Last week there was a brief but vigorous discussion on the Friday Free Forum. Dan O’Connor, who I only know from his prior blog comments, offered a framing of Homeland Security that I found helpful, sadly sobering, and — at least potentially — redemptive. I received Dan’s permission to re-publish on the “front page”. You can revisit the original context of his comment here. I hope discussion might continue and involve others.
When HLS is a by and large dictated Federal idea or disposition, it almost by default must take on the legalese or “bureaucratic stupor” of Washington because that is the expected language.
Even if we were to speak in metaphor, HLS is in its adolescence and within that context trying to find its place. John obviously goes to great length to point out the source documents for a formalized definition and structure. However, the idea of HLS leaves much to be desired.
The HLS enterprise or community, depending on ones’ predilection or syntax has much it can address for future relevance.
Its exercise and evaluation process is broken…inexorably broken. It’s contrived and scripted to such a degree that not a lot is accomplished annually. Is that because leaders do not want to be embarrassed by the lack of capability and potency or…because it’s been dutifully bureaucratized? The idea of a centralized exercise program is reasonable in a bureaucracy because so many hope to control the outcome. That’s not real.
Also, there seems to be a lack of adaptability and nimbleness in the construct. I like Rafe Sagarin’s biological disposition and ideas in this regard. So if we are not adaptive, decentralized, and nimble, the gaps created by Bill’s “bureaucratic stupor” become hardened, calcified if you will, and permanent. That is vulnerability. Instead of addressing these gaps we continue to reinforce antiquated ideas of what is security and threats, paying lip service instead of attention. Perhaps an overstatement on my part, but resilience and adaptation are far more important than the biannual review of Federal Continuity Directive 1 (FCD1)…
And DHS has issues with hiring qualified people. Yes morale stinks and yes, DHS will again be voted the worst place to work in the Federal Government. Initial numbers from the annual survey are still trending down. Survey’s being what they are may skew the reality a bit, but with 40% of its leadership positions unfilled and no qualified and quantified idea on how to develop HLS professionals should be a cause for concern.
Political patronage is destroying any semblance of vertical opportunity and the risk averse culture and professional bureaucrat stymies initiative. Look carefully at the leadership positions within DHS and one will see hundreds of political appointees.
It’s the nature of the beast sure, but it does not lend itself to growing and developing capable subordinates that will rise through the ranks. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare to the DoD but Generals are selected from Colonels and Colonels from Major’s, and Majors from …well, it’s pretty clear that there is a system in place that screens, evaluated, and prepared leaders and operators.
Unfortunately the OPM and organizational nepotism and cronyism make the organization unlikely to get well rounded, mature, and critical thinkers and operators.
I know there are exceptions to this, but the building of an organization, training and educating them, and preparing them for uncertainty has been left to what many would say are amateurs. Again, perhaps a bit unfair, but it is something that should be discussed. I know people who have great experience, graduated from CHDS and have unbelievable achievements who have applied for hundreds of Federal jobs with no interviews. It becomes a bit surreal. It also has its effect on both the attitude and opinion of the HLS but more specifically DHS enterprise.
It may be a function of its maturation but these are some of the challenges you who contribute to this blog illuminate daily.
So the real discussion I’d like to hear about are expectations too high or should we continue to expect a lessening of impact and relevance, so much so that DHS and HLS become as relevant as the Bureau of Engraving and Printing? No disrespect to the B.E.P.
Are these the growing pains an organization kluged together after an attack should have anticipated or has the entire idea of homeland security become so boiler plated in rhetoric and contrived that potency and capability are diminishing every day? Growing up is tough. I guess that’s why they call it growing pains and not joys!