Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 11, 2011

The Naval Postgraduate School’s Homeland Security Reading List

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on October 11, 2011

Here is a list of books the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center For Homeland Defense and Security use in its master degree program.

The works that follow, presented (mostly) in alphabetical order by author, include only books and monographs.  The list does not include the journal articles, reports, and other documents that make up the required reading in the program’s dozen master’s degree courses.  The list is current as of  late summer.

I took most of the brief descriptions that follow the book’s title from reviews I found on Amazon.


  1. Adler, Mortimer J. & Charles Van Doren (1972). How to Read a Book: A Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (rev): The New Yorker says “It shows concretely how the serious work of proper reading may be accomplished and how much it may yield in the way of instruction and delight.”
  2. Andrew S. Grove (1999). Only the Paranoid survive: How to exploit the crisis points that challenge every company: Steve Jobs said “This book is about one super-important concept. You must learn about Strategic Inflection Points, because sooner or later you are going to live through one.”
  3. Aslan, Reza. (2009) Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting the Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization 2009: The School Library Journal says “This book offers an informed critique of good-and-evil dualisms on both sides in the war on terror.”
  4. Bardach, Eugene (2008). Practical Guide to Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving(3rd ed.): “Students consistently give this perspicacious presentation of policy analysis fundamentals high marks for its clarity and insight,” says Robert P. Goss
  5. Barrett, Frank J. and Ronald E. Fry (2005). Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Approach to Building Cooperative Capacity: “This book provides a concise introduction to and overview of the growing discipline and practice of Appreciative Inquiry,” says one description of the book.
  6. Berger, Peter L. & Luckman, Thomas (1967). The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge: A long time ago the American Sociological Review called this book “… A major breakthrough in the  sociology of knowledge.” It still is.
  7. Berman, Paul (2004). Terror and Liberalism: Publishers Weekly said “Berman puts his leftist credentials … on the line by critiquing the left while presenting a liberal rationale for the war on terror, joining a discourse that has been dominated by conservatives.”
  8. Bernays, Edward (2004). Propaganda New York: Noam Chomsky said this “honest and practical manual [originally published in the 1920s] provides much insight into some of the most powerful and influential institutions of contemporary industrial state capitalist democracies.”
  9. Bobbitt, Philip (2009). Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century: This is the most thought provoking homeland security book I’ve read.

10.  Bongar, Bruce Michael, et al. (2007). Psychology of Terrorism: The International Journal of Emergency Mental Health says “it would be difficult to find a more thorough and comprehensive compendium on the psychology of terrorism in all its important aspects than that represented by this volume.”

11.  Booth, Wayne & Gregory G. Colomb & Joseph M. Williams (2008). Craft of Research (3rd ed.): This is “a well-constructed, articulate reminder of how important fundamental questions of style and approach … are to all research, says the Times Literary Supplement.  It is the “first option offered to students who ask ‘Just how should I begin my research?'” says someone from the Business Library Review.

12.  Brafman, Ori and Rod A. Beckstrom (2008). Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations: Publishers Weekly believes this book is “a breezy and entertaining look at how decentralization is changing many organizations.”

13.  Brannan, David, Bruce Hoffman, Eric Herren, and Robert Matthiessen (2007). Preparing for Suicide Terrorism: A Primer for American Law Enforcement Agencies and Officers: is a “for official use only monograph.”

14.  Brockman, John (2006). What We Believe but Cannot Prove: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Uncertainty: The American Library Association says in this book “more than 100 notable scientists and scholars answer the question, ‘What do you believe even though you cannot prove it?’”

15.  Bryson, John M. (2004). Strategic Planning for Public and Non-Profit Organizations (3rd Edition): Hal G. Rainey says “Anyone professing competence in public and nonprofit management needs to know what Bryson says about strategic planning.”

16.  Bulliet, Richard W. (2004). Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization: The Washington Monthly says according to this book “there is a far better case for ‘Islamo-Christian civilization’ than there is for a clash of civilizations.”

17.  Chicago Manual of Style (16th): According to the New Yorker, “The Sixteenth Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is here, and it’s hard for some of us to contain our excitement.”

18.  Clarke, Richard and Knake, Robert (2010). Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It: The Financial Times says “It is worth [reading] this book if only for [the] pithy five-page vision of [the] coming apocalypse and a return to stone-age conditions within a week, all because of a few pesky hackers and viruses.”

19.  Clayton M. Christensen (1997). The Innovator’s Dilemma:  This book describes how disruptive technologies can redefine the landscape, sort of what Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party folks are trying to do.

20.  Covey, Stephen M.R. with Rebecca R. Merrill (2008). Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything: Warren Bennis says this book is “brave, imaginative, amazingly prescient, and backed up by empirical and analytical heft.”

21.  Creswell, John W. (2009). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches: This book provides a practical guide to designing, executing and presenting research.

22.  Cronin, Audrey Curth and Ludes, James M. (Eds.) (2004). Attacking Terrorism: Elements of a Grand Strategy: Kurt M. Campbell calls this an “unusually interesting, readable, and well integrated look at the essential elements needed for an American grand strategy to confront the scourge of global terrorism.”

23.  Davis, Paul K. & Brian M. Jenkins (2002). Deterrence & Intelligence in Counterterrorism: A Component in the War on al Qaeda: This monograph – available from RAND and elsewhere – “summarizes the findings of a six-month project on deterrence of terrorism.” It remains one of the most thoughtful and comprehensive discussions of deterrence.

24. Descartes, Rene (2006, by way of 1637). Discourse on the Method for Conducting One’s Reason Well and for Seeking Truth in the Sciences: How “perfect knowledge can be achieved by means of perfect, individual reasoning.”

25.  Donatella Meadows (2008). Thinking in Systems: Peter Senge says “The publication of Meadows’ previously unfinished manuscript is a gift for leaders of all sorts and at all levels.”

26. Eggers, Dave (2010). Zeitoun: “the story of one man’s experience after Hurricane Katrina,… a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, decides to stay in New Orleans and protect his property while his family flees.”  A disturbing narrative.

27.  Entman, Robert (2003). Projections of Power: Framing News, Public Opinion, and U.S. Foreign Policy: The book jacket says this is “an essential guide for political scientists, students of the media, and anyone interested in the increasingly influential role of the media in foreign policy.”

28.  Fanon, Frantz (2005, via the 1961). The Wretched of the Earth 2005: Jean-Paul Sartre says “Have the courage to read this book.”

29.  Frankfurt, Harry G. (2005). On Bullshit: The author asks why “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.”

30.  Freier, Nathan (2009). DoD Leaders, Strategists, and Operators in an Era of Persistent Unconventional Challenge: “This study argues that the future security environment will be dominated by unconventional threats and challenges that lie outside the boundaries of traditional warfighting.”

32. Gerencser, Mark (2008). Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today’s Global Challenges Together: Newt Gingrich  says “… these concepts work,” and promises that “We’ll be applying the methods explained in this important book even more ambitiously in the months ahead.”

33. Godin, Seth (2011). Poke the Box: When Was the Last Time you did something for the first time?: This powerfully irritating manifesto says all your good ideas matter little unless you ship something.

34.  Hewitt, Christopher (2002). Understanding Terrorism in America: This book “surveys the characteristics and causes of terrorism and governmental responses to it.”

35.  Hoffman, Bruce (2006). Inside Terrorism: The Washington Post calls this “The best one-volume introduction to” terrorism.

36.  Johnson, Loch K. and James J. Wirtz (2010). Intelligence: The Secret World of Spies: An Anthology: “An admirable contribution to the intelligence canon,” says Mark M. Lowenthal.

37.  Jones, Morgan D. (1998). The Thinker’s Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving: “A collection of proven, practical methods for simplifying any problem and making faster, better decisions every time,” says the product description.

38.  Kelly, Joesph F. (2003). Responding to Evil: This book asks how good and evil can be reconciled.

39.  Kettl, Donald F. (2007). System under Stress: Homeland Security and American Politics: A public administration scholar looks at the first few years of homeland security.

40.  Kim, W. Chan & Renee Mauborgne (2005). Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant: A “vision of the kind of expanding, competitor-free markets that innovative companies can navigate….  Swim for open waters.”

41.  Laurence, Jonathan & Justin Vaisse (2006). Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France: The American Prospect calls this “an exceedingly important read for anyone trying to understand how governments can help promote (or stunt) the integration process of Muslim immigrants to Europe.”

42.  Leedy, Paul and Jeanne Ormand (2009). Practical Research: Planning and Design: A “’do-it-yourself, understand-it-yourself’ manual designed to help research students in any discipline understand the fundamental structure of quality research and the methodical process that leads to genuinely significant results,” promises the product description.

43.  Lewis, Ted (2006). Critical Infrastructure Protection in Homeland Security: Defending a Networked Nation: Homeland Security Watch says “The book is written as a student textbook, but it should be equally valuable for current practitioners…this book is a very worthwhile investment.”

44.  Lewis, Ted. (2010) Bak’s Sand Pile: The author says “Modern societies want to avert catastrophes, but the drive to make things faster, cheaper, and more efficient leads to self-organized criticality-the condition of systems on the verge of disaster.”

45.  Lowenthal, Mark M (2011). Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy: This is “the go-to book for the most comprehensive overview on the U.S. intelligence community,” says Michael Bennett .

46.  Mansfield, Laura (2006). His Own Words: A Translation and Analysis of the Writings of Dr. Ayman Al Zawahiri: “The vision of Al Qaeda as it is articulated by one of its founders,” says a book reviewer.

47. Mintzberg, Henry (2005). Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management: I don’t know a better overview of strategy.

48.  Moghaddam, Fathali (2010). The New Global Insecurity: How Terrorism, Environmental Collapse, Economic Inequalities, and Resource Shortages Are Changing Our World:  The author “analyzes the elements and roots of global insecurity, discussing it in relation to terrorism, torture, economic instability, threatened identity, and religious fundamentalism.”

49.  Moghaddam, Fathali (2008). How Globalization Spurs Terrorism: The Lopsided Benefits of “One World” and Why that Fuels Violence: Paul Ehrlich says this provides “the Big Picture for better understanding radicalization and terrorism in the 21st century.”

50.  Moghaddam, Fathali (2007). Multiculturalism and Intergroup Relations: Psychological Implications for Democracy in a Global Context: An exploration of “the large-scale migration of refugees fleeing international conflict as well as the effects of 9/11 and the violent conflicts that have erupted in its wake.”

51.  Moghaddam, Fathali M. (2006). From the Terrorists’ Point of View: What They Experience & Why They Come to Destroy: Masur Lalljee  calls this “A fascinating study into the development of the perspective of the terrorist. The ‘Staircase to Terrorism’ is a powerful metaphor.”

52.  National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (2004). 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Required reading, for as long as we talk about homeland security.

53.  Provost, Gary (1985). 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing: Way number 1 – get some reference books.

54.  Reynolds, Garr (2008). Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery: Check out the pecha-kucha style for powerpoint presentations (and the presentation zen website).

55.  Sims, Jennifer & Burton Gerber (2005). Transforming U.S. Intelligence: “[T]ransforming intelligence requires as much a look to the future as to the past and a focus more on the art and practice of intelligence rather than on its bureaucratic arrangements.”

56.  Stewart Baker (2010). Skating on Stilts: Why We Aren’t Stopping Tomorrow’s Terrorism: The Wall Street Journal describes this as “a memoir of day-to-day life within a major Washington bureaucracy [DHS] and an insider’s analysis of the challenges to domestic security in the post 9/11 era.”

57.  Tajfel, Henri (2010). Social Identity and Intergroup Relations:a collection of articles about social identity theory.

58.  Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: “On Robustness and Fragility: Niall Ferguson says this is “Idiosyncratically brilliant.”

59.  Van Der Heijden, Kess (2005). Scenarios: the art of strategic conversation: Probably the definitive contemporary work on scenario planning.

60.  Wolf, Naomi (2007). End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot: Wolf cautions how “fascism can exist without dictatorship.”

61.  Zegart, Amy B. (2009). Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI & Origins of 9/11: Graham Allison believes this is “An outstanding demonstration of how the adaptation failures of the CIA and FBI before and after 9/11 lie in deep-rooted organizational deficiencies and not individuals asleep at the switch.”

62.  Zimbardo, Philip and John Boyd (2008). Time Paradox: The New Psychiatry of Time that Will Change your Life: This work will “help you understand the source of many of the world’s greatest triumphs and most pressing problems — from terrorism to homelessness, from religion to love, from the successes and failures of CEOs to those of marriages,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky.

63.  Zimbardo, Philip G. (2008). Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil: Zimbardo describes how “almost anyone, given the right ‘situational’ influences, can be made to abandon moral scruples and cooperate in violence and oppression.”

64.  Zimmerman, Doron & Andreas Wenger, eds (2006). How States Fight Terrorism: Policy Dynamics in the West: The book describes “how national governments are struggling to cope with the complex threat of mass-casualty terrorist attacks carried out by armed groups driven by ideological and/or religious motivations.”

65.  Zinsser, William K. (2001). On Writing Well, 25th Anniversary: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction: This is a book “for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day,” whether a memo, report or a blog post.



October 10, 2011

Practicing Politics in Homeland Security

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on October 10, 2011

“In any disaster, there are operations and politics—it’s stupid to deny that both don’t go on steroids when disaster strikes. It is also naïve to believe that the two can be neatly separated. The Venn Diagram will always show an overlap. The best way to mange the friction between the operational and the political is to have a leader experienced in both worlds—a skilled practitioner who knows how things are supposed to work and understands the politics of disaster—read Thad Allen. And they have to get the politics part right—not that they should practice politics. They should in fact be scrupulously non-partisan, but they must skilled at dealing with politicians.”

James Carafano, Assistant Director of the Heritage Foundation’s Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, Security Debrief blog.

Mr. Carafano makes the above observation in a blog post bemoaning the current DHS interpretation of the concept of the Principal Federal Officer (PFO) in responding to major disasters.  Carafano hears that instead of  appointing the Thad Allen-types to lead a response to big events, the Secretary of the Department will assume the role. This might be inside-the-beltway nitpicking (if you are a resident, responder, or local elected leader do you care about the designation of the official coordinating federal support?) or it could have real-world implications.  To be honest, having no operational experience I am not convinced either way.

However, I am certain about the importance of a concept that Carafano gingerly skates around–politics.  To emphasize the non-partisan nature of what he is suggesting, Carafano states”they have to get the politics part right—not that they should practice politics.” I believe that to get the politics part right, the people entrusted to coordinate future responses to large events have to be very good at practicing politics.

Politics has become a dirty word, immediately bringing to mind bitter partisan disputes and decisions made not on the basis of what is best for the community (impacted by a large event in the terms I am discussing) but for electoral or personal advantage. Instead, I am referring to definitions provided by Merriam-Webster:

1a. the art or science of government.

3a. competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership.

5a. the total complex of relations between people living in society.

Relations and competition does not necessarily have to translate into Blue-Red electoral wrestling.  It is also a part of general human interaction and a vital part of what must me managed during any incident. The larger the event, the more complex the range of interactions, relationships, and competing interests. Successful management of these facets are as important as the operational details of any response, and sometimes they are the parts that influence the narrative of events. Consider the BP oil spill, about which the former Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs at DHS Juliette Kayyem writes:

In hindsight, it’s clear to me that there were two different responses to the spill — one political, one operational. Despite some fits and starts, the operational response largely worked. But it was the political response that garnered so much attention, and seemed so disconnected from what was going on day-to-day operationally. What happened last summer was that the ground rules that had guided oil-spill responses for two decades were exposed as politically infeasible — even though it was those ground rules that guided the entire response from start to finish.


THE MEMORY of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the same region that was threatened by the oil spill, created additional political burdens. The Oil Pollution Act demanded payments and cleanups, but not much else. It was all designed before Hurricane Katrina, which showed that public expectations of what the government ought to do far exceeded any traditional notion of emergency response. That the media began calling the spill “Obama’s Katrina’’ only intensified the political imperative: It was not enough to clean up the oil; the Gulf had to come back stronger and better.

The Gulf governors found the post-Exxon Valdez ground rules unrealistic as well. Under the law, states were required to work with the Coast Guard and the industry to plan an Area Contingency Plan, a mutual agreement by all parties about what response techniques would be used in the event of a major spill. Not one of the Gulf governors — all of them Republican, at least two potentially running against President Obama in 2012 — would accept that his own experts had signed off on plans that, essentially, they no longer liked in the harsh light of day.


IN A democracy, any disaster is inherently political. This isn’t a criticism. The administration did, in my view, what any compassionate and concerned administration ought to do; the governors would similarly defend themselves. And maybe first responders are too quick to criticize elected officials for involving themselves in major disasters; leadership is what we elect them for. They can assign blame, demand resources, and channel popular outrage in a way a by-the-book field response cannot.

Real partisan politics mixes with the general exercise of political practice–this is the case no matter the event or political party in power. Management of these dynamics requires not the application of an ideological point of view but the exercise of political skills that balances power dynamics, competition for scarce resources, and complex social arrangements. This is true in response to a major event as it is in leading a team of people in an office.

Anthrax Uncertainty

Filed under: Biosecurity,Terrorist Threats & Attacks,WMD — by Arnold Bogis on October 10, 2011

An interesting article in today’s New York Times casts additional uncertainty regarding the true perpetrator of the anthrax attacks:

A decade after wisps of anthrax sent through the mail killed 5 people, sickened 17 others and terrorized the nation, biologists and chemists still disagree on whether federal investigators got the right man and whether the F.B.I.’s long inquiry brushed aside important clues.

Now, three scientists argue that distinctive chemicals found in the dried anthrax spores — including the unexpected presence of tin — point to a high degree of manufacturing skill, contrary to federal reassurances that the attack germs were unsophisticated. The scientists make their case in a coming issue of the Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense.

I do not have sufficient knowledge in biology or chemistry to provide an opinion on the veracity of these claims.  What I find interesting is that there is serious concern that the perpetrator(s) of biological attack may still be unknown after so many years.

The new paper raises the prospect — for the first time in a serious scientific forum — that the Army biodefense expert identified by the F.B.I. as the perpetrator, Bruce E. Ivins, had help in obtaining his germ weapons or conceivably was innocent of the crime.

Please read the article itself for details regarding conflicting explanations for substances (tin and silicon) found in the anthrax and the reasons they might point to a different conclusion than the one at which the F.B.I. arrived.  What I find interesting from a homeland security perspective is that the anthrax mailings likely rank in the top five of all domestic terrorist incidents and are the only ones still surrounded by so much uncertainty.  This is not a conspiratorial take on the event (a la Truthers) or a reflexive “blame Al Qaeda” response (which would not be so surprising given their perceived presence at almost every major event in the world these days), but serious scientific doubt concerning the evidence and conclusions.

Is this because of the particular facts regarding this case–a difficult to obtain but deadly substance utilized in a sub-optimal manner (if the desire was mass fatalities) with little indication of motivation or goal?

Or a harbinger of the general issues that will surround further terrorist or criminal utilization of biological materials that will be difficult to trace for goals that may or may not be publicly announced?

A one off or an event that revealed a potential framing of the risk of biological terrorism?

Update: I had no idea when I was writing this post that PBS’ Frontline was opening their new season with an investigation of the anthrax attacks.  I caught most of the episode and it includes a lot of interesting details.  You can review their collected wealth of additional information (and I believe eventually watch the entire episode) at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/anthrax-files/

October 7, 2011

Ten years of enduring freedom

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on October 7, 2011

On October 7, 2001 US and British forces began major operations — Operation Enduring Freedom — against the Taliban-led government of Afghanistan.  Following is a transcript of what President Bush told us that Sunday afternoon.


Good afternoon. On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against Al Qaida terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.

We are joined in this operation by our staunch friend Great Britain. Other close friends, including Canada, Australia, Germany, and France, have pledged forces as the operation unfolds. More than 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and across Asia have granted air transit or landing rights. Many more have shared intelligence. We are supported by the collective will of the world.

More than 2 weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps; hand over leaders of the Al Qaida network; and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens, unjustly detained in your country. None of these demands were met. And now the Taliban will pay a price. By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans.

Initially, the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places. Our military action is also designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive, and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice.

At the same time, the oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America and our allies. As we strike military targets, we’ll also drop food, medicine, and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan.

The United States of America is a friend to the Afghan people, and we are the friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic faith. The United States of America is an enemy of those who aid terrorists and of the barbaric criminals who profane a great religion by committing murder in its name.

This military action is a part of our campaign against terrorism, another front in a war that has already been joined through diplomacy, intelligence, the freezing of financial assets, and the arrests of known terrorists by law enforcement agents in 38 countries. Given the nature and reach of our enemies, we will win this conflict by the patient accumulation of successes, by meeting a series of challenges with determination and will and purpose.

Today we focus on Afghanistan, but the battle is broader. Every nation has a choice to make. In this conflict, there is no neutral ground. If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and murderers, themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own peril.

I’m speaking to you today from the Treaty Room of the White House, a place where American Presidents have worked for peace. We’re a peaceful nation. Yet, as we have learned so suddenly and so tragically, there can be no peace in a world of sudden terror. In the face of today’s new threat, the only way to pursue peace is to pursue those who threaten it.

We did not ask for this mission, but we will fulfill it. The name of today’s military operation is Enduring Freedom. We defend not only our precious freedoms but also the freedom of people everywhere to live and raise their children free from fear.

I know many Americans feel fear today, and our Government is taking strong precautions. All law enforcement and intelligence agencies are working aggressively around America, around the world, and around the clock. At my request, many Governors have activated the National Guard to strengthen airport security. We have called up Reserves to reinforce our military capability and strengthen the protection of our homeland.

In the months ahead, our patience will be one of our strengths: patience with the long waits that will result from tighter security; patience and understanding that it will take time to achieve our goals; patience in all the sacrifices that may come.

Today those sacrifices are being made by members of our Armed Forces who now defend us so far from home, and by their proud and worried families. A Commander in Chief sends America’s sons and daughters into a battle in a foreign land only after the greatest care and a lot of prayer. We ask a lot of those who wear our uniform. We ask them to leave their loved ones, to travel great distances, to risk injury, even to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. They are dedicated; they are honorable; they represent the best of our country. And we are grateful.

To all the men and women in our military—every sailor, every soldier, every airman, every coastguardsman, every marine— I say this: Your mission is defined; your objectives are clear; your goal is just; you have my full confidence; and you will have every tool you need to carry out your duty.

I recently received a touching letter that says a lot about the state of America in these difficult times, a letter from a fourthgrade girl with a father in the military: “As much as I don’t want my dad to fight,” she wrote, “I’m willing to give him to you.”

This is a precious gift, the greatest she could give. This young girl knows what America is all about. Since September 11, an entire generation of young Americans has gained new understanding of the value of freedom and its cost in duty and in sacrifice.

The battle is now joined on many fronts. We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail.

Thank you. May God continue to bless America.

Fiction as a way to the truth: Making meaning of homeland security

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on October 7, 2011

CONTAGION has already received plenty of kudos in prior Homeland Security Watch posts.   Arnold Bogis and Alan Wolfe who seem to agree on nearly nothing, nonetheless each endorsed the movie.  In his New Yorker review David Denby writes, “The film suggests that, at any moment, our advanced civilization could be close to a breakdown exacerbated by precisely what is most advanced in it. And the movie shows us something else: heroic work by scientists and Homeland Security officials.”

But Contagion  is not the only artifact of popular culture touching on homeland security issues.

HOMELAND a new series from Showtime asks “who’s the hero – who’s the threat? When MIA Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody returns home to a hero’s welcome after eight years in enemy confinement, brilliant but volatile CIA agent Carrie Mathison isn’t buying his story. She believes that Brody has been turned and is now working for Al Qaeda. What follows is a dangerous game of cat and mouse with nothing short of American national security at stake.”

TAKE SHELTER, a new feature film from Sony, considers the consequences of taking action in response to an encroaching sense of danger. In his New York Times review, A. O. Scott suggests, “It is a quiet, relentless exploration of the latent (and not so latent) terrors that bedevil contemporary American life, a horror movie that will trouble your sleep not with visions of monsters but with a more familiar dread. We like to think that individually and collectively, we have it pretty good, but it is harder and harder to allay the suspicion that a looming disaster — economic or environmental, human or divine — might come along and destroy it all. Normalcy can feel awfully precarious, like a comforting dream blotting out a nightmarish reality.”

THE SUBMISSION is a gorgeously written novel of ideas about America in the wake of September 11. It tackles subjects like identity politics, undocumented immigrants and the stress fractures of democracy,” so writes Maureen Corrigan in her enthusiastic review of the debut novel by Amy Waldman.  Claire Messud in the New York Times is more restrained, but still strongly endorses the book. “Elegantly written and tightly plotted, “The Submission” ultimately remains a novel about the unfolding of a dramatic situation — a historian’s novel — rather than a novel that explores the human condition with any profundity. And yet in these unnerving times, in which Waldman has seen facts take the shape of her fiction, a historian’s novel at once lucid, illuminating and entertaining is a necessary and valuable gift.”

YOU THINK THAT’S BAD, a collection of short stories by Jim Shepard, has given a new sense of context to my professional life. His careful narratives explore disasters large and small.  The specificity of each story exposes humanity’s struggle to minimize pain and maximize pleasure, to be fulfilled selves in relationship with others, to differentiate good from bad (or at least better from worse).  I finished thinking homeland security can be a label slapped on a whole host of widely held yet vaguely understood hopes and fears.

While around quite a bit longer than any of the foregoing, try reading GILGAMESH from a homeland security angle.  The modern challenges tradition, civilizing expectations in tension with primeval urges, male versus female, otherness and strangeness attract and repel while opportunities for reconciliation are engaged and lost and recovered and lost…

The new fiction agrees with the old that reality is difficult to decipher and choosing our way is treacherous.  What matters most are our relationships.  Is this just a classic literary device or something more profound?

Professionally I try to more precisely define the most meaningful role and comparative value of homeland security.  Personally I increasingly wonder if homeland security is a kind of Jungian encounter with the collective shadow.  (You’ll have to check out the link to make sense of that claim, otherwise it would take waaay too long.  You can get a quick notion here.)

Perhaps more simply, certainly more positively:

A young man — not yet 25 — recently wrote me, “The context of my life has been pretty shitty, but my life itself has been pretty good.  The conflicts are real.  The troubles are real.  I have absolutely no confidence regarding the future.  But consider the last century or two or ten. Hasn’t confidence in a specific future always been an illusion? Conflict is perpetual and troubles have been as bad or worse. There is no sense of certainty deluding me.   The way ahead will be tough, but one way or the other I’m going to walk it.  Might as well do it with as much creativity, care, and courage as I can muster.”

The young man points to the Y2K threat, 9/11, fear of terrorism, oppression in Darfur, poverty in Washington DC, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, catastrophe in Haiti, and economic contraction as dominating his perception of the exterior world.

Yet he faces forward and intends to make his way.  What were we saying about resilience as the essential capability?

October 5, 2011

That Might Be Us

Filed under: Events,Futures,Private Sector — by Mark Chubb on October 5, 2011

I don’t know how many of you have noticed, but things are getting a bit tense out there. If life inside the Beltway was making you anxious, you might not want to avert your gaze. The view farther afield is not such a pretty sight these days.

With the Tea Party on one hand and the Occupy Wall Street and We Are the 99 percent protestors on the other, a growing proportion of our fellow citizens are actively expressing disgust with the status quo. And this doesn’t even include all the others like No Labels, the Coffee Party Movement and more who in their efforts to re-establish a middle-ground have ended up — often from the comfort of their home computer or smartphone — on or near the edge of a growing disquiet.

This morning I listened in a state somewhere between fury and amazement as Bill Frezza, a venture capitalist and fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, complained bitterly on NPR that those making more than $250,000 a year were being unfairly cast as “whipping boys” for failing to pull the economy out of its tailspin by creating jobs. His full-throated defense of free market capitalism worked about as well as sending the fire department to pour gasoline on a blaze.

If Frezza and his ilk are to be believed, the country has it all wrong: executives are just like entrepreneurs; consumption always precedes production, and employment is an input to a healthy economy not a byproduct of it. And, oh yeah, corporations are citizens too. Of course, Frezza and his friends are the same folks who creatively destroyed not only some of the nation’s biggest corporate brands, but also brought us the savings and loan scandal, the dot.com bubble, and collateralized debt obligations.

After 30 years of vilifying civil servants and public policies aimed at protecting much less expanding the middle class, these economic elites want us to believe that consumers have only themselves and the left-leaning political pawns they elected to blame for the lack of jobs, growth and real competitiveness.

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman and co-author Michael Mandelbaum have another take on this. Their book, That Used to Be Us, contends that four trends underlie our current situation (summary taken from ‘That Used to Be Us’: Tom Friedman’s Rx for America to Get Its Groove Back at Yahoo! Finance):

  1. Misreading the end of the Cold War, which was not a military “victory” but the start of a very big challenge to U.S. hegemony.
  2. Taking a bad course after 9/11 by focusing on the losers of globalization vs. the winners.
  3. Underestimating the impact of technological change which has made the world “hyper-connected.”
  4. A generational shift from the “Greatest Generation” who believed in thrift and “sustainable values” to the Baby Boomers who use “situational values” and prefer to ‘borrow and spend’, instead of save.

Friedman and Mandelbaum suggest that the remedy to our current ills lies in what they call the ‘Five Pillars of Success,” outlined as follows:

  • Education
  • Infrastructure
  • Immigration
  • Regulation
  • Research and development

In all five areas, the government, they argue, plays the key role, not just in jump-starting our economy, but in restoring confidence in our greatness as a nation. They make a compelling case that without competence in these five areas, the nation cannot expect to reclaim much less retain its position as the world’s preeminent power.

About the same time Friedman and Mandelbaum’s book hit the stores last month, James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, was discussing a damning essay by former GOP Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren and conveying some pretty salient observations himself (see herehere, and here) about the degree of unrest emerging around the country as a consequence of the growing distrust of our political elites.

More than a few commentators have begun to suggest in some subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the Arab Spring could be followed by an American Fall. As homeland security professionals, we might rightly ask ourselves what this means for us. Which side are we on? Do we stand with the state or the citizens?

I don’t know about any of you, but I’m not eager to play the part of the Egyptian Army if Zuccotti Park becomes the new Tahrir Square.

October 4, 2011

The National Preparedness Goal Occupies Wall Street

Filed under: Risk Assessment — by Christopher Bellavita on October 4, 2011

The national preparedness goal (NPG) says the nation is successfully prepared when we have a

“secure and resilient nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to and recover from threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.”

I was with several dozen people last week who think the language is entirely too bureaucratic. Maybe it is.  But of all the homeland security preparedness goals published during homeland security’s first decade, the current one is my favorite.

I like the “whole community” language.

Homeland security is now officially more than the Department of Homeland Security. The goal acknowledges that.

I also like the emphasis on “threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.”

It’s not your grandfather’s homeland security anymore. Homeland security is focusing on the greatest risks, not just terrorism and natural hazards.

What are those greatest risks?

When Admiral Mike Mullen was chairman of the joint chiefs of staff — a job he left earlier this week — he many times said the national debt is the biggest threat to our national security. But the new chief doesn’t  “agree exactly with that.”

I know threat is not the same thing as risk, but as a nation we can do better than having dueling threat assessments. The NPG recognizes that:

“All leveles of government and the whole community should present and assess risk in a similar manner to provide a common understanding of the threats and hazards confronting our nation.”

That makes sense to me (except for the “present” part, whatever that means). I would like to know what threats and hazards pose the greatest risk, especially considering the NPG observation that “understanding the greatest risks to the nation’s security and resilience is a critical step” in being prepared.

I want to be prepared. So bring on the threats and hazards information.

“In accordance with PPD-8, and in coordination with Federal departments and agencies, a Strategic National Risk Assessment was conducted.”

However, an informative NPG  footnote says:

The complete results of the Strategic National Risk Assessment are classified. For an unclassified summary, see http://www.fema.gov/ppd 8.

I could not find anything at that location called an Unclassified Summary of the Strategic National Risk Assessment.

But I did find:

National Preparedness is aimed at strengthening the security and resilience of the Nation by preparing for the full range of 21st century risks that threaten national security, including weapons of mass destruction, cyber attacks, terrorism, pandemics, transnational threats and catastrophic natural disasters.

The “full range of 21st century risks” seem a lot like 20th century risks. But perhaps the real risk assessment — the one that apparently cannot be shared with the “whole community” — is much rangier.


Meanwhile, Wall Street is being occupied by people exercising their first ammendment right “peaceably to assemble.”

And, according to a Wall Street Journal article titled “Wall Street Protest Digs In, Spreads”, and other reports, people in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and elsewhere inside and outside the United States are also peaceably assembling.

There’s a website called Occupy Together that seems to be keeping track of where these activities are taking place.

Another website, Occupy Wall Street, offers one perspective of what this “organic movement” (as the Wall Street Journal calls it) is about:

Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

Let’s see,  Arab Spring: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Israel, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Western Sahara.

Unemployed people with cell phones, twitter accounts, facebook pages, youtube feeds.

Now there’s a 21st century risk.

I wonder if it is included in the Strategic National Risk Assessment.


October 3, 2011

Prepositioning Antibiotics for Anthrax

Filed under: Biosecurity — by Arnold Bogis on October 3, 2011

A new Institute of Medicine report considers the issue of propositioning antibiotics to shorten the response time to an anthrax attack.

To be completely honest, I have yet to read the report.  However, it seems worthy of serious review by those concerned about biological events in general–regardless of origin.

I am almost always in favor of giving more discretion to those closest to the event in question.  Local and State responders, officials, and citizens will be better off if there is less centralized control of not only the relevant antibiotics needed for response to an anthrax attack, but also the authorities and capacity to deal with what might occur with the minimum of outside interference.

The difficulty is providing for funding for such rare events.  If not the federal government, can we truly depend or even hope that local officials will consider spending limited funds on infrequent threats?

Operational Cooperation Led to the Death of Al-Awlaki: Lessons for Homeland Security?

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Organizational Issues — by Arnold Bogis on October 3, 2011

Putting the legal issues aside for a moment (though they are certainly important: Phil has been raising important questions in his post on the matter and the blog Lawfare is a great source for approachable legal analysis), the operation that led to the death of Anwar al-Awlaqi may represent a model for homeland security operations.

According to a Washington Post article, the CIA and Defense Department worked closely in the Al-Awlaki drone strike:

Aulaqi’s death represents the latest, and perhaps most literal, illustration to date of the convergence between the CIA and the nation’s elite military units in the counterterrorism fight.


But after a decade of often inconclusive efforts against al-Qaeda, the Obama administration has relied on new levels of collaboration between the CIA and JSOC to push the terrorist network closer to collapse.


The attack on Aulaqi blended capabilities from both sides and was carried out under CIA authority that allowed for greater latitude in conducting lethal operations outside conventional war zones.

This is not  a trivial development or an expected evolution of our national security capabilities.  Instead, this cooperation that led to a fearsome ability to find, fix, and finish terrorist threats came about through the realization that the threat was greater than bureaucratic priorities and departmental politics.

Can this general outcome be repeated in the homeland security sphere?

I am not referring to dealing with identified terrorist threats within our borders.  Instead, can departments instrumental to preparedness, response, and recovery forge a working relationship as close as our intelligence agencies and military?  Can DHS and HHS and DOD etc., as well as local responders, public health officials, and other relevant non-federal stakeholders put aside their own priorities and create an incredibly efficient resilience machine?

This includes flexibility in legal statutes, willingness to let others take the credit or lead, and sharing of resources without thought to the bottom line.

I am hopeful…but wouldn’t bet on it.

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