Midnight tonight is the deadline for your comments on the current draft of the National Preparedness Goal. The downloaded document provides instructions on how to make your comments.
At the end of March Presidential Policy Decision 8 included the following:
I hereby direct the development of 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… The national preparedness goal shall be informed by the risk of specific threats and vulnerabilities – taking into account regional variations – and include concrete, measurable, and prioritized objectives to mitigate that risk. The national preparedness goal shall define the core capabilities necessary to prepare for the specific types of incidents that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation, and shall emphasize actions aimed at achieving an integrated, layered, and all-of-Nation preparedness approach that optimizes the use of available resources. The national preparedness goal shall reflect the policy direction outlined in the National Security Strategy (May 2010), applicable Presidential Policy Directives, Homeland Security Presidential Directives, National Security Presidential Directives, and national strategies, as well as guidance from the Interagency Policy Committee process. The goal shall be reviewed regularly to evaluate consistency with these policies, evolving conditions, and the National Incident Management System.
The draft document offers a succinct statement of the goal:
Our National Preparedness Goal is a secure and resilient Nation that has created the capacity for the organized commitment of the whole community, in the shortest possible time and under all conditions, to successfully prevent, protect, mitigate, respond, or recover from the threats that pose the greatest risk to the Nation.
A secure nation is not a new goal. A resilient nation, while not a new goal, has seldom (ever?) been accorded strategic equivalency with security. The emphasis on the whole community is also not precisely new, but it is given heightened priority in this statement. Focusing on the capacity of the organized commitment of the whole community to prevent, protect, mitigate, respond, and recover is a potentially helpful strategic differentiation. (The “capacity of organized commitment” is, however, something worth unpacking a bit more. I have a sense the attention to speed and condition also has more meaning embedded than is immediately apparent.)
Consistent with the President’s instructions, the draft National Preparedness Goal gives attention to core capabilities. The definition offered by the draft is:
A “capability” is the ability to provide the means to accomplish one or more tasks under specific conditions and to specific performance standards. A capability may be achieved with any combination of properly planned, organized, equipped, trained, and exercised personnel that achieves the intended outcome. “Core capabilities” are those that are central to the Nation’s ability to achieve our National Preparedness Goal. Their availability is essential and indispensable for the execution of the mission, and therefore, they are subject to continuous monitoring and management at all levels.
The draft offers forty-two core capabilities, as outlined in this graphic (a larger version will open if you click on the graphic):
The draft document provides considerable detail on each of the core capabilities. There is a particular effort to identify meaningful performance measures for each capability.
Three critiques intended to be constructive:
1. Despite the draft regularly invoking an all-hazards perspective, do the prevent and protect focus areas strike you as tilting heavily to counter-terrorism? They do to me. When I look at the individual core capabilities “prevent” might be better entitled “preempt”. Looks like these core capabilities are mostly practiced when bad guys/gals have a clear intention to cause harm. There’s not much (any?) attention to forestalling bad intentions.
2. Taken together the proposed preparedness architecture seems mostly a matter of preparing-to-respond. The protect collection strikes me as focused on potential terrorist threats and a kind of strategic agility similar to the Great Wall of China or the Maginot Line. Mitigate provides a few proactive, positive steps to increase actual strength and resilience. We might be able to conceive a couple of recover’s core capabilities as offering constructive opportunities. But the overall approach seems, at least to me, quite defensive in stance. I want to be prepared to engage opportunities, as well as deal with problems.
3. The draft National Preparedness Goal gives considerable attention to security. In this the NPG is consistent with previous priorities. The new draft goal gives equal priority to resilience. I regret that I do not see how the core capabilities and performance measures as currently articulated substantially advance resilience. This new goal seeks to more fully involve the whole community. I do not see how the core capabilities and performance measures as currently articulated would substantially enhance the commitment of the whole community to the preparedness mission.
First drafts are usually more expansive — and unwieldy — than subsequent drafts. Producing a reasonable first draft in a timely fashion is helpful to public consideration and comment. In final draft effective goal-setting will probably involve a tightened focus, clarification, and crystallization. It will be interesting to see what is sent to the President on September 25.