Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 13, 2014

NSS becomes NSC (again) and why it matters to HS and homeland security

Filed under: Homeland Defense,Organizational Issues,State and Local HLS — by Philip J. Palin on February 13, 2014

From the White House website, February 10, 2014:


– – – – – – –


By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to reflect my decision to change the name of the National Security Staff to the National Security Council staff, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Name Change. All references to the National Security Staff or Homeland Security Council Staff in any Executive Order or Presidential directive shall be understood to refer to the staff of the National Security Council…

And it continues briefly bureaucratic.  See it all here if you wish.


Monday’s Executive Order undoes the never-really-accepted early administration decision to call the newly combined NSC staff and HSC (Homeland Security Council) staff the National Security Staff.

This NSS fig leaf was mostly an awkward reminder of a brief dalliance with a sort of security separate from the defense-foreign policy-intelligence community condominium.  Rather as if someone from the Upper East Side had married into a family with a double-wide.

Finally we can put that foolishness aside.  Rather than silly fig-leafs, the virility and fertility of the National Security state can be proudly displayed.  The executive order merely confirming continuing practice and the strong preference of staffers.


As someone who abides in that homeland security double-wide all I can really say is that the national security types are smart, capable, and know how to play the policy and power game better than me.  They are tougher than I am and much better networked.  They won this battle — well, for them barely a skirmish — hands-down.  If they had the time or inclination to notice, I would offer my hand in congratulation.

This may strike some as passive-aggressive.  I hope instead it reflects a balance of realism and pride that persists even in losing an important contest.

I still believe what I told the House Homeland Security Committee back in April 2009.  Here’s an excerpt of my testimony:

For more than fifty years, the National Security Council has ably served the Commander-in-Chief. Every element of the NSC’s organizational DNA reflects the responsibilities and power of the Commander-in-Chief. In foreign and defense policy –and the intelligence agencies supporting foreign and defense policy – the President’s authority is preeminent. The NSC has been a creature of that preeminence. Even with the legal, budgetary, and direct command-and-control authority of the President, the NSC can have difficulty doing what is needed to coordinate defense, foreign affairs, and intelligence policy. But after fifty years there is an authoritative NSC institutional ethos that well serves the President and the nation.

This same ethos will often be counter-productive in solving Homeland Security problems… For the purposes of domestic counter-terrorism and prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery the authority of the Commander-in-Chief is not what matters. Most of the Governors will not respond positively to a command and control approach.  Neither will the Adjutants General, nor County Sheriffs, nor most Mayors, nor police chiefs, nor emergency managers, and then there is the private sector that actually owns most of our critical infrastructure. These are partners who must be cultivated.

Some have argued that more of a command-and-control culture is needed to motivate sufficient attention to domestic counterterrorism. It is true that many local jurisdictions across the United States do not give sufficient priority to counterterrorism. But we cannot command them to do otherwise. We cannot even pay them enough to do otherwise. If we are serious about preventing latter day Beslans or Mumbais – or worse, we must do the hard work of communicating, cooperating, building relationships, developing trust, and engaging together in meaningful local and regional risk analysis. Only when state and local authorities are ready – of their own volition – to invest time, energy, and their own dollars into consistent counterterrorism work will we be closer to real defense-in-depth regarding the terrorist threat.

Local authorities are – not unreasonably – actively engaged with disasters that threaten with some regularity: floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes… each place and each region is different. They are not inclined to give sufficient attention to threats that are outside the pattern. They tend to undervalue a whole continuum of catastrophic possibilities: intentional, accidental, and natural. Given limited financial and human resources this tendency is understandable. Given recent financial extremities the tendency has been exacerbated.

The Federal government can and should play a role in helping ensure reasonable local attention to catastrophic possibilities – including terrorism. The federal government can play this role through consulting, educating, training, making grants, and through a variety of other mechanisms. When the federal government engages state and local authorities –and private sector — as peers and fellow professionals, the response will usually be productive. Ordering or even paying state and local professionals to do something they don’t believe in tends to produce very creative avoidance behavior.

These practical issues reflect in a wonderful way our constitutional system. We are dramatically reminded that the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, not the nation. We are forced to recall that we are – even now – a federal union of sovereign states… and a robust society of free peoples who do not salute any master.

Re-reading this testimony five years later I am a bit embarrassed by the prose, but the experience of these years have further reinforced my judgment regarding the substance.

The contentious issue at hand is not a matter of intention or capability, but culture. I love the Upper East Side. I spend all the time I can at the Met, Guggenheim, elsewhere near-by. And at my home in the mountains our nearest neighbor does, indeed, live in a double-wide. Each of these worlds is real. Each is vitally important to our common future. Each tends to disdain each and in the process our shared strength is diminished.

September 10, 2013

When the 900 pound gorilla comes home

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Christopher Bellavita on September 10, 2013

(Today’s post was written by Quinton Lucie)

When Johnny comes marching home again
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home. 

By late 2008 it was clear the large scale commitment of U.S. troops to Iraq was coming to an end. With that choice all but made, the U.S. military was coming home to resume its (mostly) garrison posture after finishing its commitments to Afghanistan.

While it is likely U.S. forces will sign a bi-lateral agreement with the Karzai government this year, allowing for an extended U.S. presence, it will be a small one, focused on counter-terror and training. With the exception of those forces engaged in combating the remnants of Al-Qaeda and their budding progeny, training our partners, and providing an expeditionary presence around the globe, the rest will be home (since I wrote this 4 weeks ago, Syria has joined the fray, but long term it is unlikely to see a significant contribution from conventional U.S. forces, if any).

The U.S. military is the nation’s single largest investment in capabilities and these returning capabilities will need to be reintegrated into the Homeland Security Enterprise.

The old church bell will peal with joy
Hurrah! Hurrah!
To welcome home our darling boy,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The village lads and lassies say
With roses they will strew the way,
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.

There is the stuff, all the stuff paid for in the rush to build our capabilities for the Long War against Al-Qaeda, the counter-attack into Afghanistan and the foray into Iraq. For example MRAPs, a nearly $35 billion investment by Congress by 2010, will be left behind by the thousands or find their way into the inventories of local police forces.

There are the people, those soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, many of whom from the first decade of these wars have already returned home, graduated from college or begun their second careers. They will bring their strengths and skills from their service by the thousands and innovation learned from hard learned experiences.

A few, however, will also take that experience and use it for personal gain.

Or worse.

But those cases will be dwarfed by the positive.  When it comes to our returning veterans and service members we need to harness the ideas and capabilities of the next MacGyver not waste the talents of the next Cool Hand Luke.

There will be the return of domestic capabilities to NORTHCOM and local military installations. With these new capabilities will NORTHCOM subsume SOUTHCOM in a new Americas combatant command? Will domestic military forces forge closer ties to Federal and state law enforcement? How much will they integrate into local firefighting efforts and the protection of local critical infrastructure? How much of this capability will be integrated into Federal emergency management efforts?

No matter the answer to these questions, this reorientation of the U.S. military will have a disruptive effect on the Homeland Security Enterprise.

But will the disruption be positive, leading to innovation and new efficiencies or will it be a detriment, like the “old” definition of disruptive? This might depend upon the most important legacy of the return of the military from these wars on the Homeland Security Enterprise, the ideas.

Get ready for the Jubilee,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give the hero three times three,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The laurel wreath is ready now
To place upon his loyal brow
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.

In 2004, one of my friends deployed with a reserve Marine infantry battalion based out of Chicago. By 2005, those reservists had returned home and some began to implement new ideas, techniques and strategies they saw work overseas.

But some now question if all of these ideas have a place in the enterprise.

Unfortunately the effects have yet to be adequately measured. Certainly there are advantages, and like any ideas, disadvantages, but the Enterprise needs to find them now rather than let slow experience over the coming decades give us an answer. It needs to move faster like its medical partners.

The Enterprise also needs to define its role for the military. Will the military be leaders, members, partners or all of the above? When funds and support are perceived to shift to the military for emergency management activities will they be seen as a remora (one of nature’s force multipliers) or a leech? Will their invigorated relations with state and local officials be seen as a useful supplement to existing responsibilities or as an intrusion?

The military also needs to define its role within the Enterprise in the coming decades. Will Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) really become a primary mission or just a way to find more dollars to support national security missions only vaguely related to DSCA? What current training requirements get dropped for new requirements that emerge from new responsibilities? How will the Title 10 forces work with the National Guard, especially when it comes to emergency management? How will responsibility for protecting the emerging cyber commons be distributed among the military, civilian and private sector? Will the broader military industrial complex follow, for instance allowing drone vendors to squeeze out much more efficient (read: cheaper, faster and in many cases as capable) services similar to those provided by the Civil Air Patrol?

A great example of the possibilities, but also the pitfalls, can be found in the recently released Army Doctrinal Reference Publication 3-28 Defense Support of Civil Authorities. At 110 pages, it represents a significant effort (at least in comparison to its civilian counterparts) on the part of the Army. It is a fairly thorough overview of the Army’s expectations for DSCA. But it also has the mistakes that can be attributed to the motivated, but not yet initiated, that range occasionally from bad to worse.

For instance the bad –  mistaking “Federal accelerated assistance” as a separate authority for disaster response (it’s not, it’s just another way of delivering Federal disaster assistance under a Major Disaster or Emergency Declaration) – and the worse, alleging the National Emergencies Act is an authority to “institute martial law” (don’t worry it’s not). Or this well-meaning, motivating, but somewhat farcical, Air Force recruiting commercial from a few years ago.

It is crucial the Homeland Security Enterprise welcome these new sources of capabilities and possibilities. Recognition and acceptance must come from all levels of the Enterprise: the Federal bureaucrat looking to integrate military capabilities into national efforts, to the police officer who handles a traffic stop with a veteran still struggling to reintegrate, to local officials looking for new ways to add resilience to their communities.  It must be a holistic reception.

Let love and friendship on that day,
Hurrah, hurrah!
Their choicest pleasures then display,
Hurrah, hurrah!
And let each one perform some part,
To fill with joy the warrior’s heart,
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home

November 13, 2012

Failure, “Generally” speaking.

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Homeland Defense — by Dan OConnor on November 13, 2012

It’s difficult not to be cynical.

It is also difficult imagining what I am about to write and wondering if I am being disloyal. That’s a powerful emotion.

But then I imagine a Navy having nearly more Admirals than ships. I imagine having more Generals now than 20 years ago. I imagine how is it possible to have increases of 25% in flag officer promotions while the rest of the force is being reduced.

Then I realize it may not be my imagination at all.

I happen to know several brilliant Colonels, studs by euphemism and reputation who chose to leave the military instead of pursuing the rank of General because… “if that is what a General is I want no part of it.”

Wow, what’s going on?

A recent article in the Atlantic had some interesting points of view to share about Generalship and the state of affairs within the flag officer ranks.

Did you know that General Officers were fired in World War 2? I believe the count was 16.

How many have been fired for their performance in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?  ZERO.  (Well, maybe one, if you count General McCrystal.)

It’s so easy to blame the civilian leadership and retort ad infinitum that “they” need to mind their business. However, left unchecked as we now see, the all volunteer force has an unintended consequence: mediocre politically correct officers become powers unto themselves and are moved along. Those who rock the boat are kicked to the curb.


Because — generally speaking — the Generals of today may not be of the ilk and cloth of yesterday.

Generals accused of misconduct, rape, adultery, misappropriation, and other crimes have been in the news of late. But how many were fired for being incompetent?

Again, ZERO.

Are all General Officers bad? Of course not and to present such a proposition is ludicrous. There are some exceptional performers who combine intellect, presence, and dogmatic determination in leading our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines with aplomb. They inspire.

Are there some unspectacular, mediocre and merely politically appointed Generals? Absolutely and to assume they are all spectacular is equally ludicrous.

Are there simply too many Generals?

In 1991, there were 157 three and four Star Generals. By April 2011 there were 194—an increase of 24%.  Since 1991, no DoD personnel group has grown at a faster rate than that of General Officers.

From 1991 through April 2011, officer ranks shrank by more than 56,000 (19%) and enlisted personnel decreased by nearly half a million (30%).  The overall number of active duty personnel has declined to some 1.5 million from 2.2 million in 1985.   According to the Pentagon, there are now 963 generals and admirals leading the armed forces, about 100 more than on Sept. 11, 2001.

That’s a lot of “leadership.”

What could they possibly be doing?

I can tell you what they are not doing: taking care of soldiers and their awards.

Generals are promoted and they and their staffs are sitting on awards boards and deciding what is valorous and what is not. When I came into the Marine Corps, the vast majority…the overwhelming majority of General Officer’s had been awarded Medals of Honor, Navy Crosses, and Silver Stars. These guys fought as young officers and as a result, I think may have had a better perspective on what it takes to kill, lose youngsters, fight, and recognize valor.

I think it is different now. I know it is.

The process for “high-level awards” (including the Silver Star, Navy Cross, and Medal of Honor) begins in the operational theater, ends in Washington, and contains layers of iterative decision making in the form of review along the way, which needlessly delays the ultimate decision.

The vast majority of the flag officers we have now do not have valor awards. And the days of Chesty Puller awarding a Navy Cross and Silver Star on the beaches of Pelileu or  Chosin Reservoir are so over. Many contemporary flag officers and their staffs are an abomination to morale and esprit. They make decisions with little to lose, and they are quite arbitrary about it. They did not fight and do not have that collective experience of being “blooded” in battle.

Does it matter?

Here’s why I think it does: a young officer I know was put in for 2 Silver Stars for valorous conduct in Afghanistan. This guy is a lion.

A general’s staff in the rear or administratively attached, reduced one recommendation to a bronze star after sitting on it for almost a year and simply dismissed another.   It is as if the valor and the lives saved did not take place. This is the unintended consequences of paper tigers, perfumed princes, or as the Atlantic article points out, mediocre general officers.

Maybe someone should look at this as a reason young officers and NCOs are leaving the military in droves.

Having seen this unfold over the last 30 years and having read hyper inflated biographies and fitness reports of their exploits, it is no wonder that we have more Generals than we know what to do with. Staffs continue to get too heavy and over time each rank is diminished of its significance and impact.  It is kind of like IBM in camouflage uniforms.

Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, was the recipient of two medals of honor and is one of two Marines with that distinction. His famous retort that “…War is a racket…” rings true now more than ever. It’s easy to take volunteers and grind their asses into dust. They volunteered.

Perhaps if the current crop of Generals had fought a bit more and weren’t so politically correct, worried about acquisitions, and really cared about their young fighters, the Atlantic article would lionize their performance instead of punk them out.

[Note: this essay was written on October 28th]

November 11, 2012

Appreciation for aid against adversaries and in adversity

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on November 11, 2012

Since 9/11 a new generation of veterans has earned our thanks.   This year’s Presidential Proclamation for Veterans Day reads in part:

On days like this, we are called to reflect on immeasurable burdens that have been borne by so few. We pay tribute to our wounded, our missing, our fallen, and their families—men and women who have known the true costs of conflict and deserve our deepest respect, now and forever. We also remember that our commitments to those who have served are commitments we must honor not only on Veterans Day, but every day. As we do so, let us reaffirm our promise that when our troops finish their tours of duty, they come home to an America that gives them the benefits they have earned, the care they deserve, and the fullest opportunity to keep their families strong and our country moving forward.

In the last two weeks over 6000 troops of the New Jersey and New York National Guard have been involved in the response to Hurricane Sandy.   Federal military assets have also been deployed.  Here’s a quick overview of only a few NORTHCOM assignments:

  • Navy Expeditionary Combat Command units conducted an assessment at the Hoboken Ferry Terminal to determine the feasibility of increasing existing capabilities.
  • The Defense Logistics Agency delivered meals, fuel and disaster blankets. Over 1.5 million meals were delivered to West Virginia; 40,000 gallons of fuel were delivered to five Verizon sites in New Jersey and New York in order to assist in the effort to restore phone lines; and 150,000 disaster blankets were delivered to New York City.
  • U.S. Transportation Command, via Air Mobility Command provided C-5s and C-17s heavy airlift aircraft support to move 61 power restoration vehicles, associated equipment, non-medical personnel and cargo from Travis and March Air Force Bases, Cal., to Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York. U.S. Transportation Command also transported 63 utility vehicles and 132 passengers from Phoenix, Arizona to Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York.
  • Air Mobility Command moved 120 people into the New York City area that are a part of the Department of Health and Human Services Disaster Medical Assistance Teams. As part of that movement, the 305th Air Mobility Wing from McGuire Air Force, N.J., moved approximately 50 passengers on a C-17 from Columbus, Ohio, and the 436th Airlift Wing from Dover Air Force Base, Del., moved approximately 70 passengers from Dallas-Fort Worth, also on a C-17 to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
  • Another 15 power restoration vehicles, 1 helicopter and 32 operators were flown from McChord Air Force Base in Washington to Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York.
  • DOD has provided 100 high-volume water pumps (350 gallons per minute and greater) with qualified teams to support the operation and maintenance of the equipment.

In many Christian churches this is also the day set aside to remember Martin of Tours who — as a non-Christian soldier — is most often recalled for dividing his military cloak to share with a beggar in need, an act of particular charity and humility.  Later as a Bishop Martin persuaded Roman authorities to treat prisoners with dignity and defended heretics from capital punishment.

I do not have a militant personality.  But I honor the courage,  compassion, commitment, restraint and initiative of those who follow in Martin of Tours footsteps.

May 8, 2012

It’s Physics: Why Women Shouldn’t be Allowed to Fight with the Marine Corps Infantry

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Dan OConnor on May 8, 2012

This summer, for the first time in the Marine Corps’ 237-year history, women will be enrolled in the Officer Infantry Course, one of the most demanding training evolutions in the entire military. Women Marines now serve in a variety of combat support and combat service support roles splendidly, as they do in the Army, Navy and Air Force.

It should stay that way.

Not because men are superior to women, or because male Marines want to discriminate against female Marines. Marines are Marines. But men are different from women. And that difference, when exposed in combat will be deadly, not only for the fighting female Marine, but for her male and female counterparts.

The Infantry Officer Course (IOC) teaches Marine Officers to be better leaders and killers than their enemies. It’s where we build Marine Infantry skills to win our wars and lead our Marines. War is killing. Let that sink in. It is legal murder, encouraged, ordered and demanded. In order to be effective at it, proficiency must not only be gained, but practiced and perfected.

The Basic School is where all Marine Second Lieutenants go to become basically trained officers prior to their military occupational assignment. During one of their training exercises years ago, the evaluators “killed” a 6’1”, 195 lb. male Marine Officer. He was within prescribed height and weight standards, and in an excellent state of fitness. He was also 30 years old. The evaluator then assigned the only available Marine, a female officer to carry the “dead” officer from the training battle field. The female officer was within the “normal” or “average” range for size; she was 5’4” and 125-130 lb. She was in superior physical condition, was 23 years old, and had a perfect physical fitness score on her most recent test. Both were wearing typical combat loads of 65-80 lb. of gear.

What happened? The female could not lift the male Marine. She could barely move him. She removed her gear to improve her strength-to- weight ratio. She still was unable to manage the weight.

Then what happened?

In order to move the problem along, the evaluator “unkilled” the male and “killed” the female and reversed their roles. The male put back on all his combat gear. So did the female officer, both adding the additional weight. Even though the male was not in the same physical condition as his female peer, he bent over and scooped her up, gear and all, and carried her several hundred yards.

Years before the phrase entered the language, the evaluator engaged in what today is called “gender norming.”

Military gender norming is the practice of judging female military service members, applicants or recruits by less stringent standards than their male counterparts. Physical standards are lowered, modified, or just plain overlooked. Norming is all about fairness and equity. Norming metrics allow for “equal competition”.

But there’s nothing equal, normal or fair about war. Anyone who’s ever fought in one can tell you that.

Women Marines have every bit of integrity and are every bit as good and possibly better than their male counterparts in marksmanship, intellect, problem solving, managing stress, and leadership. But it’s for the same reason women don’t play in the NFL, NBA, NHL, or run marathons as fast as men, or bench-press 1,000+ pounds, nor will they ever be truly equal in combat.

The march of women’s rights simply cannot overpower the Laws of Physics. The average man is 5” taller and 50 lb. heavier than the average woman. Men have a lower body fat percentage than women, more lean body mass, and are anatomically different in terms of physical make up, angles of leverage, and skeletally. The physics favor the male species, not the female. Men create more force.

This is Newton’s second law of motion. Force is equal to mass times acceleration. Bigger things that go faster create more force. They always have and always will. There is no engineering feat or physics norming phenomena that can mitigate the capability of a male to lift more, jump higher, run faster, hit harder, and execute violence better than a woman. There is no formula to replicate the combination of force and aggression.

Combat is the most physically demanding, most mentally fatiguing, and most forceful violent interaction humans can perpetuate against one another. It is highly kinetic in nature; blunt force trauma if you will. And it’s final.

It follows, then, as sure as the laws of physics, that if women are introduced to Marine Combat Infantry Units the readiness and capability of those units will be denigrated. If women are not successful in completing the training, the uproar against the “sexist men’s club” and purposeful exclusion will rain down from the sky. In either case trust will be compromised, and trust is a vital element in successful combat.

Those who advocate that women and men are the same and can perpetuate physical brutality equally are far more abusive and anti-women than any group who advocates against putting females into this “opportunity”. There is nothing “Pro Woman” about making women second-class killers.

From a national security perspective, this latest experiment by the Marine Corps, conducted largely because of politics, will only damage and weaken our nation and our ‘Corps.

We have met the enemy, and it is us.

Dan O’Connor is a retired Marine officer with 22 years service.  These are his opinions.

February 28, 2012

Merge the Army National Guard and the United States Army Reserve

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Christopher Bellavita on February 28, 2012

Several years ago I came across a description of what homeland security looked like before our War for Independence:

[Early] settlers of the Thirteen colonies faced a variety of threats including Indians, Spaniards, Frenchmen, Hollanders and pirates. Lacking the resources to support fulltime soldiers, they met their defense needs with less costly militia. Twelve of thirteen colonies passed legislation requiring each adult male from 16 to 60 “…to own a modern weapon, train regularly with his neighbors, and stand ready to repel any attack on his colony.”

That’s where the National Guard came from:

The military organization we know today as the National Guard came into existence with a direct declaration on December 13, 1636. On this date, the Massachusetts General Court in Salem, for the first time in the history of the North American continent, established that all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to join the militia. The North, South, and East Regiments were established with this order. The decree excluded ministers and judges. Simply stated, citizen-soldiers who mustered for military training could be and would be called upon to fight when needed.

Laws often evolve from well-intentioned actions, yet sometimes prove themselves to be ineffective. Given such odds, how could this possibly work?

The United States Army Reserve is a comparative newcomer, “formed [on] 23 April 1908 to provide a reserve of medical officers to the Army.”

Today’s post was written by Major Shane Crofts. He argues it is time for the two forces to merge.

Major Crofts serves as the Logistics Management Officer for the Wyoming Army National Guard.  This essay reflects his opinions, and does not reflect Army National Guard or DOD policy.


My idea is to merge the Army National Guard (ARNG) and the United States Army Reserve (USAR) into one force.  In reality, this would mean integrating all USAR forces into the ARNG of the state the USAR resides.

There are so many similarities between these two Army reserve components that most outside observers don’t know the difference.  Both are trained, equipped, and organized the same way.  Each force consists of citizen-soldiers, employed full-time across all walks of life, who train periodically (typically one weekend/month and two weeks/year).

The only real difference is the authority creating the two forces.  USAR soldiers serve on Title X, under federal control at all times.  National Guard soldiers serve their Governors in Title 32 status, until mobilized for federal missions.

Army Reserve soldiers, many of them residing in the same communities as National Guard soldiers, normally don’t get mobilized for domestic missions — like disaster response — unless called upon for a national emergency by the President.  Conversely, National Guard soldiers can be immediately called upon by their respective Governors in a State Active Duty status for local emergencies.

Combining these forces would increase the number of military responders available for domestic missions by 70%.  In fact, after the initial turbulence of making the change I am suggesting, (which would be substantial), the efficiencies created by merging these forces would save taxpayer money, and greatly enhance our ability to respond to domestic emergencies, manmade or natural.

The National Guard traces its roots back to the Massachusetts militia formed in 1636.  As such, it is the oldest branch of our military.  National Guardsmen have participated in every campaign in America’s history. In addition to the distinguished overseas service of many National Guard units, guardsmen also serve a key role in Homeland Defense, and in domestic response to natural disasters and emergencies.  In this capacity National Guardsmen have been called upon to fight floods and forest fires, search for missing persons, perform counterdrug missions with local law enforcement, provide security at major events, and assist law enforcement with crowd control and riot response.

The National Guard consists of 355,000 soldiers located in more than 3,300 communities around the nation, and has more than 4,600 personnel deployed every day in support of domestic operations. As a force comprised of citizen-soldiers who live and work in the communities they serve in, Guardsmen routinely get called to support civilian authorities. This unique dual-role capability of supporting federal and state missions is the historical core competency of the NG.

The United States Army Reserve was established April 23, 1908 by Title 10 of the US code as a strategic reserve of the US Army.  As with the National Guard, the role of the USAR has been greatly enhanced since transitioning to an operational reserve after 9/11.

The USAR consists of more than 205,000 soldiers located in 1,100 Reserve Centers around the nation.  Close to 16,000 Army Reservists are deployed around the world, and almost 200,000 soldiers deployed since 9/11.

A 1993 agreement left the USAR with combat support units, and the NG with combat arms units, and a dual focus of wartime and domestic support. The core competency of the USAR is providing support units to the Army for federal mobilization, and its units include: theatre support, civil affairs, engineering, training divisions, and chemical and biological detection companies. It has more than two-thirds of the Army’s medical brigades, civil affair units, dental units, combat support hospitals; and nearly half of the Army’s Military Police, medical and supply units.  Many of these support units are considered critical dual use units identified by the National Guard Bureau as essential to every state to support state missions.  In fact, every one of National Guard Bureau’s “Essential 10” capabilities resides in the USAR.

This proposal offers substantial benefits to the Army National Guard.  Force structure brings resources, and the ARNG would stand to increase its presence in every state.  The ARNG would presumably absorb the Army Reserve’s budget ($8.1 Billion in 2011), and take control of its 6 installations and 1,100 Reserve Centers.  In addition, the ARNG would be the beneficiary of 16 operational commands, and 6 training commands, most of them commanded by two-star Generals. While current commanders will likely remain in place, these highly-sought after commands would enhance career opportunities for NG officers in the states in which they reside.

This idea will be unpopular to some people.  The US Army Reserve has struggled to maintain relevance since the elevation of the Chief of National Guard Bureau to a four-star General three years ago. A recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) gave the Chief of the NGB full membership in the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).  The US Army Reserve remains subordinate to the Army Chief of Staff.

The USAR has reorganized several times since 9/11 to reduce “overhead”, and has been reduced to a few two-star billets. The National Guard consists of 54 State Adjutant Generals, fully supported and resourced by 54 Governors and Congressional delegations from each state and territory.

The Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve, commanded by a 3-star General, and consisting of five General Officer positions, and eight Regional Support Commands, commanded by a two-star General would be rendered obsolete as peacetime headquarters whose functions would be assumed by the Joint Forces headquarters in the gaining states.  Reducing headquarters and peacetime “overhead” will create efficiencies, ultimately providing cost savings.

The Army also will likely oppose this concept.  National Guard soldiers are somewhat less accessible as a strategic reserve, since a Governor can theoretically reject federal mobilization of his/her NG forces.  In light of proposed budget and manpower cuts across the Army (up to 90,000 active duty soldiers proposed), the idea I am proposing in this essay should be considered.

While virtually transparent to the two organizations’ civilian “customers,” the internal transition could be painful across the board.  There will be impacts on manning, equipping, funding, facilities, and training.  Lifecycle management would be extremely important as headquarters and senior level positions are eliminated, and support personnel working in those headquarters transition to NG headquarters.

The two services wear identical uniforms, yet speak different languages, and have entirely different cultures.  The change I am proposing would need to be carefully planned and phased over 3-5 years, modeled after a corporate merger, with the idea of gaining efficiencies, but without the hostility of a takeover.

An extensive awareness campaign for all stakeholders is key, primarily focused on US Army Reserve soldiers to ensure they view the change as a positive opportunity rather than a negative reorganization.  It is also critically important to retain the historical lineage and honors of Army Reserve units.

Ideally, all USAR soldiers will be retained, and have increased career opportunities, while also greatly increasing the number and distribution of military first responders available to a Governor faced with a disaster.  In a constrained budget environment, the Department of the Army must look to create efficiencies by eliminating duplicative recruiting, training, mobilization, overhead, and facilities.  A successful merger will be measured by initial attrition and retention rates, command climate surveys, and success with recruiting goals.  Ultimately cost savings and increased readiness will be achieved.

Considering the costs associated with a large standing Army, a strong reserve component is more important than ever.  National Guardsmen and Reservists have contributed to every war our nation has ever been involved in, and are also a critical piece of the Homeland Security enterprise.  This merger is an idea that has been suggested and dismissed before.  But as we transition to a post-war environment, and face diminished resources, we should again consider the merging of the US Army Reserve and the Army National Guard.  It’s the right thing to do for national and homeland security, and it’s the right thing to do for our most important resource, our nation’s young citizen-soldiers.



January 5, 2012

Defense strategy and homeland security

Earlier today the President signed out and the Secretary of Defense released new strategic guidance for the Department of Defense. Following are my quick-takes on those aspects of the document  most closely related to homeland security.

Page 1:

The demise of Osama bin Laden and the capturing or killing of many other senior al-Qa?’ida  leaders have rendered the group far less capable. However, al-Qa?’ida and its affiliates remain active in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. More broadly,violent extremists will continue to threaten U.S. interests, allies, partners, and the homeland.The primary loci of these threats are South Asia and the Middle East. With the diffusion of destructive technology, these extremists have the potential to pose catastrophic threats thatcould directly affect our security and prosperity. For the foreseeable future, the UnitedStates will continue to take an active approach to countering these threats by monitoring theactivities of non-state threats worldwide, working with allies and partners to establishcontrol over ungoverned territories, and directly striking the most dangerous groups and individuals when necessary.

Page 2:

In the Middle East, the Arab Awakening presents both strategic opportunities and challenges. Regime changes, as well as tensions within and among states under pressure toreform, introduce uncertainty for the future. But they also may result in governments that,over the long term, are more responsive to the legitimate aspirations of their people, and aremore stable and reliable partners of the United States.Our defense efforts in the Middle East will be aimed at countering violent extremists anddestabilizing threats, as well as upholding our commitment to allies and partner states.

Page 3:

To enable economic growth and commerce, America, working in conjunction with allies and partners around the world, will seek to protect freedom of access throughout the globalcommons ?– those areas beyond national jurisdiction that constitute the vital connective tissue of the international system. Global security and prosperity are increasingly dependent on the free flow of goods shipped by air or sea. State and non-state actors pose potential threats to access in the global commons, whether through opposition to existing norms orother anti-access approaches. Both state and non-state actors possess the capability and intent to conduct cyber espionage and, potentially, cyber attacks on the United States, with possible severe effects on both our military operations and our homeland. Growth in the number of space-faring nations is also leading to an increasingly congested and contested space environment, threatening safety and security. The United States will continue to lead global efforts with capable allies and partners to assure access to and use of the global commons, both by strengthening international norms of responsible behavior and by maintaining relevant and interoperable military capabilities.

Page 4:

Acting in concert with other means of national power, U.S. military forces must continue to hold al-Qa?’ida and its affiliates and adherents under constant pressure, wherever they may be. Achieving our core goal of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qa?’ida and preventing Afghanistan from everbeing a safe haven again will be central to this effort. As U.S. forces draw down in Afghanistan, our global counter terrorism efforts will become more widely distributedand will be characterized by a mix of direct action and security force assistance. Reflecting lessons learned of the past decade, we will continue to build and sustain tailored capabilities appropriate for counter terrorism and irregular warfare. We will also remain vigilant to threats posed by other designated terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah.

Page 5:

Accordingly, DoD will continue to work with domestic and international allies and partners and invest in advanced capabilities to defend its networks, operational capability, and resiliency in cyberspace and space….

U.S. forces willcontinue to defend U.S. territory from direct attack by state and non-state actors. We willalso come to the assistance of domestic civil authorities in the event such defense fails or in case of natural disasters, potentially in response to a very significant or even catastrophic event. Homeland defense and support to civil authorities require strong,steady?–state force readiness, to include a robust missile defense capability. Threats to the homeland may be highest when U.S. forces are engaged in conflict with an adversary abroad.

Page 6:

The nation has frequently called upon its Armed Forces to respond to a range of situations that threaten the safety and well-being of its citizens and those of other countries. U.S. forces possess rapidly deployable capabilities, including airlift and sealift, surveillance, medical evacuation and care, and communications that can be invaluable in supplementing lead relief agencies, by extending aid to victims of natural or man-made disasters, both at home and abroad. DoD will continue to develop joint doctrine and military response options to prevent and, if necessary, respond to mass atrocities. U.S. forces will also remain capable of conducting non-combatant evacuation operations for American citizens overseas on an emergency basis.

You may see more.   The document includes considerable attention to WMD and cyber threats not excerpted above.

May 4, 2011

Opening But Not Ending

I must admit that like most of you (I assume) the news that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden and recovered his body from a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan came as a bit of a surprise. But my surprise at that fact pales in comparison to my impressions arising from the openness displayed by the administration in discussing details of the operation and its implications on future policy options.

Much of what needs to be said about the skill and courage of the President and those who conceived and carried out the mission has been said many times over in the past few days. How salient is it, however, that we can acknowledge and discuss the basis for our opinions about the performance of these individuals rather than relying solely on our predispositions to trust the opinions of others? In light of the consequences of public opinion on ongoing support for operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, it strikes me a particularly important that people not only can reach conclusions of their own about these actions, but also that they seem to be doing so without any particular help from the punditocracy. (This, of course, in no way deterred the talking heads from babbling, often incoherently, about the whole affair. Despite substantiation of leaks about the subject of the President’s remarks, their distracting dialectic diminished in quality as the interval between the scheduled start of President Obama’s address and his actual appearance became increasingly delayed.)

The policy environment surrounding national defense and homeland security are filled with discontinuities and uncertainty despite bin Laden’s demise. How will we end our involvement in Afghanistan? Will the government of Iraq to extend agreements for the U.S. military to continue advice and support arrangements? How will the administration and Congress resolve their pitched political differences over fiscal restraint and debt reduction without undermining our ability to meet commitments here and abroad?

Notwithstanding the release of some erroneous information that has required correction and elaboration today, the administration seems to have done itself (and us) a huge favor by making as clear as possible the basis of its assessment that al-Qaeda and its affiliates remain a threat to the U.S. and its interests. They have also made it clear that lessons about cooperation and information sharing have been learned. And perhaps most important of all, they have demonstrated the potency of patience, confidence, determination and resolve when exercised in the right proportions.

These lessons reinforce one last point: The success of this operation was not so much the product of superior technology or the investments of vast sums of money (although both undoubtedly helped ensure the careful and skillful execution of this mission), but rather the diligent and precise application of human and social skills in gathering, processing and acting on intelligence, which included precise and scrupulous attention to the most minute details.

Much more of this story remains yet to be told. But this should not hinder our understanding of the extraordinary efforts that led to this achievement nor discourage us from continuing the work required to protect our country and others affected by the threat of violent extremism.

July 8, 2010

Holistic national security: Transforming belief into reality

In the opening days of his administration, President Obama wrote, “I believe that Homeland Security is indistinguishable from National Security — conceptually and functionally, they should be thought of together rather than separately.  Instead of separating these issues, we must create an integrated, effective, and efficient approach to enhance the national security of the United States.” (See: Presidential Study Directive 1)

I testified against this proposition before the House Homeland Security Committee.  I continue to have conceptual and functional reservations.  But today I will embrace the President’s belief and offer a prescription for improving integration, effectiveness, and efficiency.

For this purpose, greater energy and attention  should be given to a specific recommendation of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.  From page 71 of the QHSR:

Build a homeland security professional discipline: Develop the homeland security community of interest at all levels of government as part of a cadre of national security professionals. A well-documented need within the national security community is a professional development program that fosters a stable and diverse community of professionals with the proper balance of relevant skills, attributes, experiences, and comprehensive knowledge. Executive Order 13434, “National Security Professional Development,” initiated a program for developing interagency national security professionals through access to an integrated framework of training, education, and professional experience opportunities. We must work together with our national security partners in bringing that important idea to fruition. As part of that effort, we must take steps to create a homeland security community of interest across the enterprise. Three elements of professional development are education, training, and experience via developmental assignments. State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, DHS and other Federal agencies, and academic institutions have taken important steps to build programs to support these key areas and will continue to emphasize enterprise-wide approaches to enhancing homeland security professional development.

The National Security Professional Development (NSPD) program established under Executive Order 13434 (May 17, 2007) has, to date, been implemented with a bureaucratic minimalism that  has done nothing to enhance capability or capacity in either National Security or Homeland Security, much less for the Platonic form in which these security shadows become an indistinguishable whole.

Today (and for most of the last seventy years) there are various orders of a national security priesthood.  The combination of rigorous education, apprenticeship, mentoring, and field experience required for ordination is reminiscent of the Jesuits at high tide.   There is also competition — sometimes friendly, sometimes not — between the national security analogs of Jesuits, Benedictines, and Franciscans spanning the military, diplomacy, intelligence, and related.

Into this mix the so-called homeland security professions — law enforcement, fire, emergency management, public health, and more — arrive like so many fancy-dressed laity. We are Knights of Columbus who the priestly orders tolerate, encourage, or dismiss depending on personal taste or particular need.

EO 13434 and PSD-1 and the QHSR seem to say that priests and laity should learn together and collaborate toward the same purpose.   If the NSPD  program was undertaken earnestly and mindfully over the next thirty years then, perhaps, the President’s vision could be achieved.   Such is not the case today, to our detriment.

July 3, 2010

Anchors away – or not – in the Gulf?

Filed under: Homeland Defense,Legal Issues,Organizational Issues — by Philip J. Palin on July 3, 2010

On the eve of Independence Day — on one of the most beautiful afternoons of the year so far — long-time contributor William R. Cumming has raised an intriguing issue regarding an instruction released by President Obama. 

The issue was a particular concern of the Founders and deserves our continued vigilence.  I happen to disagree with Bill’s interpretation, but I cannot claim the President’s language or intent is altogether clear.  So we begin with the President’s words and then continue to Bill’s and my own. 

The White House

 June 30, 2010

Memorandum from the President on the Long-Term Gulf Coast Restoration Support Plan

SUBJECT: Long-Term Gulf Coast Restoration Support Plan

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to an area that has already suffered significant hardship. In addition to fighting the spill, conducting environmental cleanup, and ensuring such a crisis does not happen again, we must help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy. A long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region is therefore necessary.

As I announced on June 15, 2010, and pursuant to the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I assign to the Secretary of the Navy (Secretary) the responsibility to lead the effort to create a plan of Federal support for the long-term economic and environmental restoration of the Gulf Coast region, in coordination with States, local communities, tribes, people whose livelihoods depend on the Gulf, businesses, conservationists, scientists, and other entities and persons as he deems necessary. In addition to working with these stakeholders, the Secretary shall coordinate, as appropriate, with the heads of executive departments and agencies, as well as offices within the Executive Office of the President (collectively, executive branch components).

Specifically, I direct the following:

Section 1. As soon as possible, the Secretary shall develop a Gulf Coast Restoration Support Plan (Plan), based on the following principles:

(a) The Plan shall provide a comprehensive assessment of post-spill needs, as well as a proposal for Federal assistance in the overall recovery of the region.

(b) The purpose of the Plan shall be to develop an approach that will ensure economic recovery, community planning, science-based restoration of the ecosystem and environment, public health and safety efforts, and support of individuals and businesses who suffered losses due to the spill.

(c) The Plan shall take into account resources already available to respond to the oil spill, and complement the on-going oil spill response efforts. The Secretary will also coordinate, as needed, with the State, Federal, and tribal trustees who have responsibility for directing the natural resource damage planning process under the Oil Pollution Act and other applicable law.

(d) The Plan shall identify long- and short-term objectives and, where applicable, how the achievement of these objectives will be measured.

Sec. 2. (a) This assignment is prescribed as an additional responsibility of the Secretary in accordance with section 5013 of title 10, United States Code. This additional responsibility may not be delegated under section 5013(f) of title 10, United States Code. (b) To assist in accomplishing the directive in section 1 of this memorandum, executive branch components shall make available information and other resources, including personnel, deemed by the Secretary to be necessary for development of the Plan.

Sec. 3. (a) Executive branch components shall carry out the provisions of this memorandum to the extent permitted by law, subject to the availability of appropriations, and consistent with their statutory and regulatory authorities and their enforcement mechanisms.

 (b) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect: (i) authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or (ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person. Nothing in this memorandum shall relieve or otherwise affect the obligations of any responsible party under the Oil Pollution Act or other applicable law.

Sec. 4. The Secretary is hereby authorized to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.



Commenting on a prior post Mr. Cumming wrote:

Yes and the oldest and richest democracy (Republic) has now celebrated July 4th by putting the US Navy in charge of long term recovery in the Gulf of Mexico. The militarization of US domestic policy continues apace just as in foreign policy and relations. Salute that flag!

To which I replied:

Bill, Where did you see the US Navy assignment? I know about Secretary Mabus’ assignment. But I have perceived that as separate from his SecNav role — and much more connected to his background as a former Governor of Mississippi. If that’s wrong, want to know more.

Mr. Cumming responded:

Presidential proclamation published in Tuesday’s Federal Register. Sent it to you and will send again. John Paul Jones to the rescue!

To which I responded:

Bill, thanks for resending the reference. For the benefit of other readers a web version is available at:

As you know, I share your concern regarding militarization of government operations. As such, it is certainly appropriate to raise the concern in this case.

I would offer, however, that based on the (little) I know and my own reading of the President’s memorandum, I understand that Secretary Mabus is, essentially, being seconded from his current role as SecNav to a leadership position for both the National Security Staff and Domestic Policy Staff.

This is my reading of the intent of the following:

In addition to working with these stakeholders, the Secretary shall coordinate, as appropriate, with the heads of executive departments and agencies, as well as offices within the Executive Office of the President(collectively,executive branch components).

The reference to Executive Office of the President includes both NSS and DPS, especially a well-established recovery working group spanning the two EOP functions.

I agree the situation is ambiguous. I bet there will be some SecNav staff involved. And this is another example of an increasing tendency for us to turn to military resources (active or retired) for commmand and operational competence. It is a worrisome trend.

Mr. Cumming respectfully disagreed:

Having read thousands of these memos it looks like a formal delegation of authority to me. See 3 USC Section 301. By passes SECDEF and others. But hey Phil you could be right and only a designation.

As always I could be wrong but a designation names a person while a delegation names a postion. Basic black letter ADMINISTRATIVE LAW.

I guess this WH knows the difference and did what they wanted to do (accomplish)! Even though Roy Mabus is former governor in a Gulf Coast state I could name perhaps a 100 others better qualified to save the states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and TEXAS. In fact why not George W. Bush, tan, rested and ready? Give him a chance to redeem his Katrina castrophic efforts! This is not a joke. At least he is not eligible for re-election [but of course Jeb is also tan, rested and waiting his turn)! Hey this is a bipartisan or non-partisan response effort correct?

To which I offered a sort of rebuttal:

I will further note that Title 10 USC, section 5013 (f) as referenced in the President’s memorandum reads:

The Secretary of the Navy may assign such of his functions, powers, and duties as he considers appropriate to the Under Secretary of the Navy and to the Assistant Secretaries of the Navy. Officers of the Navy and the Marine Corps shall, as directed by the Secretary, report on any matter to the Secretary, the Under Secretary, or any Assistant Secretary.

The President’s memorandum explicitly excludes delegation under paragraph 5013 (f), which — at least in my reading — is the White House effort to give the former Governor, who happens to be SecNav, an additional duty, but to avoid militarizing the additional duty.

I wonder if there might not have been a less ambiguous way of accomplishing the same thing, but there seems to me a pretty clear and appropriate effort to focus this additional role outside the Department of the Navy.


Before retirement Bill Cumming was a long-time lawyer with the US government.  I am neither a lawyer nor an experienced government official. If you have further insights — or suggestions — please add your comments.

January 19, 2010

The Fort Hood Shooting: Lessons About Vigilance in Homeland Defense and Homeland Security

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Homeland Defense — by Christopher Bellavita on January 19, 2010

On Friday (January 15), the Department of Defense released Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood

The people in and around Ft. Hood responded to the November 5, 2009 shooting about as perfectly as one could hope.

Four minutes and twenty seconds after the first 911 call, “the assailant was incapacitated.”  Two minutes and fifty seconds later “two ambulances and an incident command vehicle … arrived on the scene….”

But still, 13 people were killed; 43 wounded or injured.

The Report is a painfully somber reminder that freedom’s price remains eternal vigilance.

For most of the past 20 years, the authors note, “our forces have been engaged in continuous combat operations.”

Eternal vigilance does not mean simply staying alert.  It also means as good as we get, it’s never going to be perfect.  There will always be surprise.

Freedom demands a vigilance that knows it will be surprised.
Here are some excerpts (with my headings) from the Report.  It is a well written and comprehensive — within its charter – document.  But sadly for many people in homeland defense and homeland security, it is not the first time such a report has been written.

The Report’s uniqueness may be found mostly in lessons that possibly are new to the DoD, but that are disquietingly — even banally — familiar to civilians in the  homeland security realm.

DoD force protection policies are not optimized for countering internal threats. These policies reflect insufficient knowledge and awareness of the factors required to help identify and address individuals likely to commit violence.  This is a key deficiency.

The time has passed when bureaucratic concerns by specific entities over protecting “their” information can be allowed to prevent relevant threat information and indicators from reaching those who need it—the commanders. In this rapidly changing security environment throughout our government, the Department of Defense can exercise its role to set the bar higher to establish a new force protection culture, with new standards and procedures for sharing information, to recognize and defeat evolving external and internal threats.

While leaders at Fort Hood responded well under the stress of a rapidly evolving crisis, we are fortunate that we faced only one incident at one location. We cannot assume that this will remain the case in the future. Our command and control systems must have the right architecture, connectivity, portability, and flexibility to enable commanders to cope with near-simultaneous incidents at multiple locations. …. Considering the requirements for dealing with multiple, near-simultaneous incidents similar to Fort Hood, a review of the Unified Command Plan may be in order.

During the initial stages of the attack at Fort Hood, commanders and first responders, unsure of the nature of the threat, and in an effort to maximize their security posture, set and maintained Force Protection Condition Delta. There were apparently no indications that the rest of CONUS DoD force was immediately notified of the event; most installations and units first found out about the event through the news media. This was a single event, but had it been the first in a series of coordinated, near simultaneous attacks, most other DoD installations and facilities would not have been properly postured for an attack. The timely sharing of incident information could have served to alert other forces within the Area of Responsibility to take the prepare-and-defend actions necessary to harden themselves before a near simultaneous attack comes to them.

[Compare this with complaints from some pilots in the air during the December 25th attack on NW 253 that the first time they heard of the incident was on the ground when they turned on CNN — e.g.,  Pilot furious at U.S. for silence on bomb ]

A Common Operational Picture is “a single identical display of relevant information shared by more than one command.”…. A Common Operational Picture provides a standardized, continuously updated, multiple-user capability to produce reports, mapping, imagery, and real time information sharing between multiple subscribers.  Information sharing and establishing a Common Operational Picture is vital to coordinating efforts of multiple emergency response agencies’ and facilitates’ collaborative planning at all echelons to achieve situational awareness…. Services have not widely deployed or integrated a Common Operational Picture capability into installation Emergency Operations Centers….

In 2009, the Department directed the Services to be in compliance with the Federal framework for emergency response by 2014. Compliance with this guidance will enhance the ability of the Department’s installation and facility emergency personnel to work with first responders from Federal, State, and local jurisdictions to save lives and protect property….  The Department of Defense guidance was promulgated in part to align the Department with national response policies and establish the Installation Emergency Management program.  The Installation Emergency Management program directs the Services to adopt the National Incident Management System, which Federal, State, and local agencies have already adopted. ….  Currently all 50 states have complied with the Federal requirements.

This event shows us, too, that there are no safe havens—for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, their co-workers and their families. The challenge for the Department of Defense is to prepare more effectively for a constantly changing security environment.

Synchronize the Continental United States (CONUS)-based DoD emergency management program with the national emergency management framework. Our installations must have a common operating system that allows commanders to access real-time threat information, respond rapidly to changing force protection conditions, and begin response and recovery operations in near real time.  This is an aggressive goal, but it matches the goals and character of future enemies.

Act immediately with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to enhance the operation of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces. To protect the force, our leaders need immediate access to information pertaining to Service members indicating contacts, connections, or relationships with organizations promoting violence.  One additional step may be to increase Service representation on the Joint Terrorism Task Forces….  eGuardian is the only Suspicious Activity Reporting system that communicates directly with the FBI’s JTTFs, and if adopted by the Department of Defense would allow designated DoD law enforcement assets access to receive and input suspicious activity. This would also provide an additional method by which threat information would flow from the Department of Defense to the FBI, in situations where the Department of Justice has an investigative interest. Adoption of eGuardian is currently the recommended solution being proposed by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense for the Department of Defense.

In the Fort Hood incident, the alleged perpetrator held an active and current SECRET security clearance based on a February 2008 National Agency Check, with Local Agency and Credit Check of background investigation. Although accomplished in accordance with current guidelines, this background investigation did not include a subject interview or interviews with co-workers, supervisors, or expanded character references.  We believe that if a more thorough investigation had been accomplished, his security clearance may have been revoked and his continued service and pending deployment would have been subject to increased scrutiny.

The evolving security threat increasingly involves information exchanges using the Internet.   There are numerous DoD and interagency organizations and offices involved in defense cyber activities.  The Department of Defense does not have a comprehensive and coordinated policy for counterintelligence activities in cyberspace.

We especially note that as a result of the Force Protection Condition imposed by Fort Hood leadership during the crisis, a number of young school children remained closeted in their classrooms for a significant period.  Our recommendation is that those responsible for them at school (e. g. , teachers, administrative personnel) receive additional training to anticipate the special needs that could arise during a period of lengthy lockdown.

Our examination underscored that the Chaplain Corps has a great deal to offer in a mass casualty situation. Responding to mass casualty events requires more than the traditional first responder disciplines such as police, fire, and medical professionals. Comprehensive religious support that anticipates mass casualty incidents should be incorporated into installation emergency management plans and exercises.

… reinforce the fabric of trust with one another by engaging, supervising, mentoring, counseling, and simple everyday expressions of concern on a daily and continuous basis… We must be alert to the mental, emotional, and spiritual balance of Service members, colleagues, and civilian coworkers, and respond when they appear at risk.


One of the more interesting appendices in the Report was a literature review briefly summarizing the last 10 years of research on workplace violence — which is one mundane way to look at the November 5 event:

Each year, more than one million people in the U.S. are harmed by workplace violence, and an estimated 17,000 take their own lives in their place of employment.  The portrait of the “disgruntled” employee who “goes postal” and kills a supervisor does not encompass the full array of workplace homicides: customers, clients, peers, and superiors are also responsible. The rates of workplace violence in the U.S. Postal Service are actually lower than in the general workforce, so that organization, despite the popular phrase, does not provide a “worst case” for study.

The Report includes something else I had not read before:

Although domestic terrorism is far more common than international terrorism,[ my emphasis] research on terrorism focuses on the latter.  Motivations for domestic terrorism are diverse, and include animal rights, environmentalism, nationalism, white supremacy, religious causes, and right-wing politics. Overall, acts of domestic terrorism tend to occur in large urban areas and target the police and military forces.

The Report recommends the DoD become more aware of civilian law enforcement’s active shooter tactics.  One footnote recommends a Department of  Homeland Security “booklet” on active shooter response (available here, thanks to the Missouri Office of Homeland Security).

I don’t know how or why the Department of Homeland Security, the National Tactical Officers Association, the Fairfax County Police, the National Retail Federation, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association got together to produce what I thought was a very informative (for the uninformed like me) booklet.

But who cares.

Eternal vigilance means sometimes you have to get into someone else’s lane.

September 15, 2009

The Rubicon once seemed so far away

Filed under: Homeland Defense,State and Local HLS,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on September 15, 2009

Six powerful Congressmen and Senators of both major parties request a GAO study of  NORTHCOM’s “coordination when exercising in collaboration with the very State, local, and tribal governments that the Command was created to support.”  Then the study’s results are published on the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Might we discern an agenda?

Following are three GAO findings.  Each is a quote, but I have pulled the quote out of a longer narrative.  I then add a personal comment in italics. (You can see the original report courtesy of the House Homeland Security website.)

Thus sayeth GAO, “One of DOD’s challenges is adapting its exercise system and practices to accommodate the coordination and involvement of other federal, state, local, and tribal agencies that do not have the same kinds of practices or level of planning effort.”

Most other jurisdictions or agencies don’t have money or trained staff to effectively hold their own with NORTHCOM’s exercise development capacity.  The financial ratio is hundreds-to-one, the NORTHCOM staff advantage might be close to the same.

Thus sayeth GAO, “NORTHCOM also faces the challenge of balancing its training objectives with those of state agencies and organizations, particularly given the limited resources and funding states have available to exercise. While state and local governments seek to exercise their first responder capabilities before having their resources overwhelmed and needing to seek federal assistance, NORTHCOM’s goal is to exercise its capability to provide support to civil authorities when local, state, and other federal resources are overwhelmed. As a result of this challenge, officials from 5 states told us that all of their needs were not fully met during the exercises, for example, due to large-scale, unrealistic scenarios that overwhelmed the states’ resources before they had the opportunity to exercise their training objectives.”

This reality, which the language above makes clear enough, has a troublesome follow-on implication. Law, doctrine, and DOD training emphasize defense support for civil authority.  But because DOD exercises simulate the essential collapse of state and local civil authority, it is more accurate to say exercises are aimed at restoring civil authority.  The more difficult and helpful exercise would be to simulate disasters where federal military assets are deployed at the request of the Governor(s) and where local and state authority remains partially — even unpredictably — intact.  This will exercise unity of effort in a manner that will challenge the military chain of command to more effectively adapt to the tactical, operational, political, and constitutional realities of domestic service.

Thus sayeth GAO, “Inconsistencies with how NORTHCOM involves states in planning, conducting, and assessing exercises are occurring in part because NORTHCOM officials lack experience in dealing with the differing emergency management structures, capabilities, and needs of the states. Inconsistencies are also occurring because NORTHCOM has not established a process for including states in exercises, such as consistent procedures for requesting state involvement in exercises through DHS/FEMA or the National Guard Bureau. Without an informed and consistent process, NORTHCOM increases the risk that its exercises will not provide benefits for all participants, impacting the seamless exercise of all levels of government and potentially affecting NORTHCOM’s ability to provide support to civil authorities.”

Well, yes… but GAO’s language is so careful, it is potentially misleading.  It is reasonable to wonder if AFRICOM might show greater restraint and do more to involve and upgrade local capacity than does NORTHCOM. There is a passive aggressive aspect to NORTHCOM that reflects unresolved issues — urgently needing resolution — of having a fully functioning Combatant Command “responsible” for the United States.  Better processes are certainly needed, but the issues go much deeper.  NORTHCOM was created quickly, spontaneously emerging from the forehead of Rumsfeld, so to speak.  There is a Combatant Command clubhouse in which careerists at Colorado Springs will naturally want to play.  No disrespect need be implied by insisting NORTHCOM should not be part of that clubhouse.

Full disclosure: Until my semi-retirement in June 2008 I worked closely with a NORTHCOM function related to training and exercising.  Every person with whom I worked recognized the  problems outlined above — though they may be uncomfortable with the language I use.  They actively invited more involvement of state, local, and tribal authorities.  They welcomed the initiative of such authorities.  They were ready to adjust exercise designs and training regimes to involve more locals and more non-military federal personnel.

But it was like an NFL team welcoming the local high school team to play with them.  The prep team might initially be excited by the prospect.  But the match-up would usually be so uneven as to be dangerous… for all involved.

Strategically and operationally — but most especially constitutionally — this is an issue that requires (among other measures) long-term, very significant upgrades to state, local, and tribal capacity in training, educating, and exercising.

(The headline references the Rubicon River.  Ancient Roman law forbade any Legion to cross the river, roughly 200 miles north of Rome, without specific permission of the Senate.   The law was designed to minimize the Republic’s risk of internal military mischief.  The Rubicon was famously crossed by Julius Caesar and his Gallic Legions in 49 BC, leading to the demise of the Republic.)

August 22, 2009

Jim and Joe write Carl and John

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on August 22, 2009

There is another letter circulating related to Assistant Secretary Stockton’s proposal to put in place a legal basis for federal activation of reserves for disaster response.  See related prior posts here and here.

Below the NGA gives further attention to activating the Council of Governors established by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.

See related coverage by Roxana Tiron in The Hill and Megan Scully at govexec.com.


August 20, 2009

The Honorable Carl Levin
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable John McCain
Ranking Member
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Levin and Ranking Member McCain:

The nation’s governors oppose efforts to provide the Secretary of Defense with expanded authorities to assist in the response to domestic disasters as part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Governors remain concerned regarding proposed changes to the military’s authority to engage independently in domestic emergency response situations. We strongly believe the consideration of any such proposals should be preceded by a discussion regarding the tactical control of forces serving inside a state during a disaster response.

It is our understanding that the Department of Defense (DoD) has asked Congress to grant the Secretary of Defense the authority to order Reserve forces to active duty to assist in disaster response as part of the NDAA conference agreement for Fiscal Year 2010. As you know, a similar provision was included in last year’s House version of the NDAA, but was removed in conference because of governors’ concerns. In the Joint Explanatory Statement that accompanied the bill, Congress made clear that DoD should engage governors to address their concerns before moving the proposal forward:

“The Department of Defense should engage with the community of governors to work out an understanding of unity of effort during domestic terrorist events and public emergencies. This key underlying issue must be addressed to allow this and other promising proposals to be enacted.”

Recent outreach by officials at DoD to correspond with governors regarding their proposal is not sufficient to engender governors’ support or justify moving ahead with the proposal at this time. As set forth in the attached letter we sent recently to Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, governors welcome the opportunity to work with DoD to discuss unity of effort and tactical control during disasters and to identify legislative and operational opportunities to improve our response to such events. These discussions, however, should not be done hastily and should be designed to address concerns and forge understanding between governors and the department.

Fortunately Congress created the appropriate forum for discussing this issue when it called for the creation of the Council of Governors as part of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2008. We’ve encouraged DoD and the Administration to establish the Council of Governors to facilitate consultation and coordination between the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and governors on issues critical to homeland defense and emergency response. Your support in ensuring the Council of Governors is quickly established would help facilitate the dialog that must take place before any legislation regarding these issues moves forward.


Governor James H. Douglas
Governor Joe Manchin III
Vice Chair

The Honorable Ike Skelton, Chairman, House Armed Services Committee
The Honorable Buck McKeon, Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee

August 17, 2009

The Epistle of Paul to the Governors (updated)

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Philip J. Palin on August 17, 2009

Last week’s late Thursday post on the National Governors’ Association response to a DOD proposal generated more readers than any post since I joined HLSWatch.    But it was a post about the NGA response to a proposal not seen, at least not seen here.

The NGA response was — predictably — less-than-enthusiastic.  Here’s the proposed legislative language being offered by DoD:

(1) IN GENERAL.-Chapter 1209 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 12304 the following new section:
Ҥ 12304a. Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Air Force Reserve: order to active duty to provide assistance in response to a major disaster or emergency
“(a) AUTHORITY.-Notwithstanding any other provision of law, to provide assistance in responding to a major disaster or emergency (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122)), the Secretary of Defense may, without the consent of the member affected, order any unit, and any member not assigned to a unit organized to serve as a unit, of the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Air Force Reserve, under the jurisdiction of that Secretary to active duty for a continuous period of not more than 120 days.
“(b) EXCLUSION FROM STRENGTH LIMITATIONS.-Members ordered to active duty under this section shall not be counted in computing authorized strength of members on active duty or members in grade under this title or any other law.
“(c) TERMINATION OF DUTY.-Whenever any unit or member of the Reserves is ordered to active duty under this section, the service of all units or members so ordered to active duty may be terminated by order of the Secretary of Defense or law.”
(2) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.-The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 12304 the following new item:
“12304a. Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air Force Reserve: order to active duty to provide assistance in response to a major disaster or emergency.”.
(b) TREATMENT OF OPERATIONS AS CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS.-Section 101(a)(13)(B) of such title is amended by inserting “12304a,” after “12304,”.

Further, at the close of this post  is the late July letter of Paul N. Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs) to the NGA chairman regarding the proposed legislative language. 

Through a staff colleague, Dr. Stockton has also passed along this further response:

Philip J. Palin’s August 13, 2009 article “Govs to DoD: Thanks, but no
thanks” was a great overview of the debate on the Department of Defense legislative proposal that seeks the authority to order Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force Reserves to active duty to assist in responses  to major disasters and emergencies in the United States.  I would like to emphasize that our proposal does not seek to usurp the authorities of Governors but rather ensure the federal government is able to respond with ALL available and appropriate resources when requested by a state.   As AP reporter Lolita Baldor aptly wrote, “California officials grew irate when they saw helicopters sitting idle at Camp Pendleton as fires raged through the countryside.”  While the Pentagon was able to direct active duty Marine helicopter units to respond to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request for aid, (DoD) could not order the nearby Marine Corps Reserve units to do the same.  If passed, our legislative proposal will ensure that our Nation is able to access and utilize all of our capabilities during a disaster to include those in the military reserves, when requested by a Governor.

Tracking the surge of new readers on Friday and Saturday it is pretty clear that many readers of last week’s post are concerned about an incremental acquisition of power by the central government producing a slippery slope to tyranny.   As Dr. Stockton’s comments suggest, this concern is in tension with taking prudent steps to ensure a constitutional and effective federal response to a catastrophic disaster. 

Is there a reasonable accommodation of the tension?  Probably worth a real discussion that includes some careful listening by all sides.

Following are two JPEG images of Paul Stockton’s original letter.  I understand these are barely readable.  I will eventually pound out a text version of the letter, but given other commitments today, this is the best I can do and get this to you in a timely way.




August 13, 2009

Govs to DoD: Thanks, but no thanks

Filed under: Homeland Defense,State and Local HLS — by Philip J. Palin on August 13, 2009

On August 7 the National Governors Association replied to a letter evidently received from Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Stockton.  The content of this letter is extracted below.

I have not yet seen a copy of the original letter from Dr. Stockton.

According to Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive, the letter signals an intention to seek Congressional approval to post almost 400,000 military personnel in the U.S.  Rothschild continues, “This request has already occasioned a dispute with the nation’s governors. And it raises the prospect of U.S. military personnel patrolling the streets of the United States, in conflict with the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.”

 AP reporter Lolita Baldor offers a more expansive explanation for the governors’ concern.  “At the heart of the disagreement is who will exercise the muscle to command reserve troops when they are sent to a particular state to deal with a hurricane, wildfire or other disaster. The governors see the Pentagon move as a strike at state sovereignty, while the military justifies it as a natural extension of its use of federal forces.”

Writing in The Hill, Reid Wilson, reports, “A bipartisan pair of governors is opposing a new Defense Department proposal to handle natural and terrorism-related disasters, contending that a murky chain of command could lead to more problems than solutions.”

A regular reader of HLSwatch suggests there is very helpful background in a  November 2008 CRS report, written by Jennifer Elsea and Chuck Mason, entitled: Use of Federal Troops for Disaster Assistance: Legal Issues.  The first paragraph is a great one, “Recognizing the risk that a standing army could pose to individual civil liberties and the sovereignty retained by the several states, but also cognizant of the need to provide for the defense of the nation against foreign and domestic threats, the framers of the Constitution incorporated a system of checks and balances to divide the control of the military between the President and Congress and to share the control of the militia with the states. This report summarizes the constitutional and statutory authorities and limitations relevant to the employment of the armed forces to provide disaster relief and law enforcement assistance.”

At this point, I don’t have anything to add that you can’t find in what these reporters and researchers have produced. Please access the original stories.  If anyone has a copy of Paul’s letter, please let me know.


The Honorable Paul Stockton
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense
and Americas’ Security Affairs
The Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301

Dear Assistant Secretary Stockton:

On behalf of the nation’s governors, we would like to thank you for your letter regarding the legislative proposal to provide the Secretary of Defense with expanded authorities to assist in the response to domestic disasters. While we appreciate the outreach, governors remain cautious about changes to the military’s authority to engage independently in domestic emergency response situations. The proposal you suggest may have merit, but its consideration must be preceded by a discussion regarding the tactical control of forces serving inside a state in response to a disaster or emergency.

It is our position that to carry out our homeland defense and homeland security responsibilities, governors must retain command and control over the domestic use of their own National Guard forces (Title 32 or State Active Duty status), supporting National Guard forces from other states, and Title 10 forces operating within the supported governor’s state or territory. Consequently, when a dual status command has not been established under 32 United States Code 325, governors, acting through their Adjutants General and Joint Force Headquarters-State, must have tactical control over all Title 10 active duty and reserve military forces engaged in domestic operations within the governor’s state or territory.

We are concerned that the legislative proposal you discuss in your letter would invite confusion on critical command and control issues, complicate interagency planning, establish stove-piped response efforts, and interfere with governors’ constitutional responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of their citizens. One of the key lessons learned from the response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 was the need for clear chains of command to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure the most effective use of response resources. Without assigning a governor tactical control of Title 10 forces assisting in a response, and without the use of a dual-hatted National Guard commander to ensure coordination between Title 32 and Title 10 forces, strong potential exists for confusion in mission execution and the dilution of governors’ control over situations with which they are more familiar and better capable of handling than a federal military commander.

We look forward to discussing potential tactical control solutions. For example, current military doctrine explicitly allows members of the United States armed forces to serve under the operational direction of foreign commanders, with the President retaining ultimate command over U.S. forces. If the command relationship with the President can be maintained while American active duty personnel are operating under the control of foreign commanders, we see no convincing reason why it cannot be maintained while active duty personnel are under the control of a state governor acting through the Adjutant General. The Commission on the National Guard and Reserves’ Second Report to Congress dated March 1, 2007, specifically recommends governor direction of state and federal military assets to synchronize the military response to disasters:

“Recommendation 8. As part of Department of Defense efforts to develop plans for consequence management and support to civil authorities that account for state-level activities and incorporate the use of National Guard and Reserve forces as first military responders (see Recommendation 19), the Department of Defense should develop protocols that allow governors to direct the efforts of federal military assets responding to an emergency such as a natural disaster.”

We do not yet understand how the legislative proposal would increase the number of DoD personnel available to assist disaster victims. Under existing legislation, DoD has the authority to order members of the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Air Force Reserve to active duty to assist in responses to major disasters and emergencies in the United States. Further, we are not yet convinced the proposed legislative changes would increase the responsiveness of DoD personnel. Under existing legislation, when emergency conditions dictate, local military commanders and responsible DoD component officials are authorized to respond to requests from local authorities and to initiate immediate response actions to save lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate great property damage under imminently serious conditions.

As you know, a similar proposal was contained in the House of Representatives’ version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, but was removed during conference because of governors’ concerns. In the Joint Explanatory Statement that accompanied the bill, Congress made clear that DoD should engage governors to address their concerns before moving the proposal forward:

“The Department of Defense should engage with the community of governors to work out an understanding of unity of effort during domestic terrorist events and public emergencies. This key underlying issue must be addressed to allow this and other promising proposals to be enacted.”

Governors and their Adjutants General would welcome the opportunity to work with you and others at DoD and the National Guard Bureau to discuss tactical control during disasters and to identify legislative and operational opportunities to improve our response to such events. The best way to facilitate such consultation and communication is for DoD to quickly establish the Council of Governors as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. Doing so will provide an appropriate forum to address these issues and other aspects of defense support to civilian authorities.


Governor James H. Douglas

Governor Joe Manchin III

The Honorable Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense
The Honorable William J. Lynn, III, Deputy Secretary of Defense
Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Honorable Michèle Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
General Victor E. Renuart, Commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command
General Craig R. McKinley, Chief, National Guard Bureau

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

July 31, 2009

A Council of Governors: Reclaiming balance in a mixed government

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Homeland Defense,State and Local HLS,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on July 31, 2009

Lingering mostly unnoticed within  Title XVIII, Subtitle B, Section 1882 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act is a single paragraph:

The President shall establish a bipartisan Council of Governors to advise the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the White House Homeland Security Council on matters related to the National Guard and civil support missions.

The instruction comes early in a seeming hodgepodge of measures to achieve “additional reserve component enhancement.”  As far as I can find, President Bush did not establish the Council and President Obama has not yet undertaken to do so.

On Tuesday in prepared testimony for the House Armed Services Committee,  Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities,  Paul Stockton offered the following:

State and local expertise and perspectives are essential to success. It is also important to be mindful of the fact that, in our nation’s Federalist system, the Governors are sovereign, independently elected chief executives of their States. As the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, I hope to contribute to a more inclusive effort, one that involves State and local partners as partners aforethought and not as an afterthought. (Note: emphasis in original testimony.) Congress, in section 1822 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181), has provided a valuable vehicle through which to accomplish this goal: the “Council of Governors,” which would provide a forum for Governors, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security to exchange advice, views, and recommendations on the National Guard, DSCA, and other matters of mutual interest. I will make it a top priority to implement this congressional objective.

The legislation is silent on how the Council of Governors might be established.  It could have fifty — or even more — members (the legislation does not reference “states,”  evidently terroritories might also be included).  The Governors themselves might participate.  But it could also consist of powerless appointees gathered as yet another feeble federal advisory body.

In his testimony Mr. Stockton gives primary attention to the practical benefits of involving Governors and acknowledging local capability in preventing, responding to, and recovering from catastrophic events.  The practicalities of risk-readiness innately push for State and local leadership.  As Secretary Napolitano said on Wednesday, “So how do we secure our homeland and stay true to our values?…It starts with the American people. From there, it extends to local law enforcement, and from there up to the federal government…”

Acknowledging and affirming the authority of the States in disaster preparedness and counter-terrorism is also consistent with Constitutional  protections of  State  sovereignty that – along with separation of powers, bicameralism, and the Bill of Rights — is another firewall to tyranny. 

In Federalist Paper No. 9 James Madison wrote, “The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power.”

Today most Americans — unlike our Founders — do not give much thought to the threat of tyranny.  Our benign neglect is a privilege produced by an intricate, sometimes unwieldy, yet resilient constitutional architecture.  It is worth considerable concern when any aspect of the structure is weakened.

For the last half-century the authority of the States in many domains — and especially in regard to security — has been more honored in the breach than in the observance.  If you wonder about the Founders’ intent, take some time to read — and perhaps to tremble at — Madison’s comparison of the federal and state governments in Federalist Paper No. 46.  Since the close of the Civil War such language has been largely limited to the political fringe.

A Council of Governors — especially one embraced with enthusiasm and discipline by the Governors — could restore balance where the central government has grown far beyond its intended proportion. 

Q. Why would you have your government so mixed?

A. Because the experience of the ages has proved that mixed governments are best.

Q. Simplicity is amiable and convenient in most things, why not in government?

A. Human nature is such, that it renders simple government destructive, and makes it necessary to place one power over against another to balance its weight.

Pennsylvania Evening Post

March 16, 1776

(Editorial Note:  The above is related to the July 29 posting entitled CCMRF: Constitutional Consequence Management Response Force)

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