One of my ongoing frustrations over the past few years, since the merger of the Homeland Security Council into the National Security Council in 2009, has been the decision of the White House not to publicly release – with some exceptions – the Presidential Policy Directives (PPD’s) issued by the President.
This is not an issue of classification or related security concerns – to the best of my knowledge, the relevant homeland security PPD’s discussed below are unclassified and have no control markings.
Steven Aftergood at the Federation for American Scientists has a webpage that is the best online repository of these PPD’s. As you can see on the list, six of them (2, 7, 8, 17, 18, 21) are on matters that are directly related to homeland security, but only two of these – PPD-8 on national preparedness and PPD-21 on critical infrastructure security and resilience – have been directly released by the Administration. One of them on the FAS site (PPD-2 on biological threats) is a watermarked leaked copy, apparently from DOD, and the other three are not publicly available.
The other three directives are nowhere to be found on the Internet.
PPD-7 is on the National Threat Advisory System, adopted in 2010 to replace the Homeland Security Advisory System. I received a copy of this one while I was working at the Senate after requesting it, and all it really does is set roles and responsibilities for the rollout of the new system. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be released publicly.
PPD-17 is on Countering Improvised Explosive Devices, and is apparently linked to this White House strategy on the topic released in February of this year. The predecessor directive to PPD-17 by the Bush Administration, HSPD-19, was publicly released in February 2007 on the White House website. Given the renewed attention to this issue in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, I would think that state and local law enforcement and emergency management agencies would benefit from a full understanding of current federal policy on this issue.
PPD-18 is on Maritime Security, and is referenced in a few places online, including a Coast Guard notice in the Federal Register, a US Navy document, a LinkedIn profile, and a (now deleted) job posting at SAIC, but the directive itself is nowhere to be found on the Internet. This directive replaces NSPD-41/HSPD-13, which was released publicly on the White House website in 2004, and DHS at the time released many of its supporting implementation plans (e.g. this one).
Given that the maritime domain is dominated by non-federal stakeholders – state and local governments, private sector entities, international partners – I do not understand why this directive has not been publicly released. Without its public release, key stakeholders are likely still assuming that NSPD-41/HSPD-13 is the top-level federal policy directive on maritime security issues, when in reality it was rescinded nearly a year ago.
Why this lack of transparency for a category of documents that had been publicly released in the previous administration? I suspect a primary cause of this is the integration of the Homeland Security Council (HSC) into the National Security Council (NSC) in 2009. The parts of the HSC that were absorbed into the new structure seem to have taken on the internal processes of the NSC, which has traditionally operated in the classified domain and worked on issues where federal agencies and international governments are the primary (if not sole) actors. However, for nearly all homeland security issues, the participation of non-federal stakeholders is essential.
It’s not serving anyone’s interests for these directives to be kept so close hold. Given the issues covered in these directives as well as the President’s stated commitment to government transparency, it’s overdue for these three PPD’s to be publicly released, and for the National Security Staff to become more transparent and forward-leaning in terms of releasing future PPD’s on homeland security-related issues.