Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 25, 2013

What if you could talk about homeland security without using the words homeland security?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on March 25, 2013

In her latest Boston Globe column, Juliette Kayyem discusses the official recognition that the effects of climate change will impact national security.

Now, in this year’s Worldwide Threat Assessment, issued last week by the office of the director of national intelligence, a new risk has been highlighted, marking a historic shift in how we think about our enemies: the weather — more specifically climate change. And the fact that America’s entire national security apparatus has embraced it as a threat is, in the end, good news for local communities.

The United States now concedes that the security of nations is “being affected by weather conditions outside of historical norms, including more frequent and extreme floods, droughts, wildfires, tornadoes, coastal high water, and heat waves.”

And we are not the only ones:

The American Security Project, a bipartisan think tank, analyzed military assessments worldwide. From China to Rwanda, Belarus to Brazil, over 70 percent of nations view climate change as a top threat to their national security.

Yet this isn’t a challenge for what is currently understood as our national security apparatus.

Unlike responses to most other national security threats, those that guard against climate change are local in nature.

And we still must become a more resilient society, one whose basic building blocks cannot be knocked out by threats that are utterly predictable.

So she talks about weather, critical infrastructure, resilience, and local action.  Sounds like a lot of topics that come up in conversations about homeland security definitions and education.  But the phrase “homeland security” appears nowhere in the piece.  I’m certain that is not out of ignorance of the topic or an aversion to the field–she is a former Massachusetts homeland security adviser and DHS Assistant Secretary.

Instead she frames the topics of climate change, natural disaster, critical infrastructure, and resilience as “national security” issues.  On one hand, this can be interpreted as weakening the notion of a distinct field of homeland security, as well as the need to precisely define it.  On the other, it represents an opportunity to focus attention on those areas that have been considered as not directly related to traditional national security.

Since 9/11 and the resulting evolution of the general field of homeland security, there has existed a tension between the security side and (for the lack of a better term) the rest.   Terrorism, border security, and other activities carried out by law enforcement personnel has existed in a not always smooth relationship with emergency management, non-police first responders, and the broad array of disciplines interested in building resilience.  Immediately after the Katrina’s and Sandy’s much hang wringing is accomplished concerning our preparedness for natural disasters.  However, the security side of the house (across departments and levels of government), with its connection to the military and intelligence worlds, always seems to retain cachet and policy priority.  Protecting us from the bad person rather than the bad weather is more exciting.  For example, there has been more ink spilled concerning the TSA’s decision to allow some sharp objects to be carried on planes versus the opportunities to build resilience in those communities impacted by Superstorm Sandy.

Protecting us from terrorism at home has always been considered a part of both homeland and national security.  Protecting us from natural disasters and pandemics, building resilience, etc. was often left to those  without security clearances.  Instead of proposing definitions that only build walls between disciplines, might it be better to expand the idea of what we consider important to security and future of our country?

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


Comment by William R. Cumming

March 25, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

Julliette knows whereof she speaks. First, she was the official federal hostage at the BP spill trying to salve STATE and local tensions over the fact that they could not understand NO Stafford Act declaration of any kind. Clearly the STATE and LOCALS had no idea that that the events since the Exxon Valdez spill had not revealed to anyone in US Coast Guard or DHS leadership that the National Contingency Plan for Oil Spills and Hazardous Materials Releases [40 CFR Part 300] had inherent flaws when it came to federalism.

Beyond that she also knows that despite 1000 FTE with policy analyst in their title at DHS not much real firepower intellectually there and none on climate change.

What Juliette fails to understand however is the failure of the Clinton/Obama Administrations to reform the National Security State, allowing increased classification and increased budgets vis a vis civil government structures on the same issues has had a HUGE OPPORTUNITY COST for the civil agencies.

Just as some might be surprised by only 13,000 gold badge agents in the FBI out of almost 40K employees, at least 1/2 of DoD is engaged in pre-empting civil departments and agencies if not intentionally then unintentionally. Of course one of my favorites is the duplication of Higher Ed by DoD. Chris B. can defend that investment and its reasons for existence.

So Climate Change as National Security. With a largely privatized energy section that has been documented as attacking climate change perhaps that is why the label works. So how exactly will the National Security apparatus of the largest National Security apparatus and apparatchiks in the world make sure that the US is protected from Mother Nature even as we continue to lead the world in utilizing 25% of its resources including energy annually?

Comment by Christopher Tingus

March 25, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

Well said by William Cumming, however who listening? No matter how many terrific responses in reply, no matter Bill’s substantive and factual conveyances in intellect and valued experience within the sphere of emergency management and response, how is it that this once great Republic is failing so….

As Isaiah clearly states in (verse 5): The whole head is sick, and the while heart is faint” –

“A government system designed to impede…. led by officials least able to lead….
Elected by those who barely produce…. To start new programs without any use…. Rewarding the many who don’t pitch in….” Toliver Morris

Comment by Arnold Bogis

March 26, 2013 @ 12:57 am

Bill, good questions. I have no idea. What I find interesting is that the military in particular has been considering the impacts of climate change for a while (i.e. how it will affect their ability to transverse certain areas of the world and the direct impact on existing bases, etc.). But now, along with the intelligence community, they are looking at how cascading effects will draw them and the U.S. as a whole into new situations.

On a side note, I’m a little surprised that the national security state was expanding under Clinton. I figured with the end of the Cold War, FEMA turning its attention to natural disasters instead of surviving a nuclear war (which, by the way, I’d kill to one day get a look at all the work they did in that regard…probably because I’m a dark soul whose been watching “The Day After” and “The War Game” (a great BBC production from the sixties on nuclear war) lately) that the secrecy rules would have gotten lighter. I absolutely agree that after 9/11 the Bush Administration battened down the hatches and the current administration hasn’t let up.

Mr. Tingus, you raise a great point that I think sometimes we all forget in our frustration with the pace of change. This is a republic set up at a fundamental level to impede the pace of change. And we should all have a little more patience.

If I wasn’t clear in my post, I have no idea what Juliette’s underlying thought process was for her piece. What I got out of it was that perhaps we don’t have to chase the homeland security rabbit down the hole and through the looking glass (mixing metaphors?) in search of a definition. Instead, much of what isn’t currently considered national security but what is considered vital can be fit into an expanded framework that better focuses attention of policy makers at all levels inside and out of government.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 26, 2013 @ 8:34 am

Good comment Arnold! I have again sent a note to Julliette identifying the post naming her and comments and asking her to consider a book on her time in Washington.

As to technical aspects of civil defense numerous reports were prepared between 1951 and 1994 by the research program at the federal organizations responsible.

While I was never the principle lawyer for the federal civil defense program as operated under Public 920 of the 81st Congress as amended I did help with the insertion of a small portion into the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act largely involving changing the term “civil defense” into “emergency management”!

There are many official and unofficial histories of the civil defense effort but in fact it was largely rendered irrelevant after the Kennedy Administration by the McNamara driven effort to make MAD the US strategic doctrine. And note that is still the doctrine.

Perhaps more to follow including some book titles.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 26, 2013 @ 8:59 am

Arnold! This sentence of your last comment interests me.

“On a side note, I’m a little surprised that the national security state was expanding under Clinton.”

Looking at FTE’s and budgets many would disagree with my statement. But those are not the only constructs on which the National Security State was founded and exists. Thus the fact that Clinton himself was NOT an expert on National Security was not the reason for my statement.

One example! In an open meeting a Clinton Deputy National Security Advisor, later the principal advisor, and later stole documents from the National Archives, specifically Sandy Berger stated that National Security was whatever the President said it was and that no law bounded Presidential authority in the National Security arena. Not a direct quote but close and worrying to those like me that worried over the Imperial Presidency.

Detailed historical analysis of this issue remains to be written but I remain convinced that I am correct.

Also reading the 2007 Duke University Press book “Stages of Emergency-Cold war Nuclear Civil Defense” by Tracy C. Davis documenting federal “staging” of the civil defense effort and quite interesting.

Professors Emeritus Dee Garrison and Charles Perrow have written versions of the civil defense history wherein they openly charge the Adminstrators of that program as having operated in bad faith with the American people. I disagree with that conclusion but only after much study of the civil defense history and being somewhat knowledgable about US strategic doctrine on which I strongly recommend the writings of Retired USAF 4-Stars General Lee Butler who mastered the SIOP and its problems.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 29, 2013 @ 7:45 am

BTW what if the label was HOMELIFE SECURITY?

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

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>