Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 31, 2013

Narcissism as a cyber threat

Filed under: Cybersecurity — by Philip J. Palin on January 31, 2013

Given the “pre-decision” by the Department of Defense, today I should probably be writing about cyber threats: the current reality, catastrophic possibilities, strong probabilities, and treacherous implications of both passive and active cyber-defense operations.  But instead please read the Georgia Tech Report on 2013 Cyber Threats.

The cyber domain is a kind of fourth dimension where natural, accidental and intentional threats can easily cascade into our first, second, and third dimensions.  This has happened, will happen, is happening.

Some sort of widespread digital disaster is inevitable.  My bet is an insider accident/bad practice will cause a cascading collapse that cannot be hidden and commands our attention for more than a couple of days. But we are also seeing more hacktivist and adversary intrusions.  A couple of natural catastrophes could sweep up a fair portion of the network.  Anyway, good luck to DoD and others; and be prepared for a massive failure anyway.


As with so much in homeland security, cyber highlights the interplay of purposeful choice and randomness.  We look for formulas to avoid (or minimize) failure and achieve (or increase the likelihood of) success or, at least, survival.

Our brains are inclined to perceive patterns — especially threat patterns — and our species has obviously benefited from this adaptation. Wash a couple of synapses with the right (wrong) chemicals and the same positive adaptation produces paranoia, not typically a helpful and happy state of being. But then Andy Grove, one of the founders of Intel, entitled a kind of  memoir, Only the Paranoid Survive.

After more than a decade’s experience with homeland security,  we can see how a proto- or pseudo-paranoia slices both ways.  When we are attentive to possible threats we are able to take action to prevent, mitigate, or avoid potential consequences.  But there are also situations where threats are mostly self-created and consequences mostly a matter of self-fulfilling prophecies.  My suspicion of you can prompt defensive actions by you that confirm my suspicions.

Yet evil intention is a reality and unintentional threats abound.  One person’s paranoia can seem another’s prudence.


Sigmund Freud crafted many still-popular perceptions of paranoia, even as many of his psychological theories have been superseded.  Freud was operating on empirical frontiers and his insights can have implications far beyond psycho-analysis.  He wrote,

… we have drawn the conclusion that there actually exists in the ego an agency which unceasingly observes, criticizes, and compares, and in that way sets itself over against the other part of the ego.  We believe, therefore, that the patient is betraying a truth to us which is not yet sufficiently appreciated when he complains that he is spied upon and observed at every step he takes and that every one of his thoughts is reported  and criticized. His only mistake is in regarding this uncomfortable power as something alien to him and placing it outside himself.  He senses an agency holding sway in his ego which measures his actual ego and each of its activities by an ideal ego (Freud’s emphasis) that he has created for himself in the course of his development. (The Libido Theory and Narcissism, Gesammelte Werke (1916) translated by James Strachey)

Paranoia seeks the guise of prudence as the gap widens between inner and outer reality.  The supposed external threat on which the paranoid fixates is not the precipitating cause.  Self-delusion, confusion, and conflict regarding our own intentions and behaviors is, according to Freud, the principal source of paranoia.

Google is watching me.  So is my credit card company.  So is my wireless provider. Several others.   How might these observers objectively describe me via my digital breadcrumbs? How might this description conform or conflict with my self-description?  Do I want to claim what is seen in my digital mirror?


Our vulnerability to cyber threats reflects a series of choices made over the last quarter-century and especially in the last ten years.   Were we mindful of these choices?   I mostly adopted technologies and practices that started out low cost (this is not how I would characterize my current data plan) and promised greater speed, convenience and gratification.

I spent a decade advising clients on how they could develop digital products in secure, sustainable and purposeful ways.  Most clients were seeking short-term returns.  There was perpetual impatience with requirements analysis, design processes, and product/process testing.

Among personal accounts successfully hacked in 2012 the same passwords were often overcome.  Using any of these passwords almost certainly increases your vulnerability: “password”, “123456”, and “12345678”.

Our cyber vulnerability has mostly unfolded — and continues to unfold — from our own choices.  We too often choose the cheap, easy, and near-term.   The consequences are usually mixed, positively reinforcing at first and only become destructive over time. Adversaries exist, but we have created many of their opportunities to threaten us.  Our own choices increasingly endanger us.  In response we try to obscure our complicity by blaming those we have enabled, even empowered.

To deal with paranoia Freud prescribed therapeutic attention to narcissism (excessive, non-critical self-regard). Might be worth a shot with cyber.  Anyone got a counter-narcissism app?

January 29, 2013

We can do better

Filed under: Aviation Security,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 29, 2013

Today’s post is written by Max Geron, a law enforcement official I work with occasionally.


Atlantic correspondent James Fallows wrote the other day about the lawsuit filed by Shoshana Hebshi, an American citizen who, according to her complaint, was a passenger on a Frontier Airlines flight on September 11, 2011.

Another passenger(s) reported that Hebshi and two other passengers, who the reporting passenger didn’t know, “looked suspicious” or were “acting suspicious.”

Hebshi described how she was arrested and forcibly removed from the plane, made to submit to a strip search and several hours of detention and interrogation. According to a complaint filed by the ACLU, the FBI has since publicly stated that Ms. Hebshi was not involved in any suspicious activity.

The question I pose to homeland security leaders at all levels and the enterprise as a whole is: Can we not do better than this?

The Hebshi incident is an example of the lingering effects of terrorism, and these effects are not restricted to air travel.

First comes the loss of infrastructure and loss of life. What subsequently follows is the loss of peace of mind and consequently the loss of freedoms.

I understand the mandate to be cautious. I’ve done that. I’ve erred on the side of caution in the performance of public safety. But just as in the case of police chases where — in essence — the courts said “Law Enforcement, you are the experts and you should know better when to terminate a pursuit for the safety of others,” so too do I see us needing to say to our homeland security enterprise that “Sorry, it’s 9/11 and everyone’s pretty jumpy” is not a valid reason for depriving someone of their civil liberties and subjecting them to a humiliating strip search.

Consider the security checks Shoshana Hebshi had already gone through and the fact that this wasn’t another case of a traveler making a scene at a TSA checkpoint. In this instance the authorities came to her well after she had been cleared for boarding and was, according to her, minding her own business.

The most glaring fact is she was never charged nor was she even hinted at having done anything wrong.

So how do we do both? How do we maintain the requisite level of protection from the terrorists while still maintaining civil liberties and dignity?  How do we instill in our people, the “do-ers” of homeland security, a different or perhaps a more focused set of values? Values that say while there may be a threat and we must investigate, we equally need to be discriminating and unwavering in the protection of our citizens’ rights and dignity.

Consider President Obama’s inaugural speech on January 21, 2013. He said, “We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity….” [Emphasis added]

So where do we begin?

First of all ask yourself, how well do you know your personnel and what their values are?  How would they have handled a similar situation?

I would suggest that you engage your personnel in conversations and ask them how they would handle situations such as these. You may be surprised by their answers.

Secondly, it’s imperative that your organization and you communicate your values to your agents and employees. Do not expect them to get it by osmosis. We all need to be reminded, time-to-time of what’s important.

That leads me to my final suggestion. Make these conversations or interactions a regular part of your leadership legacy.   Our decisions and our actions form our legacy, the same is true for our organizations. I submit that the more we can do that, the less often interactions like those described by Ms. Hebshi will occur.

However we do it — whether with training on values-based decision making, procedural means, hiring criteria, or some other way — we should all agree that it come sooner rather than later.

January 28, 2013

CAREFUL attention should be paid to Northern Africa and terrorism…

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 28, 2013

Not too long ago, Phil argued that “Attention must be paid” to events unfolding in Northern Africa regarding terrorist risk:

Those on the US East and Gulf Coasts have learned to pay attention to weather patterns over the Sahara to provide early warning of hurricanes heading our way. Given what else is happening across West Africa — from Nigeria to Mali to Algeria to Libya and more — low pressure pulses are not the only threats to which we might usefully attend.

While I do not disagree with his entire argument, I would just like to suggest that attention is not sufficient.  Instead, context is required to increase the chances of avoiding potentially negative policy choices.

In that regard, I would suggest reading Fareed Zakaria’s most recent Time magazine article.  He frames the relevant questions:

There’s little doubt that the Algerian terrorists are brutal, nasty people, but many questions about them remain. Are they a branch of al-Qaeda? Do they have global jihadist aims? Do they seek to destroy our way of life? It’s vitally important that we understand these groups so that our response to them is tailored to the facts.

His conclusion:

These groups are largely composed of local thugs with long-standing grievances that often have little to do with global jihad. Also, terrorism is good business for them. Their causes have lost support at home, so they have latched on to the al-Qaeda brand in the hope of enhancing their appeal–and, perhaps crucially, gaining greater global attention. (Keep in mind Osama bin Laden’s words in 2004: “All that we have to do is to send two mujahedin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-qaeda in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses.”) To elevate these thugs and smugglers to grand ideological foes is to play into their hands.

His entire (short) piece is worth a read for some background on this issue. He may be entirely wrong in his analysis, but the risk of getting into another ill-advised foreign intervention is high enough to consider his arguments.

January 24, 2013

Supply chains: Density increases distance which favors specialization and concentration spawning vulnerabilities

Filed under: Infrastructure Protection,Private Sector,Risk Assessment,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on January 24, 2013

Three recent reports offer related insights.

Building America’s Future: Transportation Infrastructure Report 2012 (4.8 mgb) tells us,

We have let more than a half-century go by without devising a strategic plan on  a national scale to update our freight and passenger transport systems. The size of our federal investment in transportation infrastructure as a share of GDP has been dwindling for decades, and most federal funds are dispersed to projects without imposing accountability and performance measures. This lack of vision, lack of funding, and lack of accountability has left every mode of transportation in the United States—highways and railroads, airports and sea ports—stuck in the last century and ill-equipped for the demands of a churning global economy.

Building Resilient Supply Chains (6.48 MB) tells us,

…concerns have remained about external threats to supply chains (such as natural disasters and demand shocks) and systemic vulnerabilities (such as oil dependence and information fragmentation). Additionally, growing concern around cyber risk, rising insurance and trade finance costs are leading supply chain experts to explore new mitigation options. Accenture research indicates that more than 80% of companies are now concerned about supply chain resilience.

Gallup Survey finds:

One in four Mississippi residents report there was at least one time in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to buy the food they or their families needed — more than in any other state in the first half of 2012. Residents in Alabama and Delaware are also among the most likely to struggle to afford food… In 2012, the worst drought since the 1950s has affected nearly 80% of agricultural land in the United States, which may drive up the cost of food in the months ahead. While Americans are no more likely to struggle to afford food thus far in 2012 than in the past, more residents may face problems as the drought-related crop damage results in a shortage of inputs in the food supply and begins to affect retail prices.

So… sources of supply for basic commodities — including water and food — are under stress.  The infrastructure by which supplies are transported is aging and ill-maintained.  The system through which needs/demands are expressed and fulfilled is increasingly vulnerable to disruption.

For at least 10,000 years humans have developed infrastructures to facilitate the meeting of supply with demand, source with need.

Especially in the last 200 years our infrastructures have allowed us to depend on supplies from greater and greater distances.  Our supply lines – our lifelines – have gotten longer and longer.  This has been crucial to our ability to supply increasingly dense population centers.  Increasing population density is supported by our ability to facilitate supply over great distances.

This distancing of lifelines has also encouraged an increasing specialization and concentration of supply – mostly in search of comparative price advantage.  So we see the concentration of pork production in Iowa and North Carolina, fruits and vegetables in California, dairy is increasingly concentrated in a few regions,  mushrooms in Southeast Pennsylvania.

While this is at least a 150 year trend, it is important to recognize how the trend has accelerated and changed over the last half-century. As recently as the 1950s New Jersey truck farms were still the principal source of fresh fruits and vegetables for the New York metro market.

As demand density accelerated in the last half of the 20th Century, we experienced an increased distancing of lifelines.  This distancing also encourages a tendency toward specialization, concentration, and reduced diversity of sources.  Specialization, concentration, and reduced diversity are common characteristics of fragile systems.

In the last thirty years, the distancing of many supply chains has become so extreme that the ability to reasonably balance supply and demand is only possible as a result of sophisticated methods of tracking and anticipating demand well-in-advance.

For most of human history supply has been pushed by suppliers toward where they hoped there was demand.  Today, especially for food, pharma, and most consumables supply is pulled by digital demand signals. If the demand signals stop , so does supply.  This has crucial implications for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

It is worth recognizing that what seems “normal” today would have seemed magical as recently as thirty years ago.  We are enjoying supply chain benefits unprecedented in human history.  Are there also unprecedented risks?

January 23, 2013

Preparedness means wearing pants and walking carefully

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 23, 2013

“Preparedness isn’t just about disaster, it’s about how we think through what we do every day so that we can recover from the disasters, big or small, that life throws our way every day,” says Jesse Scott Campbell, in yesterday’s Indiana University The Protect IU Blog.

It’s cold, colder than it’s been in a while…. So why do I keep seeing people in shorts, leggings, and mini-skirts on our campuses? I can only assume it’s an act of youthful rebellion, displaying indifference to the elements as a proof of strength. But what it really is is short-sighted, foolhardy, and of no actual benefit to anyone.

Working in emergency management for IU for four years now, I’ve learned a lot about assumptions. So many disruptive incidents have at their heart, a flawed assumption. You have to strike a balance of course, since it is safe to assume the sun will rise tomorrow, and that gravity will still pull downwards. Somewhere in between assuming everything is going to be ok and assuming everything is going to go wrong, that’s preparedness.

And that’s why I say preparedness is wearing pants….

Not to be outdone, the Readydogov twitter feed offers a dozen preparedness suggestions for winter storms and cold weather.

One idea: “Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.”

Well… I suppose one can never be too prepared.


January 22, 2013

“We, the people:” clients, customers or citizens?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 22, 2013

Barack Obama spoke about “citizens” eight times yesterday in his “We, the people” inauguration speech.

1. Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens….

2. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher….

3. We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity….

4. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty….

5. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote….

6. They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope….

7. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

8. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.


The emphasis on “citizens” reminded me of something I received a few days ago from an Arizona law enforcement officer I know, Pete Smith. Here is some of what he wrote:

It has become commonplace for government agencies — from local to federal — to view the people whom they serve as “customers.” It is not anomalous to hear government leaders, with the best of intentions, encourage their subordinates to go above and beyond and deliver “excellent customer service.”

I have attended the mandatory meeting where a well-paid motivational speaker told the room full of government employees that they should strive for “customer astonishment.”

Government leaders are imprudent to promulgate the idea the people they serve are customers.

In their book “The New Public Service: Serving, Not Steering,” Janet and Robert Denhardt discuss the difference between clients, customers and citizens.

Clients (or constituents) tend to be treated as a group. This framework is premised on political theory; it results in the implementation of policies focused on a single, politically defined objective. In other words, the government employee identifies an individual problem that affects a specific group and then crafts an individual solution as defined by the government employee. Solutions tend toward the highly bureaucratic, and there is a sense “the government knows what’s best.”

The “treating people as customers” paradigm operates from an economic theory perspective. It focuses on the individual interests of each person and asks the government employee to follow the adage, “The customer is always right.” While there are clear advantages to this approach as it relates to flexibility and problem-solving, its scope is limited. The government cannot, in all cases, treat people as if they are always right. Any government worker can recognize that this model is logistically untenable. In the case of law enforcement, for instance, a Court of Appeals case explicitly states that police do not have a duty to provide police services to individuals.

The third paradigm emphasizes treating people as citizens. This approach is based on democratic theory and assumes that the person (or citizen) being served has a vested interest in the outcome. In this model the government is serving citizens, in lieu of dictating the answer to them or catering to their perceived needs. Democratic theory assumes that the government will cooperate with the citizen in an effort to gain a positive outcome.


Merely semantics?

Test for yourself whether the differences in meaning between client, customer and citizens are trivial.

Reread the eight sentences at the start of this post from Obama’s January 21st speech and in place of “citizen,” substitute “client” — or even better — “customer.”

What word best describes who to enlist in “efforts to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards”?



Little girl forms the American flag with pebbles while waiting for President Obama. [by Anthony Quintano, January 21, 2013]

January 20, 2013

Attention must be paid

Filed under: Media,Risk Assessment,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 20, 2013

Choice of attention – to pay attention to this and ignore that – is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choice and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be. (W. H. Auden)


Saturday I wanted to pay close attention to the situation in Algeria, Mali, and related, but had other commitments both paid and personal. As a result, I had to depend on broadcast media, mostly car radio, and what I could quickly call-up on my hand-held.

As a result, I learned that for most Americans the hostage-taking, final assault, and casualties at the In Amenas gas plant was a sort of vague echo over the horizon. Much to my wife’s surprise,  I actually cursed at NPR’s All Things Considered for their insufficient coverage.  This is, no doubt, one of the consequences to which Auden is referring.

Once I was able to sit down with a computer-on-the-Internet I found the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and French media were all rich sources of information. The BBC was, for my taste (and language skills), the best source.

But even among the best sources, there was — at least on Saturday night — a paucity of strategic context. There was little attention to the rapidly developing situation in Mali or details, for example, such as the permission given for French air assets to transit Algerian air space or the multinational character of the terrorist gang.

Sunday morning broadcast news, at least at 0730 Eastern, was even worse than Saturday night.  Inauguration preparations, AFC/NFC championship pre-game analysis,  Lance Armstrong, Manti Te’o, a complicated murder trial in Phoenix and the weather just did not leave time, apparently, for anything as lame as a four day terrorist assault on a major natural gas production facility.

Those on the US East and Gulf Coasts have learned to pay attention to weather patterns over the Sahara to provide early warning of hurricanes heading our way. Given what else is happening across West Africa — from Nigeria to Mali to Algeria to Libya and more — low pressure pulses are not the only threats to which we might usefully attend.

January 17, 2013

Post-Sandy: Investing in resilience

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on January 17, 2013

Last Friday the NYS 2100 Commission released its report: Recommendations to Improve the Strength and Resilience of the Empire State’s Infrastructure.   It is a helpful contribution and provides a very constructive level of detail.

The report also offers a meaningful framing for investing in resilience in New York and well beyond. The following long quote is from the c0-chairs’ foreword:

While the response to Sandy continues, work needs to begin now on how we build back better – in a way that increases New York’s agility when responding to future storms and other shocks. Building back better demands a focus on increased resilience: the ability of individuals, organizations, systems, and communities to bounce back more strongly from stresses and shocks. Resilience means creating diversity and redundancy in our systems and rewiring their interconnections, which enables their functioning even when individual parts fail.

There is no doubt that building resilience will require investment, but it will also reduce the economic damage and costs of responding to future storms and events, while improving the everyday operations of our critical systems. In a time of fiscal constraints, the positive sign is that inexpensive policy changes will be as critical as the financial investments we make. Hard infrastructure improvements must be complemented by soft infrastructure and other resilience measures, for example, improving our institutional coordination, public communication, and rapid decision making abilities will make us better able to recover from the catastrophic effects of natural disasters. In many respects, New York is ahead of the game in this regard. In recent storms, including Irene and Sandy, we have successfully embraced the notion of “failing safely,” accepting the inevitability of widespread disruptions and tucking in to protect our assets to the extent possible.

We cannot prevent all future disasters from occurring, but we can prevent failing catastrophically by embracing, practicing, and improving a comprehensive resilience strategy. As New York and our neighboring states continue to recover from the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy, we have a narrow but distinct window of opportunity to leverage the groundswell of consciousness.

I have delayed and hesitated to post on this report because, with all its strengths, it fails to sufficiently address a fundamental aspect of resilience.   The co-chairs foreshadow this issue in writing, “Hard infrastructure improvements must be complemented by soft infrastructure…”

Achieving resilience involves a different way of thinking, choosing, and behaving. There are a whole host of trade-offs. I agree with the report’s authors that the trade-off’s are worthwhile. But this will not be obvious to everyone. Resilience emerges — or not — from families, neighborhoods, and communities. It unfolds from dialogue and relationships, or not at all.

The NYS 2100 Commission report does a great job identifying and seeding the hard infrastructure topics that need to be discussed and engaged. But how will the dialogue be started and sustained? How will a soft infrastructure be cultivated that is sufficient to enable hard infrastructure decisions?

The current report reads as a set of recommendations to be implemented by the widely-respected and honored philosopher-kings of a latter day Kallipolis (Plato’s “Beautiful City” in The Republic).  New York is, for me, a beautiful place, but last time I looked its politics were more complicated than this.

Algerian hostage situation

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on January 17, 2013

Islamist militants seized at least 20 hostages, including as many as seven Americans, at an Algerian natural gas complex Wednesday in a brazen attack linked by the assailants to France’s military intervention in neighboring Mali.

At least one foreign worker was reported killed in the early morning assault on the vast In Amenas gas field near Algeria’s eastern border with Libya. The attack, attributed to a unit of al-Qaeda’s offshoot in North Africa, raised concerns about a broadening of Mali’s civil war five days after French forces joined the country’s fight against Islamist insurgents. (The Washington Post)

The Guardian is providing a comprehensive and real-time updating on the situation.

Here’s a summary as of 0800 US Eastern Time:

News agencies in Mauritania are reporting that Algerian aircraft have attacked the gas complex where militants are holding foreign hostages, resulting in the deaths of a number of hostages and kidnappers. This cannot be verified at this time.

A number of the foreigners held by armed Islamist militants in Algeria are reported to have escaped. An Algerian security source said 25 people, including Europeans, Americans and Japanese, have got away. Some 30 Algerians were reported to have escaped earlier today.

One Briton and one Algerian have been confirmed killed and others are feared dead in the hostage situation at an Algerian gas field complex. The group, Battalion of Blood, is claiming it has 41 hostages.

The gunmen are claiming they took the hostages in retaliation for France’s military intervention against al-Qaida-linked rebels in neighbouring Mali. The hostage-takers are reportedly seeking a safe passage out of the isolated area, something Algerian authorities have already rejected. The militants appear to have no escape route; they are cut off by surrounding troops and army helicopters overhead.

Beginning about 0830 US Eastern Time there are many reports of military action resulting in the death of several hostage-takers and captives. It will take hours to confirm what has happened or not and the outcomes.  This is a very remote location.

Sandy relief as approved by the House

Filed under: Budgets and Spending — by Philip J. Palin on January 17, 2013

On Tuesday evening the House of Representatives sent to the Senate a bill to fund a variety of measures related to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

The  funding was authorized through an original $17 billion measure ( HR-152) presented by Mr. Rogers, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee .

An additional $33 billion was provided via amendment by Mr. Frelinghuysen.  The Frelinghuysen amendment sometimes substituted amounts specified in what Mr. Rogers has presented, but most often added new funding.

With smaller amendments and adjustments the bill appropriates $50.5 billion in supplemental funding.

Following are specific amounts.  The legislation often includes further detail on how and when the funding must be expended.

HR-152 as originally proposed by Mr. Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee:

Department of Agriculture,Emergency Food Assistance: $6 million.

Army Corps of Engineers Investigations: $20 million

Army Corps of Engineers Construction: $9 million

Army Corps of Engineers Dredging and Repair: $742 million

Army Corps of Engineers Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies:  $582 million

Small Business Administration salaries and expenses: $10 million

SBA Office of the Inspector General: $1 million

SBA Disaster Loans: $100 million

SBA Administrative and Servicing Costs: $50 million

Coast Guard Acquisition, Construction, and Improvement:  $143, 899,000

FEMA Disaster Relief Fund: $5.379 billion

DHS Science and Technology $585,000

DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office Systems Acquisition: $3,869,000

Fish and Wildlife Service: $49, 875, 000

National Park Service: $234 million

Department of Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: $3 million

Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund: $100 million

Social Security Administration Administrative Expenses: $2 million

DOD, Army National Guard, Military Construction: $24,235,000

Department of Veterans Affairs, Medical Services $21 million

Veterans Medical Facilities: $6 million

National Cemetery Administration $1.1 million

DVA Information Technology Systems $531,000

DVA Construction and Major Projects: $207 million

DOT, FFA Facilities and Equipment: $14,600,000

National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK): $32 million

Federal Transit Administration Transportation Emergency Relief Program: $5.4 billion

HUD Community Development Fund: $3.85 billion

Frelinghausen Amendment’s Additional Funding

Several other amendments were offered, usually aimed at reducing a proposed appropriation or seeking cuts in other federal appropriations equal to the new appropriations.   But as far as I can tell — remember I’m only a blogger — the following is accurate as to what was finally appropriated.

Agriculture Department, Emergency Conservation Program: $218 million

Department of Commerce, NOAA: $290 million ($150 million of this was not approved via an amendment to this amendment) mostly on related to debris mapping, improved weather forecasting, and related research.

NOAA Construction and Repairs: $186 million

FBI salaries and expenses: $10,020,000

DEA salaries and expenses: $1 million

ATFE salaries and expenses $230, 000

Federal Prison System: $10 million

NASA Repairs: $15 million

Legal Services Corporation: $1 million

DOD Army Operations and Maintenance: $5,370,000

DOD Navy Operations and Maintenance: $40,015,000

DOD Air Force Operations and Maintenance: $8.5 million

Army National Guard Operations and Maintenance: $3,165,000

Air National Guard Operations and Maintenance: $5,775,000

Army Ammunition Procurement: $1,310,000

Defense Working Capital Fund $24,200,000

Army Corps of Engineers Investigations: $50 million

Army Corps of Engineers Construction: $3.461 billion

Army Corps of Engineers Operation and Maintenance (mostly dredging): $821 million

Army Corps of Engineers Flood Control and Coast Emergencies (mostly repairs): $1,008,000,000

Army Corps of Engineers Expenses: $10 million

General Services Administration (owner/operator of federal facilities): $7 million

SBA, added $10 million to original amount for salaries and expenses.

SBA Inspector General, added $5 million to original amount.

SBA Disaster Loan Program Account: $520 million

DHS Customs and Border Control Salaries and Expenses: $1,667,000

DHS, ICE Salaries and Expenses: $855,000

DHS, US Secret Service Salaries and Expenses: $300,000

Coast Guard Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements, substituted $274,233,000 for original $143, 899,000

FEMA Disaster Relief Fund plus up of $11, 487,735,000.

DHS S&T: Replaced $585,000 with $3,249,000

Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service: Replaced $49,875,000 with $78 million.

National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund: $50 million

National Park Service Construction: $348 million instead of $234 million.

Department of Interior Operations: $360 million

EPA programs and management $725,000

Hazardous Substance Superfund: $2 million

Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund: $5 million

EPA State and Tribal Assistance Grants: $600 million

Forest Service Capital Improvement and Maintenance: $4.4 million

Smithsonian Institution Salaries and Expenses: $2 million

Department of Labor Training and Employment Services: $25 million

HHS Public Health and Social Services  Emergency Fund: $800 million

DOT, FFA Facilities and Equipment: $30 million

Federal Highway Administration, Emergency Relief Program: $2.011 billion

AMTRAK: $86 million

Federal Transit Administration , Emergency Relief Program: $10.9 billion

HUD, Community Development Fund: $16 billion

As Senator Dirksen is regularly quoted as saying, “A billion here a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

The House approved the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, H.R. 152, in a 241-180 vote. Among Republicans, 179 voted against it, and just 49 voted for it.  According to The Hill, the nay votes “were a protest against a bill that many conservatives say is too big and provides funding for things other than immediate relief for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.”

January 16, 2013

Does your definition of homeland security include Rum?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 16, 2013

Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

Just a historical reminder that sometimes the truly unexpected happens and a “black swan”  turns out to be black molasses.

I will let Josh Childs of the Boston Globe’s Straight Up” blog explain:

94 years ago, January 15, 1919, was a tragic day in the North End.
Back then, the area was heavily industrialized- packed with people and a 2.3 million gallon cast-iron tank fifty feet above street level was not out of place. The tank was full of molasses, often used as a sweetener, but in this case (and applicable to this blog), it had been slated by the United States Industrial Alcohol Company for rum production.
Unseasonably warm weather that day after near zero temperatures days before may have contributed to the disaster; just after lunch time the tank ruptured spilling the entire deadly, sticky stuff onto Commercial Street in a 30 foot wave- 21 people were killed, 150 injured.

Many officials talk about all-hazard planning, but I suspect more than a few of them have very specific hazards in mind.  A truly unique disaster that occurred almost 100 years ago is a good reminder of the danger of that approach.

(On an unrelated note, for those readers living or visiting the Boston area, I would highly recommend visiting either of the restaurants that Josh co-owns and occasionally bartends: Silvertone and Trina’s Starlite Lounge. Great food, drink, and people.)

No definition of homeland security = No coherent strategy = No Death Star

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 16, 2013

The lack of a clear definition or even vague understanding of what constitutes “homeland security” has resulted in what can only be considered the total abdication by the Administration of their role in protecting not only our nation but the future of our entire planet.

The people have spoken.  This President has made the choice to ignore us. There will be no Death Star.

Over 30,000 citizens petitioned the White House for the following:

Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.

Those who sign here petition the United States government to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016.

By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.

Paul Shawcross, Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, breaks the bad news in the official response:

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

Mr. Shawcross goes on to detail a number of space-related initiatives that are already underway or planned for the near future.

Though I can’t help but feel that this is a missed opportunity, perhaps the White House is better at risk analysis than many thought:


Define homeland security? We can’t even define weight…

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 16, 2013

…or at least what a kilogram actually weighs.

Doesn’t it weigh a kilogram?  Maybe not:

The kilogram is unique in that it is defined by reference to a lump of crude, man-made stuff. Besides aesthetic niggles, that fact leads to an important practical problem. The international prototype kilogram (IPK), the technical name for the cylinder in Sèvres, does not in fact keep a constant mass. Over the years pollutants from the air settle on its surface, causing its mass to rise. Attempts to clean it then cause its mass to fall. As a result, what science understands by a kilogram has varied, but has done so in a way that is, by definition, unmeasurable.

The Economist editors raise a question often debated within the homeland security community:

Science would thus love to be free of this awkward lump of metal, but attempts to define mass objectively—with reference to, say, the mass of a proton—have always foundered on the question: “So how do you measure that?”

January 15, 2013

Second time is a charm

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 15, 2013

You can never go wrong asking students, practitioners or policymakers to define homeland security.  You’re guaranteed at least 30 minutes of energized conversation.

I was surprised to learn last week the Congressional Research Service (CRS) updated its April 2012 report on defining homeland security.

I wondered what CRS revealed in the new version of  “Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and Congressional Considerations” that was worth a revision, 9 months after writing the April version.

Turns out (as the author noted on Thursday in this blog’s comments section), not very much.

CRS added one footnote – Note 7: “DHS is currently developing the 2014 QHSR which the department intends to publish and issue in late 2013 or early 2014.”

That was the only thing close to a substantive change.

The author dutifully renumbered the subsequent footnotes, made a few minor editing changes (like turning “Dec.” into “December” on Note 25), and fixed some equally minor punctuation glitches (like using a different apostrophe style with the word entities’, on page 2).

Really small stuff, of interest only to the pathologically pedantic.

“Move along,” the author says, “nothing new to look at here.”

But the internet wasn’t buying it.

“Homeland Security Has Too Many Definitions, Says CRS.” headlined the Secrecy News blog  — who I believe provided the first web copy of the report.

The revelation quickly went viral — ok, maybe micro-viral is a better word, considering the steadily diminishing fragment of the internet that cares about homeland security.

“Government Unable to Define ‘Homeland Security’”, announced Threat Level.

“What Does ‘Homeland Security’ Mean? Don’t Ask the Government.” jeered Reason’s Hit & Run blog.

HS Today was a bit wordier, “Surveillance, Protection & Detection – DHS Fails To Align And Prioritize Its Many Varied Missions, Congressional Report Finds.”

Even Homeland Security Watch joined the chorus, though with uncharacteristically succinct palinesque irony, “I’m sure that regular readers of HLSWatch are ‘shocked, shocked’ by these findings.”

Other sites — like  techdirt , peace news, and Red-Dragon Rising — propagated  the story.

The January 2013 report is in almost all respects the same document as the April 2012 version, including continuing to refer to the 2002 National Strategy for Homeland Security as the 2003 National Strategy for Homeland Security.  (See the reference above to “pathologically pedantic.”)

But I do think the new report — and the reaction it triggered — unwittingly suggests an answer to the question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

The answer is yes, it makes a little sound the first time. (see Fierce Homeland Security and HS Today).

But it makes a bigger impact the second time around.


Meanwhile in other news, Janet Napolitano agrees to remain the DHS Secretary.

Second time can be a charm.


January 10, 2013

CRS: Homeland security ill-defined

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 10, 2013

Thanks to the FAS Secrecy Project, a Congressional Research Service report on Defining Homeland Security is available for your consideration. From the report’s summary:

Varied homeland security definitions and missions may impede the development of a coherent national homeland security strategy, and may hamper the effectiveness of congressional oversight. Definitions and missions are part of strategy development. Policymakers develop strategy by identifying national interests, prioritizing goals to achieve those national interests, and arraying instruments of national power to achieve the national interests. Developing an effective homeland security strategy, however, may be complicated if the key concept of homeland security is not defined and its missions are not aligned and synchronized among different federal entities with homeland security responsibilities.This report discusses the evolution of national and DHS-specific homeland security strategic documents and their homeland security definitions and missions, and analyzes the policy question of how varied homeland security definitions and missions may affect the development of national homeland security strategy.

I’m sure that regular readers of HLSWatch are “shocked, shocked” by these findings.

What was, what is, and what will be

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Private Sector,Risk Assessment,Strategy,WMD — by Philip J. Palin on January 10, 2013

Earlier this week the World Economic Forum released its annual report: Global Risks 2013.

According to the WEF survey of 1000-plus “global experts”, over the next ten years the most serious risks by potential impact are:

  • Major systemic financial failure
  • Water supply crises
  • Chronic fiscal imbalances
  • Food shortage crises
  • Diffusion of weapons of mass destruction

Of these most consequential risks the expert survey — complemented by a series of workshops — found that water supplies and fiscal balance are already widely in crisis (What a surprise!). The risk of food shortages and systemic financial failure will increase as water and fiscal problems worsen. Increased diffusion of WMD almost seems simple in comparison.

Combined with the November release of Global Trends 2030 by our friends at the National Intelligence Council, we now have even more excuses for bad dreams.

In his preface to the report, Klaus Schwab, the founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF comments,

I think you will agree [the report] makes a compelling case for stronger cross-border collaboration among stakeholders from governments, business and civil society – a partnership with the purpose of building resilience to global risks. They also highlight the need for strengthening existing mechanisms to mitigate and manage risks, which today primarily exist at the national level. This means that while we can map and describe global risks, we cannot predict when and how they will manifest; therefore, building national resilience to global risks is of paramount importance.

The report offers suggestions related to definitions of resilience and good practice in resilience.

I was one of those contributing to the WEF survey and workshops. WEF does a great job of bringing together a broad mix of public and private policy makers, academics, and fellow-travelers. The report is helpful and I look forward to the follow-on work. The Davos Summit, January 23-27, focuses on “resilient dynamism” and will kick-off several important initiatives.


I paused while reading of the WEF report to take a call from the operations manager for a grocery chain in the New York metro area. I will do a case study on their Hurricane Sandy preparedness and response. One store on Staten Island was flooded under three feet of water. It reopened within a week. Another store within three blocks of the New Dorp Beach inundation zone — the deadly ground zero for Sandy — stayed open without interruption. There are a range of smart, heroic and almost miraculous tales.

There is also a very open, practical self-criticism in how the grocers are working to prepare for and adapt to the likelihood of something-worse-than-Sandy.

I perceive a yawning gap between the analysis and attitude encountered at the grocery chain and that revealed in the WEF report. It is a contrast often found between the theoretical and the operational.

The point is not that the operators are hubris-free and the theoreticians — including me — abide with such overabundant pride (though the thought does occur and recur). Rather, it seems to me, that this gap is where many of our vulnerabilities originate.

The WEF report (and many more) is in the future tense. These are issues we can reasonably anticipate will influence the operational environment for the next ten years or more.

Operational thinking and even planning is considerably more present tense. The possibilities of now — both opportunity and threat, strength and weakness — are at the heart of the operational worldview.

Past, present, and future are characteristics of English. Other linguistic systems focus much more on action being finished or unfinished. Any meaningful notion of homeland security will remain unfinished (and perhaps worse) until we can more effectively communicate across the operational-theoretical continuum.


Through me what was, what is, and what will be, are revealed. Through me strings sound in harmony, to song. My aim is certain, but an arrow truer than mine, has wounded my free heart! The whole world calls me the bringer of aid; medicine is my invention; my power is in healing.

Metamorphoses, Ovid: Book I:521-523, Apollo begging Daphne to yield to him. I realize that quoting a Latin poet, even in translation, will not help bridge the gap. But it is beautiful, is it not? The Latin is luscious. And doesn’t it evoke an image of homeland security begging for affection? A big part of the challenge is to respect the insight that exists across the continuum, learning how to fully engage different dialects.

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