Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 21, 2012

Core characteristics of catastrophe: Complexity, cascades, and culture

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on June 21, 2012

The Deluge IV by David Bates

Three core characteristics of catastrophe:

1.  Catastrophes are complex and can become chaotic.

2.  Catastrophes cascade over time and space.

3.  Catastrophes are cultural phenomena.


More on Complexity: Catastrophes can often be anticipated, but cannot be predicted.  A general pattern may be observable, even measurable.  But precise projections of time, place, power, speed, and other outputs are innately difficult, perhaps impossible.  This reflects a wide range of underlying, sometimes hidden,  interdependencies. The scope of cause-and-effect relationships is such that prior experience with more predictable events can potentially mislead as often as help.  Misplaced efforts to contain an emerging catastrophe may actually increase volatility.

Example: The 1960 tsunami benchmark selected by the Japanese resulted in siting and protection decisions that in some cases amplified the impact of the 2011 tsunami.

Implications for homeland security: Catastrophe planning and preparedness should focus on strategic capacity and capability rather than tactical response.   Leadership in a catastrophe is a courageous, creative process of probing and acting more than a management function of analyzing and responding.


More on Cascades: Interdependent systems — whether natural or constructed, physical or social — generally facilitate cascading effects.   Changes in one system can influence many other systems simultaneously or successively.  Networks of nodes and links characterize a wide-array of ecological, technological, economic, and cultural systems.  The more connections between nodes and the more convergent each node, the more likely — and powerful — a cascading effect involving all nodes.  Synergies are amoral.  Connections that breed health and wealth can also contaminate.

(We tend to think of cascades as quick and they can be.  As interesting are slower cascades that emerge from, for example, drought.  In my own research, I perceive that cultural confirmation of catastrophe is most likely when the event persists over significant time or is regularly repeated over time.  What humans perceive as single events are seldom catastrophic.)

Example: The Eurozone comes immediately to mind.  More relevant to many readers might be wildfires, power grids, and telecom carrier hotels.  (Hmm, mix those three together for a catastrophic scenario?)

Implications for homeland security: Dense hubs of multiple connections — such as an Emergency Operations Center — are great for propagating efficiencies and catastrophes.  Mitigation is a function of reducing both the overall density of connections and the concentration of connections at any single node.


More on Culture: Well… over the last two weeks, here and here, we have probably written enough about culture.   But this characteristic of catastrophe is often overlooked.   Major earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, pandemics and even nuclear-capable terrorists will occasionally grab our attention.   There are a few thoughtleaders giving sustained attention to cascades, self organized criticality, and other aspects of complexity.  The cultural inputs and outputs of catastrophic events are not, typically, topics for homeland security conferences.

Over the last two weeks we have suggested that from a cultural perspective not all catastrophic outcomes are necessarily bad.  The decisive factor in differentiating good from bad may be the self-critical self-discovery of the survivors.

Example: In prior posts we have given particular attention to literary examples,  but we have also pointed to the judgment of many that the “catastrophic” outcome of horrific plague in 14th Century Europe was the Renaissance.   We might also point to how survivors reacted to the San Francisco earthquake and fire or the Great Chicago Fire.

Implications for homeland security: Whole community anyone?  How about private and civic engagement in prevention, preparedness, and mitigation?   How about private and civic leadership in prevention, preparedness, and mitigation?  How about the following comment by a long-time emergency management professional? (I will not name who said it, he still needs his career.) “With the best intentions we have become major contributors to the infantilization of the American people.”


This is part of a series of posts that is examining possible connections between catastrophes, resilience, and civil liberties and the implications for homeland security.   Reader comments are welcome and have already influenced the direction of the series.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

June 21, 2012 @ 2:00 am

INTERESTING POST! Unfortunately I have concluded after a lifetime in the field that the minority benefits one way or another from making sure that the majority stays ignorant and uninformed. Yes the snake oil salesmen rule. And we have set up institutions to ensure that the slicky boys can continue to operate with little fear of sanction. Who is the real beneficiary of the failure to adopt or enforce adequate building codes for example? Or to abandon In Loco Parentis paradigms for K-12? Or preventing knowledge and research into who benefits from exploiting the commons but ensuring the costs of that exploitation is born by the general citizenry? Or the exact nature of tax expenditures and who is the recipient of tax expenditures? And who benefits from the general lack of preparedness in the USA? I know the fool can ask more questions than the wise man can answer!

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 21, 2012 @ 2:10 am

And which is better for the USA? Leadership that says I know the problems but “they” won’t let me do it! Or a leadership that just does NOT know after a lifetime as a largely professional politician.

It looks to me like the price of loyalty to the political class is destruction of the culture and that is the catastrophe for the USA. Do Mega-Churches that provide cradle to grave social services really involve religion of something else? Why is over 10% of the GDP controlled by organizations with non profit status–mostly tax exempt?

And from my question on a prior post what was the import of the 9/11/01 event if NOTHING fundamentally changed in the USA? If nothing fundamentally changed can the event really have been important in the short long run or was it just another of the outrages Christians, Jews, and Muslims have imposed on the innocents of the “others” since their inception?

Alan Dershowitz [sic] in one of his books poses the question “Can You Be Moral Without Being Religious”?

Can you be prepared when you lack basic information as to risks?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 21, 2012 @ 3:11 am

Bill, There are benefits to a minority if the majority stays ignorant and uninformed (In the kingdom of the blind…”).

There are structural impediments to some becoming informed. There are systems that perpetuate ignorance. We should not underestimate these influences.

But neither, it seems to me, can we absolve individuals from a primary responsibility for being informed, for thinking about what is known, for making judgments and taking responsible action.

In terms of catastrophic risk, total ignorance is usually not the problem. People know about the threat of earthquake, wildfire, hurricane and more. But even among those who are well-informed, we are often dealing with a stubborn lack of attention and a strong tendency for denial.

Which, it seems, brings us back to culture.

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June 21, 2012 @ 4:27 am

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Comment by William R. Cumming

June 21, 2012 @ 6:28 am

From your comment:
“There are structural impediments to some becoming informed. There are systems that perpetuate ignorance. We should not underestimate these influences.”

My point is that many of the above structural impediments and systems are the way they are by design.

So why so little analysis of how this design function has been captured by those who hold in thrall the majority and then blame that majority for their ignorance.

Perhaps the new HBO series “Newsroom” gives indication of what might happen although I have not seen its first episodes.

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 21, 2012 @ 8:38 am

An interesting document has been produced by the DHS policy shop entitled “The 2012 Strategic Environment” that might be of interest to readers, posters, and commentators on this blog.

Comment by Michael Brady

June 21, 2012 @ 11:06 am


Dense hubs of multiple connections — such as an Emergency Operations Center — are great for propagating efficiencies and catastrophes.

Interesting. A mesh is more resilient than a hub in failure mode, but a mesh requires more and different hardware and is harder to train in and drill to. A mesh also creates/requires decentralization of power (knowledge) and authority (control of knowledge) which does not appeal to the middle and upper level administrators of hierarchical command and control structures.

I’m really enjoying this thread. I wish more people would join in.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 21, 2012 @ 11:48 am

Michael: And… meshes, such as fishing nets, will continue to be more-or-less effective even with several gaps, even significant gaps. Are there ways to make our networks of hubs-and-links much more mesh-like? Are there ways to distribute the efficiencies of hubs across a much more mesh-like system?

Comment by John F. Morton

June 21, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

Example: The Eurozone comes immediately to mind. More relevant to many readers might be wildfires, power grids, and telecom carrier hotels. (Hmm, mix those three together for a catastrophic scenario?)

At the macro level, add escalation in Syria, Iranian provocation in the Strait of Hormuz, descent into chaos in Egypt and the Fed somehow applying taxpayer dollars to shore up banks, the BIS and other financial institutions enmeshed in the eurozone crisis. Complexity abounds.

With great respect, I say to Ashton Carter, this Washington concept of a federal-centric security, resilience, sustainability and competitiveness governance perpetuates a single point-of-failure.

Network theory indeed supports decentralization to nodes that are driven bottom-up. Prior to the pre-WW I Preparedness Movement and through the constructs of the War Industries Board, New Deal, OSRD, the National Security Act of 1947, Goldwater-Nichols and the establishment of DHS, we have only addressed top-down approaches that reflect the maturing of the Industrial Age. We are now in the Information Age, very different. New governance must reflect this and can only do so by revisiting American governance to reflect the founding constitutional verities of our federal republic.

We can do this, folks, and proper restructuring of the Homeland Security Enterprise or National Preparedess System is the place to start.

Take the Hurricane Katrina recovery. What was the boom? The hurricane itself. Take Detroit and regional planning. What was the boom here? My point is that both regions are dealing with the same sustainability and competitiveness issues central to governance. The same issues the Sendai region of Japan faces after its third-order disaster. Putting that right cannot be down in Tokyo or Washington by command and control. It can only be done by something analogous to a Continental Congress that is decentralized and regional where trade-offs can be made by co-equal federal, state, local, private sector and NGO partners participating in planning collaboratively.

Required is a new governance brought to life by statute to enable such a network-federal structure and process to eliminate the single point-of-failure into networked regional nodes having ten loci of power resides. I refer all to Katie Fox’s 2010 Preparedness Task Force Report to Congress and what that FEMA-facilitated body had to say about preparedness and networks.

When are folks going to wake up to see that tinkering alone with the federal interagency space is a fool’s errand. The solutions for homeland security can only come by putting right the intergovernmental axis of governance.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 21, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

John, In my experience there are lots of people who have awakened to the reality you describe. They see what you see and their take-aways are similar. But actually operating in this new reality is another issue. There are institutional, regulatory, legal, and political legacies that complicate adaptation to the emerging axis. As problematic — perhaps more — are the skills needed. This is a brokering, venturing, partnering, collaborative, environment. Centralization of Command-and-Control can sometimes seem — like the Soviet Union — to be an old enemy who we prefer to the new opportunities.

Comment by Bruce Martin

June 21, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

Can we blend the C3 desire of some with the network concept? Some days, from a local’s perspective, it seems that is what “we” in HLS are attempting. In my observation of local NIMS training, I see the C3 mentality is reinforced, and in the early period of response that works (after the early-early “independent action/organic” phase). NIMS ICS also works fine as a management tool later through recovery, until other bureaucratic systems re-assert themselves.

Whatever management system you choose, it needs resources, and sometimes authority to get things done, so we are back to engaging other sectors besides government and considering the notion of federalism: Mayors and Governors want their authority intact, yet in catastrophes need help.

I think you are on point that the ambassadorial skills would be effective. The larger incidents I have observed went sideways over personal interactions (style), secondary to the message being relayed. I am grossly oversimplifying the environments but perhaps keeping it simple would help.

So, what would incentivize the myriad of players to develop those skills and gain capabilities that would be useful in a “C3 mesh?” The potential for catastrophes just don’t get people training. We ought to be looking for some other mechanism that requires skills to be developed that would translate over to catastrophe “management.”

Comment by John F. Morton

June 21, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

I am more optimistic. EO 13434 has new life, the National Security Professional Development Integration Office having moved over to OPM with Jerry Talbot at the the helm. Jerry has focused on the emergency management discipline as his pilot and is working with local and state partners in the National Capital Region. Dennis Schrader and I are impressing on him that state and local personnel and organizations must be included in the NSPD workforce system with the idea to further use of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act to detail folks back and forth to facilitate a collaborative culture for homeland security. What we would like to see is more of that in the FEMA regions rather than back and forth to and from Washington. My own feeling is that FEMA should advance on its declaratory regional policies and utilize IPAs there to support various planning initiatives under the FPCs, making such a staff akin to DoD’s Joint Staff and its culture of purple suiters. The homeland security professional workforce needs to be more expeditionary within what is realistic. Having a rural sheriff detail to Washington or a Fed to a rural jurisdiction is a stretch and not a value-add professionally. But detailing a rural deputy to an intra-state regional entity could be. So that is the kind of productive thinking that should be pursued to push the bounds to get the results we all want.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 21, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

Bruce, Elsewhere I have suggested a supplemental conceptualization of C3 as Collaboration, Creativity, and Communications. I have even seen it happen. And in a catastrophe, I think this approach to C3 is more productive than the traditional. NIMS could accommodate both conceptualizations. Incentivization is a key issue and I don’t have a confident answer. I see what works on the micro-level, but I don’t know — yet — what it takes to scale.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 21, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

John, I’m thrilled to hear the National Security Professional Development program has had a Lazarus experience. May it live long and prosper.

In terms of regionalization, looking at next year’s budget plans I think FEMA is moving well beyond declarations to action. But especially because something like NSPD is not yet fully functioning there is the risk of two-steps forward and (at least) one back.

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 21, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

Mary Parker Folette long ago focused on COOPERATION as part of what management should be instilling as a discipline in a technological society. So perhaps 4 “C’s”! Essentially a team concept rather than hierarchial efforts to command and control!

Comment by Donald Quixote

June 21, 2012 @ 9:20 pm

“With the best intentions we have become major contributors to the infantilization of the American people.”

There is a great difference between developing a mature culture of preparedness and readiness and our current evolving culture.

If someone else is going to take care of me, why should I worry about myself? I can use my limited resources on other priorities or do something really important like watch American Idol or some other terribly relevant and high-quality show……………

I heard that the Stafford Act will now also fund underwater mortgages, both kinds………

When is my free cellular telephone going to be delivered and new SNAP card to make me healthier……………….

It is an election year after all!!!!!!!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 22, 2012 @ 5:49 am

Bill, I think you, John, and many others are articulating what most graduate management faculty would also articulate. Old notions of Command-and-Control are not effective for contemporary challenges.

Creativity is especially needed in the face of unpredictable change of any sort… on the battlefield, in the Board room, or on the streets in the midst of a potentially catastrophic event. To be effectively creative in these crucible moments is the outcome of prior experience, relationships, analogies available to be applied, specific knowledge of the current situation… much, much more. It is not a time to wait for orders.

It is best, especially in dealing with potential catastrophes, if creative skills can be applied in anticipation of the change.

I have never encountered anyone in the United States who disagrees fundamentally with these principles (I have met disagreement outside the US). But everyday I encounter policies, procedures, and management behavior that suppress a meaningful expression (or even exploration) of these principles. I also encounter plenty of personnel who seem entirely satisfied to wait for orders, and to complain about both waiting and any orders received.

Bruce Martin is, I think, focusing on the right issue in his discussion of incentives… and, I would add, disincentives.

Two possible angles:

First, there is the need for structural and systemic shifts. For this purpose, on your news stands now is a Harvard Business Review magazine-like publication entitled “Managing Uncertainty”. All the articles are relevant. I especially commend the collection of Voices that lead-off. Here’s one: Living in a Radical State of Uncertainty by Bruce Nussbaum.

Second, there is the need for more individuals — leaders, managers, and followers — who are self-consciously and self-critically living the Journey of the Hero. See Django’s comments here and the prior post and discussion here.

(I hope these comments are also responsive to Don Quixote. The commentator’s namesake is another very interesting example of the Hero’s Journey. We want — well, I often want — a success formula. Cervantes, Tolkien, Rowling, Homer, Sophocles, Shakespeare, the Gospel writers tend to agree that if there is a formula it does not produce the expected outcome.)

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 22, 2012 @ 7:51 am

To focus on the tragedy of current lack of preparedness I would target the White House thinking it is the nation’s EOC and JIC. This will end up killing people.

And I note that former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson looks headed for the US Senate. This is the man who crushed able and competent but understaffed and underfunded CDC after the 2001 Anthrax attacks and actually stated in a Press Conference that the anthrax source was mountain streams in N.Carolina. Where do we get such men?

By the way how many posters or commentators on this blog think we know who launched those Anthrax (wmd?) attacks? If you think someone at FT Dietrick [sic] you guessed wrong because the dispersal agent utilized had no domestic source.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 22, 2012 @ 8:22 am

Bill, I have never met anyone at any White House (since Reagan) who actively wanted to become the command-and-control node. But I know many who felt forced into the role. And, as you have often pointed out, they have taken on the role with almost no meaningful preparation.

Recently a senior Congressional staffer explained, “We are all suffering from a nearly irreconcilable conflict. Substantively, strategically we know a distributed, regionalized approach makes much more sense. Politically we know that a local disaster can very quickly become a national event and we can’t afford to stand-on-principle when it does.” (This is a paraphrase, I do not have verbatim memory.)

Structures and systems are key. But culture cannot be ignored, especially the cultural expectations emerging from modern mass communications.

Comment by John F. Morton

June 22, 2012 @ 1:29 pm


Would you elaborate on the structures and systems you have in mind, given what you have just quoted and said? This would be useful to further the discussion.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 22, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

John, There are others much better qualified on structures and systems… I am obviously more of a culture-geek. But for conversation-sake, a couple of references.

1. Some enterprises are beginning to establish perpetual red-teams or china-breaking units. These are often positioned as one-year or so appointments for up-and-coming executives specifically committed to being contrary, looking for problems and being responsible, reasonable, and very persistent “devil’s advocates” against consensus thinking.

2. Many enterprises are following the old Jack Welch model of bringing interdisciplinary leadership teams together for regular strategic retreats to look at the big picture, role play, and encounter radically “other” thinking via invited outsiders. The most senior leaders are engaged, the up-and-comers are invited and unusual voices are given prominence… very regularly and the process is taken seriously.

3. More systematically there are three pieces in the HBR collection I previously referenced that go deep on systems and structures:

Strategy Under Uncertainty by Hugh Courtney, Jane Kirkland, and Patrick Viguerie
How to Thrive in Turbulent Markets by Donald Sull
The Six Mistakes Executives Make in Risk Management by Nassim N. Taleb, Daniel G. Goldstein, and Mark W. Spitznagel.

The systems thinking seems, at least to me, to emphasize failure, learning, adaptability, and change.

The structures seem to be decentralized, collaborative, purpose-built, and temporary.

One of the more interesting developments I have seen in the for-profit world is an increasing use of not-for-profit structures to bring together a variety of academics, civic organizations, and even competitors. There is a not-for-profit (501 c 6) organization that a bunch of competitors co-created to develop and “impose” a common quality standard on each other. Actually there is more than one, but finding the first one was a revelation to me… even as more and more now appear.

Comment by Michael Brady

June 22, 2012 @ 3:04 pm


Are there ways to distribute the efficiencies of hubs across a much more mesh-like system?

Efficiencies are nice at budget time, while the internet works, and the taps still deliver safe water, but when disaster (or catastrophe) strikes I much prefer effectiveness. The mesh is not going to be popular with people want to tour, operate, or sell hubs. How far will decentralized, resilient effectiveness get without the support of politicians, adminstrators, and the military/industrial/permanent emergency complex?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 22, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

Michael, The battle between efficiency and effectiveness can be very real. But every once in while there is a creative reconciliation. John Morton has suggested emerging communications capabilities might facilitate mesh-like effectiveness with equal — or better? — efficiency compared to current hubs-and-spokes.

A late-Friday flirtation with a possible thought… certainly not a rigorous thought, but in any case: My grandfather entered the grocery business in the late 19th Century. His supply chains were mostly regional and very meshy. He lived to see his mesh supplemented with elements of a hub-and-spoke system via the railways. But, at least in groceries, the railway hubs never replaced the regional mesh.

Grandpa’s best days were in the — what, twenty? — years when American roads were “good enough” to support long-haul trucking, but before the Interstates. He exploited the mesh of two-lane highways to bring his Illinois customers products they never dreamed of having (such as Florida oranges at Christmas).

The Interstates made possible (inevitable?) the hubs-and-spokes of Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot and more. Thanks to the Interstates… and digital communications… it is now much more efficient (and effective?) to grow navel oranges in Southern California and distribute through hubs-and-spokes across the continent.

I expect you don’t care much about the efficiency or effectiveness of orange sales. But if there was a mesh-like system that was as equally efficient and equally or more effective there would be adopters. Would there be enough adopters to challenge the built-in advantages of the existing powerhouses. Don’t know. But look at what Walmart did to Sears.

Comment by John F. Morton

June 22, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

To Michael’s point on regional without the military-industrial complex. The key is regional providers of analytical support as opposed to importing them from Inside the Beltway or Cambridge. What CHDS and NorthCom are doing with regional universities with HLS curricula is a good start. Also Oak Ridge’s ORAU. If Kansas deems that the risks and threats are to agriculture and food then Kansas State becomes the regional analytical support capability for education and training and planning and so forth for planners and HLS folks engendering a cross-fertilization and interdependence to build up a regional expertise that is accountable to and responsible for the region, be it intrastate or interstate. That should become the constituency and the interest that drives and supports this, and perhaps regional businesses can emerge from this academic and research environment, as Silicon Valley came from I guess Stanford.

Comment by John F. Morton

June 22, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

Well, this seems to suggest a borrowing from the private sector of such temporary approaches as cross-functional teams and integrated product and process teams (IPPTs) from the DoD’s Kaminiski era. They are mission focused, yes. So we could say that the NSC and NSC staff was mission-focused to manage and win the Cold War, and that team “temporarily” lasted for decades until mission accomplished. That CFT thus no longer has a raison d’etre, hence a new CFT or set of CFTs need to been configured, and yes around decentralized nodes for security, resilience, sustainability and competitiveness.

Comment by Bruce Martin

June 22, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

Is the mesh still the highway system (logistics), supplemented by communication system(s) that are redundant and resilient? If we envision the states and locals as the nodes, then the mesh exists, and the challenge is cultural. Retreat from the notion we have created over the past decades that the federal government is the deep pocket and therefore the architect of emergency management and hls. (I do believe that there are other reasons that federal leadership still makes sense.)

Invest energy into a common planning system and vocabulary; I’m also stuck this Friday night on incentivizing it. The current method of regulation and claim eligibility have contributed to the situation we find ourselves in. Locals can be cranky about being told how to do things, but drawn into federal-centric system by money. Yes to whole community, but sold softly; I believe this is as much about style as substance.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 23, 2012 @ 6:16 am

Bruce: Many meshes persist. I agree. Local public safety, local economic life of many types, local religious communities, etc. etc. But there does seem to be an accelerating process of cutting into the mesh with hubs-and spokes. Hub-and-spoke distribution has decimated what was once called “truck farming”. (The locavore movement is a side-show compared to how New Jersey farmers supplied New York City until the 1960s.)

Our communications systems increasingly depend on densely connected and convergent nodes that work wonderfully… until they don’t. Good example: yesterday’s twitter failure.

A couple of years ago driving a California back-road with a sheriffs deputy we came upon a huge, glittering industrial operation. “What’s this?” I asked. The deputy explained it was the new water treatment and distribution hub for the county. I think he said it replaced 12 independent systems. I bet the long tail cost savings was compelling. I wonder if the actuaries tried to project long tail recovery “costs” after an earthquake, not just for equipment and lines but in terms of time needed to reconnect equipment and lines to thirsty people?

It’s just an anecdote. Maybe further investigation would prove me wrong. But I perceived 12 big holes had been ripped into the mesh and a single-point-of-failure had been created.

More to your point: could a resilient communications systems have facilitated the construction of a more distributed — more mesh-like — water system that would be more resilient in the long-term and still efficient in the near-term? Don’t know. Was the question asked? Don’t know. It’s a good question.

In the locavore movement we are seeing local agriculture rebounding in a few areas largely because consumers can efficiently and effectively communicate directly with producers. But there is still nothing that compares to the scale of New Jersey truck farming circa 1955 and in a major disaster the supply capacity of the modern supply chain, with all its problems, is much more robust than boutique farms.

I don’t perceive self-evident answers. I do see a line of inquiry and a set of concerns that should be more rigorously pursued. The 26 gives-and-takes in this thread have been a much better conversation than usual. I am hearing more such conversations. Enough? Don’t know.

BTW, I am sure your point about style is right. Collaborative communication looks, sounds, and feels very different than command communication. It also produces a very different kind of content… which is the real return-on-investment.

Comment by John F. Morton

June 23, 2012 @ 7:49 am

Phil, you do have a good thread here that is going in a direction.

To Bruce’s point about the Feds being the architect: I think the Feds have a constitutional responsibility to facilitate and fund a common preparedness planning vocabulary, i.e., the Feds must accept the responsibility to incentivize without commanding it. States and locals can’t do it, because they are much more focused on high-probability issues, in many cases not terrorism. NIMS is a reasonable start in my view. Much of what needs to happen as we move forward needs to happen via collaborative bench-marking re credentialling, typing and so forth, thereby to honor state sovereignty and home rule. The style and substance issues sould sort themselves out once this collaborative culture gains critical mass. Re the Fed’s deep pocket point, the initial equipment focus on grants in my view was a quick and dirty attempt to shoe-horn the Federal defense acquisition model into state and local preparedness acquisition, again since the states and locals didn’t have the money or expertise. So you had the SEL and the AEL. I think the regions should determine equipment and equipment standards and that the politics of that would determine a regionally-created preparedness techno-industrial base. Re interoperability, let the regions do the trade-offs themselves, again via these collaborative nodes with the Feds as co-equal partners. Eleven years on from 9/11 and further beyond Nunn-Lugar-Domenici, we can revisit the grant system, to the point where I would say lets move toward eliminating it. In its stead, lets have the Federal government resource directly the staffing via the IPA mobility program and the overheads for regional intergovernmental/interagency/private sector/NGO staffs that do regional risk prioritization, regional planning, regional capability assessment and regional performance metrics. I’m sure we can think of other activities.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 23, 2012 @ 8:28 am

John, Theoretically and strategically I absolutely support regionalization as you set out. Practically I am worried because I do not see training, education, and real organizational architecture preceding or even keeping pace with the re-distribution of funding and authority.

Perhaps unfair — but this is only a blog — the image that recurs to me (especially in terms of some regions) is that in the absence of the “Good King” (Richard the Lionhearted), the short-sighted, self-interested Sheriff of Nottingham becomes a serious problem. To which you might respond, Robin the Resilient was the effective response.

If I had a King’s purse, I would want to fund (co-fund?) a regionalized and very serious national security professional development program for private sector, civic sector, local, state, and Feds.

Comment by John F. Morton

June 23, 2012 @ 9:24 am

Phil, I agree that is a down-side risk.

But, as with the Goldwater-Nichols joint-duty requirement for advance to flag and general officer rank, the same could be applied to NSPDs. In the work we did for PNSR on the state and local inclusion in the NSPD system, I did not find any state and local spokesperson provided to me from the good offices of the NGA and the NEMA/National Homeland Security Consortium, including sheriffs I should add, who opposed the idea, notwithstanding that the devil is in the details. Where states and locals see education, training and rotational assignments as a win-win, they will fund it or support it in the case of IPAs, as long as they are not forced to engage in specific, federally-imposed priorities that states and locals do not share.

I would argue that exercising, for example, around effects-based planning scenarios would be an example where all levels could get agreement. For example, to get Houston to do an exercise on a 10k device is not the way to go. To work with them on a scenario around an industrial accident in the Houston Channel would get a result. Point being, the outcomes of that exercise can be applied to a 10k scenario. This gets back to substance and style and avoiding visceral reactions when we really all want the same thing: capability and professional workforce development.

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June 28, 2012 @ 5:29 am

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