Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 17, 2014

The Ebola Czar and the missing Homeland Security Council

Filed under: Biosecurity,General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on October 17, 2014

The President has announced the appointment of Ron Klain as his new “Ebola czar”, as numerous news outlets have reported this morning. From the New York Times:

President Obama will appoint Ron Klain, a former chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joseph R. Biden Jr., to manage the government’s response to the deadly virus as anxiety grows over its possible spread, a White House official said on Friday.

…..

Mr. Klain will report to Lisa Monaco, Mr. Obama’s homeland security adviser, and Susan E. Rice, his national security adviser, the official said. His appointment was first reported by CNN.

The official praised the work already done by Ms. Rice and Ms. Monaco, but said that Mr. Klain would provide “additional bandwidth” in the fight against Ebola, which is important because the two women have to manage other national and homeland security issues.

I view this appointment of an “Ebola czar” and the need for such “additional bandwidth” as a symptom of a broader problem within the policy-making apparatus at the White House, due in part to the decision in 2009 to merge the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council staffs into a single integrated “National Security Staff” (since renamed the “National Security Council staff”).

Prior to the integration of the HSC and NSC staffs, the Homeland Security Council played a very active role on pandemic planning and response issues. It issued the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza in November 2005, and the subsequent Implementation Plan for that strategy in May 2006, and a progress report on implementation in 2007. During the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, the Homeland Security Council was utilized as a primary convening mechanism by the White House.

But since the end of the H1N1 crisis in late 2009, the Homeland Security Council (which was retained as a policy-making entity, in part because it was mandated in law in Title IX of the Homeland Security Act) has almost entirely disappeared from view. From January 2010 to the present, I can find only one public record of the Homeland Security Council being convened: a meeting in July 2014 to address the unaccompanied minor issue on the southern border. (It is possible that there have been additional meetings of the HSC during the last five years, but there is no public record of it).

These concerns about homeland security issues being downgraded were predicted by opponents of HSC-NSC integration at the time. In February 2009, I helped to staff a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing where we heard a variety of opinions on the potential HSC-NSC merger, including from former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, who was critical of a potential merger. His prepared remarks highlighted biosecurity as a particular area of concern, and are prescient in light of today’s decision to appoint an Ebola czar (emphasis added):

From HHS to Energy to DOD to the FDA and elsewhere – more than 30 departments and agencies have homeland security functions. Take biosecurity, for example. What the United States needs to do to improve our biosecurity against major biological threats is complex. Biosecurity depends on different programs managed by different agencies – there is no way to simplify it. DHS is in charge of the biological risk assessment that analyzes biological threats. HHS is responsible for the research and development of medicines and vaccines. DOD does its own R&D. The Food and Drug Administration has its role. Let’s not forget NIH. CDC is responsible for our national stockpiles and for coordinating the grant program and technical assistance to state and locals. The intel community is responsible for assessing the biological threats posed by our adversaries. Without close White House coordination, our bio programs will move in different directions to different goals and different timelines. Putting this and other challenges under the NSC’s purview would only complicate the NSC mission and the HSC’s ability to receive adequate attention from a Council that already has Iran, North Korea, Russia, Pakistan-India, the Mideast and other matters in its inbox.

There have been some benefits as a result of integrating the HSC and NSC staffs, in terms of breaking down domestic vs. international policy stovepipes and allowing for integrated decision-making on transnational issues such as cybersecurity. But I have become increasingly concerned over the past few years that the downsides of HSC-NSC integration are outweighing its benefits, largely due to the “bandwidth” issue highlighted in this post, but also because of the decreased public visibility into homeland security decision-making at the White House due to the adoption of NSC protocols, as I discussed in a blog post last year.

In the near-term, the focus needs to be on dealing with the Ebola pandemic, but these broader structural issues also deserve to be reviewed during the last two years of this Administration and/or by the next Administration, whomever is elected President in 2016. And in light of the Homeland Security Council’s statutory role, this is an issue that Congress should also take a fresh look at, including by convening hearings and requesting information on the activities of the Homeland Security Council since 2009.

(Note: this commentary is cross-posted by the author from the site HSPI.org)

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3 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 17, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

Thanks Christian and your analysis correct that the feckless national security apparatus under several President really a stumbling block to policy formulation. With over 1/3 active duty personnel the ticket punching is the real game not something else.

Odd that I really not think of EBOLA when it emerged last December as meeting my prognosis that the President’s last two years might well be crowned by his management failures in crisis situations. Is this a crisis? Not yet but perhaps close since West Africa the source of health care workers and caregivers so widely in USA.

Don’t ask for whom the bells toll!

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 17, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Lisa Monaco

Lisa Monaco –DOJ Portrait–.jpg

6th United States Homeland Security Advisor

Incumbent
Assumed office
March 8, 2013

President
Barack Obama

Preceded by
John Brennan

4th Assistant Attorney General for National Security

In office
July 1, 2011 – March 8, 2013

President
Barack Obama

Preceded by
David Kris

Succeeded by
John Carlin

Personal details

Born
Lisa Oudens Monaco
February 23, 1968 (age 46)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.

Alma mater
Harvard University
University of Chicago

Lisa Oudens Monaco (born February 25, 1968) is an American federal prosecutor who currently serves as the United States Homeland Security Advisor to President Barack Obama; the chief counterterrorism advisor to the President, and a statutory member of the United States Homeland Security Council.

Monaco previously served as the Assistant Attorney General for National Security from 2011 to 2013, and as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department.

Contents
1 Early life, education, and career
2 United States Department of Justice
3 Counterterrorism advisor
4 References
5 External links

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 18, 2014 @ 11:44 am

According to NYTimes the President now blaming all others for his misfortunes.

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