Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 17, 2012

Power to the Whole Community

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on April 17, 2012

The Past

In the days immediately after the beginning came the 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security and the list of 84 things to do to achieve three missions.

Then came the target capability list, the universal task list, the 15 scenarios, and the universal adversary.

That led, sort of, to several dozen HSPDs and related implementation guidelines, national grant crack, investment justifications, and an elegant homeland security management system that found its way to page 44 of the 2007 National Strategy, but not much further.

People asked are we safer, are we more secure, what did the billions buy?  How can we measure something?  Anything? Can we afford to keep spending?

Prevention as job one morphed into a culture of preparedness then to resilience.

The National Homeland Security Strategy half-heartedly melded into the QHSR and then all but vanished into the National Security Strategy, giving birth to talk of whole nation and whole community.

The push now, at least in part of the homeland security enterprise, is to shift from program to philosophy, from trying to bribe every community in America to talk and act alike, to recognizing that’s not the kind of nation we have.

Plus the effort to get everyone marching in lock step didn’t work.

The Present

“Plan for the real,” says FEMA in its 2011 monograph “A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action

“Meet people where they are,” it says.

“Create space at the table” for community interests not easily connected to emergency management.

So, what is whole community?

“Whole Community is a means by which [community members] can collectively understand and assess the needs of their … communities and determine the best ways to organize and strengthen their assets, capacities, and interests.” [3]

“In an all-hazards environment, individuals and institutions will make different decisions on how to prepare for and respond to threats and hazards; therefore, a community’s level of preparedness will vary.” [p.3]

“Ideas that work well in one community may not be feasible for another….” [19] “…. It is important to remember that one size does not fit all.  The definition of success will vary by community.” [22]

The whole community idea, as I understand it, is radical — by which I mean going back to the root. It claims that paying attention to what a community says it needs leads to a better prepared and more resilient community.

That’s a claim still to be supported by evidence.  But what if the philosophy is correct?  What if the whole community idea works as intended?  What if — as the stories in “A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management” suggest — working to improve the lives of people in communities across the nation generates a level of preparedness and resilience only dreamt of in the days of UTL, TCL, and One Team, One Mission?

Read these Whole Community principles and strategies and convince yourself this isn’t radical stuff (radical in the good sense of course):

1. Understand and meet the actual needs of the whole community

2. Engage and empower all parts of the community

3. Strengthen what works well in communities on a daily basis

4. Understand community complexity

5. Recognize community capabilities and needs

6. Foster relationships with community leaders

7. Build and maintain partnerships

8. Empower local action

9. Leverage and strengthen social infrastructure, networks and assets

This isn’t your grandfather’s homeland security or emergency management.

OK, it might be if your grandfather was Saul Alinsky .

Not the bad Alinsky, oozing like Lucifer’s excrement from the pages of The Evil Genius Behind Obama.  I mean the other Alinsky, the one whose strategies and tactics were praised and practiced by the political left and right, by Tea Party and Occupy Party.

“The second rule [of power] is: Never go outside the experience of your people.” says Alinsky

“If people don’t think they have the power to solve their problems, they won’t even think about how to solve them.” says Alinsky

The key word in both of those aphorisms is power — meaning, in Bertrand Russell’s words, “the ability to produce intended effects.”

Bogis and Palin wrote yesterday and last week about power.  Whole Community acknowledges, although softly, the importance of power in creating its intended effects — prepared and resilient communities:

“Leveraging and strengthening existing social infrastructure, networks, and assets means investing in the social, economic, and political structures [my emphasis] that make up daily life….” [16]

And a few pages later,

“Know where the real conversations and decisions are made.  They are not always made at the council levels…. Tap into … opportuities to listen and learn…about the community. [19]

Understanding power will be the central ingredient in any success of the whole community philosophy.

How are Americans doing with that understanding?

The Future

Eric Liu wrote an article in The Atlantic last week called Why Civics Class Should Be Sexy.

The article is about power, and the failure of schools to talk about what power is “and the ways it is won and wielded in a democracy.”

Liu envisions a school curriculum that:

would focus on a host of hard skills often ignored in procedural or fact-centered civics lessons:

  • How to see the underlying power dynamics beneath every public controversy.
  • How to read the power map of any community.
  • How to organize and mobilize people to achieve an objective.
  • How to force certain issues into public discussion.
  • How to challenge entrenched interests.
  • How to apply pressure on elected officials.

Liu felicitously calls this ” a pedagogy of the self-governing,” something that is best “learned and taught by doing. A power civics curriculum should be hands-on and project-based, giving students the chance to move people and catalyze action.”

How interesting would it be if homeland security’s Whole Community philosophy were mashed with a new pedagogy of self governing?

That might enliven a few Emergency Management Institute classes — to say nothing about the congressional hearings it would trigger.

Who knows what such a national effort could do to help homeland security evolve beyond its emergency management and terrorism focus.  The Whole Community philosophy suggests the quickest and most effective path to a prepared and resilient population may be through a detour into what communites actually want: safe streets, jobs, a clean environment, good schools, affordable medical care.

David Tucker makes a related point about civics in his 2012 book “Illuminating the Dark Arts of War: Terrorism, Sabotage, and Subversion in Homeland Security and the New Conflict”.

“We have argued [in this book] that the decentralized, federal nature of our political institutions will help preserve our political way of life, much as the decentralized nature of our infrastructure makes it resilient. We have no one centralized political point[,] the failure of which [could doom] us….  But we will reap the benefit of this advantage only to the degree the American people…are prepared…. [This] preparation is not best left to government.  Perhaps the best immunization from the harms of a catastrophic attack is citizen involvement in civic and political life….  This would be a boon to our political well-being, whether the attack ever comes or not.  All the more reason, then, for the government to see the American people and, above all, for the people to see themselves not as subjects requiring protection but as citizens participating in the risks and rewards of citizenship.”

I hope the whole community approach to emergency management works.  If it does, it may infect the rest of the homeland security enterprise.  Infection in a good way of course.

In the days immediately after the beginning came the 2002 national strategy for homeland security and the list of 82 things to do to achieve three missions.  Then came the target capability list, the universal task list, the 15 scenarios, and the universal adversary. That led, sort of, to several dozen HSPDs and related implementation guidelines, national grant crack, investment justifications, and an elegant homeland security management system that found its way to page ___ of the 2007 strategy, and nowhere else.
People asked are we safer, are we more secure, what did the billions buy?  How can we measure something?  Anything? Can we afford to keep spending?
Prevention as job one morphed into a culture of preparedness then to resilience.  The national homeland security strategy half-heartedly melded into the QHSR and then all but vanished into the National Security Strategy, giving birth to talk of whole nation and whole community.
The push now, at least in part of the homeland security enterprise, is to shift from program to philosophy, from trying to bribe every community in America to talk and act alike to recognizing that’s not the kind of nation we have.
Plus the effort to get everyone marching in step didn’t work.
“Plan for the real,” says FEMA in its 2011 monograph “A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes, and Pathways for Action”
“Meet people where they are,” it says.  ”Create space at the table” for community interests more often on the table than at it.
And what is whole community?
“Whole Community is a means by which [community members] can collectively understand and assess the needs of their … communities and determine the best ways to organize and strengthen their assets, capacities, and interests.” [3]
“In an all-hazards environment, individuals and institutions will make different decisions on how to prepare for and respond to threats and hazards; therefore, a community’s level of preparedness will vary.” [p.3]
“Ideas that work well in one community may not be feasible for another….” [19] “…. It is important to remember that one size does not fit all.  The definition of success will vary by community.” [22]
The whole community idea, as i understand it, is radical — by which I mean going back to the root. It claims that paying attention to what a community says it needs leads to a better prepared and more resilient community.
That’s a claim still to be supported by evidence.  But what if the philosophy is correct?  What if the whole community idea works?  What if — as the stories in “A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management” suggest — helping to improve the lives of people in communities across the nation generates a level of preparedness and resilience only dreamt of in the days of UTL, TCL, and One Team, One Mission?
Read the Whole Community principles and strategies and convince me this isn’t radical stuff (radical in the good sense of course):
1. Understand and meet the actual needs of the whole community
2. Engage and empower all parts of the community
3. Strengthen what works well in communities on a daily basis
4. Understand community complexity
5. Recognize community capabilities and needs
6. Foster relationships with community leaders
7. Build and maintain partnerships
8. Empower local action
9. Leverage and strengthen social infrastructure, networks and assets
This isn’t your grandfather’s homeland security or emergency management.
OK, it might be if your grandfather was Saul Alinsky — (not the bad Alinsky seeping like Lucifer from the pages of The Evil Genius Behind Obama [http://www.amazon.com/Saul-Alinsky-Genius-Behind-ebook/dp/B0076P4DZU].  I mean the other Alinsky, the one whose strategies and tactics were praised and practiced by the political left and right, [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204624204577177272926154002.html] by Tea Party and Occupy Party.
The second rule [of power] is: Never go outside the experience of your people.” says ALinsky
“If people don’t think they have the power to solve their problems, they won’t even think about how to solve them.” Says ALinsky
The key word in both of those aphorisms is power — meaning, in Bertrand Russell’s words, “the ability to produce intended effects.” [http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/methods/studying_power.html]
Bogis and Palin wrote yesterday and last week about power.  Whole Community acknowledges, although softly, the importance of power in creating prepared and resilient communities:
“Leveraging and strengthening existing social infrastructure, networks, and assets means investing in the social, economic, and political structures [my emphasis] that make up daily life….” [16]
And a few pages later, “Know where the real conversations and decisions are made.  They are not always made at the council levels…. Tap into … opportuities to listen and learn…about the community. [19]
Understanding power is a central ingredient in the success of whole community.
How are we doing with that?
Eric Liu wrote in the Atlantic last week about power, and the failure of schools to talk about what power is “and the ways it is won and wielded in a democracy.” [Why Civics Class Should Be Sexy http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/04/why-civics-class-should-be-sexy/255858/]
He envisions a curriculum that
would focus on a host of hard skills often ignored in procedural or fact-centered civics lessons:
How to see the underlying power dynamics beneath every public controversy.
How to read the power map of any community.
How to organize and mobilize people to achieve an objective.
How to force certain issues into public discussion.
How to challenge entrenched interests.
How to apply pressure on elected officials.
Liu calls this “a pedagogy of the self-governing” something that is best “learned and taught by doing. A power civics curriculum should be hands-on and project-based, giving students the chance to move people and catalyze action.”
How interesting would it be if homeland security’s Whole Community philosophy were mashed up with a new pedagogy of self governing?
Who knows what such a national effort could do to help homeland security evolve beyond its emergency management and terrorism focus.  The quickest and most effective route to a prepared and resilient population may be reached by taking a detour into what whole communites actually want: safe streets, jobs, a clean environment, good schools.  What does your community want?
David Tucker makes a similar point in his 2012 book “Illuminating the Dark Arts of War: Terrorism, Sabotage, and Subversion in Homeland Secuirty and the New Conflict”.
“We have argued [in this book] that the decentralized, federal nature of our political institutions will help preserve our political way of life, much as the decentralized nature of our infrastructure makes it resilient. We have no one centralized political point the failure … which [could doom] us….  But we will reap the benefit of this advantage only to the degree the American people…are prepared…. [This] preparation is not best left to government.  Perhaps the best immunization from the harms of a catastrophic attack is citizen involvement in civic and political life….  This would be a boon to our political well-being, whether the attack ever comes or not.  All the more reason, then, for the government to see the American people and, above all, for the people to see themselves not as subjects requiring protection but as citizens participating in the risks and rewards of citizenship.”
A whole community approach to homeland security — not just emergency management — offers people another chance.
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9 Comments »

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 17, 2012 @ 4:38 am

Ethnographic evidence of whole community:

The Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans has proven to be one of the more resilient. After experiencing flooding as bad as anywhere and worse than most, it has bounced back better than other neighborhoods that pre-Katrina were wealthier and superficially seemed stronger.

(See Lakeview data at: http://gnocdc.org/NeighborhoodData/5/Lakeview/index.html)

Much of the explanation has pointed to a very active neighborhood association with a long history of “productive antagonism” with city government. The relationships formed pre-Katrina, both within the neighborhood and between the neighborhood and city government were very valuable lifelines post-Katrina.

I perceive that neighborhood complaints regarding city services were an essential motivation for the creation of the resilient relationships within the neighborhood. Those that know me will recognize I am not happy with this perception, but despite my preferences this is where the evidence points.

Ala Alinksy, how much is antagonism toward the government an important motivation for authentic whole community engagement?

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 17, 2012 @ 7:58 am

Well Chris another terrifically great post by you! What is power? The ability to effect change for better or worse! Some seek power just to have it and not for any productive purpose other than their own self-esteem. The real basis of the Alinsky success IMO was getting communities to recognize what power they did have and that they were not powerless. Perhaps I am wrong. But if I am correct than the first thing needed to ensure that the whole of community approach works is accurate information and understanding of what is at stake. Much of American life is dominated by those who do all that they can to prevent disclosure of the facts behind many basic issues including life itself. It is very tough to be in a leadership position and disclose that “I don’t have enough information to make a good decision” or that “I don’t know what to do” and often those who claim such knowledge don’t really know or understand at all. Remember the admonition “Beware well meaning men without understanding”? So this is the underlying tension.

What local officialdom is likely to announce that their community is now located in an ultra hazardous area and probably should be evacuated or otherwise have the hazard mitigated. One example is in the STATE of IOWA, presumably a center of common sense and good government, look at the flooding history of CEDAR RAPIDS. Perhaps other choices should and could be made by its leadership. IOWA state level officials are the best of the best in talking mitigation yet in practice even after taken significant monies from FEMA over the years, some of the most repetitively flood prone communities in the USA are in IOWA and little tough minded mitigation takes place. Christ Church in NZ is making some hard choices and so is Japan.

When asked by the WSJ how many communities in the USA could suffer from some of the same problems that NOLA did in Hurricane Katrina I asked on what basis? For example transportation dependency is a big factor in eliminating the PAR [protective action recommendation] of evacuation. How many communities actually have studied their transportation dependent population and studied whether evacuation is even possible and if so how? And according to ORNL for a single family residence 2 hours is the max protection for sheltering in place from airborne hazards, including radioactive iodine for example from a core melt nuclear power plant accident.

Neighborhoods, communities, metropolitan areas, states and the federal government make choices all the time. Few informed choices are made in the current political environment since often issues are developed so that all can pick a side and hope to win, not decide on the best policies in light of the information available.

FEMA long ago could have added critical infrastructures and congregate care centers to its flood maps to make them more useful for planning. The largely straight civil engineering community in FEMA and its contractors, note that few are even hydrological specialists, rejected that notion again and again because they had little interest in how the maps were actually used. Now of course I advocate the total elimination of flood maps and replacement by GIS systems and maps since paper mapping is purely helping to destroy forests not promoting accurate rating or flood plain management. Perhaps in coast zone areas they might have utility as warning mechanisms. Since I left running FEMA’s litigation in late 1986 after over a decade of defending the mapping effort of the NFIP few challenges to the maps have occurred, largely because they are now more than easily gamed by all. Communities even now fight extension of flood plain deliniations and even Congress has helped to ensure that even in the face of the knowledge that all levees fail [due to design exceedence or failure] areas that would be impacted by such failure not be disclosed.

And when the WSJ asked me how many communities were equally vulnerable to NOLA I said you could pick almost any community protected by structural flood protection, either by the USACOE or others, and they would be good candidates. But I said I would guestimate that over 200 Katrina type NOLA impacts are currently in place. To pick one of some interest I would pick all of STATEN ISLAND, a borough of NYC or the Sacremento delta communities.

Well it is always fun to think about the posts on HLSWATCH so will stop for now. And yes Arnold as I age and approach 70 this August my dialective does get repetitive and more didactive. My present fury is driven by the knowledge that PDM [predisater mitigation] in once again eliminated on a bipartisan basis yet literally billions go out for disaster relief still in an unaccountable fashion that will only precipitate more disasters

Some may find it of interest that no study exists of how disaster outlays are often repetitive outlays in the same whole of communities. Would not this information be a good starting point for hazard analysis, mitigation, and prevention and protection, and resilience?

And in case anyone doubts, FEMA does hate producing any statistics, relevant or not. At the present time there is now a single professional statistician anywhere in FEMA. I don’t know about DHS.

Also few in FEMA or DHS understand the importance of the SMSA concept and the work that reflects from the Census Bureau. The federal government should be producing SMSA GIS maps reflecting all hazards known for each SMSA!

Comment by Peter J. Brown

April 17, 2012 @ 10:22 am

It would be downright amusing if somehow all the important messaging attached to 1950′s era “civil defense” literature was suddenly rediscovered. That is where this all heading. The assistant undersecretary for homeland security semantics may soon be out of a job as the appeal of – let alone the relevance of – “Homeland Security” is abruptly replaced by a modernized application of “Civil Defense” common sense with all of its relevant community-friendly and resilience-oriented attributes.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 17, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

Title VI of the Robert T. Stafford Act was transferred in part from the former Civil Defense Act [Public Law 920 of the 81st Congress]and with two exceptions substituted the words “emergency management” for the words “civil defense”! The repeal and transfer failed to eliminate the UnConstitutional loyalty oath provision of the former CDA which imposed that concept on all STATE and Locals receiving money from that statute. The DoJ ruled in an OLC published opinion that the predecessor agencies of the FEMA should not attempt to implement or enforce that oath. The opinion was provided to the Congress which failed to act. Thus any persons or organizations at STATE and LOCAL level technically are subject to the loyalty oath provisions now contained in the Stafford Act. Perhaps some new administration will attempt to enforce it.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 17, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

From the establishment of the dual use principle under President Nixon in NSDM-184 in 1972 to the formal enactment of the “all-hazard” concept in the CDA of 1950 by Public Law 103-160 one year prior to the repeal of that statute by Public Law 103-337 in November 1994 the real arguments over the meaning of federal preparedness assistance all took place under the auspices of the federal civil defense program. Should the first principles of preparedness be studied closely or established anew or modified, Peter Brown is correct that the federal civil defense program will again be studied.

I would argue that the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996 [Title XIV of the 1996 Defense authorization act] and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act were in fact made possible only by repeal of the federal CDA which had been translated into general revenue sharing by the states in its final years. Few of the monies provided after 1989 by the CDA went to any kind of preparedness, and certainly not against WMD or terrorism.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

April 17, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

The ability to produce intended effects…what an excellent and telling phrase. The ability to produce is tantamount to the capability to lead. Not manage, not deal, not negotiate, but lead. I think there is a vital distinction in terms of vision and strategy.

If there is to be a whole community approach then there is going to have to be special trust and confidence in the fidelity and ability of our leaders. The inverse is also true. Do we have both the trust and confidence and the leaders to build that coalescence and community? Do our leaders trust we the people?

Maybe a different kind of community organizer may be needed.

Tantamount to empowerment and exercising resilience is the ability to coexist between the necessity of self reliance and requiring a community to create the capability overlap necessary to meet needs that exceed the individual.

Those who can lead and exercise influence truly understand power to be the central ingredient in any success of the whole community philosophy.

“If people don’t think they have the power to solve their problems, they won’t even think about how to solve them.” says Alinsky.

Power and influence are leadership necessities but as Bill points out, are often used perhaps well and not so well. Phil points out that productive antagonism, great phrase by the way, or antagonism toward the government may be an important motivation for authentic whole community engagement. Antagonism towards government now can be construed as anti government and therefore get one or a group listed as a potential threat.

“Homeland Security is monitoring the web for anti-government sentiment and signs of social unrest” reads one of the headlines… Authentic antagonism? Kind of sounds like Occupy Now, doesn’t it? Is productive antagonism anti government or civic accountability? Protection or participation? Is productive antagonism the perturbation in a system that creates change?

So to be effective and resilient one must demonstrate a degree or modicum of antagonism. If one demonstrates said antagonism one is scrutinized and therefore can be considered an enemy of the state. Overstated for affect, or perhaps not, but by all appearances if one does not comply one is targeted at a variety of levels.

Chris writes; “the whole community idea, as I understand it, is radical — by which I mean going back to the root. It claims that paying attention to what a community says it needs leads to a better prepared and more resilient community”. Radical? Antagonism? These are strong themes that are counter to the current. They are also disruption traits. In order to be effective the institution must need to change.

In the current construct, over simplified for brevity, how does that community compete with other communities for relevance when the system is designed or at least appears to be designed to have communities justify and compete with one another for assets and assistance? This too is impetus for becoming socially insular and evoking the previous attention that may constitute scrutiny. It is a fascinating dilemma.

On some level this productive antagonism requires leadership, persuasion, and power, and these traits that are deviant can be seen by those who protect the status quo and wish to maintain power as negative attributes. Also, from a purely philosophical point of view, they (said traits) are an anathema to a growing central government planning construct that has evolved over time. I see it across the Government, trying to harness data and information to make top down, directed decisions and dismissing unique characteristics of the particular situation. Does anyone else see the self organizing criticality here? We have both a capability and expectation fallacy.

“[This] preparation is not best left to government. Perhaps the best immunization from the harms of a catastrophic attack is citizen involvement in civic and political life…. This would be a boon to our political well-being, whether the attack ever comes or not. All the more reason, then, for the government to see the American people and, above all, for the people to see themselves not as subjects requiring protection but as citizens participating in the risks and rewards of citizenship.”

This is the conundrum. Are we as citizens competing with our own Government and in that competition those who antagonize and do not comply become more resilient and at the same time a labeled as non compliant? “A pedagogy of the self-governing…” the holistic science of educating a group to be self led…THAT’S AMERICAN!!

I stated previously that this is a fascinating observation. Thanks Chris and the rest of the respondants.

Comment by John Comiskey

April 17, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

Chris,
IMHO-1, HLS writ large is about Civics 101 and Emersonian-self-reliance.
I have integrated those two concepts throughout my homeland security curriculum and find that undergraduate and graduate students are receptive. Most remember remnants of civic education from their elementary and secondary education.
IMHO-2, civic education is a moral and national security imperative.

Recommendations:

1. Leaders who preach, teach, and live “civicness.”
2. “Civicness” advocates on Oprah-advocacy level.
I apologize for the brevity of my response. I hope that the blog returns to this worthy subject.

John

Comment by John Comiskey

April 18, 2012 @ 8:10 am

Marc,

FEMA’s whole community should keep it simple.
Too many emergency mangers continue to rely on the adage that the world is run by those who show up.

Too often too many of the people who don’t show up are all too willing to let those that show up run most everything. So much for a whole community.

IMHO, that is the way it is and we can and should foster a civic minded, self-reliant, and resilient whole community and dispose of the above HLS/EM aphorism.

Yesterday, Chris B argued and hoped that the whole community to EM works. His fellow bloggers cheered him on and called for civicness, leadership, and resilience. I argued and continue to argue that leadership and civic education are moral and national security imperatives that might get some of those people who don’t show up to show up and engage those emergency managers with real-world solutions to everything up to an including MOMs.

Comment by John Comiskey

April 18, 2012 @ 8:12 am

Retraction,

My April 18 post above was intended for the April 18 blog to follow.

John C

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