Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 28, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on March 28, 2014

On this date in 1920 there was a tornado outbreak across the southern and middle United States.  More than thirty-five tornadoes were confirmed, resulting in more than 300 deaths and 1200 injuries.

On this date in 1979 a coolant leak at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station resulted in core overheating and a partial melt down.

On this date in 2011 al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula carried out terrorist attacks in Yemen killing 110 and injuring 45.

What is on your mind related to homeland security?

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2014 @ 12:27 am

On Tuesday, April 1st 2014, FEMA will have survived 35 years in one form or another either by administrative fiat or reorganization plan [Reorganization Plan No.3 of 1978]. I use the term “survive” with some caution. It was a creation originally of the efforts of President Carter’s Reorganization Team consisting if memory serves directly of Nye Stevens, George Jett, Dave McGlouthin, Robert Volland, William Jones, and others under the direction of William Harsch.

FEMA combined elements from GSA [Federal Preparedness Agency]; HUD [federal Insurance Administration and Federal Disaster Assistance Administration];
DoD [Defense Civil Preparedness Agency]; Dept. of Commerce [U.S. Fire Administration]; and OSTP [Office of Science and Technology Policy-the Earthquake Hazard Reduction Act of 1977s programs, functions, and activities.

The issuance of Executive Orders in late March and July implemented the transfers.

And then the “fun” began!

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2014 @ 12:35 am

The determination of Congress to place the new FEMA’s budget in the HUD, Independent Agencies Appropriation was of great significance because various programs, functions, and activities had 26 different oversight committees and subcommittees.

The single longest serving influential staffer in FEMA was Martha Braddock who came to FEMA from the Joint Committee on Defense Production on the Hill and who served over 14 years directing or assisting the Congressional Relations function for the Agency.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2014 @ 12:39 am

Driven by the efforts of the NGA [National Governors Association] that had produced several studies, that organization and others were hoping States could have one-stop shopping in disasters and emergencies for federal assistance both technical and financial.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2014 @ 12:42 am

President Carter’s approval of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 is reflected in WH records at the Carter Library. He checked the block APPROVED and next to the check wrote the word “Reluctantly”!

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2014 @ 12:47 am

Please ask yourself if you believe flooding of the geographic area of any catastrophic event in the USA with largely untrained $12/hour employees activated for the incident or event is in fact the system intended when FEMA created 35 years ago?

Comment by E. Earhart

March 28, 2014 @ 5:32 am

Mr. Cumming,

Perhaps survival is all in a name? FEMA and DHS, what politicians would ever eliminate these departments or agencies?

Perhaps survival is merely in being created? Can anyone identify a Department or Agency that no longer exists?

Some that are talked about being eliminated from time to time include Commerce, Energy, Education, HUD, Interior, IRS, and yes, even DHS

Comment by E. Earhart

March 28, 2014 @ 5:42 am

Chris Christie or Winston Churchill . . . Threats to Homeland and National Security? Really? Is it that clear that Obesity is a HLS issue? The author believes it is clear. How clear? Crystal clear.

For an interesting viewpoint see the following researcher speak about his thesis:

“The Effects of Obesity on Homeland and National Security”


Through a series of policy decisions, innovations, and a growing complex food system, the United States has moved from a nation of people once considered to be undernourished, to a nation with 100 million obese citizens. This radical change in our collective condition took place in less than one generation. This body composition change is impacting military readiness, military recruiting, first-responder readiness, and first-responder recruiting. Furthermore, the impacts of obesity have an annual cost that is estimated to be nearly half a trillion dollars. In our mission to meet both acute and chronic homeland security needs, it is crystal clear that the human and economic burdens of obesity are substantial. Therefore, obesity is a homeland security issue.

What do you think?

Comment by John Comiskey

March 28, 2014 @ 6:17 am


Continued from http://www.hlswatch.com/2014/03/21/friday-free-forum-47/

For a number of Fridays this blogger has been arguing that NYPD’s Intelligence Enterprise is a “smart practice.” The impetus for this thread and now a series of posts on this blog’s Friday Free Forum is a developing journal article of the above title and HLS Watch blogger E. Earhart’s question:

What if NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had implemented the post-9/11 NYPD Intelligence Enterprise after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing? See:http://www.hlswatch.com/2014/02/26/alternative-reality-what-if-ramzi-yousef-

Validating this blogger’s argument was President Barack Obama’s recent concern about a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan:

“Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the No. 1 national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.

nuclear-materials.html?_r=0 and http://cnsnews.com/mrctv-blog/craig-millward/obama-more-concerned-threat-nuclear-

See also: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/25/remarks-president-obama-closing-session-nuclear-

Previous posts have chronicled NYC and the NYPD’s HLS-like activities during the American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Thus far, the NYPD/NYC involved itself in protecting American presidents from assassination; dealt with Civil War confederates and draft dodgers en masse; arrested war saboteurs; and helped lead the nation’s Civil Defense efforts in time of war. By most accounts, NYC and NYPD are unique. What happens in NYC impacts much of the
nation and the international community. NYC and NYPD’s uniqueness help explain their homeland-hometown security activities.

The thread continues with background information on the HLS-hometown-like activities of the NYPD during the Cold War.

Comment by John Comiskey

March 28, 2014 @ 6:20 am

(continued from above)


Tempered by World War II and threatened by an emerging Cold War, the U.S. government reorganized. Government officials realized that national defense was more about security than defense. The result was the National Security Act of 1947 that created a national security framework that established the Department of Defense, the National Intelligence Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
See: M. Neocleous:
http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/37/3/363.short and CRS: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL34505.pdf

In 1950,New York City created the Office of Civil Defense to prepare the city for an atomic or other enemy air attacks. See:http://home2.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/about/history.shtml

An iron curtain divided East from West, wars and crises in Korea, Southeast Asia, Berlin, Cuba, and elsewhere let loose government agencies to ferret out spies, communists, and other “un-Americans.” Democratic societies strive to balance individual freedom and national security. When societies feel particularly vulnerable to both internal and
external threats, the resultant “anxiety” can throw the balance out of whack.
See: http://www.amazon.com/American-


In 1953, the Commission on Intergovernmental Affairs was established to conduct an intensive study of National, State, and local relationships. The commission noted that their undertakings were the first of its kind since the Constitutional Convention in 1787. They maintained that “precise divisions of governmental activities need always to be considered in light of varied and shifting circumstances and in light of principles rooted in American history.
The federal system was not a “neat system” and not easy to operate. Efficient and responsible government at all levels-National, State, and local divided our civic responsibilities so that we:

Leave to private initiative all the functions that citizens can perform privately; use the level of government closest to the community for all public functions it can handle; utilize cooperative intergovernmental arrangements where appropriate to attain economical performance and popular approach; reserve National action for residual participation where State and local governments are not fully adequate, and for the continuing responsibilities that only the National Government can undertake. See: http://www.library.unt.edu/gpo/acir/Reports/Y3In87R29.pdf

The shifting circumstances of the Cold War required efficient and responsible government at levels. This raises the question:

What if the Homeland Security Act of 2002 had been enacted in 1947 ….1953?

This thread will continue on next week’s Friday Free Forum

Comment by John Comiskey

March 28, 2014 @ 6:26 am


The ideas behind FEMA made “comprehensive” sense. As you note, some of the impetus behind the creation of FEMA was the National Governor’s Association call for comprehensive emergency management.
See: http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/edu/docs/DHS%20Civil%20Defense-HS%20-%20Short%20History.pdf

Your one-stop-shopping analogy is telling. In this sense, FEMA plays the role of a supermarket manager; department/agency heads play the roles of supermarket department heads; and clients (victims) play the role of customers who enter the store expecting to get all that they need and to have what they need packaged to fit in the trunks of their cars.

Comprehensive disaster prevention/mitigation, response, and recovery are not that simple.

RE: Please ask yourself if you believe flooding of the geographic area of any catastrophic event in the USA with largely untrained $12/hour employees activated for the incident or event is in fact the system intended when FEMA created 35 years ago

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Monmouth University’s Polling Institute asked victims, amongst other things; what were their perceptions of emergency management officials and insurers. See:




Comment by John Comiskey

March 28, 2014 @ 6:36 am


Departments are simply the administrative arms of the President. Departmentalization serves to strengthen presidential management and emphasized the importance of the collective programs for the nation. See:

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2014 @ 8:03 am

Thanks all! Double E! At least 30 federal agencies have been eliminated. ICC [Interstate Commerce Commission] but sometimes residual activities live on.

Numerous wartime orgs closed doors after peace arrived.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

Does anyone know if there has been recent seismic activity near the fatal Washington State landslide?

Comment by Justin Blake

March 28, 2014 @ 3:17 pm

John and William, in reference to your FEMA statements and the Monmouth University polls, you are both correct that the Governors Association and civilians both want “one-stop-shopping”. However, this is almost an impossible task, sure if there were limitless funds and man-power almost anything is possible, but this is not the case. In reference to the Monmouth University polls, this blogger believes many people are dissatisfied with the progress because they misinterpret the role of FEMA. In a 2008 FEMA disaster assistance application guide, FEMA states, “The
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the authority of section 408 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §5174, and Title 44 of the Code Federal Regulations (CFR) may provide financial assistance and, if necessary, direct services to eligible individuals and households who, as a direct result of a major disaster, have necessary expenses and serious needs and are unable to meet such expenses or needs through other means.” Many people may not understand this role in the correct manner and assume FEMA is there to pay for any and all damages. FEMA is only a helping hand, not an end all, be all solution to disasters. The governments responsibility is to assist, not to completely replace. Many of the people who criticize the speed of the financial aid release are many of the same people who criticize the government when funds are mismanaged. The reason much of these funds have taken so long to get to the people in the most need is due to the tracking and accountability of these funds.If the funds were misspent, the same people would be shouting for more accountability. The only way for FEMA to be even a somewhat effective agency is to have the $12.00 an hour employees, otherwise the scope of the agency would be drastically reduced due to financial constraints. The current functions fulfilled by this organization are all an integral part of disaster recovery operations. Diminishing the capacity is a non-issue, unless that authority is given to another qualified agency.


Comment by Claire B. Rubin

March 28, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

There were at least 4 previous landslides in the area near the current WA one over about a 20 year period. None as large as the latest one.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2014 @ 5:56 pm

Justin! Thanks for your comment. Block grants to the States is the answer!

Comment by Dan O'Connor

March 28, 2014 @ 7:39 pm

We have lost a great man today.

Former Senator and Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton died today. Denton, one of the Alcatraz 11 in North Vietnam blinked TORTURE in Morse Code in an interview. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgelmcOdS38

His ability to endure brutal treatment, exercise unbelievable courage, and adherence to a set of ethics should be something we all should strive to emulate. Where do men of this caliber come from? Was it the circumstance that elevated this man and others to endure such horror or were they forged in the time and circumstances of the United States of years gone by?

Do we have among us today the likes of Jeremiah Denton, George Thomas Coker, Harry Jenkins, Sam Johnson, George McKnight, James Mulligan, Howard Rutledge, Robert Shumaker, James Stockdale, Ronald Storz, and Nels Tanner? These are the Alcatraz 11, the most uncooperative POW’s of the Vietnam war. Where are they? Does their legacy, dedication to duty, honor, and country simply get lost in the cynicism and affable disinterest of today? It seems to me we could sure use them right now.

I read annually Denton’s autobiography, When Hell Was in Session (http://www.amazon.com/When-Session-Admiral-Jeremiah-Denton/dp/1935071157) every year.

Its pages are torn and frayed and I have made Marines who have been under my charge read it as well. I read it because it reminds me of all that is possible and all that is good about our people. These men in an untenable position endured tremendous pain at the hands of their enemies. Men who were tortured for the sake of torture, all in hopes of extracting some kind of confession. It proved to me then and it does now that torture does not work.

I read it to remind me of what he endured for over 8 years…Imagine yourself 8 years ago until this very day…in a dank, infested, filthy hole thousands of miles from home. I read it because it inspires me.

One of my goals in life was to meet Jeremiah Denton. As a young boy I remember the TORTURE story and knew Jeremiah Denton was a man among men. My goal was fulfilled several years ago when I was able to arrange a meeting with the honorable Mr. Denton. Words cannot express the impact that meeting had. I will forever be in awe of his sacrifice and endurance.

He like all of us was assuredly flawed in many ways…yet his capacity to endure should be a lesson for us all. We should be profoundly grateful as a Nation for men like Jeremiah Denton. May he now rest in peace.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 29, 2014 @ 1:53 am

Dan! Like you the imprisonment of the Eleven an episode that will redound to their credit as long as the flag flies for the USA! An amazing story and legacy for all Americans.

Comment by E. Earhart

March 29, 2014 @ 7:25 am


Also worth reading, or reading annually:

James Bond Stockdale, also one of the eleven.

Stockdale on Stoicism I: The Stoic Warrior’s Triad


Stockdale on Stoicism II: Master of My Fate


Comment by Christopher Tingus

March 29, 2014 @ 10:34 am

God Bless Jeremiah Denton and men and women who have served this nation with such honor! Thank you for bringing this story forward to enable many of us to share with others younger who can see what sacrifices have been made to enable them to live as they do here in good ol America like no other country….We are so proud to be American, so proud of our Constitution and our Judeo-Christian principles and so ashamed of so many we have entrusted by precious vote to serve as public servants and to see such outlandish and “selfie” behavior….

God Bless us for the road ahead looks so uncertain as this lack of leadership and self-serving ideology does not bode well for the future of humanity destined for global conflagration.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

March 29, 2014 @ 10:42 am

Unlike the “Benghazi Massacre” where the phone obviously went unanswered and while our brave looked to the skies never to see support, let us never leave our brave behind:


Christopher Tingus

Comment by Christopher Tingus

March 29, 2014 @ 10:47 am

Friday HLSWatch free forum:

Russia Seeks Access to Bases in Eight Countries for Its Ships and Bombers
February 28, 2014 – 6:09 AM
By Patrick Goodenough

Russia says it is negotiating with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Algeria, Cyprus, the Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore about access to facilities that can be used by its navy and strategic bombers. (Image: Google Maps)

(CNSNews.com) – At a time of escalated tensions with the West over Ukraine, Russia says it is negotiating with eight governments around the world for access to military facilities, to enable it to extend its long-range naval and strategic bomber capabilities.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday the military was engaged in talks with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Algeria, Cyprus, the Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore.

“We need bases for refueling near the equator, and in other places,” ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying.

Russia is not looking to establish bases in those locations, but to reach agreement to use facilities there when required.

The countries are all strategically located – in three leftist-ruled countries close to the U.S.; towards either end of the Mediterranean; in the Indian Ocean south of the Gulf of Aden; and near some of the world’s most important shipping lanes in the Malacca Strait and South China Sea.

Access to the new locations would extend the Russian military’s potential reach well beyond its existing extraterritorial bases, at the Syrian port of Tartus and in former Soviet states – Ukraine’s Sevastopol, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Shoigu said Russia was also beefing up its existing military presence in the post-Soviet region, doubling its troop numbers in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and deploying a regiment of troops to Belarus where it already has fighter aircraft stationed.

“Russia has started reviving its navy and strategic aviation since mid-2000s, seeing them as a tool to project the Russian image abroad and to protect its national interests around the globe,” the RIA Novosti state news agency commented.

“Now, Moscow needs to place such military assets in strategically important regions of the world to make them work effectively toward the goal of expanding Russia’s global influence.”

During his previous tenure at the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin in 2002 shut down a Cold War-era radar base in Cuba and a naval base in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. Russia cited financial constraints, but the move was also seen at the time as an attempt to improve relations with Washington.

The listening station near Havana had been a key intelligence facility for decades, while the Vietnamese base, which was built by the U.S. during the Vietnam War, was leased to the Soviet Union in 1979 and became the largest Soviet base in the world beyond Moscow’s Warsaw Pact allies.

Upon his return to the presidency in 2012, Putin began exploring options to renew alliances with the communist countries, and Russian Navy chief Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov said that year Cuba and Vietnam were in the frame.

Russia is now helping Vietnam to upgrade facilities at Cam Ranh Bay, including a submarine training center, and Russia is negotiating for preferential access to refueling and repair facilities there for its ships.

As for the Western hemisphere, Russian Navy ships in 2008 made their first visit since the end of the Cold War, holding joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan Navy in the Caribbean, navigating the Panama Canal, and making a port call in Havana.

Russian Navy vessels visited Cuba again in 2009 and last August – and on Wednesday, a Russian intelligence-gathering ship, the Viktor Leonov, docked in Havana harbor with no explanation from the government or state media coverage, the Associated Press reported.

Russian strategic bombers also visited the region in 2008 – for the first time since long-range flights by the aircraft were halted after the Soviet Union’s collapse – and again last fall, when two Tupolev “Blackjacks” carried out combat training patrols between Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Russian defense spending has been climbing sharply in the years since its last military engagement – the invasion of Georgia in August 2008 – and early this year it was reported to have overtaken Britain to become the world’s third biggest spender, behind the U.S. and China.

According to the British consultancy HIS Jane’s, Russia’s defense expenditure has more than doubled since 2007, and will have tripled by 2016. [cns-donate]

– See more at: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/russia-seeks-access-bases-eight-countries-its-ships-and-bombers#sthash.qkw83eAm.dpuf

Comment by Christopher Tingus

March 30, 2014 @ 8:42 am

an interesting perspective re our global environment and shared stewardship —


Comment by William R. Cumming

March 30, 2014 @ 11:56 am

Thanks for the links all and Chris!

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