Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

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.


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Comment by William R. Cumming

January 15, 2013 @ 7:35 am

And some states also define HS!

The DHS Secretary position has struggled to find its footing and relevance in the Washington scene. I suspect that the continuation of the current leadership is based on her hope for a SCOTUS appointment and the confirmation fights ahead for more senior cabinet positions where the incumbents are largely worn down from the many faceted long knives of various types in Washington and elsewhere.

And perhaps a post on the knowledgable Paul
Stockon and his efforts at DoD and beyond. Will a diminished DoD after sequester and other cuts still be interested in civil crisis management?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

January 15, 2013 @ 9:16 am

Chris: One of my life-lessons is that when I am persistently ineffective in communicating it is usually because others are not paying attention. If something is really important (at least to me) I should make many opportunities to say essentially the same thing over and over. I think your observation in this instance demonstrates the utility of this lesson.

Despite learning the lesson, I usually get so bored with the process I leave it well before anyone has noticed anything I was babbling about. Two or three years later what I was trying to say has more than once become the topic du jour. Maybe there was some better way for me to communicate. But much more often I find it is a matter of context, timing, and readiness to hear.

Comment by Donald Quixote

January 15, 2013 @ 10:27 am

Unfortunately, initial (even belated) impact does not always equate to meaningful interest, action and\or results. The odds of a significant and sustained response to this CRS document re-release is rather unlikely, especially after the next shiny object catches our national attention. The problem may have many facets such as:

1. Few truly care that much as long as they are enabled and funded;

2. It is too complex to define without damaging fiefdoms and feelings;

3. Chaos and confusion permit concealment and cover;

4. A definition may result in the exclusion of the “next big one” and cause embarrassment and cost elections;

5. So few (i.e. us) really care or value a common and consistent definition to frame and focus the subject; and

6. If they defined, improved and focused homeland security, what would we blog about (we would have to actually join the rest of the country and watch endless reality TV shows and be glued to social media for our crucial Kardashian fix)?

Fortunately or unfortunately, homeland security funding remains plentiful as compared to pre-9/11, so actual efficiency and effectiveness is not demanded or a true priority. However, the chickens are coming home to roost for we shall likely join our Greek friends sooner than we wish. On a more postive note, I do really enjoy moussaka, souvlaki and baklava.

Stin iya mas!

Comment by Dan OConnor

January 15, 2013 @ 10:38 am

Unfortunately, the what is homeland security question has the “I know it when I see it” retort built in!


What if homeland security is a state and not a thing? A state of mind, wellness, the “feeling” of security and consciousness as opposed to having to be something tangible in terms of identifying it? Is homeland security more a sense of one’s personal or nations’ collective identity, including the attitudes, beliefs, and sensitivities held by or considered characteristic of an individual or group? Is it a special or pointed awareness or sensitivity?

Perhaps the better question is what isn’t homeland security.

Doing a quick internet search of the topic, the first response is from the ubiquitous Wikipedia;
“Homeland security is an umbrella term for security efforts to protect states against terrorist activity. Specifically, is a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the U.S., reduce United States’ vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.”

And here I thought it was so much more.

If one were to take the best places to work survey data;


and see that the Department of Homeland Security is universally rated last or next to last in every category and trending negatively, one could conclude that the inability to aptly define a mission or an organizations purpose effectively, negatively impacts those who serve in it.

I am sure if we tortured the numbers long enough we’d find something favorable in all the data. “Pathologically pedantic” indeed.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 15, 2013 @ 11:27 am

Perhaps as Sessue Hyakawa [sic] former US Senator and hero of San Francisco State in the late 60’s stated it is all about semantics.

My problem is not varying definitions or lack of definition but the fact that few have tried to study what are the first principles of HS.

My first principal would preservation of the Constitution. I could list many many more but will give other readers a chance.

To give a hint there were several reasons DHS was created. Admittedly this is an organizational and public administration focus. There are many others in this multi-disciplinary arena. This is my ranking perhaps not others.

1. WMD policies and prevention and response or as DoD no longer allows WMD as terminology CBRNE!

2. Critical infastructure protection including cyber security.

3. Collection, processing, analysis and dessimination of domestic intelligence along with protection of privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.

I would argue that DHS has failed on this primary mission areas and in part it is because of the lawyers/former governors/law enforcement types that have led the department.

Comment by Shawn Reese

January 15, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

I am not attempting to negate the impact of my report, however, this problem of not being able to define HS will continue to plague DHS specifically, and the WOG in general until we both conceptualize and accept what we are talking about when we say “homeland security.” I am glad it is being discussed, however, the one hearing and congressional interest may have passed when I testified on this subject last Feb before the House Homeland Security committee.

Comment by Donald Quixote

January 15, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

Although it may be hard to accept, the lack of a common homeland security definition and vision may not be just the product of large competing bureaucracies, politics as usual, standard confusion and confliction and\or unengaged citizens, but rather intentional because of the apparent benefits. Beyond the frustration that it produces for the interested few, does it really matter for the subject, field, enterprise or whatever homeland security is called today? I say yes, but who am I to care or question? Some may think it would be more effective and efficient if we knew what homeland security was, but maybe not. It may be better to say that everyone is doing it so no one is closely questioned or evaluated on their results. Once again, everyone gets a trophy and can share the acclaim\blame.

We may only find a clearer definition or answer in the postmortem of the next significant incident or when the money really runs out. Either way, it shall be too late.

Let them eat cake and apply for more homeland security grants.

Comment by John F.Morton

January 15, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

What is the strategic environment for the forseeable future?

Complex interdependency

What is the threat?

System disruption — regardless of cause.

What is the response to this threat at whatever governmental level?

Missions resourced, planned and executed by the homeland security enterprise that encompasses both interagency and intergovernmental dimensions along with private sector and NGO mission partners to assure national, state, local and community continuity of government and operations.

Comment by Donald Quixote

March 6, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

“Homeland security’ has received $791 billion since 9/11



Comment by Donald Quixote

March 22, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

DHS Oversight Panel Hears Consequences of Not Having Definition of Homeland Security

By: Anthony Kimery


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