Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 13, 2013

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 13, 2013

Today is a Friday-the-Thirteenth, a source of superstition — especially in the United States — for which no consensus exists as to the source.

On this day in 1988 Hurricane Gilbert came ashore on the Yucatan as a CAT 5.  It was at the time the strongest hurricane recorded in the Western Hemisphere.  It has since been superseded.

On this day in 1987 the theft of a radioactive device from an abandoned hospital in Goiânia, Brazil contaminated at least 249 people.

On this day in 2008 the explosion of five bombs in Delhi, India markets killed 21 and injured 110, during a year featuring at least forty-one additional bombings and the November Mumbai urban-swarm attack.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

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Comment by William R. Cumming

September 13, 2013 @ 3:49 am

The 113th Congress has returned from a length recess. Wondering if it will contribute to the welfare of the American people or just be a thorn in the side of those striving to govern an increasingly complex American life. Hoping for the best but not expecting much from the Congress. Not even effective oversight of an Executive Branch that desperately needs it.

The Obama Administration stumbles on into the night of its second term. Perhaps a one-eyed man will be found to lead the blind perhaps not. The devil is in the details as in a Durer etching and even the small devils are now growing by leaps and bounds.

The quality of appointees in this Administration, not very high in the first term, now sinks lower and lower.

Comment by JCOMISKEY

September 13, 2013 @ 4:55 am

Does the meaning and more specifically the definition of HLS matter?

IMHO, it is again a good time to raise this question especially as we await a permanent Secretary.

See candidates: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/07/12/who-will-be-the-next-homeland-security-secretary/

I nominate Thad Allen. Full transparency I am a retired USCG reservist and once had a beer with the Commandant.

More transparency I raise this question because my in-process dissertation attempts to address this and other issues.

Former Secretary Napolitano said that CRS’ finding that there was no consistent definition of HLS did not matter. HLS was about agility, prevention, protection, and the ability to innovate, the former Secretary said.

See CRS and Napolitano:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R42462.pdf and


CRS offered at least seven definitions of HLS. DOD offered yet another. See

IMHO, a consensus definition of HLS does matter for the following reasons:

1. Help determine what has to be done to secure the homeland. **Defining a “secure homeland” also needs to be defined.

2. Help determine criteria for resource allocation.

3. Measure our progress to improve what we do.

4. Facilitate Congressional Oversight.

5. Help develop coherent “NATIONAL” homeland security strategy.

*Others TBD

Now might also be a good time to raise this question as the President and Congress grapple with Syria’s Munich & Holocaust-like atrocities (aggression-genocide). IMHO, the homeland security implications are many: CBRNE and WMD proliferation; Syria and Iran’s nation state sponsorship of Hezbollah, Hamas, and AQ affiliates; human rights; aviation security; economic security; and others TBD.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 13, 2013 @ 7:08 am


One aspect of defining homeland security or Homeland Security should attend to what it is not. In particular, it would be helpful to distinguish homeland security from national security.

This was a distinction I was entirely unsuccessful making at the White House and on Capitol Hill in early 2009. Since then the conflation of national security and homeland security has proceeded apace… and in my opinion homeland security has suffered as a result.

To make the point a bit sharper: Most folks inside the beltway — and especially the national security heavy-weights — perceive there is no substantive difference between national security and homeland security. This has provided, in my judgment, the intellectual cover for very traditional national security paradigms to increasingly dominate homeland security efforts. I’m not sure these traditional paradigms are any longer best for national security. But of more personal concern, I am fairly confident these paradigms often undermine homeland security.

Obviously books could — should — be written and read. But I would be interested in your angle on national security and homeland security distinctions.

Comment by JCOMISKEY

September 13, 2013 @ 7:56 am


I am trying to address both of your concerns.

IMHO, HLS should be a national (federal, state, local, and tribal government and private sector and individual citizen) effort to secure the homeland (protect the homeland and establish and maintain a national capability to address all-hazards).

HLS is about protecting and securing against intentional, natural, and accidental threats.

Consider the following alternate circumstances:

George Washington Bridge (connects NY and NJ).

1. Terrible car accident: Multiple cars involved, multiple casualties and fatalities, 100 people in the Hudson River fighting for their lives.
2. Hurricane winds strike the bridge [or Tornado or Earthquake]: multiple casualties and fatalities, 100 people in the Hudson River fighting for their lives.
3. Crazed gunman block traffic and starts shooting: multiple casualties and fatalities, 100 people in the Hudson River fighting for their lives.
4. Terrorist group detonates bomb on bridge: multiple casualties and fatalities, 100 people in the Hudson River fighting for their lives
5. Nation state enemy of the US bombs the bridge: multiple casualties and fatalities, 100 people in the Hudson River fighting for their lives
***Alternately threatens to bomb the bridge
6. Structural calamity and part of the bridge collapses: multiple casualties and fatalities, 100 people in the Hudson River fighting for their lives.

What to do?

Identify problem space

Protect the structural integrity of the bridge if need be (at least temporarily).

Rescue people in water
Provide aid and comfort to the wounded
Care for the dead

***Not necessarily in that order

Hot wash and AAR: what did we do right and what did we do wrong.

Post mortem: lessons we still do not learn

For the sake of argument assume that the cars and people concerned are on both the NY and NJ sides of the bridges.

FYI, the Port Authority and the PAPD have jurisdiction on the bridge. They own the WTC too.

The victims need and deserve help.

Multiple jurisdictions and agencies have jurisdiction and capabilities: PAPD, States: NY and NJ; multiple local jurisdictions on both sides of the bridge; US Coast Guard (patrols the Hudson River).

Multiple agencies have capabilities: PAPD, NY and NJ State Police, NYPD, multiple local police, FDNY, multiple local fire departments (paid and volunteer), OEM (multiple), public health, EMS (multiple), hospitals (multiple public and private), and many others.

Private citizens and victims will be first responders

Transparency: my NYC, NYPD, and USCG orientation shows here.

IMHO, HLS should be a meta-policy to do all of the above.

National security issues include both nation state and terrorist attacks on the bridge. Dual use capabilities (counter terrorism, WMD-response, and emergency management) transcend the national security-homeland security divide.

Comment by Street Cop

September 13, 2013 @ 8:34 am

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a promotional assessment center for a nearby local police department. Myself, and three other officers, were asked to run a mock community meeting for all the candidates. One of the applicants shared a story to make point. I was pleasantly surprised how powerful the message was that he delivered.
The story is as follows: A young boy decided that he would try to confound the town wise man by presenting a dilemma that had no clear answer. After several hours of careful thought, the young boy captured a bird and sought out the wise man. When he found the wise man, he hid the bird in his hands behind his back and approached the man. “Tell me, wise man. Is the bird I am holding behind my back dead or alive?” Quickly, the wise man realized that regardless of the answer he provided, he would be wrong. After a few moments, the wise man provided an answer……
The dilemma faced by the wise man seems eerily similar to the dilemma faced by homeland security professionals as we try to define “homeland security”. Dr. Chris Bellavita posed the same question many times during the 18-months that I attended CHDS at Naval Postgraduate School. I now realize that Chris was having as much fun watching the members of my cohort struggle with this wicked problem more than he was actually seeking an answer.
I like boundaries, purpose and clear mission statements but I am quick to point out that I love police work precisely because it is a box of chocolates…you never know what you are going to get. Defining HLS is a bit like searching for the Holy Grail to me. What happens when we find it? I think the constant inquiry is what drives the discipline and keeps the brilliant minds of homeland security professionals moving forward.
I, too, long for a definition of HLS that I can wrap my hands around, but I fear that a definition of HLS will result in the exclusion of some disciplines from the table. The eclectic backgrounds of the members of my CHDS cohort kept this old cop honest and forced me to step out of the policing world and look through the lens of public health or immigration law and believe or not, scholars.
Looking back on my 25-year police career, I realize I have done a whole lot of things that have nothing to do with law enforcement. Countless times I have said “we shouldn’t be doing this. This has nothing to do with police work.” It is these crazy calls at all hours of the day and night that are the memories I most cherish and oddly enough, have become the stories I share with friends.
So while I support the endeavor to figure out and define HLS I recognize that the quest is bit out of my league. I guess that is the easy way out. In case you read this far looking for the wise man’s answer, his response to the young man was “it is as you would have it be.” Honestly, I can live with that.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 13, 2013 @ 8:56 am

Agree with JComiskey the definition of HLS Or HS as I prefer is very important. Unfortunately beyond the ken and competency of the National Security community which prefers mission creep of the National Security State.

Organizing the violent efforts of the Armed Forces against external enemies of the USA apparently not enough to feed the appetites of the military/industrial complex. With at least 75% of all federal programs, functions, and actgi

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 13, 2013 @ 9:02 am


and activities opaque to even the most interested citizens, whether by formal secrecy or undermining of FOIA, the lack of a definition of HS is in fact deliberate obfuscation to avoid accountability IMO!

And the statement of the former Secretary DHS that the lack of defn

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 13, 2013 @ 9:13 am


and that the lack of definition of HS was of no importance demonstrates her incompetence and lack of understanding just as much as her statement post terrorist threat event that “the system works”!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 14, 2013 @ 6:35 am

John: Your examples seem to me very response-oriented… and mostly focused on external threats. These are real. These need attention. They are, I think, a big part of why many have difficulty distinguishing national security and homeland security.

As noted, I have tried and failed to suggest a quite different homeland security paradigm — and do not expect it to be persuasive here. But I perceive homeland security presents the opportunity to focus at least as much attention on self-induced vulnerabilities.

National security emerges from threat. Homeland security emerges from vulnerability. National security aims to protect. Homeland security aims to enhance resilience. National security looks outside. Homeland security looks inside. National security resists. Homeland security builds relationships…

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 14, 2013 @ 6:47 am

Street Cop: Love the story. Will probably steal it. Admire the real wisdom captured in the answer. The young boy is a trickster. The Hero’s Journey often depends on the trickster’s intervention. But the Hero ultimately transcends the trickster and brings back to the community some crucial aspect of the transformative power the hero has experienced. I don’t know that defining HS is such an elixir. But there is, I perceive, the potential for finding grail(s) in this homeland security journey.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 14, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

Agree with Phil! Wonderful story. And I wish the following statement of Phil accurate:

“National security emerges from threat. Homeland security emerges from vulnerability. National security aims to protect. Homeland security aims to enhance resilience. National security looks outside. Homeland security looks inside. National security resists. Homeland security builds relationships…”

I probably should have explained my reasoning for the failure of the National Security types to understand HS. First they have no clue as to the federal system. Second, they at this point largely are protecting their own interests with almost all flag ranks looking for the best retirement job and those with backgrounds in the National Security State locked in their love of secrecy and lack of real accountability either to the President, the Congress or the people of the USA.

The existential threats to the Constitution of the US are real and primarily involve secrecy, avarice, and self dealing IMO.

The fundamentalist Jihadi’s have not the faintest clue of what America is really about and even the retained lobbyists of almost all foreign governments are convinced that all for sale in the current governmental structures of the USA and its economy.

Now being revealed that the secret arrangements of the National Security State definitely a threat to Constitutional government. Time will tell the end story? Could it be treason?

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 15, 2013 @ 9:04 am

Interesting take on emotions instead of reason in FP in September 12th Atlantic of James Fallows and Robert Kaplan!

Does the same exist for HS?

And interesting post today on Recovery Diva on waste, fraud, and abuse in disaster outlays by States and Their local governments.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

September 15, 2013 @ 10:28 am

Friday Free Forum:

Syria-Putin-Obama and A Weakened America:

Surely you see the decadence from reason today and astute are those who contrive so….

I concur with you that what you observe today is even more than disconcerting, nothing less than a – phony – charade orchestrated by a Chicago city street slicker and nothing more, however unfortunately, without a heart filled with repentance, those whose arrogance in greed and self-serving ways and willingness to take their hand in dastardly deed causing much consternation as we see in the uncertainties of this geopolitical landscape with only calamity the eventual result…

From those you see with the German perspective in present day doctrine filling the vacuum left by a failed America, as long as the constituents see Life as wonderful with the expectation that all will see it through the (German) glassses – Das Leben ist bezaubernd, man muss es nur durch die richtige Brille sehen…

….those who see no repentance necessary, my reply to them can be found in 2 Chronicles 32:36; Matthew 21:32; Acts 17:30; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Revelations 2-5….

We for the most part do not see the consequence of self-serving ways…the indifference towards prerequisite integrity and diligence required of us to reestablish the principles of justice for all and the necessity that present laws are strictly enforced including immigration and monitoring of present visas and the vital importance that We all adhere to the Constitution bestowed upon us by the truly enlightened….

We have failed at least by “entrusting” the divisive and perverse and We shall pay a hefty price for allowing the blatant lies shoulder to shoulder and leaving our brave patriots behind at the “Benghazi Massacre” –

God Bless America!

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”

Comment by Arnold Bogis

September 15, 2013 @ 11:27 pm

Why does there need to be one definition of “homeland security?” There isn’t one for “national security” and that community of actors seems to get along just fine.

For example, try to find consensus around the national security implications of climate change or the Right to Protect (or R2P). You’d be surprised at the diversity of opinions within and between the intelligence, military, and diplomatic spheres – never mind the partisan pundits.

The concept and even term “homeland security” was not well known, defined, or even conceived before 9/11. And personally I don’t feel the world changed that day, just our group perception of it.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 16, 2013 @ 6:39 am

Arnold! Respectfully there is a definition of “national security” at least inferentially in the National Security Act of 1947 as enacted and currently amended. See US Code!

And a lexis search of that term and HS is instructive.

Since I don’t subscribe to Lexis or Nexis cannot provide the search listings.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

September 16, 2013 @ 10:18 am

Bill, I certainly don’t want to get into an argument with a lawyer, but what do you mean by “inferentially” that doesn’t also exit for homeland security in the 2002 act?

I did a quick search of the 1947 Act and didn’t come across anything that came close to a definition that doesn’t allow great flexibility. As does current constructs for homeland security.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 16, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

First of all the NSA of 1947 IMO and others disagree does two things. First makes the President the source of all classification authority. Second mandates the integration of (1) domestic policy; (2) international relations; and (3) “military” threats and vulnerabilities to protect the National Security of the USA. Thus ensuring that all threads are brought together in one place. Personally I believe that statute is not just one of organization but also vests authority. Some others disagree. That is why I used the word inferentially. And perhaps you are correct the HS Act of 2002 inferentially defines HS.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

September 16, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

My basic message to Mr. Comiskey is that no, there isn’t a need for a consensus definition of homeland security.

For Phil, I understand his attempt to influence policy, but unfortunately at the end of the day I don’t think it matters. If “homeland security” was kept separate, it would be marginalized regardless. Combined with “national security” at least gives it a puncher’s chance, depending on the personnel on the NSS staff.

And there is the rub. It’s not topic or challenge or analysis that drives policy, but personality.

Which means the “homeland security” team should push their best players up to the NSS staff or otherwise suffer the consequences of being bureaucratically non-influential.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 17, 2013 @ 7:39 am

Arnold: Regarding your point about the role of personalities, I agree (though I might give more emphasis to “relationships”; which comes first is kind of chicken/egg). I do think definitional, even ontological, efforts regarding the character of homeland security should help any personality involved with whatever relationships.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 17, 2013 @ 8:17 am

Unfortunately HS seems to mimic all the bad habits of NS. Heavy reliance on contractors. Encouragement of the “I can do Sir” attitude even when the sayer cannot do. And hierarchial command and control with that largely an illusion but does avoid have to cooperate and collaborate.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

September 17, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

Phil: very good points. My comment was certainly off-the-cuff. I think the general point is that for the NSS, (unfortunately?) the most important thing is the person. That means everything that goes along with that – personality, ability to develop and maintain relationships, and already existing relationships with the existing power structure. I hate to be pessimistic, but I don’t believe that an org chart would have ever preserved and fostered the point of view/outlook you hoped for. Instead, its all about what young staffers the related offices detail to the NSS (e.g. those that send the best and brightest will do well, while those that reward their former political operatives may scuffle). Perhaps even more importantly will be the senior leadership and their relationship with the President and his/her trusted staff.

On one hand, we’ve seen a career national security guy, Brennan, have to give uncomfortable briefings on flu. No judgment on his overall performance as “Homeland Security Adviser,” but it was always apparent his value was tied to counter terrorism. On the other hand, someone like Richard Reed provided an important voice on many of the “homeland” issues I’m sure you were concerned about.

I also owe an explanation to Mr. Comiskey: while I still don’t believe a definition is attainable, either practically or even desirably, the conversation about what your research leads you to believe is one possible state of homeland security is incredibly helpful. That is the type of conversation that has gone on for decades over national security.

What definition would have easily survived from 1985 to 1995 to 2005? Scholarship and professional attention shifted from the Cold War to the “Unipolar Moment” and R2P to terrorism. Homeland security will undergo similar shifts.

What remains important are efforts like yours to build the knowledge base of ideas that adds to the overall effort.

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