Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 12, 2012

Government of the People: It can be complicated

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on April 12, 2012

Last week FEMA released it’s Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) Guide.  This is a key element in implementation of PPD-8, the achievement of the National Preparedness Goal, and for justifying grant requests under the newly consolidated DHS grant program.

As otherwise explained by FEMA administrators, the THIRA includes a five step process for identifying top priorities:

  • Identify the threats and hazards of concern – What could happen in my community?
  • Give the threats and hazards context – Describe how a threat or hazard could happen in my community, and when and where it could happen.
  • Examine the core capabilities using the threats and hazards – How would each threat or hazard affect the core capabilities identified in the National Preparedness Goal?
  • Set capability targets – Using the information above, set the level of capability a community needs to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from its risks.
  • Apply the results – Use the capability targets to decide how to use resources from the Whole Community.

This is a gross simplification, but a jurisdiction — or much better, collaborative jurisdictions — can use the THIRA to identify threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences.  Then using the 31 core capabilities in the National Preparedness Goal, the jurisdictions can think through what they need, what they have, and any capability gaps they want to fill.  Then they make their case for federal funding to preserve current capabilities or fill current gaps.  Presumably they will also decide where to focus priorities with or without federal funding.

Pretty reasonable all-in-all.  But if you are anywhere around this process you already know many are not happy (to be understated).

Unhappiness was probably guaranteed.  There’s a lot less money to distribute.

The Department and OMB amplified the unhappiness by eliminating most of the the individual grant programs (buckets, rice bowls, etc.).  Ever read,  Who Moved My Cheese?

I perceive — on absolutely no authority — that someone decided if the states and locals are going to scream and shout anyway, let’s go ahead and rationalize the process.  Instead of DHS dividing up the cheese, let’s devolve this process to the states so that key strategic decisions are made holistically by those closest to the vulnerabilities, threats, and options.

No one asked my opinion, but I might well have offered such advice.

Glad no one asked for my advice.

On March 20 there was a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications.  It was an old-fashioned sort of hearing. Authentic questions were asked. Complicated answers were accepted without attack.  Democrats and Republicans were civil to each other and often agreed with each other. They especially agreed that consolidation of DHS grant programs was a bad idea.

The strongest testimony of the day was probably that of Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia, following is an excerpt of his prepared testimony, very close to what he said aloud:

We are very concerned about the increased role which states will play in determining where and how funds would be spent:

With increased authority, the Commonwealth will likely augment the already bureaucratic processes required to purchase equipment. Even now, prior to increased oversight and authority, the Commonwealth has added additional layers to the equipment acquisition process thus limiting the ability of local jurisdictions to spend down their grant funds and obtain much needed equipment

Further, the Commonwealth already has a track record of re-distributing funding away from urban areas and re-allocating that funding to other areas of the Commonwealth. For example, in FY2011, PEMA reallocated the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) funding away from the Philadelphia Urban Area to other Task Forces within the Commonwealth.

The SHSGP distribution is historically based on population index, economic index, and critical infrastructure points. Based on this formula alone, the Philadelphia Urban Area was slated to receive the largest award amount. While we were bracing for a 50 percent cut due to an overall decrease in funding, we actually received an 85.46 percent reduction in the SHSGP grant.

There are nine Task Forces in the Commonwealth. One received a 50 percent SHSGP cut and the others received 25 percent reductions. This demonstrates a disproportionate impact on Philadelphia that does not align with the historical grant allocation guidelines.

Subcommittee members seemed unanimous in their concern and amazement at such behavior by Pennsylvania.  Evidently antipathy to the executive branch — either federal or state — can be especially effective at bringing legislators to common cause.

I was reminded of a meeting last month with public safety leaders in a city overlooking the Pacific.  When someone (not me!) suggested seeking State support for a homeland security measure the immediate response was raucous laughter.  It was the sort of laughter that renewed itself, grew stronger, and actually caused one firefighter to laugh himself into tears, which of course prompted even more laughter.

About three months ago I was in an urban county’s Emergency Management Agency listening to one complaint after another aimed at FEMA.  Perhaps sensing some impatience on my part, the Director said, “Oh, don’t think we’re being too tough on FEMA.  They’re our best friends compared to (insert name of state capital).  We actively hate (insert name of state EMA). FEMA wants us to focus where we don’t want to focus, even though we sometimes should (latter phrase probably inserted only for my benefit).  The state is just pure incompetent.”

The picture at the top shows a 30 foot statue that stands in a plaza between Philadelphia  City Hall and the Municipal Services Building. Conceived  in bronze by Jacques Lipchitz,  it shows several human figures entwined in each other, holding each other, perhaps lifting each other up (or is it holding each other down?). It’s convoluted, even confusing.  The statue is called “Government of the People”.

Who says modern art isn’t allegorical.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 12, 2012 @ 8:56 am

Even though mandated and protected by the Constitution the federal system is totally broken. And we keep electing former governors that have no clue about foreign policy or foreign relations or national security. Yet these sectors continue to drain effort and resources from the USA in huge numbers. After all the FEDERAL RESERVE in documents whose release was forced by Bloomberg News and Congress has admitted to a cool $7 Trillion to bail out domestic and foreign banks and according to Candidate Ron Paul perhaps $27 Trillion.

I will be posting comments later on the FEMA document but my analysis as always will start with who exactly prepared it, what methodology was utilized, who reviewed it, what documents does it supersede and who or what organizations formally signed off on this document? And finally of course since those who read my blogs understand that IMO neither FEMA nor DHS are all-hazard organizations in design or concept or policy whether this document purports to be an all-hazard document. Did all Directorates in FEMA and DHS sign off on this document?

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 12, 2012 @ 8:57 am

And Phil your link to THIRA failed.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 12, 2012 @ 9:18 am

The document is CPG 201 and posted on FEMA.gov website. It is not nearly as comprehensive or detailed as prior FEMA hazards analysis and capability materials. Assume Contract that prepared it had no idea that there was prior FEMA hazard and risk analysis materials available.

Let’s take two examples: Communities with nuclear power stations or those that are targets for Strategic Nuclear Attack [i.e. missile bases or Boomer bases]. Do they need to take special measures into account and should they be funded for special efforts? This was done, e.g., for the CSEPP efforts [Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program]!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 12, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

Bill: Thanks for the failure notice. I cannot seem to get the link to “take” inside the text. Here is a raw URL for the THIRA: http://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=5823

As you know so well, the Founders consciously designed a constitutional structure that was radically realistic regarding human nature. Part of this realism was to distribute power in such a way that — depending on the self-interest of the system’s participants — no single player in the system could overawe others.

For various reasons, both good and bad in my judgment, we have over time allowed greater concentrations of power than originally intended and that are not in the long-term best interests of liberty. But sovereignty remains authentically distributed… and the Tenth Amendment survives.

In Philadelphia the Founders were often divided between “realists” who sought to anticipate power-grabbing self-interest and “idealists” who perceived that a virtuous society required virtuous leadership. The realists, led by Madison, mostly won the argument with a system that, in many ways, depends on self-interested contention among the political class to work most effectively.

But even Madison depended on a society (not the political society, but the whole society) where the peoples’ pursuit of virtue would complement the systematic application of political self-interest and serve to contain such self-interest within certain bounds. He wrote,

Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks — no form of government can render us secure. To suppose liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.

I am reluctant to blame federalism for failing us. I worry more about the nature of virtue (as Madison conceived it) and how it is expressed within our culture, our society, the whole body-politic.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 12, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

Garry Wills has a book out called “BOMB POWER” attributing the rising dominance of the Executive Branch not to better taxing capability, or talent, but the mystery and “worship” of nuclear weapons and their tenders the nuclear priesthood.

Well like the Aztec Priests in our own way we have demanded human sacrifices to the power of the centralized state.

With almost 2/3rds of the entire federal budget and operations wrapped in secrecy perhaps the notion of government of the people, by the people, and for the people is no longer able to endure.

Reading and interesting book right now by Professor Andrew J. Bacevich entitled “The New American Militarism” 2005 that blames both Republicans and DEMS for reliance on military options in foreign policy and relationships before reasoning and understanding. If the people are essentially kept in ignorance by its leaderships for whatever reasons, and little is known of what Obama or Romney will bring to the table in a second term for Obama or Romney for the first what we do seem to know is that if the test of the President is not necessarily a “first class intellect” but as some wit said of FDR a first class “temperament” I personally believe that the stresses and strains of events and the campaign this summer might well find the latter “competency” missing in either man. I hope not as I see a need for difficult decisions needing to be made by whoever wins.

What I am finding of great interest is the Japan for whatever reason can almost conclusively be found to have failed to develop the leadership it needs to survive the complex catastrophe it experienced on March 11, 2011, and in the period following even up today. Instructive perhaps for other highly developed technologically oriented nation-states. Perhaps Japan just pretended to be a bottom up democracy.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

April 12, 2012 @ 9:29 pm


Both the books you speak about are excellent and your comments are spot on.

Comment by Uncomplicate What We Have - Enabled - To Complicate In Self-Serving Way" have Complicated....

April 13, 2012 @ 4:51 am

Bravo William!

We here on “Main Street USA’ just wish the “beltway bandits” in Sleepy Hollow with their ADHD in self serving agenda could only read and pay heed….

While I will be in the midst of them on Wednesday this week only of course if TSA permits me through the gate for every time I board a flight, I am subjected to what they say is a less than 1/2 of one percent of passenger strip down as it seems someone is reading by doomayer perspective and whatever way I can be inconvenienced, TSA is always on hand to perform….

Yes, despite it all, I will be in the midst of the wolves this week and it is like eating with the Roamns before their collapse as the only complication I see is Waqshington itself on both sides of the asile with such ineptnes, such disregard for the People and the Constitution!

While I simply admire the folks at NSA, those addressing science and enginering discipline, intel and cyber security folks and hats off for if it were not for their dedication for preserving our great Republic….I abhor these hoodlums, these “entrusted” mena nd women whose “special interests” are intentionally tearing at the core values of this Judeo-Christian values while this “Goldman Sachs” WH and its puppet, this Chicago community organizer, the elitist and banker pal Barry Obama continues to spend us ointo a point of no return and a failed State for it is our “Main Street USA State of the Union” contention that if it infact Barry obama vs Mitt the Unfit, Black slavery and Mormon philosophy will rule the day while real issues in seeing naval vessels needing replacement, aging aircraft, far reaching State policy making in better understanding of foreign cultures and fully grasping the fact that as we continue to portray a nation paralyzed by grid lock as a strict adherenec to party line, those that seek our demise clearly see our weaknesses and Winston Churchill, well, he gone and in this 21st and 22nd centure of an ever changing political and economic playing field, We the People have been led astray and yes, our front porch flag is flying upside down in distress and yes, the only “change” we have seenas promised, the last pennies taken from our pockets as an every imposing government has resulted in my being assured that we have passed the point of no return and we are doomed into a global temperment which will inevitably see War and we are so unrpepared, so unwilling to stand forthright, to muster the “leadership” to thwart those from within who seek to place us in jeopardy, our demise.

Keep leaning over to the “KGB putinites” and whispering to them. they and the “Brutes of Tehran” are only further encouraged by our own obvious hollow mentality so gripped by this lust for power that unfortunately We the People have entrusted these folks by not having recall initiatives, by not imposing term limits on all elected office and for not demanding line by line transparency for given the present gas prices, never mind $6 and $7 prices to come…we cannot even get to Las Vegas to join the various government agencies partying with our monies at the same time government seeks to abort babies as well….

God Bless our beloved Republic for we are in dire straits, you better believe it and we the People here on “Main Street USA’ — we are not as easily deceived Barry Obama, smug smiled pelosi and your GS bankers who I reference you as the “Rat pack” and it is with much hope that this election we see you ousted by your elitist an ever threatening inetntions to tear our Constitution to treads, a Constitution bequeathed to us for safe keeping, yet forewarned by our articulate and insightful forefathers who stated that We the People here on “Main Street USA” should be weary of those from within as well as tose whose agenda seek our demise….

Whispering to the “KGB Putinites” and your intent to disarm our Republic and diminish our nuclear arsenal is at least from our perspective here on “Main Street USA” an Act of Treason as barry and Hank et al have done your utmost to weaken us and to disregard the core values prerequisite to this Judeo-Christian nationwho reads the Bible for the majority, yet is resilient and diverse to respect those who read the Qur’an which by the way professes respect of others and peaceful way and Respect for others like ny fellow Hellenes who will practice their religious Easter Sunday this week…It is the narrow perspective of this WH and Congressional mentality which has now created a high level of concern as to what is not too distant as War looms and the Germans and its sidekick Vatican will confront the 1 billion Muslims and instead of all of us Respecting one another and striving to understand that we may have differences and while we may not neecssarily embrace one another…We can all, Muslim, Christian and other, well folks, a bit more tolerance as it truly appears that the global political and economic uncertainty will lead us to global depression and calamity..

God Bless us all!

Happy Easter to all my fellow Greek Orthodox and Eastern orthodox brthren this coming Sunday as Christ surely suffered for each fo us, God’s children and We seem to misunderstand the importance of the necessity to repent and prefer to raise sword to one another…oh, our inherent weakness and self serving ways, so corrupt, so dysfunctional and to surely lead us to World War once again led by a Germany whose agenda is to again place us all in jeopardy….

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645 USA

Comment by Fiscal Hawk

April 15, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years (FY) 2012-2016
Extract page B-1:
Priority Goal 3: Ensure resilience to disasters by strengthening disaster preparedness and response capabilities. By September 30, 2013, every state will have a current, DHS-certified Threat, Hazard, Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA).

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Barriers to a Whole of Community Response to Anything

April 16, 2012 @ 1:41 am

[…] levels of government and among different professions, has earlier been posted on by Mark and Phil.  In an effort to keep this blog post from becoming a long-form magazine article, I’ll let their […]

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