Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 18, 2015

Emanuel: God with Us

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 18, 2015

Late last evening Chris Bellavita wrote encouraging a delay in my hiatus in order to comment on the shootings in Charleston.  I wrote back,  but did not intend to post anything here.  This morning, after listening to some of the news coverage and comments by others, I have — for better or worse — copied below how I responded to Chris.

While I have never intended to obscure my own spiritual predispositions, I am of the opinion that in a secular, pluralistic, potentially post-modern culture, it is more helpful to use language that is less loaded  and, perhaps, simpler than religious lexicons.  But this may be an instance where to do so is to dishonor the victims.   At least that is my self-justification for bending that principle here.

After writing Chris and Arnold I visited the Emanuel AME website.  I wanted to know what parts of scripture the Wednesday evening Bible Study was considering.  I did not find that, but I did find this quote:

Jesus died a passionate death for us,  so our love for Him should be as passionate.

Sister Jean German Ortiz



I will be in Charleston most of next week.  I have visited Mother Emanuel.  Given the prominence of church spires on it’s skyline, Charleston is sometimes called the “Holy City”.

Especially since the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston the city has been very proactive in its engagement with the black community. Paradoxically, this event will, almost certainly, further advance that sometimes difficult-to-sustain process.

As you know, there is an ancient tradition of Christian martyrdom. In this tradition the martyr is a person of faith whose unjust death serves to inform and empower the potential for justice.  Martyrdom challenges the living to recognize and respond to the call for justice with justice and compassion and courage and love.

At least in the Christian tradition — and especially in the churches founded by slaves and former slaves — the core of our faith is to be vulnerable… to each other, to the whole of reality. Recently I heard Sister Simone Campbell say, “We would be better off if we made peace with insecurity. We’re all vulnerable. Security is all illusion.”  I would not be surprised that many of those killed during their Wednesday evening worship were in those pews precisely because of this awareness.

If Jesus is God and the crucifixion is fact then the central act of any authentic Christianity is to be vulnerable: To know that even God is vulnerable. If the Easter narrative has any meaning, we will be surprised by how being vulnerable to love — as well as all the rest — can overcome injustice and is the foundation of profound community.

Especially within the orthodoxies of Homeland Security, these are counter-cultural claims.  Even among most who call themselves Christians to be this vulnerable is often beyond our ability. But in this inability is an invitation to another paradox: Emanuel is derived from the Hebrew meaning “God is with us”… especially in our weakness, especially in our vulnerability, especially in failure, pain, and death.  In these arid places, especially God is there.

I would never have written anything like this for HLSWatch, but I will write it to you and Arnold… and myself.


June 17, 2015

Three new articles from Homeland Security Affairs

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 17, 2015

The June 2015 issue of Homeland Security Affairs published an article “examining the threat posed by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and current policy responses to that threat…, an essay examining the need for [an] integrated response paradigm for fire services and law enforcement, [and an essay examining] the use of lean technology in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.”

In “UAS on Main Street” Alison Yakabe analyzes the threat to strategic infrastructure and public safety posed by the proliferation of unmanned aircraft systems in the U.S. The article provides a thorough assessment of existing federal and state legal and policy responses to the problem, and recommends a number of more effective legal and policy approaches.

Michael Marino et al. assess the emerging threat of active shooter attacks and fire as a weapon in “To Save Lives and Property: High Threat Response”, and argue that the fire service and law enforcement have been slow to adapt to the threat. They recommend a set of reforms that would result in the development of an integrated response paradigm which would position the fire service and law enforcement to respond more effectively to these kinds of attacks.

In “The Continued Relevance of the November 2008, Mumbai Terrorist Attack: Countering New Attacks with Old Lessons,” Shahrzad Rizvi and Joshua Kelly analyze the use of lean technology by the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. They offer a series of recommendations that will help public safety and counterterrorism managers to counter these kinds of attacks more effectively in the future.

June 13, 2015

What law enforcement transparency looked like during the 6/13 attack on Dallas police headquarters

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 13, 2015

The following is a copy of the Tweets sent by Dallas police Major Max Geron during the attack on the Dallas police headquarters.  The attack started this morning, around 1230 AM.

The tweets illustrate how public officials can use social media (in this case Twitter and Periscope) during an incident to keep people informed, correct errors, quash rumors, explain actions, keep people safe, and help make sense out of what’s going on. 

Max writes for Homeland Security Watch sometimes.

- Maj. Max Geron retweeted

#BREAKING More video of shooting outside DPD headquarters

Maj. Max Geron retweeted

Madhu ?@madwho12  19h19 hours ago

Armored van lured police, fired upon, and rammed police

Maj. Max Geron retweeted

18h18 hours ago

Ryan Wood retweeted JG

New video from earlier of shooting outside #Dallas police headquarters. @wfaachannel8

Maj. Max Geron retweeted

18h18 hours ago

Suspect who shot at DPD headquarters is in a van near Hutchins. SWAT on the way. Here is the scene.

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  18h18 hours ago

I’m not aware of any injuries at this point

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  17h17 hours ago

As a precautionary measure, we’ve taken additional steps to ensure security at all police facilities.

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  17h17 hours ago

We’ve activated the Emergency Operations Center to facilitate coordination of emergency response

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

Witnesses advised that suspects in an armored vehicle open fire on @DallasPD HQ shortly after 12am #dallaspdshooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

If you have video or info of the incident you can send it to us via the iWatch Dallas app available in the App Store #dallaspdshooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

You can also send us info or video to pio@dpd.dallascityhall.com

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

We’ve received assistance from Hutchins PD, Wilmer PD, @TxDPS among others. Situation is ongoing #dallaspdshooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

Still no reports of any injuries to @DallasPD personnel. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

We are prepping for a press conference with @dpdchief at city hall #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

We are working to LiveStream and Periscope the press conference.

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

Headed up to the presser now

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

We’re expanding the perimeter @DallasPD HQ because of the presence of possible explosives

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

Presser live on periscope now

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

On Periscope @maxdpd

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

Multiple bags with possible explosives found around @DallasPD HQ

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  16h16 hours ago

If you hear explosions in the area of @dallaspd HQ, the Explosive Ord. Unit is considering a controlled demolition #dallaspdshooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  15h15 hours ago

We will be uploading video of the press conference to http://dpdbeat.com  as soon as we can

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  15h15 hours ago

#breaking As the Explosive Ordinance Robot attempted to move one of the bags @DallasPD HQ, the bag exploded on its own #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  15h15 hours ago

We are advising all of our surrounding LEO Depts to search their facilities for devices and not to touch them. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  15h15 hours ago

We are working with @FBI and @ATFHQ

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  15h15 hours ago

#breaking Here’s the link to the talking points from the earlier press conference #DallasPDShooting http://dpdbeat.com/2015/06/13/shooting-at-dallas-police-headquarters/ …

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

#Breaking We have found an additional package under a police truck in the parking lot @DallasPD HQ EOD is checking it #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

#BREAKING We are also investigating a suspicious package in a dumpster at the Northeast Substation #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

#Breaking Standoff with the suspect. Suspect vehicle has been disabled. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

We are working on dispatching our Priority 1 911 calls. We will work to release ad ofcrs to ans calls as soon as possible #DallasPDShooting

#Breaking Device found under police vehicle @DallasPD HQ was detonated by EOD. #DallasPDShooting

14h14 hours ago

Device found under police vehicle at HQ has detonated – no injuries #DallasPDShooting

14h14 hours ago

Dallas SWAT disabled the suspect vehicle with a .50 cal rifle. Standoff is ongoing #DallasPDShooting

- Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

We currently aren’t granting phone interviews but are working on an update presser w/in the next couple of hours #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

We are currently working on processing at least 2 crime scenes inclusive of the ongoing standoff near I-20 & I-45 #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Bad Guy Zero

Not “evacuating” but getting officers to clear in service from the station

Maj. Max Geron added,

Bad Guy Zero @BadGuyZero

Someone on the DPD Southeast radio frequency just said they’re in the process of clearing the station. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Nick Wing

No, follow us on social media and check our blog at http://dpdbeat.com  #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron added,

Nick Wing @nickpwing

Is this police scanner the only source of info on what’s happening in Dallas? #DallasPD #DallasPDShooting http://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/5318/web …

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  14h14 hours ago

ICYMI [“in case you missed it”] If you have video or info on the #DallasPDShooting you may submit it via iWatch Dallas app or emailed to pio@dpd.dallascityhall.com

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

We held officers from deep nights shift to work on getting caught up on 911 calls.

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

#Breaking 2 explosive devices were found @DallasPD HQ – all suspected packages have now been cleared there. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

#breaking Other suspected devices@DallasPD HQ turned out to be trash.

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

.@JeremyWard33 “Clearing in service” means checking in service and leaving the station to answer calls

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

Are working as quickly as we can to get people back into their residences near @DallasPD HQ could still be several hours #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

The delay is because we must resume the search for additional explosive devices. Please be patient #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

We are reaching out to the @RedCrossDFW to get refreshments for evacuated residents in the area of @DallasPD HQ #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  13h13 hours ago

#Breaking Our EOD robot took a hit from the initial explosion but is still functional and in use #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

Thank you for all the well wishes. Thankful no officers were injured. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Mike North

When possible we negotiate to secure a peaceful resolution to all situations. Not always possible

Maj. Max Geron added,

Mike North @North2North

.@DallasPD .@cpdzone7 so they fire on a police head q. and now negotiate ?blow the van up..bye bye.. #DallasPDShooting #donetalking #kapow

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

Both directions of I-45 shutdown in the area of I-45 and I-20 due to on-going standoff #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

#Breaking Suspicious package at Northeast has been cleared and was not an explosive #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

#Breaking We will give a follow up briefing at 8:30am for media in the lobby of City Hall. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

#BREAKING Dallas SWAT utilizing robot to examine the suspect vehicle. Still concerned about explosives #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  12h12 hours ago

.@CourtlandOlson #falsenarrative Officers @DallasPD HQ returned fire at the suspect

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Whether or not susp is inj or deceased, concern continues to be threat of explosives. 2 devices were found @DallasPD HQ #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Evacuees have been allowed back into their homes across from @DallasPD HQ following a search for additional explosives #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Earlier this morning Dallas SWAT sniper shot the suspect through the front windshield.

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

We recently held a tabletop exercise on a similar styles attack on downtown area #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Original reports to officers were of multiple suspects. Now indications are 1 suspect fired from multiple locs #DallasPDShooting

-Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

We don’t know motive and will not send officers to van until we can work to make sure there are no explosives #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Press conference live on Periscope @maxdpd

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Susp shot at officers at @DallasPD HQ and at scene of standoff with officers returning fire both times. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Re: PT this prompted shooting of suspect by Dallas SWAT sniper #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

Officer searching HQ for explosives almost tripped over package that later exploded the instant it was moved #DallasPDShooting

-Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

#Breaking @DallasPD attempted to take out the windshield of the susp veh with an explosive breach. It had no effect #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

#Breaking @DallasPD will use the .50 rifle to strategically take out the windshield of the susp veh w/ 4 or more shots #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

RE: PT – Goal is to enable access inside that susp vehicle. #DallasPDShooting We’re advising to alert the public so no alarm at gunfire

-Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

#Breaking Action to take out susp vehicle windshield to happen momentarily #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  11h11 hours ago

.@jdmiles11 JD incorrect – 2 shots to engine block – 1 shot into suspect

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

.@jdmiles11 Yes 2 into engine block 3rd shot hit suspect through windshield. All w/.50 cal #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

.@ry_miller23 Suspect was in an armored vehicle.

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

.@delgeo1 5 suspicious packages – 3 cleared, 2 explosives, 1 exploded on contact, other controlled detonation by EOD. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

One shot into susp veh windshield just went in with .50 cal. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

Are in process of trying to gain access into the armored susp vehicle by taking out the windshield with our .50cal rifle #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

#Breaking We’ve opened the windshield and will utilize an explosive “water charge” to render any explosives inside inert #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

#Breaking EOD techs believe black powder used in pipe bombs @DallasPD HQ – no C4 detected there #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  9h9 hours ago

We are about to go with the “water charge” in the susp vehicle. Have been prepping for a safe detonation #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  9h9 hours ago

.@IRRGoddess @Fried_Kimchi #FalseNarrative Ofcrs engaged the suspect and returned fire @DallasPD HQ and at standoff loc #DallasPDShooting

9h9 hours ago

.@CBS11Arezow Water charge uses container of water against explosive charge to disperse water and render black pwdr inert #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  10h10 hours ago

There has been no contact with the suspect in over 4 hours – believe it likely that he is deceased #DallasPDShooting

-Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  9h9 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Dell Cameron

Believe it likely – unable to confirm until van is cleared and officers can move in. Confirmation is premature

Maj. Max Geron added,

Dell Cameron @dellcam

@MaxDPD The @AP just tweeted “authorities confirm death of suspect.” Can you confirm that?

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  9h9 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Mark Puente

Thank you Mark. #Transparency and #engagement are critical. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron added,

Mark Puente @MarkPuente

@justin_fenton @MaxDPD It appears everything isn’t a secret in police operations in the Big D. Kudos to the transparency.

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  8h8 hours ago

#BREAKING at least two additional pipe bombs found inside susp veh. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  8h8 hours ago

#Breaking How officer survived truly a miracle! Bullet through door-seatblt-frontseat-backseat #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron retweeted

Shawn Williams ?@ShawnPDPD  7h7 hours ago

. @DPDChief just received a call from @GovAbbott who offered any assistance necessary to @DallasPD. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  7h7 hours ago

Maj. Max Geron retweeted Maggie Mazzetti

All media may use photos with appropriate attribution.

Maj. Max Geron added,

Maggie Mazzetti @maggiemazzetti

@MaxDPD – The Associated Press would love to use your photos/video with attribution, would that be ok?

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  7h7 hours ago

#Breaking We can now confirm that the susp in the van is deceased but unable to confirm ID pending Med Ex. identification #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  7h7 hours ago

#BREAKING Lots of shrapnel was included in the pipe bombs that exploded – screws, nails @DallasPD HQ #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

#Breaking During intentional detonation of susp ordnance, susp van caught fire and rounds are going off inside #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

Officers had discovered at least 2 additional pipe bombs in the susp veh that required disposal #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

#BREAKING At 3PM will provide Media w/ crime scene access at Lamar St. & Belleview St. Coming south on Lamar frm DwnTwn. #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

TV Media may send 1 reporter & 1 photog per station, Print media 1 rep & 1 photog/ Radio – 1 reporter. Will have sound from @MajorCotnerDPD

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

Sound will be available from @MajorCotnerDPD and @DPDChiefGarza from Capers at that time #DallasPDShooting

Maj. Max Geron ?@MaxDPD  6h6 hours ago

I’m signing off. @DallasPD and @ShawnPDPD will continue w/ updates going to try and get some rest. #DallasPDShooting



June 12, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 12, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

June 11, 2015

A summer hiatus

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 11, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I was the only non-federalista at a DHS event where one official introduced me to another as “the HLSWatch blogger”, to which my new acquaintance replied, “Oh yes! You’re the philosopher, aren’t you?”

I’m not sure how he pegs Chris or Arnold or Christian, but I responded “Yes, I guess so.” Closing on the upbeat.

At a recent FEMA function as we offered self-introductions, the facilitator interrupted and asked me, “Would you share with the group your other persona?” I had no idea where she was going.  ”Which one?” I laughed.  ”There are so many.”

“Tell us about your poetry.”  Which is an infrequent invitation anywhere and especially inside the Beltway.

Just this Monday I was in Los Angeles working on supply chains but found myself in a conversation involving Heidegger, Nietzsche, Aristotle, and Plato that actually wound around to important insights on the differences between supply chains and critical infrastructure and protection versus resilience.

It really was a conversation, initiated by the other party.  So I am reasonably certain I did not slip into a solipsistic hallucination.

Clearly I have never shied away from my own set of mostly traditional humanistic frameworks. Still my principal professional persona, presumably, is that of an experienced private sector actor.  I don’t have any special claim on philosophy and my poetry is, unfortunately, mostly mildly mediocre.  Whereas I have the emotional scars and experiential receipts to prove a forty-plus year tenure in start-ups and beyond.

But as the vignettes above suggest, perhaps I have recently been a bit obsessive-compulsive — to you it may simply seem self-indulgent — regarding several abstract themes including complex adaptive theory, epistemology, and ethics (when I was not preoccupied with Nepal).

This week every issue I have considered for comment — police use of force, the Turkish election, private-public-civic collaboration in resilience, counter-terrorism in Nigeria, US immigration enforcement, and more — has seemed to me yet another example of how when fear mates with a predisposition to control their progeny are problems multiplied.

Several poets occur to me as potential sources of pithy quotes.  Here’s one:

We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

But I have already made this claim, more than once. Redundancy is where nagging starts.  You deserve better.  I should do better.

So… acknowledging my recent tendency to eccentric philosophical/poetic preoccupations — and, I will admit, an increasingly crowded professional life — I will take a hiatus from HLSWatch to try to find something new to say.

But if you happen to see fear approaching control at some bar, picnic, or beach, please keep them apart.

Best wishes for the summer.

June 5, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 5, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

June 4, 2015

DHS advisory committee issues report on employee morale

Filed under: DHS News,General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on June 4, 2015

At its meeting on May 21, 2015, the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) issued a report by its DHS Employee Task Force, established in October 2014 following the Department’s poor rankings in the latest federal employee survey results, and formerly known as the “DHS Employee Morale Task Force” but renamed a few weeks prior to the issuance of the report. The report has been publicly released but is not yet available on the DHS website; I have posted a copy at this link.

The report includes a brief assessment of the relevant issues that affect DHS workforce morale, makes four primary recommendations, and includes twenty-seven specific action items that derive from these recommendations. The four primary recommendations are as follows:

1. Greatly increase the emphasis on leadership qualities when filling managerial positions and when assessing the performance of incumbents.
2. Significantly improve management training, particularly leadership training.
3. Adopt proven industrial standards for personnel development.
4. Significantly strengthen communications (upward, downward and outward), making greater use of modern communication technology.

Overall, the report provides a solid initial assessment of the challenges facing DHS leadership as it attempts to address morale issues, and suggests a number of common-sense management initiatives. But its analysis should be viewed as only a starting point. This is an issue that is difficult to generalize across the Department; the issues that affect the morale and satisfaction of the frontline officer at TSA or CBP are very different than the issues that affect an intelligence analyst or policy advisor at one of the headquarters offices. Moreover, it is necessary as part of such an assessment to make a distinction between issues that are within the span of control of the leadership of the Department (such as day-to-day operational policies and norms) and those that are outside of their control (such as civil service laws, or Congressional constraints on the Department’s organizational structure).

Two issues in particular are deserving of further analysis. The first is the set of procedures (formal and informal) related to decision-making and action-taking within DHS, and the incentive structure that underlies these procedures. My observation over a number of years and spanning multiple DHS leadership teams is that it is far too difficult for motivated and forward-looking individuals to take initiative and drive change within the Department. Instead, it is much easier for offices to stifle new initiatives that they do not like, a reality exacerbated by the fragmented Congressional oversight of the Department and by the existence of numerous internal oversight and compliance offices within DHS. This observation is supported by the results of Question #32 on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey: “Creativity and innovation are rewarded.” DHS employees express on average a much more negative response to this question than employees of other federal agencies. I would contend that the frustration and hopelessness captured in these responses is a major factor in low morale at DHS.

The second issue deserving of additional attention is reflected in the results to Question #22 of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey: “Promotions in my work unit are based on merit.” 55.6% of DHS employees disagreed with this statement in the 2014 survey – the most negative result of any agency surveyed by far, and much higher than the government-wide average of 39.3%. The apparent lack of meritocracy reflected in this result is a long-standing issue at DHS (as far back as the 2006 employee survey, DHS also had the most negative result) and needs to be rigorously assessed at the component level to determine the root causes of this, which likely includes issues related to organizational culture, personnel policies, and the lack of clear standards for promotions. Notably, the HSAC task force calls for a follow-on review of these issues, including an assessment of the Department’s promotion and compensation systems.

As noted earlier, the full HSAC report can be viewed at this link.

(Note: This piece is cross-posted from the GW Center for Cyber and Homeland Security’s Security Insights blog.)

What do you know and how do you know it?

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Legal Issues,Privacy and Security,Radicalization,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on June 4, 2015

Monday the Supreme Court remanded for further consideration Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.   In 2008 the Company decided not to hire an otherwise well-suited prospective employee because it is her religious practice to wear a hijab (below).

The EEOC sued on behalf of Samantha Elauf under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The Act “prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship.”

A Federal District Court jury originally found on behalf of the EEOC and awarded damages to Ms. Elauf, but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision finding that Ms. Elauf had not explicitly informed the Company that her head-covering is an act of religious devotion.  Without this “actual knowledge” of a need for religious accommodation the Tenth Circuit found that the Company was within its rights to stand-by a dress-code that does not allow employees to wear “caps”.

The Supreme Court disagrees.

The 8-to-1 decision written by Justice Scalia strikes me as narrowly framed to discern the law’s intent.  The decision is, nonetheless, being hailed as a victory for inclusion, tolerance, and respect for religious practice.  The Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations commented, “We welcome this historic ruling in defense of religious freedom at a time when the American Muslim community is facing increased levels of Islamophobia.”

Samantha Elauf and her mother

Samantha Elauf with her mother

Title VII establishes what Justice Scalia characterizes as “favored treatment” for “ all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to” a “religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.”  On remand the lower courts will take up whether or not accommodation in this case would cause undue hardship.

Meanwhile, Congress struggles to determine what constitutes an undue hardship on personal privacy, especially in collection of meta-data and other often prosaic but powerful tools of digital tracking.  Can the National Security Agency reasonably accommodate citizens varied expectations of privacy?  Or has any such expectation become an unreasonable delusion?

Meanwhile, a DHS red team encountered barely any hardship at all penetrating TSA security protocols.  ABC News reports, “According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.”  Overly accommodating?

Meanwhile, how well can the US economy reasonably accommodate continued drought in California, recurring floods in Texas and Oklahoma, and the accelerating financial and human costs of natural hazards around the globe?  As the escalating controversy regarding federal flood insurance demonstrates (and Bill Cumming has explained), even measures meant to help accommodate individuals to risk can actually end up causing undue hardship.

In their consideration of EEOC v A&F, I hear the Supremes offering some wisdom that can extend well-beyond the religious significance of our fashion choices.

This wisdom, at least for me, is amplified by the paradoxies — some would say, absurdities — of Samantha Elauf’s situation.   As devout, even pious, as many of her fellow citizens of Oklahoma, Ms. Elauf regularly covers her head to symbolize her obedience to God and as an expression of personal modesty.  As an all-American girl — evidenced by her Instagram account — Ms. Elauf is at ease blending this religious sensibility with the merchandising strategy of Abercrombie and Fitch.  One sample immediately below.

A&F Merry Christmas

For its 2012 calendar A&F kept the Christ in Christmas

This is a profoundly American — some adversaries would insist, satanic — tendency to accommodate what many, perhaps most, of the world could perceive as irreconcilably dueling realities.  We are being challenged again and again to appear on a supposed field of honor to kill or be killed defending this convergence of contradictions.

The brief Supreme Court opinions — Scalia for the majority: 7 pages, Alito concurring: 6 pages, Thomas dissenting: 10 pages — are examinations of applied epistemology.  What do we know and how do we know it?  And applied ethics: what is our obligation to act in accordance with what we know?

According to our magistrates, knowledge is often implicit, typically contingent on context, and, when involving humans, requires a careful assessment of intention. Knowledge is applied rightly and wisely when it recognizes contending values, honors diversity, and is especially solicitous regarding the role of individuals as moral agents.

This is a radical view of the world and our place in it that is considered naive and/or heretical and/or threatening by many millions.  It is also the great attraction of the American experience for millions more.

When we look to our most contentious homeland security issues — for example, privacy v. intelligence-operations, liberty v. security, individual v. community  – are the epistemological principles articulated in EEOC v A&F the rule or the exception?  Are we predisposed to accommodate or insist?  Are we exclusive or inclusive? How much are we tempted to the dogmatism of our critics?

When challenged to a duel do we have sufficient knowledge of self and other to select the most appropriate weapon: sword, plowshare, or pie shell (whipped cream or lemon custard)?

Non sequitur_Messing with Absolutists

Is this heresy, comedy, or serious commentary? (Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller)

June 3, 2015

Community Policing at Work in Boston

Obviously, there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the Boston Police and FBI shooting of a suspected ISIS sympathizer. Recent reporting indicates he and co-conspirators were planning on attacking Boston police personnel, after discarding an earlier plot to behead anti-Islam political activist Pamela Geller.

Putting aside the details of a quickly evolving case (the specifics of which will likely take some time to become clear and final), what I found interesting about today’s development’s was the vivid dividends of Boston Police’s community outreach efforts.

Police showed a surveillance video of the shooting to Boston-area religious leaders Wednesday. They said in a news conference that they did not see Rahim shot in the back or talking on the phone.

“What the video does reveal to us very clearly is that the individual was not on a cell phone, was not shot in the back, and that the information presented by others not on the case was not accurate,” Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts said.

Other faith leaders said the video was not high quality, but that they could tell Rahim was pursuing the Boston police officer and FBI agent who had approached him.

Imam Abdullah Faaruuq of the Mosque for the Praising of Allah called the video “vague,” but said that at least part of the investigators’ account was supported.

This outcome is not a happy coincidence or random gathering of community leaders.  Instead it is the result of years of engagement by the Boston Police with various communities.  It is work that takes time, leads to little immediate results, but is vitally important in the long run for situations such as this.  A video of a portion of this press conference:


You can watch more of Boston Police Commissioner William Evans in the following talk on “Latest Trends in Big City Policing,” recently given at a conference hosted by Rave Mobile Safety. While I should warn you it is not the most succinct presentation, it manages to be both informative and funny.  Commissioner Evans talks a lot about community policing, sharing stories about Occupy Boston, the Marathon Bombings, and sharing his opinion on issues such as the use of body cameras.  He also might mention casing Patriot owner Robert Kraft’s house with the current Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh…


Erroll Southers reminds us that not all terrorism is related to Islam

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Arnold Bogis on June 3, 2015

Recent and not so recent events in Boston notwithstanding, I think it is important to be reminded that the definition of terrorism does not include “Islam,” “Islamic,” “radical Islam,” etc.  That is obviously not to say that there is no such things as Islamic terrorists, but it also means that you can have a wide range of actors such as Christian terrorists, racist terrorists, anti-government terrorists, environmental terrorists…well, you get the point.

However, I often worry that many in the media and even homeland security professionals have missed or forgotten this concept.  Earlier today the folks at Security Debrief pointed out a recent TED talk by homeland security expert Erroll Southers where he deftly makes the case for recognizing the wider nature, and danger, from homegrown violent extremism.  You can catch the highlights at Security Debrief or watch his entire talk below.

Just my opinion, but I would recommend sharing this with any colleagues, friends, and/or family that might think that if it ain’t related to Islam it’s not terrorism.


June 1, 2015

Rafe Sagarin: 1972-2015

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 1, 2015

In 2002, Rafe Sagarin worked in Washington, D.C. as a science advisor to a California Congresswoman.

Sagarin was a marine ecologist. He looked at the barricades, armed guards, and other security features of post 9/11 Washington through an ecological frame.  He described what he saw as an ecology of fear.

That observation led to one of the few fundamentally creative insights in homeland security thinking. Sagarin asked what biology had to contribute to homeland security. His answer: “plenty.”

Sagarin argued biology offers 3.5 billion years of experience and more than 20 million answers to the question of how one survives and thrives in a hostile and unpredictable world.

He wrote several books and numerous articles amplifying that theme. See, for example, “Learning From the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease,”  and an article in Foreign Policy called “Adapt or Die.”

Here’s an excerpt from an article he wrote for Homeland Security Affairs:

The most famous line of the 9/11 Commission report was that 9/11 represented a “failure of imagination” and this was certainly an apt description of the security situation up until 9/11. However, now that we imagine almost anything to be a threat to our security, a more pernicious problem faces all of our security systems: a failure of adaptation.

Adaptation is the process of changing structures, behaviors, and interactions in response to changing conditions in the environment. Adaptability is the capacity to adapt to these changes—something that despite an unprecedented amount of attention, financial resources and human lives sacrificed in the name of security since 9/11, has still largely eluded us.

Fortunately, we have at our disposal a vast storehouse of largely untapped knowledge that could guide us in developing adaptable security systems. It is a massive set of proven solutions, and teachable failures, to the very same problem that unites all of the threats we face—that is, how to survive and thrive in a risky, variable and uncertain world. Remarkably, this database is completely unclassified and free to use by anyone.

The solutions I’m referring to are all contained in the staggering diversity of life on Earth—millions of individual living and extinct species, and countless individuals within those species—which have been developing, testing, rejecting, and replicating methods to overcome the challenges of living on a continually changing planet. These organisms have been experiencing security challenges and developing solutions since long before the latest Presidential administration or Congress has been working on their security agenda, since long before 9/11 finally woke most of us to the new post-cold war reality, since long before industrialization pushed our biogeochemical cycles into chaos, and since long before humans ever walked the Earth.

Indeed, the 3.5 billion year history of life imbues biological systems with more experience dealing with security problems than any other body of knowledge we possess. And because we ourselves are biological creatures, our own species’ evolution and the modern manifestations of that evolutionary process, is not only an integral part of this natural database, but perhaps the most important set of data to consider.

This means that in addition to the ecologists, paleontologists, virologists and evolutionary biologists that have something novel to contribute to our security debate, so too do anthropologists, psychologists, soldiers and first responders who have extensive behavioral observations of people and societies under the stress of insecurity in an uncertain environment.

Last Thursday, Sagarin was riding his bicycle after work. He was hit by a truck and died.  He was 43 years old.

rafe sagarin

May 29, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 29, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

May 25, 2015

“Let no vandalism of avarice … testify … that we have forgotten….”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on May 25, 2015

memorial day

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memorial day 6

memorial day 4

memorial day 5

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May 22, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 22, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

May 15, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 15, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

May 13, 2015

Humanitarian Logistics in Nepal: Number 6

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 13, 2015

Tuesday several strong aftershocks hit Nepal. One measured 7.3 on the Richter Scale.  The new quakes come after a 7.8 earthquake on April 25, sixteen intervening seismic events measured above 5.0, and three days of significant rainfall.  Tens of thousands are living without shelter or under tarpaulins.

(As I post this on Tuesday night a US Marine helicopter that was operating in Nepal is missing along with its crew of six and two Nepalese soldiers.)

The death toll from these earthquakes will almost certainly exceed 10,000.  According to the Government of Nepal over 280,000 homes have been destroyed and nearly as many have been seriously damaged.  The lack of shelter and sanitation pose an urgent threat to public health that will only increase as the monsoon season begins in the next two to three weeks.

The April 25 earthquake was centered northwest of Kathmandu.  The epicenter of Tuesday’s earthquake was northeast of the capital.  In each case, there has been especially significant destruction and disruption at higher elevations.  Stone and masonry structures have collapsed.  Landslides have covered entire villages.

The modern transportation network in Nepal is mostly contained in the more urban valleys, and has, so far, survived mostly intact. As you ascend into the Himalayas scattered settlements are often connected by very primitive roads or foot-paths. In many cases these networks have been seriously disrupted and are simply unknown to outsiders.

Most of the highland inhabitants are subsistence farmers.  The Spring harvest of wheat and barley has been interrupted by these disasters.  The rice crop needs to be planted in the next three weeks or so.  Storage and seed stocks have been decimated.  The government of Nepal — operating largely through the Nepal Food Corporation — has long provided subsidized access to supplementary foodstuffs through a diverse locally-driven distribution system.  The NFC has continued to operate, but it’s current capacity and effectiveness are not clear.

In the immediate aftermath of the April 25 event there was significant hoarding of food.  In the first week both private and public relief efforts delivered resources wherever possible. Some of the hardest hit areas were not accessible. Hoarding behavior continued and resulted in accessible areas accumulating a significant stock of food.  Some estimate that many communities immediately west of the capital may have received up to six months normal supply in the ten days after the initial quake.

It is my impression that relief supplies were just beginning to systematically penetrate the most remote regions in the last five days or so.

India has been very forward leaning in providing resources.  So has the United Nations, China, United States, United Kingdom, international NGOs, and multinational corporations.  Writing in the Kathmandu Post Shujeev Shakya describes how Nepalese are responding as individuals:

It was really interesting to see volunteers purchase their own food and water, fill up their fuel tanks with their own money, and make zero overhead relief work possible… Most of the volunteerism was a spontaneous networking to get through to the supply chain, demand identification, and get zero overhead delivery right. The processes were transparent, as most of the demand and supply was broadcasted over social media, taking accountability and transparency to the next level.

As usual for a hard-hit like this, there does not seem to be a systemic shortage of supply (supply is more often a problem with slow-onset disasters, such as drought or ongoing extreme violence).  There are, however, a whole host of  very serious distribution problems.

Serving the immediate needs of survivors usually requires the intervention of significant and specialized logistics. This is especially the case where preexisting supply capacity — in the form of roads, warehouses, retail outlets, trucks, truckers, fuel, availability of cash and/or household inventory — has been destroyed.

But the bigger the event — bigger in terms of time, space, and population affected — the more necessary it becomes to quickly restore some semblance of pre-existing supply chains and/or allow complex-adaptive behavior to emerge (such as those described by Shujeev Shakya).  We know how to feed the nodes. Connecting the nodes with those who urgently need the supplies in order to be fed is even more complicated.

A key issue is how the technical capacity of humanitarian (or commercial) logistics can be integrated with the social connections that are innate to communities and regularly operating supply chains.  In many major disasters the biggest deficits are not related to supply capacity, but instead involve a lack of knowledge related to demand: who, where, what and — especially in Nepal — how to get there.

Based on observations in Haiti, Japan, and other post-disaster contexts, Professor Jose Holguin-Veras, Director of the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation, and the Environment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, describes this phenomenon as “a crisis of connectivity, not of supply.”

I also like how Shujeev Shakya, a businessman in Kathmandu, describes it as “networking to get through to the supply chain.”  This is different than procurement and delivery of  humanitarian logistics.  The use of social media for “demand identification” — even in Nepal, even after a major earthquake — is, for me, both fabulous and a bit scary.  How much worse it could have been if the telecommunications network had collapsed. (More on the social media aspect at Wired.)

None of this is meant as a critique of humanitarian logistics. But it is meant to suggest a potentially important complementary strategy of giving more attention to “networking to get through to the supply chain” both before and after a major disaster. Especially before.  And networking not just as a social activity but a socio-technical activity.

This is not, by the way, just an issue for a poor country like Nepal.  The triple disaster in Japan demonstrated many of the same lessons.  It would be helpful for the US to learn these lessons before the New Madrid or San Andreas faults decide to take us to the school of hard knocks.


UPDATE: OCHA released a situation update late on May 13.  It is available here.

A personal impression: I do not yet have sufficient evidence.  But based on several media reports and official documentation, I perceive more and more priority is being given to the replacement shelter “pipeline”.  This suggests sufficient food supplies are available (if not necessarily distributed to the most remote locations).  This signals that some form of the preexisting food supply chain is being reestablished.  The preexisting pipeline — different than supply chain or supply and demand network — for tarpaulins and other components of emergency shelter barely pre-existed at all. So this is a supply system that must be created from scratch… and with great difficulty.  If any of these early observations have any accuracy, they suggest the potentially differentiated role — and sequencing — of humanitarian logistics in combination with supply chain resilience.

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