Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 30, 2015

Homeland security: YES or NO?

On Monday night someone torched the Youth Empowered Society (YES) drop-in center in a tough section of Baltimore.  According to Kevin Rector, writing in the Baltimore Sun,

The clashes that left at least 144 vehicles and 15 structures on fire also claimed much of the center’s space, sometime between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. in the 2300 block of North Charles, Law said. Video surveillance showed no one entering the building, so Law believes someone “threw something burning through the front windows.” Firefighters who responded had to hack down the front door with an ax to gain entry. On Tuesday, the drop-in center – a safe space for homeless youth during the day and a hub of information for them to connect with other service providers – was a sad sight. It’s front office space had a layer of thick black sludge from ash and water to smother the flames.

YES is a youth-led, organization being incubated by the not-for-profit Fusion Partnership.  YES describes itself as follows:

YES Drop-In Center is Baltimore City’s first and only drop-in center for homeless youth. YES Drop-In Center is a safe space for youth who are homeless and between the ages of 14-25, to get basic needs met and establish supportive relationships with peer staff  and allies that help them make and sustain connections to long-term resources and opportunities… YES develops the leadership and workforce skills of homeless and formerly homeless youth through our peer-to-peer model: providing training, coaching, and employment so youth staff can effectively serve their peers and achieve meaningful, livable-wage employment after their time with YES. YES employs seven homeless and formerly homeless youth (three who serve full-time, and four part-time) and four staff who are allies…

Statistics on homelessness are unreliable, but on any single day it is estimated at least 600 Baltimore youth are homeless.  In any one year more than 2000 students enrolled in Baltimore City schools experience some period of homelessness.  Last year YES claimed to have served about one-third of this population.

Is any of this a homeland security issue?

If an emergency management agency was trying to serve “vulnerable populations” or enhance the resilience of the “whole community”, I expect YES would be a meaningful organization to engage.

If YES was serving a mostly Somali, Yemeni, or several other immigrant communities, would it be on some sort of intelligence scan?  If it was serving the educational and employment needs of undocumented immigrants to the United States, would a couple of DHS components be interested in YES?

I think reasonable people can disagree on whether or not the issue of youth homelessness is a homeland security issue.  There is an even stronger case, at least in my mind, for it not being a Homeland Security issue.

But I also suggest that what we have seen happen in Baltimore — and in Minneapolis, Paris, Birmingham (UK and US), Hamburg, and elsewhere — provides plenty of evidence that these social issues are not unrelated to Homeland Security.

This evidence also points to the role that civic enterprises — such as YES — can perform at the seams between individuals, communities, and the public sector. Boundaries are important in the public sector.  Carefully observed — and enforced — limits are especially important in a field like counter-terrorism.  For a whole host of reasons from fiscal to constitutional, we don’t want public sector agencies blithely stepping outside their statutory roles.

But there are also profound problems that messily spill over these important boundaries.

For too long, it seems to me, we have viewed smaller civic enterprises as peripheral, charitable, one-offs.  The evidence is accumulating that they are, instead, crucially important contributors to any systemic and sustainable strategy for engaging a wide-range of social challenges… including several regularly featured at this blog.

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Comment by Arnold Bogis

April 30, 2015 @ 1:02 am

I think what we are seeing is the unexpected consequences of the much heralded “resilience” revolution in homeland security. The natural evolution of this concept has moved it from a security-centric world into something much more unpredictable, wide-ranging, and most likely disconcerting to those who have spent careers in security-minded services.

I can point you to many examples of community, economic, and social groups espousing resilience as a social good. Personally, I think this is productive. But these same groups or individuals as private citizens are those on the front lines of protests against police over-reach or violence.

So not exactly natural partners for traditional homeland security related professions.

Heck, even the cowboy hatted hero of the Boston Marathon bombings was considered a suspicious anti-establishment protester not even months before the event that pushed him into national attention.

It will be interesting to watch as those traditional HS groups will or will not engage with new players on the scene, all seeking to define, or at least delineate, what means “resilience.”

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 30, 2015 @ 6:03 am

Interesting post and thanks Phil for it and Arnold for comment.

But the post reflects basic confusion in the nature of modern governance. Is the primary role of government policing and security so as to avoid a Hobbsian World of fang and claw. Or is humanity capable of something better and encouraged by its form of governance and not discouraged.

A good argument can be made IMO that many federal programs, functions, and activities are political solutions designed to deal with very very flawed governance by the states. There are charts ranking countries by quality of life. Are there equivalent for the states in the USA?

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 30, 2015 @ 6:20 am

Leading into the FFF few ever seem to contest on this blog my continuous restatement of the reasons DHS was founded. I don’t use the terms “civil security” or “resilience” but perhaps they might be better than the current language and perhaps my statement of reasons and priorities for DHS need a rethink.

The first mission of DHS was to prevent a WMD event domestically and to respond and recover if one were to occur.

DHS grade F! Why? No domestic response and recovery system
and no domestic command and control system.

The second mission of DHS was CIP [critical infrastructure protection-both physical security and cytber security].

DHS grade F! Why? In early 2014 CRS produced a fine history of this mission and is available from FAS [Federation of American Scientists] or me. The CRS report inferentially makes the case for chaos in the CIP arena.

The third mission was Domestic Intelligence with protection of civil liberties and civil rights.

DHS grade F! Why? DHS not even a player in Washington circles on cyber security or physical security. BTW will FBI retirees stop forming SECURITY firms. The FBI is about investigation and the criminal justice system and preventing terrorism not SECURITY.

DHS grade F! Why

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 30, 2015 @ 6:26 am

So Bill do some of the organizations of DHS help with HS? Yes many have some application depending on how you define HS! But many are designed to something far different. Best example IMO is the BORDER PATROL. The function of borders is to protect NATION-STATES and it incidentally helps prevent terrorism in its formation and accomplishments.

Toss me another example and will give my opinion. And BTW Congress mandated a BUR [bottom-up-review] never accomplished explaining in detail how each program, function, and activity contributed to fighting terrorism, or not.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 30, 2015 @ 6:35 am

Bill: And just to re-state my main point, there are crucial aspects of homeland security that are not most effectively engaged by government. In my experience there are several aspects of homeland security that can actually be weakened by over-active government involvement. Such a blanket statement is not worth much without some evidence. If I can squeeze out some time I will try to post something “evidentiary” later this morning. And to Arnold’s point, on these issues it may be more helpful to talk in terms of resilience than homeland security.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

April 30, 2015 @ 11:52 am

This question points to one of the biggest problems with “homeland security,” which is a lack of any single, identifiable statutory definition of HS, or even a popularly accepted one – and I don’t understand how it can be meaningfully discussed much less answered within the current fairly dysfunctional vacuum.

From the CRS:

“What Is Homeland Security?
This question has dogged U.S. public policy debates for ten years. At this point, there is no statutory definition of homeland security. What conventional wisdom defines as “homeland security missions” and the missions undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security are not the same.

Although at this point, DHS does include many of the homeland security functions of the federal government, many of these functions or parts of these functions remain at their original executive branch agencies and departments, including the Departments of Justice, State, Defense, and Transportation. Not all of the missions of the Department are officially “homeland security” missions, either. Some components have historical missions that do not directly relate to
conventional homeland security definitions, such as the Coast Guard’s environmental and boater safety missions, and Congress has debated whether FEMA and its disaster relief and recovery missions belong as a part of the Department. ”

And from The Nation:

“Perhaps the strangest part of homeland security operations may be this: there is no agreed-upon definition for just what homeland security is. The funds Washington has poured into the concept will soon enough approach a trillion dollars and yet it’s a concept with no clear boundaries that no one can agree on. Worse yet, few are asking the hard questions about what security we actually need or how best to achieve it. Instead, Washington has built a sprawling bureaucracy riddled with problems and set it on autopilot.

And that brings us to today. Budget cuts are in the pipeline for most federal programs, but many lawmakers vocally oppose any reductions in security funding. What’s painfully clear is this: the mere fact that a program is given the label of national or homeland security does not mean that its downsizing would compromise American safety. Overwhelming evidence of waste, duplication and poor management suggests that Washington could spend far less on security, target it better and be so much safer.”

Comment by Vicki Campbell

April 30, 2015 @ 12:34 pm

But the thought of major social problems and social justice issues being considered within HS (and by definition DHS) is alarming, and the reason isn’t complicated. The question also points to the quite boundary-less nature of the HS “enterprise” and mentality, and the extent to which it more often than not seems to see its purview potentially everywhere, seemingly because of the tendency to see “potential threats” in just about any entity or behavior, even when it tries to define them otherwise, and acknowledges the inherent lack of serious threat.

This may be part of what is being referenced by the suggestion that homelessness might better be discussed under the mantel of resilience. Okay, but community resilience is not the same thing as homeland security, by a long shot, regardless of whether security professionals think they invented it (which they did not). None the less, homelessness, as well as just about every other serious social issue or problem could certainly be framed as a potential security problem, which brings us full circle back around to the real crux of the problem – the inherently inane and fundamentally undefinable nature to the homeland security concept. For the last decade, HS hasn’t been about monitoring or policing national or community resilience; Its been about identifying “threats,” defined within an ever larger circle of potential enemies. My question is: Threats to what – because at the end of the day, it has ultimately seemed to be not at all just about terrorism, but about threats to the status quo?

A good example of all this is the DHS surveillance of Occupy Wall Street, as it was revealed through Wikileaks, and reported by The Rolling Stone:

Homeland Security Kept Tabs on Occupy Wall Street

Leaked internal report warns of “potential for violence,” need to “control protesters”

“As Occupy Wall Street spread across the nation last fall, sparking protests in more than 70 cities, the Department of Homeland Security began keeping tabs on the movement. An internal DHS report entitled “SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street,” dated October of last year, opens with the observation that “mass gatherings associated with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial, and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas.” While acknowledging the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of OWS, the report notes darkly that “large scale demonstrations also carry the potential for violence, presenting a significant challenge for law enforcement.”

The five-page report – contained in 5 million newly leaked documents examined by Rolling Stone in an investigative partnership with WikiLeaks – goes on to sum up the history of Occupy Wall Street and assess its “impact” on everything from financial services to government facilities. Many of the observations are benign, and appear to have been culled from publicly available sources. The report notes, for instance, that in Chicago “five women were arrested after dumping garbage taken from a foreclosed home owned by Bank of America in the lobby one of the bank’s branches,” and that “OWS in New York staged a ‘Millionaires March,’ from Zucotti Park to demonstrate outside the homes of some of the city’s richest residents.”

But the DHS also appears to have scoured OWS-related Twitter feeds for much of their information. The report includes a special feature on what it calls Occupy’s “social media and IT usage,” and provides an interactive map of protests and gatherings nationwide – borrowed, improbably enough, from the lefty blog Daily Kos. “Social media and the organic emergence of online communities,” the report notes, “have driven the rapid expansion of the OWS movement.”

The most ominous aspect of the report, however, comes in its final paragraph:

“The growing support for the OWS movement has expanded the protests’ impact and increased the potential for violence. While the peaceful nature of the protests has served so far to mitigate their impact, larger numbers and support from groups such as Anonymous substantially increase the risk for potential incidents and enhance the potential security risk to critical infrastructure (CI). The continued expansion of these protests also places an increasingly heavy burden on law enforcement and movement organizers to control protesters. As the primary target of the demonstrations, financial services stands the sector most impacted by the OWS protests. Due to the location of the protests in major metropolitan areas, heightened and continuous situational awareness for security personnel across all CI sectors is encouraged.”

It’s never a good thing to see a government agency talk in secret about the need to “control protestors” – especially when that agency is charged with protecting the homeland against terrorists, not nonviolent demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceable dissent. From the notorious Cointelpro operations of the 1960s to the NYPD’s recent surveillance of Muslim Americans, the government has a long and disturbing history of justifying the curtailing of civil liberties under the cover of perceived, and often manufactured, threats (“the potential security risk to critical infrastructure). What’s more, there have been reports that Homeland Security played an active role in coordinating the nationwide crackdown on the Occupy movement last November – putting the federal government in the position of targeting its own citizens in the name of national security. There is not much of a bureaucratic leap, if history is any guide, between a seemingly benign call for “continuous situational awareness” and the onset of a covert and illegal campaign of domestic surveillance.”


Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 30, 2015 @ 1:37 pm

Vicki: I hope others will take on some of the definitional issues you’ve teed-up. From me, just a question: Understanding you do not want DHS to be in the lead, do I correctly understand you do not want DHS to even “consider” major social problems and social justice issues as they undertake their work?

Comment by Vicki Campbell

April 30, 2015 @ 3:14 pm

Arnold, you make an extremely good point about the natural dissonance between security/dhs and the community, economic, and social groups you refer to – but I will also say that I seriously doubt those latter groups in any way consider themselves newcomers to the real world conversation or work of resilience, especially compared to security or DHS professionals.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

April 30, 2015 @ 3:17 pm

Bill, you make many good points, as always – but in response to you ending your post with the question “why,” – I would really like to hear why YOU think DHS deserves a grade book full of F’s (which I heartily agree with).

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 30, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

IMO Vicki’s comments astute! DHS is about symptoms not cures IMO! Almost NADA capabilty to identify fundamental threats.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

April 30, 2015 @ 6:38 pm

Phil, thanks for the question. I don’t have time to respond properly right now, but I’ll offer a couple of immediate responses. Again, they’re offered within the context of having absolutely no serious definition of what HS actually means or is meant to address, much less what that in turn might properly reference domestically – and that is completely unacceptable. It also reflects and has driven a level of government dysfunction at the federal level that I’ve never seen before in my lifetime, and which I’m in good company putting squarely at the feet of conservatives.

So, I can only respond based on my experience and impressions of how the HS community both inside and outside DHS has functioned thus far- and my first response is to be very doubtful about whether the HS “enterprise” is at all capable of doing nothing more than “‘consider’ major social problems and social justice issues as they undertake their work,” as you put it, rather than becoming a wholly dominating, controlling force in relation to them, and doing the only thing HS seems to know how to do in response, which is to target and criminalize issues and problems, and the people associated with them – and then proceed to pile on the mistreatment, and the abuse of rights and powers, sometimes quite shamelessly. The truly abominable way that the refugee families from central and south america have been and continue to be treated at our border is just one example amongst many that immediately come to mind. So both the HS community’s seeming inability to play very well with other kids in the sandbox when it comes to anything defined in any way as HS “work,” and the utterly callous disregard for the lives and most basic of human needs and rights it has consistently exhibited toward many of those it has engaged with, or more accurately “victimized” – are just 2 of the reasons I’m really not very interested in having HS become more directly focused on or in any way involved in social justice issues and problems.

My other immediate response concerns what I consider to be the sheer incompetence that HS has exhibited in its approach to “the war on terror.” This is a much longer conversation, but I could talk. all. day. about what I and MANY others consider to be the mindnumbingly stupid tactics and activities HS has focused and spent literally billions of dollars on that nobody in their right mind would think has made this country measurably safer, and has no chance what so ever of meaningfully reducing the risk from terrorism that Americans specifically are increasingly facing. Given this truly poor performance in what is supposed to be the HS community’s main area of expertise, I shudder to think what the outcomes would be if it ventures well beyond them. I honestly do.

I really do agree with Bill’s last comment. I think HS, both inside and outside DHS, has an extensive history of seeing threats everywhere but where they actually are, and wasting a massive amount of our country’s resources doing so. I also think HS has exhibited no meaningful interest in actually understanding and offering positive, sustainable solutions for any social issue that might also be construed as a security-related one, but instead only seems to have the capacity to squelch and erase or eliminate it as quickly and forcefully as possible, usually before it even begins to look like it might ever become anything resembling a threat worth bothering with, and no matter what the human or human rights cost.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

May 1, 2015 @ 4:07 am

Vicki: Seems like a complete response to me. Thanks. I agree with many — perhaps most — of your concerns. I also perceive there is considerable variation by individual and organization within DHS and more broadly within the federal/state/local Homeland Security enterprise. In addition to the dysfunction and banality that certainly exists, there are thoughtful, committed, courageous men and women who are able to resist — and sometimes even reform — the bureaucratic behavior.

It is my experience that large (perhaps, oversized?) organizations — public, private, and civic — homeland security related or not — tend toward many of the dysfunctions you have identified. The exceptions are as rare as they are wonderful. Because of these troublesome defaults, I am usually an advocate for giving more consideration to issues of social justice, individual rights, and human dignity.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 1, 2015 @ 7:18 am

Thanks to all for comments, suggestions, and questions. As to why the Grade of F on CIP see today’s FFF discussion.

Comment by Donald Quixote

May 1, 2015 @ 8:33 am

As argued in numerous previous discussions, of course it is homeland security – it is on TV for our short attention span theater. With no common definition or parameters, everything is homeland security. If there is a future grant possibly, it is most certainly homeland security.

The most difficult part of this discussion is to accept that there is no national desire or requirement to define homeland security. It is apparently intentional and beneficial. The good news is that we can recycle our previous posts every three months to conserve energy and other resources.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

May 1, 2015 @ 8:54 am

Donald Quixote: I was hoping you would respond… I was even hoping you might “recycle” some prior greatest hits. Many really are worth hearing again. So… I don’t know if this is cynical, fatalist, realist, or what, but on September 12, 2001 while I opposed the creation of DHS, I was in favor of cultivating a cross-cutting Homeland Security strategy, mostly defined as counter-terrorism. During these early years I was a committed definitionalist, nearly as insistent as Vicki. Katrina came. I changed. The reasons would take more time than I’ve got right now. But I remained a definitionalist, with an increasing emphasis on resilience. Since 2008 my attention to resiliency has deepened (and narrowed?). The triple disaster in Japan moved me farther and farther into worst case thinking. There remains a corner of my brain that would prefer a better definition and is annoyed at the lack of one. But most days instead of a better definition, I am more interested in understanding who I am working with, what they perceive is needed now, how they can contribute to a bit more resilience, and how I can contribute to them. Not good enough? Intellectually dishonest? Digging a deeper hole?

Comment by Donald Quixote

May 1, 2015 @ 10:49 am

Believe it or not, I do feel guilty beating this dead horse into tissue paper. However, it is an incredibly important issue. The definition of homeland security can and should evolve and adapt, but we need one to start from a “fairly” common vision.

When homeland security is everything, it is really almost nothing and appears to fail from many perspectives. It is not fair to the enterprise, personnel or public. As documented in this important blog and by the media, homeland security, to include DHS, is often criticized for incompetence, failure and/or lack of vision for an undefined mission or responsibility.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

May 1, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that a definition of homeland security really isn’t required. That does not mean DHS should not have a defined mission. Just that despite the name, everything represented in homeland security need not be worked by the Department of Homeland Security.

There is not a precise definition of national or international security. There isn’t a department of national security. Instead, several have overlapping missions that all contribute in this space. This is also the case in homeland security.

Some (including DOD) argue that climate change is a national security issue, others contend it is not. Some believe that inequality is a homeland security issue, others do not.

I say let a thousand flowers bloom.

Comment by Donald Quixote

May 1, 2015 @ 4:05 pm

If we are happy with the current results for the significant investments, then I must concur for I am surely a dinosaur waiting for extinction. Definitions (along with teamwork, common goals, missions and visions) are so restricting and require tangible results – who wants that? I am glad my 401k and investment managers have not fully adopted this concept, but I fear they may be on the same track.

Thank goodness we are in a world where we can spend this money and appreciate the beautiful flowers with modest ramifications. It only matters when it matters.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

May 1, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

I am not happy with the ROI, but don’t believe it has anything to do with definitions. Would a definition have turned the votes of all those Congressmen and women who represent low risk areas to stand up and shout, “Please, take a portion of my constituents’ taxes and give it to New York City! The firefighters in my district will pay for their own PPE!” Probably not.

Just as teamwork, common goals, and missions don’t prevent defense contractors from spreading the development and construction of weapons systems in as many states as possible to protect their investments. Is the definition of national defense that it should be as hard as possible to kill a weapons system? Even ones that the Defense Department either doesn’t want or wants less of?

Everyone wants the best outcome, but that doesn’t happen in a democracy. And it especially doesn’t happen when you have three layers of government and the participation of the private sector. The existence, or lack thereof, of a definition of homeland security would not unite all in the pursuit of a common good that ignores self-interest.

I believe only the messy process of democracy will get us closer to a more desired end state. One that I can’t define…

Comment by Vicki Campbell

May 2, 2015 @ 1:54 am

Arnold, I’m sorry but our democracy is only a very pale shadow of its former self, and you can thank Homeland Security for no small part of that dramatic decline over the last decade. And I’m not sure what you’re referencing with “everyone wants the best outcome but that doesn’t happen in a democracy (whatever that means – and also, compared to what?…) but it in no way speaks to any of my, or a great many other Americans’, concerns about the breathtaking array of abjectly unconstitutional, certainly anti-democratic, often wholly rights abusing, as well as excessively violent if not inexplicably inhumane, or otherwise blatantly criminal tactics, policies, and activities, both domestically and internationally, that has occurred in the name of “homeland security” and issued from one Homeland Security entity or another since the concept and agency was crammed down America’s throat after 9/11. It really just doesn’t. Nor is it explained away as just government business and bureaucracy as usual, that could be seen in any department or agency. Homeland Security is actually a massive sector, and never have I seen or heard of such a large entity behave with such rank impunity and as though it was so completely above the law, and with such incredible disregard for its impact on American citizens, and even more so, on citizens of other countries – with effectively no even minimally appropriate transparency or accountability internally or externally regarding any of it.

I agree that definitional problems aren’t solely behind all this, but that’s only because HS has even bigger problems than an unusually vague, vast, confused focus, constituency and mission. First, the concept itself is a fairly bankrupt one, whose only meaningful definition is inexplicably duplicative of other government agencies and programs. It also has a fundamentally nefarious history of usages and associations (with primarily ethnic and religious connotations) and in no way reflects either the history or formation of this country, or who americans are in relation to it. It’s a concept that most people inside and outside of government didn’t really like or could relate to, and much was written about that at the time. Even Bush didn’t like it and had to be talked into it.

But much more problematic to my mind is the apparent mentality and set of values within the core HS community that’s not only reflected in the jaw-dropping list of lawless, depraved actions taken in the name of HS, but also the dead silence, and abject lack of any discernible distress about any of it within the larger HS community. This is also why Phil’s suggestion that there “are thoughtful, courageous men and women” in HS (which I’m sure there is) tends to fall on fairly deaf ears – because where I come from, “thoughtful, courageous men and women” don’t just silently collect their paychecks in the face of the excessive civil, legal, moral and humanitarian violations that HS has been busy redefining as “security”, and making the new normal, and then quietly go home. Really they don’t.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 2, 2015 @ 7:11 am

Thanks to all for your thoughtful input.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

May 2, 2015 @ 8:52 am

Vicki: If I am tracking your perspective, Edward Snowden is an example of a member of the HS community who encountered violations of trust and honor and decided he could no longer be silent and collect his paycheck. To advance a greater Good, he decided to go public with his findings and concerns. Others will vigorously dispute this characterization. But it seems to me that especially if Snowden is canonized, we are left to depend on people of good will who remain inside the system. Prophecy can play an important part. But prophecy that matters is adopted by the people… even if only partially and rather poorly.

At the start of this exchange I raised the role of considering — in conversation with those inside the HS system — issues of profound social problems and injustice. As I understood your response, the Homeland Security enterprise is so thoroughly corrupt that such a conversation is either a waste-of-time or, even worse, likely to prompt HS actions that would add to our problems. In your response to Arnold, I perceive a critique of endemic corruption that goes far beyond Homeland Security.

Am I hearing that conversation is a waste of time or worse unless the participants in the conversation adopt this critique?

Comment by Vicki Campbell

May 2, 2015 @ 12:21 pm

Phil, your comments deserve some mulling over, and I’ve got some work I simply have to do now, so I’ll respond more thoughtfully late tomorrow or Monday. In the meantime, l’m happy to be schooled on what all I’m missing – and also what i might possibly have misunderstood in your comments initially.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

May 2, 2015 @ 2:46 pm

Vicki: Thanks. I look forward to it. As far as I can tell, you have accurately understood my comments. We apparently disagree regarding the value-or-utility of engaging HS personnel regarding a set of social issues You wrote, “But the thought of major social problems and social justice issues being considered within HS (and by definition DHS) is alarming.” At certain points in my homeland security career, teeing up more sustained and sophisticated consideration of these issues has been a big part of my life. So, I’m trying to better understand the basis of our substantive differences.

Comment by Donald Quixote

May 2, 2015 @ 7:34 pm

Mr. Bogis:

I understand your position, but after 30 years on the inside of the enterprise – I just do not agree. We have too many agencies and levels of government duplicating efforts and wasting resources due to the free for all without proper definitions and enabling and controlling guard rails. From my perspective, the ROI is critical. We are able to widely waste the limited resources now, but that may not always be the case.

The process is beyond messy, but it does not justify it. The lack of definitions just makes it worse and many organizations and corporations wealthy. This reasoning enables and excuses the failures and waste. I have always had a hard time accepting that democracy must come hand in hand with inefficiency – but I am working on it.

I often wonder if the strategy during World War II was that war is messy and it will take care of itself – what would the brats taste like in London today? Likely better than bangers.

Thank you for an enjoyable discussion.

Comment by Donald Quixote

May 2, 2015 @ 7:51 pm

Mr. Palin:

I do wonder how many more years we will be having these interesting conversations. I must admit that I do find it very strange that those who believe that a common homeland security definition and vision are not required for success are often not happy with the current homeland security enterprise. The common definition and vision may not be important, but let us give it a try and see. It may seriously disrupt and improve the enterprise, or not.

Is it laziness, profit or higher thought that justifies the acceptance of the undefined enterprise?

I continue to self-identify as a realist, but will surely accept cynical after all of these years of frustration.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

May 3, 2015 @ 5:20 am

Mr. Quixote: A well-chosen avatar, by the way, especially for this topic. Two responses, potentially contradictory.

Common — as in mostly shared, intuitively understood, anchored, grounded, and informing otherwise individual choice — has always been tough enough. It has probably been tougher in our lives than in most previous. Multi-generational, in some cases millennial, sources of commonality have been unraveling since early in the Twentieth Century (see The Waste Land, published 1922, excerpt below) By now many don’t realize what has been lost. You and I may be burdened by a memory of commonality that is irretrievable.

If there is any truth in the prior paragraph’s claims, then we ought not be surprised that a common homeland security definition and vision has been so elusive. But (signal of potential contradiction), in the roughly six years since I mostly gave up trying to be explicit regarding definitions, I have — or at least it sometimes seems I have — been able to experience more and more rough commonality.

At the risk of jinxing the implicit emergence, here’s a stab at stating what I perceive more and more folks around the “enterprise” are inclined to believe and organize their behavior around: Bad things happen. Sometimes very bad things. You can try to prevent, sometimes you will. Meaningful mitigation is really hard and usually worth every, even failed effort. But bad stuff will still happen. When bad and very bad happen it helps to have meaningful relationships with others. It helps to know what others do, why they do it, and how they do it. It helps to know how you can help or get out of the way. It helps to have friends who understand why you think and talk the way you do. It helps to have colleagues who know what you do well and what you do badly. When bad stuff happens it helps to have had shared experiences taking on complex problems that everyone knows are not going to be “solved.” It helps to listen. It helps to ask questions. It helps to depend on others to do their best. It helps when we can recognize and defer to the expertise of each other. Humility is a very practical virtue.

I could — you could too — translate the prior paragraph into doctrinal or definitional language. And then we could fill out with bullet points and discussion paragraphs and organize systematic training and planning and exercising around all of it. But somehow when we try to do that the thin gossamer threads of — what? — trust? mutual recognition? collaboration? — I’m really not sure — but in any case, those threads begin to fray the more tightly we try to tie them.

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers…

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you…

Comment by Vicki Campbell

May 3, 2015 @ 5:56 pm

……. while Rome burns.

Comment by Donald Quixote

May 4, 2015 @ 8:55 am

I do not know if it means that I will be more thoughtful to acknowledge the concept is just too complex to require a definition or just lazy. Either way, the good news is that we will most likely have many more years to discuss and debate this issue – but at what cost?

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