Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

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.

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14 Comments »

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

January 10, 2013 @ 7:15 am

Your earlier posting mentioned HS searching for affection. It does not seem to be able to garner any respect for consistency either, judging by the varied definitions in use!

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 10, 2013 @ 8:40 am

Guess those 1000 or more with policy analysis in their position descripiton will still not understand that top down confusion is not a good basis for coherence in strategy, management, or policy development and implementation.

Are any portions of DHS HRO’s?

HRO=Highly Reliable Organizations

Comment by Shawn Reese

January 10, 2013 @ 9:33 am

actually a report that I wrote back last spring and testified on in Feb… nothing new here. N

Comment by Donald Quixote

January 10, 2013 @ 10:43 am

I am shocked, shocked……….. I also understand from Captain Renault that there was gambling at Rick’s Café Americain………

The good news is that CRS can use the same report next year and for many more years to come, a real cost savings for them. If you define homeland security (and its cousins homeland defense, emergency management and national security), there could be tangible goals and expectations for the precious resources expended. Why in the world would we do that?

At least you can ping this one back to dozens of previous postings on this site.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

January 10, 2013 @ 10:45 am

Mr. Reese, While not new for you or most readers here, a very helpful and thoughtful report (re)delivered to Congress at a moment when meaningful attention to the issue could be very productive. Thank you for your work.

Comment by Dan OConnor

January 10, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

In some aspects if one cannot define it one cannot defend it.

Much like a war on an ideology, defining homeland security with one set of optics magnifies one definition while it occludes another.

Comment by HGRATTA

January 10, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

Pelrey and Pelfrey (2009) defined HS as the social, political, technical, military, and legal aspects of preventing, protecting against, responding to, and recovering from threats or hazards, whether intentional, accidental, or natural that represent dangers or harmful conditions to the population of the United States.

Pelrey and Pelfrey caputured the essence of HLS. As
Mr. Reese demonstrated, the U.S. governnment was unable to comprehensively codify HLS.

The homeland security stakeholder community needs a theory of HLS.

Pelfrey, W.V. Sr. & Pelfrey, W.V. Jr. (2009). Curriculum evaluation and revision in a nascent field: The utility of the retrospective pretest-posttest model in a homeland security program of study, Evaluation Review, 33(1), doi: 10.1177/0193841X08327578

Comment by Philip J. Palin

January 10, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

Ten years ago, and probably for most of about six years, I endeavored to offer, contribute to, and lend my support to various definitions of homeland security. There was never much traction. I’ve now mostly left the issue to others, wishing them well, but not giving it too much time.

There are, as the CRS report makes clear, consequences that emerge from this lack of definition. Many are negative. A few, not mentioned in the report, are (at least in my eyes) positive.

I’m not sure why the field has so effectively resisted some sort of consensus definition. But my guess is it has something to do with 1) too much emphasis on finding a definition that could be demonstrated with “performance metrics” and 2) the absence of any coherent and compelling strategic value-added vision for homeland security. I suspect, but cannot prove, the first factor undermined the potential of the second. But, in any case, no strategic value-added vision has ever sufficiently emerged to put up much of a fight.

The fractionalized nature of Congressional oversight, with each Committee and sub-committee pushing its own definition, certainly contributed to the non-emergence of a consensus definition. The militarization of homeland security — in terms of intellectual capital and personnel — also played a role. The integration of White House Homeland Security staff into the National Security Council staff was a kind of intellectual decapitation. Lots of other contributions, but making sense of why something did not happen is often even more elusive than explaining what did happen.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 10, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

I believe usage of term “homeland” is the real source of the problem in conjunction with the term “security”!
Much of what DHS does has nothing to do with “existential” or even other security threats to the Homeland.

The failure of DHS to self identify programs, functions and activities that have nothing to do with Homeland Security as required by the BUR and QHSR for example means that DHS’ survival as a Cabinet Department is unlikely to last out this decade.

Comment by Wayne

January 11, 2013 @ 10:52 am

It is an interesting update by CRS for a long term issue that, regrettably, considering the turf and jurisdictional conflicts (2 separate but related concepts)among and between Federal departments & agencies as well as Federal vice State vice Local entities is not likely to be resolved soon. A definition of Homeland Security would, as others have noted, provide a framework for prioritization and analysis of effectiveness of programs and activities, while at the same time providing a tool to be used to stake out the boundaries of turf and jurisdiction. Until the Congress is able to move oversite into a select group of committees, and the players reach a stage where they are willing to surrender “turf” (and the programs, staff and funding that goes with it) for the greater good, a working definition will remain ambiguous and bureaucratic, rather than pragmatic and useful.

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