Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 1, 2013

Secretary Napolitano on “What is homeland security?”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on March 1, 2013

From “The State of Homeland Security Address with Secretary Janet Napolitano,” on February 26, 2013, at Brookings. [My emphasis, below]

[MS. KAMARCK]: Okay. And finally, at a recent hearing on your Department, researchers at the Congressional Research Services pointed out that 30 other agencies in addition to DHS have homeland security in their missions. And they were critical that there was no consistent federal definition of homeland security. Does this matter?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Well, it would probably be, you know, nice, but it doesn’t really matter in practice. That’s the first I’ve ever even heard that, and I’ve been Secretary four plus years. So it’s certainly not affecting my day-to-day work. (Laughter)

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: But here’s the thing. Under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5, HSPD 5, I mean, there’s really a clear outlining of when you have a big complicated event, what is the role of DHS. And BP is a good example of this, which is to coordinate and lead multiple agencies who are responding, and there it was the EPA, and Energy, and Interior just to name a few. 

And we actually for months after the spill at a Cabinet-level, secretaries and the administrators would get twice-daily or once daily on the phone, weekends, it didn’t matter, going through what everyone was doing, what the response was, what some of the big issues were. And that really helped coordinate the response.

And I think, you know, in the aftermath looking back, again you always learn lessons. There’s always things you would do better or differently. But in the context of the largest oil spill of its type, I think really worked well to help mitigate the damage. And we did that after Sandy as well.

So in practice, what we mean by homeland security is what I said. It’s agility. It is the ability to prevent as well as protect. It’s the ability to continue to innovate. That’s what we consider to be homeland security.

And lastly, it is a sense that it is not the responsibility of one government department. It’s not the responsibility solely of the federal government. You have the states that have a critical responsibility. Governor O’Malley is here. Cities have a responsibility. And every single person has a responsibility in the security realm for the safety of themselves, but also of each other.

So trying to in DHS 3.0 inculcate that and just make it — this is one of the things we do, like putting on a seat belt, will be important for us.


If you have the time, it’s worth watching the Secretary answer this question (at the 50:40 mark on the video, available on the Brookings site). You can see how she constructs her definition of homeland security as she speaks.

I also liked the look on her face at the 51 minute mark when she thinks about the question and says “That’s the first I’ve ever even heard [about the lack of a consistent federal definition of homeland security], and I’ve been Secretary four plus years. So it’s certainly not affecting my day-to-day work.”

I found Secretary Napolitano’s response to be an interesting example of the gap between the practice and the theory of homeland security.

(Hat Tip to Zach Rausnitz at FierceHomelandSecurity)

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn


Comment by William R. Cumming

March 1, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

The fountain of gibberish continues to flow!

Comment by Michael Brady

March 1, 2013 @ 3:53 pm


Let’s ask this question another way…

Madam Secretary, If you don’t know what you’re doing why did DHS purchase 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition for reasons that the agency refuses to reveal?

“…it doesn’t really matter in practice. That’s the first I’ve ever even heard that, and I’ve been Secretary four plus years. So it’s certainly not affecting my day-to-day work.”

Laughter ensues.


Comment by Christopher Tingus

March 1, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

…unfortunately while a very good post, this evening’s priority in comment prompts a reply that I was just informed that Madame Secretary takes no responsibility in allowing hundreds of criminals (immigrants convicted) of crime to just walk out the door back into the populace when they were facing deportation – whether you Madame Secretary, Barry Obama or Ms. Hillary quick to stand and say in an much emptiness as the empty political rhetoric heard every day while campaigning – the buck stops here – and then when convenient, we don’t take responsibility for such release of criminals and blaming such on the present charade within the beltway where this government cannot cut some 2% of a budget and if he so chooses, not the waset, but core budgets and even public safety.

How dare you at Homeland Security release prisoners onto our streets and no We will not forget the “Benghazi Massacre” –

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”

Comment by HGRATTAN

March 2, 2013 @ 10:12 am


Body language (facial expressions) do say a lot!

Still there is a problem (full disclosure: this is a dissertation in process)

Problem: No coherent definition, strategy, or theory of homeland security exists in the United States of America.

Homeland security policy and strategy presents significant challenges for all concerned. Policy makers struggle to make sense of overlapping and sometimes conflicting jurisdictions and organizational preferences. Practitioners ask for guidance and are told to do the best they can with what they have to protect the homeland. The American people expect their government to do what is possible to protect them from all harm.

Congressional Research Service analyst Shawn Reese (2013) aptly described the ramifications of diverse U.S. Government definitions for homeland security:

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 missions are not aligned and synchronized among different federal entities with homeland security responsibilities. (Summary section, para.3)

A coherent definition of homeland security would provide a meaningful and sensible rationale for homeland security policy and strategy. Homeland security strategy predicated on such rationale would provide an effective and efficient means to secure the homeland.

The horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 did happen. The U.S. government long sensed that a major terrorist strike would happen, but knew not where and when. Post mortem commissions were launched, armies were assembled, laws were passed, and government and government agencies were reorganized. America vowed that the terrorists would be defeated. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck and the Nation was unprepared. Post mortem committees were launched, government agencies were reorganized, laws were passed, and government reorganized. America vowed to mitigate natural disasters and to humanely respond to those disasters that do occur. ….

Homeland security is said to be complex and span many different disciplines and organizational boundaries. Homeland security is also changing and new challenges lie ahead. Still there is neither a definitive definition nor an overarching strategy of homeland security. Perhaps the “truth” about homeland security lies with those who do homeland security. Shouldn’t we ask them? Shouldn’t the Secretary know!

Reese, S.(2013). Defining homeland security: Analysis and Congressional Consideration, Congressional Research Service. (Congressional Research Service Publication No.R42462). Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R42462.pdf

Comment by Philip J. Palin

March 2, 2013 @ 10:19 am


I mostly accept your point on the gap between the practice and the theory of homeland security.

Still it has been a very long time (ever?) since we turned to a Secretary of Commerce to offer an articulate (much less accurate) explanation of domestic and/or international commerce. Similar gaps are found in regard to several cabinet department mission sets.

In many cases government departments are administrative amalgams rather than purposed-organized functions. This may be a problem, but it is hardly exclusive to homeland security.

Going back to Commerce… neither the US business community nor graduate schools of business look to the Secretary of Commerce for strategic or intellectual leadership. Maybe that’s an example for homeland security to consider.

Comment by JOHN F. MORTON

March 3, 2013 @ 5:44 am

I try to chart the evolution of the term homeland security in the first section of my Next-Generation Homeland Security: Network Federalism and the Course to National Preparedness. http://www.usni.org/store/catalog-fall-2012/next-generation-homeland-security.

In section two, reflecting the work of the Project on National Security Reform’s HLS Team which I led and all of whom I acknowledge at the end of the book, we discuss the Homeland Security Enterprise. [Bill Cumming knows all this.]

HLS needs a new paradigm expressed that derives from a different federal-centric national security model which was a product of the last century and the high-industrial era. THe NSA of 1947 must be seen in the context of the Progressive Movement of the early 1900s which addressed the real societal problems of industrialization that needed management and the war mobilization and preparedness problems that also obviously needed management presented by the two world wars and the Cold War. It was responsible for the WW I War Industries Board, the New Deal, the military-industrial-scientific-academic complex, the Great Society and so on. All achieved by consolidation at the Federal level. Now in the post-industrial era with its strategic environment, that model must be flipped, so we can move away from a single-point-of-failure Federal government. If we can do that for HLS, then we could do that for every area of policy to return authorities to the states and to communities making us more secure, more sustainable, more resilient and more competitive…not to mention a freer people in the spirit of our founding principles.

My two cents is to inspire you smart guys and gals to advance on my first-cut attempt to characterize the HLS space and call for a new information-age model “Network Federalism.” I think the rhetoric under the term Homeland Security Enterprise is good, because it does suggest a partnership that moves beyond the industrial-era/Progressive-era National Security System. In terms of lowercase “f” federalism, I see the declaratory Federal policy moving us in the right track. What I and Dennis Schrader argue if for the need to implement the well-conceived authorities that are already in the language of PKEMRA. Bill, your reaction?

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 3, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

A close reading of PKEMRA of 2006 [effective March 31, 2007] indicates many of its requirements unfullfilled. These statutory mandates DHS and FEMA feel free to ignore or to use miscellaneous and uncoordinated efforts to convince others they have been completed.
Just one example is the National Preparedness Report required on an annual basis. Ignored by the Bush Administration until it fired a last shot in January 2009 as it issued a largely contractor produced report that report in turn ignored until the issuance in March 2012 a new report stating it was the first [perhaps the first issued under revised PP-8] but not issued again.

For a copy of PKEMRA 2006 one is posted on Key Statutes section of Home Page of my Vaction Lane Blog found at http://www.vlg338.blogspot.com now largely stale except for it references.

Of course a largely inanimate HS Committee in the House of Representatives continuously fails to check off the statutory mandates of its own efforts.

Assuming as I do that HS costs money I wonder how many know that TSA and the management/policy functions of DHS are the most heavily impacted?

Of interest is the fact that few outside DHS understand what civil and what criminal laws DHS actually administers and whether it is delegated power from the President or vested directly from Congress in DHS. Again over 100K of DHS personnel wear a uniform, and/or gun/and or badge and retire after 20 years on the job. Also second career military now have crossed the 60K mark and many had a
full 20 years in the active military.

Furloughs under the sequester will be almost unknown in DHS except for TSA that has never accomplished the most basic budgeting skills.

The Obama administration is finally admitting that the sequester gives the Executive Branch even more power over the Congress. Only in the SENATE do the REPUBLICANs have an effort under way to restore Congressional power.

And yes HS relies on a federal system but many of the 500K reduction in

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 3, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

CONTINUING: reduction in the STATES and their local government employment ranks over last 5 years decimated HS at that level of governance.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 5, 2013 @ 12:17 am

Bureaucracy at its weakest is setting its priorities. It does what it can do or likes to do first.
Some would say its first choice is to do as little as possible if it could or can get away with it.

Certainly dealing with Public Administration’s [Charles Wise?] Wicked Problems is almost never the first choice of a bureacracy.

Three “Wicked Problems” were handed to DHS.

First, WMD [now CBRNE according to DoD lingo] prevention and protection and probably INTEL and Proliferation also.

Second, development of domestic INTEL while protecting privacy and civil rights and civil liberties.

Third, protection of Critical Infrastructure and prevention of attacks on CI, in particular cybersecurity.

Transportation Security may be fighting the last war, perhaps not.

FEMA has its own wicked problems. How to lessen disaster outlays by prevention and mitigation? How to get other parts of a largely decrepit analog bureacracy to adjust to a digital world [social media and rumor control e.g.]! How to reduce the potential for catastrophe or actually respond to catastrophe. How to get the largely antiquated STATE governments and their fractured and unfocused local governments to be part of National Preparedness. And finally how to overcome the traditions of “Duck and Cover” and get the citizenry involved in self-help and their own limited ability to protect themselves.

How many citizens know how to swim? How to do first-aid? How to do CPR? How to supply themselves for two weeks without the food supply chain? Or water? Or Pharma? Or Medical services? Or power?

50M in America officially disabled. How do you protect the transportation dependent and those in congregate care centers whether on a permanent or limited time basis?

And how does the portion of DHS that does not involve HS impact HS in DHS?

Should it worry the interested citizenry that the WH spends most of its time on the illusion of control? And this is not just a function of this Admininistration but in fact is a key element of the Imperial Presidency! In paricular utilizing secrecy of its offical acts and secrecy in general [lack of compliance with FOIA] to pretend it is governing.

Is power in government aligned with accountability?

Comment by Shawn Reese

March 7, 2013 @ 10:43 am

John F. Morton… I am the guy at CRS wrote and testified on this topic… please contact me at sreese@crs.loc.gov

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>