Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 20, 2011

A new perspective on homeland security?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on December 20, 2011

Jane Holl Lute is the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.  On December 2, she spoke to the American Bar Association’s 21st Annual Review of the Field of National Security. Her presentation included a perspective about homeland security I had not heard before.

According to Secretary Lute, “National security is strategic… Homeland security is operational….”

From a social construction perspective, this is another claim in a crowded semantic field asserting what homeland security is.  I think it’s an innovative construction that deserves discussion.

For that view to persist in the homeland security ecosystem, there needs to be more evidence and more acolytes to support and nurture Secretary Lute’s claim. One also needs to demonstrate what value the perspective contributes to making the nation more secure.

An mp3 podcast of the 30 minute speech can be found here.  I do not know if there is an official transcript of her remarks.

A colleage who provided information about the speech shared an unofficial transcript of the relevant portion of the speech, reprinted below. (Thank you for the tip.)

[Starting at the 13:45 mark]

I told you I would give you my reflections on how homeland security differs from national security, and I’ve been doing national security for a long time.

National security is strategic, it’s centralized, it’s top-driven. Homeland security is operational, it’s transactional, it’s decentralized, it’s bottom-driven. It’s driven by the grassroots of this country, by the states, by the municipalities, by the cities and towns that experience these issues first-hand, day to day. It’s driven by the nearly two million people that pass through the TSA systems every day – every day pass through these systems.

We have global connections in this country, and we manage them in a transactional way, in an operational way, in homeland security. So unlike national security – strategic, centralized, top-driven; it’s about all of us – homeland security is operational, decentralized, bottom-driven; it’s about each of us.

The national security culture has very strong influences from the military and the intelligence community. Homeland security, it’s law enforcement, emergency management, and the political environment that is the vibrancy of this country.

In national security there is a culture of confidentiality, the need to protect the nation’s most sensitive information.

In homeland security there’s an expectation of transparency: it’s not a need to know, it’s a duty to share, it’s an expectation to share.

In national security there’s unity of command. In homeland security, it’s a unity of effort.

It’s a different model. It’s a different model. And we need to understand the things that we deal with from the differences that that model represents.

Homeland security of course is a part of national security, but it’s different.

[ Excerpt concluded at the 15:27 mark]


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Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 20, 2011 @ 5:15 am

While I am tempted to quibble regarding the meaning of “strategic”, I otherwise like the distinctions being made.

The contrasts offered with National Security clarify homeland security’s comparative advantage.

When new players emerge into almost any mature market there is a temptation to adopt the behavior of market leaders. If they succumb to the temptation, the comparative advantage that is fundamental to the new players value can be diluted or even lost.

Transparent, transactional, and decentralized are important comparative advantages.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 20, 2011 @ 6:55 am

Well Chris and Phil a very interesting post and comment.
I could of course just label the speech sour grapes by DHS leadership, and by the way I think very highly of Jane Lute. Why sour grapes? Because despite having over 1000 people in DHS in various policy shops DHS has largely been cut out of policy formulation and development in the area of National Security largely combined with Homeland Security under the current Administration. Must be frustrating for those who are policy wonks in DHS. I won’t go into why but personally I believe it is largely the ignorance and incompetence and lack of feel for the Washington scene in high levels of DHS, and I specifically exclude Jane Lute from that assessment. In one of her former portfolios she worried about migration and refugee issues and the USA is not immune from either. Probably just lucky that most seeking to come to the USA are Catholic and peasant not Muslim and peasant. No disrespect to elites that always have wanted the safety and security of the USA as long as they can bypass the hard climb to success by bringing their often stolen monies from their own countries and gaining admittance to a country that will protect that stolen wealth.

But it is now clear that the National Security types, led for HS purposes largely by John Brennan who I hope is given a copy of Jane’s speech, just does not get the fact that federalism underlies much of HS and EM. Why should he? After all he is a creature of a largely failed very expensive INTEL community that always misses the big ones like a recent death in N. Korea. Or radicalism in the Islamic World? Or large armies getting ready to invade other countries? Or proliferation issues? And by the way did you see the SECDEF announcing that under NO conditions would the USA allow Iran to gain usable nuclear weapons, so I guess that means war and more war as policy for the USA in 2012.

Anyhow it is interesting that Jane’s speech got given, wondering what review it had in and outside DHS, and what impact it will have. This is a very smart person and if the Secretary DHS is smart I would allow Jane to be given all the room she needs and let her run the policy interface on National Security issues and strategies completely for DHS. And as budgets get cut, even the National Security budget over the next decade [which may be one reason the national security types pray for more war] DHS will have its work cut out to even maintain any role over the covetisnous [sic] of the Nationals Security State over its programs, functions, and activities.

The areas of WMD proliferation, defense, detection, preparedness, response and recovery; gathering of domestic intel while protecting civil liberties and privacy; and critical infrastructure protection including cyber security; in sum the main reasons DHS was formed and all areas in which DHS has largely failed [just look at budget and staffing for these areas]they also raise the interest of the National Security State.

Perhaps what Jane should have said more bluntly was that armed force will not protect the civil security of the USA its people and property. What might help do it however is the use of brain power not fascination with drones and missiles or space weapons.

Well resources are very limited and in particular brain power. So Jane thanks for signing on for another tour. And please no more former Governors or criminal justice lawyer types for DHS leadership. Just raw brain power, competence in a wider world including foreign affairs and relations, and appropriate education and experience. Jane is a serious very serious person who worries and studies governance and not interested in padding her travel resume.
This speech could be and should be an important one for DHS and the Administration but question whether they can read or even listen. Hoping so as time may be running out on the Administration. One more unnecessary war may well do US in for good.

Comment by Guy Fawkes

December 20, 2011 @ 10:11 am

…Homeland security is operational, it’s transactional, it’s decentralized, it’s bottom-driven. It’s driven by the grassroots of this country, by the states, by the municipalities, by the cities and towns that experience these issues first-hand, day to day…wow.

And I thought it was so much more… a cabinet level, no nonsense conglomeration of many agencies brought together to synergize capability to project and protect and demonstrate resilience.

Serious person or not, I am a bit shocked at that degree of naïvete…then again, so far removed from reality are the leadership of DHS. It’s all a manufactured reality. Institutionalized verboseness does not answer the call. Indeed, while packed with academic credentials and good words, the experience portfolio is a bit thin, but then again, why would we want someone with legitimate balance between experience and education? The leadership of DHS is largely ineffective and anonymous.

Messrs Palin and Cummings frame their responses accordingly. I cannot help but wonder how increasingly irrelevant DHS is becoming or has become.

Reading more commentary;

In national security there is a culture of confidentiality, the need to protect the nation’s most sensitive information.

(True to a point; many of the Nations secrets are classifications for the purpose of exclusion not sensitivity.)

In homeland security there’s an expectation of transparency: it’s not a need to know, it’s a duty to share, it’s an expectation to share.
(again, to a point; the institution and enterprise argue every day on classifying even the most mundane collection of facts, information, and nitnoid details…Transparency is not a goal or mission statement of DHS How transparent are the drones and their missions being flown over the United States as we speak? How transparent are the collection efforts of information on all Americans? How transparent is the recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)? Transparency is a cliché and our security machinations only demonstrate our eroding civil rights and privileges in the name of security.)

In national security there’s unity of command. In homeland security, it’s a unity of effort. (That’s simply a riff…perhaps its just me, but vernacular is key here…unity of effort is usually in lieu of or post event of security…shouldn’t it then be the department of homeland response? Unity of effort? DHS is highly disharmonious and will continue to be for a long time.)
It’s a different model. It’s a different model. And we need to understand the things that we deal with from the differences that that model represents. (What does that mean?)
Larger, more complex bureaucracy we do not need. There cannot be transparency with bureaucracy…they do not effectively co exist. If it is a different model to what end? DHS does not project resilience, foster interoperability, or absorb grass root ideology and lessons learned. It exists to exist and to add a later of bureaucracy to supervise other bureaucracies…
Are we safer now then we were 10 years ago?

Comment by Alan Wolfe

December 20, 2011 @ 11:47 am

Let me add my dismay to that of Guy Fawkes. It is patently ridiculous to claim that, because homeland security is subordinate to national security, homeland security is therefore an operational-level concern as opposed to national security as a “strategic” issue. Maybe she misinterpreted something from her husband (retired LTG Lute) stated, but then again, the US military has had real problems understanding the difference between “strategic level” issues and “operational level” tactics.

Protecting the homeland is part of the National Security Strategy. All the federal agencies have their role to play, DoD is the “away game” and DHS is the “home game.” This doesn’t make the DHS role any less “strategic” than the DoD role.

You may say that the emphasis on addressing state/local concerns regarding response to catastrophic incidents forces a bottom-up approach, but this does not relieve DHS from reviewing strategy and policy documents and developing a “strategic” approach to executing its responsibilities as identified in the National Security Strategy and other documents.

As Guy notes, yes, executing an adequate homeland security strategy is hard. It’s not like military strategy, even though DHS has done everything to imitate DoD’s QDR and DPG scenarios. It’s a failure of leadership and a cop-out to say, “well, we just hobble along and do what has to be done to keep the states/locals happy. We’re not expected to be big-thinkers.”

Very disappointing.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 20, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

Responding in part and only in part to Guy and Alan’s comments, DHS is not in the chain of command of the military, even the US Coast Guard. Instead it is the subordinate of the Chief Executive. Both roles are Constitutional roles but often confused. The President is not the Commander-In-Chief of the citizens of the USA. He is however the Chief Executive. And the Executive is not a “Unitary” position.

Comment by Iseethelight

December 20, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

So another career Federal/Military employee after a few years at the DHS discovers that homeland security has special differences that involve things like SLTT and private sectors that they don’t line up under direct control of what Big Fed says and do things bottom-up, etc… Welcome to the America outside the Beltway!

Are we rethinking the correctness of PSD-1 here? Wait, NS is HS, wait, no its not… Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter, because we can have a new interpretation every 4 years.

Until “the enterprise” grows its own professional (and not bureaucratic – read Friedson for the difference) leadership cadre over the next two decades, we will be faced with these appointees who suddenly and repetitively discover America after a few years at the helm (cue the Simon and Garfunkel here.) I say this with all respect to their service, as DHS leadership is the most complicated and unforgiving job in the Cabinet, a new organization with the most diverse set of missions and the widest set of stakeholders, and some of the most wicked problems and political traps. I’m not trying to take personal shots here at D/S Lute, she has a tremendous background of service, but speeches like this 10 years after 9/11 illustrate the leadership vacuum. We are still discovering what HS is and explaining it to ourselves…doesn’t help when suddenly another “national security” specialist drops in the mix and has to catch up.

I can’t miss the opportunity at a sidebar cheap shot as well, with respect for those who try to make the sausage, but nevertheless: when was the last time our national security approach was “strategic?” The long telegram? Ask the Chinese (who will exceed our economy in this decade)…or the Islamists (looking to recreate the caliphate) what is strategic. Ask them in 2052, or 2112. Hell, we still dont have strategic approaches to National security, energy, the economy, the border, etc. For those reading, I do not equate nicely written presidential national strategy documents with a National Strategy.. National Strategy endures over decades despite whomever is in charge, and reflect our values and culture and society. We have no national strategy save incrementalism: that’s probably why D/S Lute interprets HS as seemingly “operational” from her military background.

I would offer that perhaps it is our National Security that is/should be subordinate to a strong homeland security: a safe, thriving, growing, and evolving society, economy, and culture, etc. That City on a Hill thing… however defined.

Comment by T. Sturm

December 21, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

the US military has had real problems understanding the difference between “strategic level” issues and “operational level” tactics.

Concur, although we are getting better. The first step is to recognize that there are no such thing as ‘levels’. Such artificiality underserves us all. I also agree that we have lacked true national strategy for some time. Emergent strategy is operational art- not a strategy- and it is time we did some real thinking about the way forward.

I do think that this speech highlights some interesting ideas. For me, a Federally educated individual, it was eye opening to see just how State oriented this project is (and should be). Yes, I suppose I was “out of touch with real America” (whatever that is). As I learn more, the key difference to me is that in HS the Federal Government has 50(+) strategic and operational partners, in NS everyone is an outsider. (I would further argue that HS has 300 million operational partners- which makes public information even more important.)
Certainly the comments Secretary Lute makes about information sharing differences are valid- and no, Guy, we have not yet cracked the code on transparency. But, the point here is that we have to view HS differently from NS and attack the problems from a new direction. Propagating the myth that the federal gov. is somehow on a “different level” is counter-productive. Also, I think that the idea that HS is somehow subordinate to NS (or vice versa) is counter-productive. They are both part of a complex system and each has impact on the other- but why get hung up on subordination- as pointed out above this is not the military.
Additionally, I think it is time we restructured DHS to be more DoD Joint Staff like. Yes, I am military- no I do not believe that we do everything even marginally well- but I do believe that the Joint Staff model is something that actually works, an could work in this case. Instead of having a separate agency (DHS) we structure DHS as a tour of duty for everyone from FEMA officers to DIA to State EMAs. Make this a collective project with a better understanding of our 50+ strategic partners and our 300m operational and tactical partners and I think we would begin to see a more adaptive organizationn(despite the bureaucracy.)

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 21, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

An argument can be made that with 55,000 vets including former Coast Guard DHS has plenty of able people with military backgrounds and a significant number are retired military and U.S.Coast Guard.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

December 22, 2011 @ 8:05 am

I agree in principle with Mr. Sturm in terms of having DHS be a more DoD structure in terms of tours of duty…one could also make a case to fold it under the DoD and propagate skill set there, but you face an conundrum of issues from OPM, labor rights, promotions, etc. It is definitely a challenge.

I suppose its how one frames the mission requirement and how we will train and educate both the work force and their leaders.

I still believe the essential issue is defining “what” it is. Our homeland security response, from a Federal perspective is coming of age…

In 1927 the Mississippi Flood created the necessity for activist government response and also began to shape out expectations for what would later be re defined as homeland security. With the growing industrialization and urban growth coupled with teeming immigration there was a necessity to have government at the very least modulate and regulate many issues. Child labor, work hours, safety of food and drugs, and interstate commerce are a few.

Post Word War I the United States became a lending nation instead of a debtor Nation and there was an expectation growing to have the Federal Government maintain the Nations’ new affluence and capability. In April 1927, when the Mississippi River overflowed its banks and levees were compromised President Coolidge was pressed for a Federal Response. Attempting to resist, Coolidge was bombarded with media and requests to provide aid. This is the genesis of Federal Aid as we know it. And this is also the birth of the response and “homeland security enterprise”

I think in trying to define what it is, we are using antiquated terminology and constraining the idea what it is. If it is an equal partner to projected force; DoD than it should have similar structure and capability in terms of “enlisting” members, training responders, and building capability.

I don’t think the current GS or Federal Employee model is particularly effective and to echo at least some of Bills sentiments; if there are 55,000(+/-) retiree or military folks on the DHS roles one has to wonder where we’d be without their point of view and experience. It’s not a panacea, but part of the process.

All that aside, better articulation is required to ensure that the HSE (Homeland Security Enterprise) is not subjugated or diminished in terms of significance. If it is not a subordinate mission than those tasked with its implementation must get better at identifying significance in lieu of constraining or trying to bang “it” into submission with a definition.

Its not a subordinate task; it’s another one.

Comment by T. Sturm

December 22, 2011 @ 10:18 am

The argument can be made that with 55,000 vets including former Coast Guard DHS has plenty of able people with military backgrounds and a significant number are retired military and U.S.Coast Guard.

I would argue that is probably too many! Too many of any one background and myopia develops. I certainly would not want to see DHS under DoD. But if DHS was a place of duty (also like the National Interagency Fire Center- NIFC- which functions quite well) instead of a separate agency with a whole new set of policies and objectives I think we would have much less we vs. they. When the DoD services were all separate we had some significant problems (Iran hostage resuce) with sharing information between services.

Military does have some great skill sets- mostly planning and training- that are useful in this enterprise. Now, if we can figure out what skill sets are useful from ex-military I think we can avoid hiring too many to get a few solid performers. Also, start poaching- there are some good junior officers- don’t wait for the COLs to retire (and do what they have always done to be successful and not rock the boat.) We need boat rockers; people willing to take risk.

The advantage I see in NIFC and Joint Staff is that, in general, they do not hire all of their people directly. The staff in both comes from partner organizations and goes back to partner organizations. As such, they gain new perspective to bring back to their organizations and they share their own agency struggles and issues. Use the NIFC model if you are DoD adverse.

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 22, 2011 @ 11:51 am

Like many in the Active Duty rosters of the Armed Forces, about 100K of DHS employees may retire at end of 20 years of service.

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