Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 23, 2014

Il faut cultiver notre jardin

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 23, 2014

Snow garden

Earlier this month in a speech before the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and Homeland Security, Congressman Pete King said:

If you had a list of 50 priorities, homeland security would not be on it. … It’s not part of the American political debate right now.

Coming from the former Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee that’s quite a statement.  He remains a member of the committee and also sits on the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

Coincidentally or not, since that speech I have heard this sentiment repeated much more often than before King’s statement.  Follow the leader?  Beltway echo chamber? Crowd wisdom?

I don’t know about fifty, but I agree its not in the top ten.  And if you track or ask specifically about “homeland security” probably not in the top twenty policy priorities.  (Ask about the pieces that make up homeland security and a different outcome seems possible.)

But I am not writing to take exception.  I recognize considerable validity in what many might claim is just stating the obvious.

And yet… last week I met with twenty-some mid-career local, state, and federal officials who are cramming the books and taking time away from family and friends to do a graduate degree in homeland security.  Then I had lunch with four twenty-or-thirty somethings: intelligent, well-educated, articulate, idealistic and ambitious and we spent three hours talking through key issues in private-public relationships in homeland security. They are each private sector liaisons for their “major” jurisdictions.  Working together they have begun to put in place some practical steps forward.  This is their life, their career!

Wednesday this week I met with a bunch of lawyers from powerful firms who sacrificed 3-to-4 billable hours each to consider together issues of prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery.  They were looking at terrorism, rail accidents, cyber, pandemic, natural disasters, and more.  They were trying to think through — and stand-up — principles of equity, fairness, standards-of-care, and real readiness for the worst.  They were trying to spin-up legal principles to empower people to active care.  They each took some homework and will reconvene soon.

Friday I’m told seventy-some corporate executives will be there when I give a keynote on catastrophic preparedness and they are taking a day to think together about supply chain disruption.  They might not call it homeland security, but it most certainly is homeland security.

This is just where I touch the elephant (and not every touch in the last week). You are touching other rough and often smelly parts (or you wouldn’t be reading this).  So maybe we’re (who is that plural?) not giving it top priority, but the elephant is still there.  And we are attending to her as best we can in our blindness.

On December 6 I planted the last of my flower bulbs.  The next week I pruned my apple trees, earlier than usual but it had been extra cold.  This Monday I cut the last dry stalks and vines in the garden.   I’ve been laying down manure and lime a little at a time.

It is the middle of winter.  Single digit temperatures and double-digit inches of snow in my garden.  But if  I am serious about the harvest, it is what I do now that frames what will be possible.  It will be the seeds I order in the next couple of weeks.  It is the plowing I will do sometime in March.

It has been said before, but there are seasons.  In homeland security (and so much more) it is often what we do in the fallow season that allows us to claim the opportunity that will come with the change we can be sure is coming.

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7 Comments »

Comment by Arnold Bogis

January 23, 2014 @ 12:57 am

I think you hit the nail on the head with your reference to “the pieces.”

And statements from Congressman Pete “terrorists are always Muslim and never Irish” King should always be allowed to tumble around a bit for consideration before given any heft, regardless of the particular committees upon which he may sit.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 23, 2014 @ 1:12 am

Interesting post Phil and I agree the off season can be critical in gardening and sports.

But no real off season in HLS! 9/11 now receeding into history with a label looking more like “How dared they” rather than a true wakeup call that the USA had allowed the sinews of its resiliency to be sapped by greed, corruption, and lack of competence. The result fundamental flaws that have left the USA a joke in some important HLS arenas.

IMO Peter King is correct and he helped then and now in making sure he was part of the problem. He helped make sure that tough issues like environmental enforcement and chemical safety were weakened or not addressed. And would Public Health and Safety generally be in the top 50 of priorities?

And Congress continues to accept pablum from DHS! Why?

Let’s take cyber security! A DHS doc called DHS LEGAL AUTHORITY REGARDS CYBER at

http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dhs/fema/cyber-auth.pdf

reveals not much real legal authority for cyber security in DHS.

But apparently DHS does not have the political clout to study or submit new legislation in the Administration and only after public releases by the Mannings and Snowdens has this most modern President been made to do the hard work of governance-specifically analyzing what is broken and fixing it.

And the Judiciary cannot be confused with producing clarifying principles of Justice in a world where non-state actors remain largely immune from retaliation by nation-states for their acts of TERRORISM defined by me as ACTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST INNOCENTS!

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 23, 2014 @ 1:17 am

EXTRACT FROM WIKI:

Violence is “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”[2] This definition associates intentionality with the committing of the act itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces. Generally, although, anything that is turbulent or excited in an injurious, damaging or destructive way, or presenting risk accordingly, may be described as violent or occurring violently, even if not signifying violence (by a person and against a person).
Globally, violence takes the lives of more than 1.5 million people annually: just over 50% due to suicide, some 35% due to homicide, and just over 12% as a direct result of war or some other form of conflict. For each single death due to violence, there are dozens of hospitalizations, hundreds of emergency department visits, and thousands of doctors’ appointments.[3] Furthermore, violence often has lifelong consequences for victims’ physical and mental health and social functioning and can slow economic and social development.
Violence in many forms is preventable. Evidence shows strong relationships between levels of violence and potentially modifiable factors such as concentrated poverty, income and gender inequality, the harmful use of alcohol, and the absence of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between children and parents. Scientific research shows that strategies addressing the underlying causes of violence can be effective in preventing violence.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 23, 2014 @ 2:34 am

Extract from Phil’s post:

“Wednesday this week I met with a bunch of lawyers from powerful firms who sacrificed 3-to-4 billable hours each to consider together issues of prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery. They were looking at terrorism, rail accidents, cyber, pandemic, natural disasters, and more. They were trying to think through — and stand-up — principles of equity, fairness, standards-of-care, and real readiness for the worst. They were trying to spin-up legal principles to empower people to active care. They each took some homework and will reconvene soon.”

Perhaps the group can work backwards from the doc set forth to see how one DHS component sees its job and the world:

http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dhs/fema/dolr.pdf

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 23, 2014 @ 8:14 am

Disclosure: Never been a member of the ABA or any other lobby organization. And I seriously doubt the reduction in billable hours!

Comment by john comiskey

January 23, 2014 @ 10:07 am

“But if I am serious about the harvest, it is what I do now that frames what will be possible.”

IMHO, 21st century society increasingly expects the harvest to be theirs no matter what they do or do not do, i.e. they are entitled to the harvest. Certainly, zealous marketers and advertisers and Hollywood are complicit in our delusion. The delusion, however, is ours. The safety-net of good government is transforming into cradle-to grave entitlement.

As readers of this blog likely know, I am a staunch advocate of Emersonian self-reliance. Do what you can for yourself and those in your backyard. As for help only when you genuinely need help. Collaborate when it is in a wider group’s interest.

Thought this might be a good time to plug for the
International Society for Preparedness, Resilience, and Security http://www.insprs.org/about-us/

Comment by Philip J. Palin

January 23, 2014 @ 10:49 am

Problems, like the poor, will be always with us. This does not mean we should neglect, much less dismiss, either. I understand we are most likely to encounter our truest — even best — selves in working with these persistent challenges.

And… not but…And, I selected the French from the end of Candide to imply something more. In the “best of all possible worlds” the hero encounters one horrific problem after another. Voltaire is clearly suggesting that Candide takes real problems and amplifies them to his own disadvantage and the harm of others. Candide as pre-cursor to homeland security?

The literary critics I have read disagree on whether the “cultivation of our own garden” is meant as further satire or a final truth. I understand how it might be satire. I hope it is true. I hope that in the cultivation of daily virtues, embrace of daily realities, fully engaging transcendent potential embedded in the quotidian we might each find ourselves and our common identity. This is, I think, key to homeland security… but has much broader implications.

Sorry, snow tends to drive me to brandy, philosophy, poetry, and a warm fireplace. Even though, right now I am on a train that just left Trenton. So… it’s all probably a bit cracked.

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