities, defined by specific and measurable objectives, as the cornerstone of preparedness. This will enable more integrated, flexible, and agile “all hazards” efforts tailored to the unique circumstances of any given threat, hazard, or actual event; and
  • A focus on outcomes and rigorous assessment to measure and track progress in building and sustaining capabilities over time.

The Directive calls for the development of an overarching National Preparedness Goal that identifies the core capabilities necessary for preparedness, defined as a spectrum of five broad efforts:

  • Prevention – those capabilities necessary to avoid, prevent, or stop a threatened or actual act of terrorism;
  • Protection – those capabilities necessary to secure the homeland against acts of terrorism and manmade or natural disasters;
  • Mitigation – those capabilities necessary to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters;
  • Response – those capabilities necessary to save lives, protect property and the environment, and meet basic human needs after an incident has occurred; and
  • Recovery – those capabilities necessary to assist communities affected by an incident to recover effectively.

The Directive also calls for development of a National Preparedness System to guide activities that will enable the Nation to achieve the goal; a comprehensive campaign to build and sustain national preparedness; and an annual National Preparedness Report to measure progress in meeting the goal.



Risk and resilience: When does efficiency compete with effectiveness and which wins?

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on April 8, 2011

Swiss Re 2010 Sigma Study

“In the past the decisive factor in success was productivity, the efficiency with which you used resources.  Today the most important success factor is to recognize risks and mitigate those risks.”

Klaus Schwab, Founder, World Economic Forum


“On Tuesday shares in the utility known as TEPCO fell by their daily allowable limit of 80 yen, or roughly 18 percent, dropping below the previous record-low close of 393 yen on Dec. 11, 1951.” (Kyodo News Service)  TEPCO is the owner-operator of the Fukushima Nuclear Power station.  The CEO has been hospitalized.  The stock has lost more value since Tuesday.

On April 5 last year a blast at the Big Branch Mine in West Virginia resulted in the death of 29 miners.  The mine’s owner, Massey Energy, stock price fell from an April 1, 2010 high of $53.05 to a July 6 low of $26.31. Don Blankenship, the long-time CEO, resigned at the end of 2010.  The Massey stock price has since recovered to over $60.00 per share.  “Shareholders are suing Virginia-based Massey, its officers and directors… The class-action fraud lawsuit accuses Massey of misleading investors and seeks damages for artificially pumping up its stock price.” (Associated Press)

On April 20, 2010, the day the Deepwater Horizon exploded, BP stock was trading at $60.48 per share with a market value of about $180 billion.  By the end of June the price-per-share plunged to $26.75.  Tony Hayward was replaced as CEO in late July. More recently BP has been trading in the mid-$40s per share price. A Wednesday headline in the Wall Street Journal reads, “BP to face investors wrath“.

April is the cruelest month.

In each of these — and many more — examples, a strong case can be made that concern for efficiency tended to discourage serious attention to the risk of low-frequency, high consequence events.   The BP CEO admitted, “We were not prepared… The contingency plans were inadequate.  We were making it up day to day.”

In a scathing article on TEPCO’s risk readiness, the Wall Street Journal reported, “The disaster plan didn’t function,” said a former Tepco executive. “It didn’t envision something this big.”

Private companies — like most of us — tend to discount low-frequency risks.  We especially tend to avoid near-term costs that may mitigate, but cannot be guaranteed to avoid future losses. The National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling found, “Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money).”

Klaus Schwab, source of the quote at the top, is a thought-leader.  His thought regarding the growing primacy of risk and mitigation is still waaay out front of most enterprises, public or private, large or small.  But the gap is beginning to close.  A few recent quotes from the business media:

From Harold Sirken writing in the Harvard Business Review:

Companies are always shocked when low-probability events such as an earthquake or a tsunami disrupt their supply chains — as has happened after the tragic events in Japan two weeks ago — because of two fallacies. One is the mistaken belief that no corporation can prepare for such events; they can’t even be predicted. For instance, the scenario that an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear crisis would simultaneously hit Japan Inc. seems far-fetched, so most companies hadn’t drawn up a suitable Plan B. The other is the persistent feeling that supply chains represent a cost. Most companies focus on minimizing costs rather than maximizing flexibility, which would entail making large investments in supply chains.

Michael Schuman writing as the Curious Capitalist at Time Magazine:

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that hit Japan have woken up the world’s business community to the precariousness of the global supply chain… Japan has taught us all a lesson: Those “borderless” supply chains are actually quite vulnerable to something bad happening within one of the borders. Perhaps your factory uses only a part of a part of a part made in Japan, but a disruption in the supply of that part could halt your entire assembly line. “Borderless” manufacturing, in other words, isn’t that safe after all.

Barry Ritholtz writing for Bloomberg:

Anticipating (versus reacting to) Black Swan events… Emergency planning is what we do before an emergency — not during one. Being proactive, rather than reactive, allows you to avoid the emotional mistakes many people make during unexpected events. That is why you look for the emergency exits before takeoff, not when the wings fall off the plane. The best way to do this is to have a plan in place. Ideally, you design this when you are objective, unemotional and calmly contemplative.

According to Swiss Re’s latest sigma study, “worldwide economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters were USD 218 billion in 2010, more than triple the 2009 figure of USD 68 billion. The cost to the global insurance industry was more than USD 43 billion, an increase of more than 60% over the previous year. Approximately 304,000 people died in these events, the highest number since 1976.”

The most recent estimate of economic losses from the Japan earthquake-tsunami-nuclear emergency is, at least, $300 billion… and we are barely into the second quarter of the new year.

A couple of conclusions:  The “infrequent” is becoming more common.  Catastrophic risk is increasing.  This is a function, in part, of increasing dependence on attenuated global supply chains.  Those who effectively anticipate — which is very different from trying to predict — catastrophic risk will win.  Those who deny the risk will lose their jobs, cause their companies to lose billions, and multiply death, injury, and destruction.

Japan: Domestic supply chain begins to restore local capability

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on April 8, 2011

A larger map is available at ReliefWeb.

Almost four weeks after the initial event, private sector supply chains are beginning to operate in the most affected area of Northeastern Japan. (See Nikkei story below).   Major transportation routes are now mostly open to non-emergency cargo.   In the tsunami-inundated zone, debris still complicates distribution.

It required eleven to twelve days for minimal supply capability to be restored to the most affected areas.  In the hardest hit communities, supply has mostly been provided by the military.  To the extent private sector suppliers were actively excluded is still not clear.

The exclusion zone for the Fukushima nuclear plant sits between Tokyo and Sendai and has further complicated restoration of pre-event supply chains.

In addition to the food and general supplies noted below, Nikkei has reported, “Around 90% of filing stations operated by seven major oil distributors were up and running in six earthquake-hit prefectures as of Wednesday, according to a senior industry official. This marks a recovery from the 81% operating as of March 30.”

With the exception of fuel, the strategic capacity to supply the affected area was never lost.  It is interesting it required at least two-to-three weeks for strategic capacity to be reflected as local capability.


TOKYO (Nikkei)–Supermarkets and convenience stores in devastated northeastern Japan are replenishing their shelves with added frequency as their crucial distribution networks return to normal.

Seven & i Holdings Co. unit Ito-Yokado Co. will open an alternative distribution center Thursday in the Miyagi Prefecture capital of Sendai, restoring service to six stores in the stricken Tohoku region to pre-disaster levels.

Ito-Yokado leased a warehouse from a trucking company to replace its damaged fresh-food distribution center. It has been shipping products to the Tohoku region from a facility in Kasukabe, Saitama Prefecture, but product volume and variety remains at 80% of pre-quake levels.

Aeon Co.’s distribution center in Sendai, which serves about 170 supermarkets in Tohoku, was back to full strength by the end of last month. Except for bottled water and batteries, supplies at these stores have almost returned to normal.

The facility, however, needs to reinstall sorting machinery. The equipment will be in service by the end of this month, but for now, products are being sorted in a Chiba Prefecture location.

In Tohoku, Lawson Inc., FamilyMart Co.  and Seven-Eleven Japan Co. now have a combined 2,150 convenience stores up and running, more than 90% of their locations in the region. Because their distribution centers and factories that make boxed meals and other products are close to each other, the impacts on production and deliveries there were compounded. But as output recovers, Lawson and FamilyMart will increase deliveries from one to two services daily in order to keep foods fresh, starting Friday or Saturday.

(The Nikkei April 7 morning edition)


On March 30 the National Research Council released a new report, long under development, entitled,  National Earthquake Resilience: Research, Implementation and Outreach.  The report finds, “the United States will certainly be subject to damaging earthquakes in the future, and some of those earthquakes will occur in highly populated and vulnerable areas. Just as Hurricane Katrina tragically demonstrated for hurricane events, coping with moderate earthquakes is not a reliable indicator of preparedness for a major earthquake in a populated area. The recent, disastrous, magnitude-9 earthquake that struck northern Japan demonstrates the threat that earthquakes pose, and the tragic impacts are especially striking because Japan is an acknowledged leader in implementing earthquake-resilient measures. Moreover, the cascading nature of impacts–the earthquake causing a tsunami, cutting electrical power supplies, and stopping the pumps needed to cool nuclear reactors–demonstrates the potential complexity of an earthquake disaster. Such compound disasters can strike any earthquake-prone populated area.

Regardless of hazard, the more serious an incident the more critical is timely re-engagement of supply chains.   There appears to be credible evidence that supply chain capacity in Japan was largely resilient.  It also appears the transportation network was repaired with extraordinary speed.  Among the possible suspects for delaying local capability are lack of sufficient fuel, unwillingness of truck drivers to deliver (especially as the nuclear emergency unfolded), and excessive perimeter controls.  Discerning the correct lesson is an important goal for enhancing US preparedness.

Our radioactive imaginations

Filed under: Risk Assessment — by Philip J. Palin on April 8, 2011

Tuesday’s New York Times had a piece entitled Radiation is Everywhere, But How to Rate Harm? It is one of the best, brief summaries of radiation risk that I have read.

The level of fear in response to Fukushima has surprised me.  The nature of this fear strikes me as very difficult to mitigate.

If I was a wanna-be terrorist the level of concern demonstrated recently would certainly motivate renewed attention to use of a Radiological Dispersal Device.  Evidently even a very small risk will be significantly amplified in the media and public imagination.  That is the kind of return-on-investment on which the terrorist typically depends.

In any case, if you missed the original piece in the Tuesday Times, please check out online.


April 6, 2011

This friday: A discussion of Presidential Policy Directive-8 – National Preparedness

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on April 6, 2011

From Homeland Security Policy Institute:

Please join the Homeland Security Policy Institute for a discussion about Presidential Policy Directive – 8: National Preparedness, featuring Brian Kamoie, Senior Director for Preparedness Policy on the White House National Security Staff.

President Barack Obama signed a new Presidential Policy Directive on National Preparedness last week and the Directive will be publicly released at this event.

The new policy outlines the President’s vision for strengthening the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for threats to the security of the Nation, including acts of terrorism, pandemics, significant accidents, and catastrophic natural disasters. The Directive follows a comprehensive review of national preparedness policy and replaces Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8 (HSPD-8) (2003) and HSPD-8 Annex I (2007).

Featured Speaker: Brian Kamoie; Senior Director for Preparedness Policy; White House National Security Staff

Moderated By: Daniel Kaniewski; Deputy Director; Homeland Security Policy Institute

It looks like the event is scheduled for 10:30 until 12, east coast time, on Friday April 8th.  According to HSIP, it will be webcast.  See the HSPI site for details.



April 8, 2011 will mark the 1,175th day of the (first?) Obama Administration.  That means 80% of the first term is over.  Considering how long it took to develop, socialize, and sign  HSPD 8, one wonder how long it will take to implement.

Resilient Character

Filed under: Futures,Strategy — by Mark Chubb on April 6, 2011

Last week I noted the grassroots movement to rebuild Christchurch, New Zealand’s earthquake devastated core, and the interest expressed in applying principles sustainable urban development. Phil Palin’s Monday updates to his post on Japan’s transition from response to recovery suggest Japanese leaders also see an opportunity to apply innovative thinking to manage ecological impacts as they rebuild the areas shattered by the Great Tohoku Earthquake of 2011.

I think Phil and I both sought to make cases that such adaptations reflect a certain philosophical consistency or congruence with the principles of resilience that have represented a central theme in many of our respective posts. This should not, however, be taken to suggest that either of us see sustainability and resilience as synonymous or for that matter we see one necessarily leading to the other.

Most conventional definitions of sustainability start with an emphasis on making decisions today in ways that avoid identifiable impacts on future generations. Resilience starts with the same locus of control, but assumes a different outcome.

When we think about sustainability and act with a view toward the future needs of others, we are doing so in the hope, if not the expectation, that the decisions and actions we take can either prevent some future harm or yield some future benefit to others. When we look to the future from the perspective of resilience, we may also be concerned with preventing some specific harm or controlling circumstances that make us vulnerable.

What distinguishes sustainability and resilience, in my mind at least, is the object of these actions. Choices influenced by the ethos of sustainability seek to limit our contribution to phenomena that can do others like us similar harms in the future. Resilience, on the other hand, seeks to manage how we react to the occurrence of these phenomena when the inevitably recur or are replaced by something equally disruptive.

In the aftermath of a disaster, making a commitment to rebuilding sustainably suggests resilience. If people can look beyond the exigencies of their own immediate needs and think about the future they will leave for others then I think we can say with some confidence that they possess a certain degree of resilience.

That said, acting sustainability may be much harder for shattered communities to say they seek than it is for them to achieve in the end. Striving for sustainability suggests a resilient spirit. Achieving sustainable outcomes in the recovery process demonstrates resilient character.

« Previous PageNext Page »