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