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.