FRIDAY, JUNE 27 EDITORIAL NOTE: The Friday Free Forum is on vacation this week, luxuriating in the quiet of a cool mountain glade beneath a sweep of stars, seeking to reclaim social and spiritual equanimity. You are invited to join the QHSR discussion that is already underway below.
ORIGINAL THURSDAY POST:
How do we anticipate what we cannot predict? That question animates the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. Strategy generates benefits to the extent it accurately anticipates. An effective strategy generates an initial — sometimes persisting — advantage in dealing with whatever specific challenges unfold unpredictably.
The QHSR is a bureaucratic document. This description is not meant as pejorative. There are various DHS components, other national security agencies, White House and Congressional concerns, and many other stakeholders. While the QHSR wants to accurately anticipate, it is not a prophetic text. Rather than speaking truth to power, this is power in search of truth. It can be cumbersome.
Meaningful interpretation recognizes the limitations — and opportunities — of the bureaucratic genre. Much must be said. Where have the authors moved beyond the minimum requirements? Bureaucracies tend toward girth, but are sensitive to hierarchy. What or who is given more attention?
The QHSR reviews previous challenges and outlines what it considers important shifts in the risk environment. It gives particular priority to the following (page 28):
- The terrorist threat is evolving and, while changing in shape, remains significant as attack planning and operations become more decentralized. The United States and its interests, particularly in the transportation sector, remain persistent targets.
- Growing cyber threats are significantly increasing risk to critical infrastructure and to the greater U.S. economy.
- Biological concerns as a whole, including bioterrorism, pandemics, foreign animal diseases, and other agricultural concerns, endure as a top homeland security risk because of both potential likelihood and impacts.
- Nuclear terrorism through the introduction and use of an improvised nuclear device, while unlikely, remains an enduring risk because of its potential consequences.
- Transnational criminal organizations are increasing in strength and capability, driving risk in counterfeit goods, human trafficking, illicit drugs, and other illegal flows of people and goods.
- Natural hazards are becoming more costly to address, with increasingly variable consequences due in part to drivers such as climate change and interdependent and aging infrastructure.
Lots on the plate even here. But these six risks are segregated from the rest. There is also a full page text-box highlighting Black Swans. Words are carefully chosen to avoid accusations of being alarmist, but the visual rhetoric is emphatic. When push comes to shove, here are the risks that this QHSR seems intent to especially engage. How?
At different places in the document (especially page 16 and again in the conclusion) the following “cross-cutting” strategic priorities are articulated:
- An updated posture to address the increasingly decentralized terrorist threat;
- A strengthened path forward for cybersecurity that acknowledges the increasing interdependencies among critical systems and networks;
- A homeland security strategy to manage the urgent and growing risk of biological threats and hazards;
- A risk segmentation approach to securing and managing flows of people and goods; and
- A new framework for strengthening mission execution through public-private partnerships.
What does “updated posture” mean? Read pages 33-38. Compare and contrast with QHSR vers. 1.0 and your own counter-terrorism experience. There are others better able to read-between-these-particular-lines. I hope you will do so in the comments.
The attention to biological threats is not new, but concerns related to pandemic are even more acute. (“Of the naturally occurring events, a devastating pandemic remains the highest homeland security risk.”) Urgent and growing are almost prophetic terms. But once again, others are better prepared to give you the close-reading of how we are to be biologically battle-ready.
In my reading the most notable shift in this QHSR, and on which the rest of this post will concentrate, is the priority given so-called public-private partnerships (which I strongly recommended be amended to “private-public relationships”).
I perceive this enhanced priority emerges from a confluence of cyber-threats, disaster-management, and catastrophe preparedness. In each of these domains the public good largely depends on private sector capacities and potential collaboration between private and public.
Flows of people and goods are given significant analytic attention. Flow-of-goods is treated mostly as a matter of economic security. In time of significant crisis this is also the source-of-life. The capacity to maintain a sufficient flow resides almost entirely with the private sector. In case of crisis, the public sector may be able to lead. But in many cases the public sector will do better to follow and support. Sometimes the best possible is for the public sector to get out of the way. The latter alternative is most likely when there has been minimal private-public efforts in joint preparedness. Leading or supporting require much more joint engagement than currently anticipated.
Being strategically prepared to — depending on context — lead, follow or get out of the way does not come easily. Even the insight is atypical. In advancing this insight the QHSR is making a potentially major contribution to safety, security and resilience.
Here is how the QHSR frames the issue (page 60):
At a time when we must do more with less, two guiding principles help public-private partnerships maximize the investment by each partner and the success of the partnership: (1) aligning interests and (2) identifying shared outcomes.
By focusing on how interests align, we can provide alternatives to costly incentives or regulations and help ensure a partnership is based on a solid foundation of mutual interest and benefit. There are many examples of public and private sector interests aligning in homeland security. Common interests include the safety and security of people and property, the protection of sensitive information, effective risk management, the development of new technology, reputation enhancement, and improved business processes. New ways of thinking about corporate social responsibility—in which societal issues are held to be core business interests rather than traditional philanthropy—also present an opportunity to identify shared interests.
Where interests do not directly align, potential partners can often be motivated by shared desired outcomes, such as enhanced resilience; effective disaster response and recovery; and greater certainty in emerging domains, such as cyberspace and the Arctic.
Aligning interests and identifying shared outcomes are absolutely a big part of effective collaboration. But behind this reasonable rhetoric is a complicated, often treacherous cross-cultural tension. I once spent a few years brokering decision-making between Japanese and Americans. The intra-American — and perhaps global — private-public cultural divide is at least as profound.
The QHSR helpfully identifies five “archetypes” for framing relationships between private and public (see page 60-61). A “Partnerships Toolkit” has also been developed. All of this is potentially constructive. When DHS folks started talking to me about archetypes I immediately thought of Jungian archetypes. This matches my sense that to really work together private and public will usually require the institutional equivalent of long-term joint counseling. But this analogous leap seemed to make some of my DHS colleagues uncomfortable.
Some were even more uncomfortable when I suggested private/public is the equivalent of the anima/animus archetype. C.G. Jung wrote, “The anima gives rise to illogical outbursts of temper; the animus produces irritating commonplaces.” I’ll let you guess which I associate with private and which with public.
But C.G.’s most important insight regarding these contending archetypes is that each depends on each, each is fulfilled in relationship with the other, and robust elements of both are required for ongoing creativity and growth. The recurring clinical problem is an inclination to diminish, suppress or oppress one or the other.
In the life of an individual failure to meaningfully engage both anima and animus is self-subverting and can become tragic. Our current failure to effectively engage private and public presents a similar social threat. To suggest why — in less than another thousand words — here’s yet another analogy:
I happened to be reading about the Battle of Austerlitz when the QHSR was released last week. In the summer of 1804 the British Prime Minister, William Pitt, accurately anticipated Napoleon’s expansionist ambitions. He effectively forged a strategic alliance with Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Sweden. In October 1805 the British Fleet soundly defeated a combined French and Spanish naval force at Trafalgar. It was the right strategy and the strategy was proving effective. But then in early December on a cold fog-drenched Moravian bottom-land the entire strategy unraveled. Europe was, once again, transformed.
There are many reasons for the Third Coalition’s failure at Austerlitz. My particular author focuses on a clique of over-confident young nobles around the Russian Czar who seriously underestimated the practical requirements of deploying two emperors and their very different armies into actual battle. The practical requirements of a national capacity for effective private-public collaboration in crisis are much more complicated.
The QHSR has articulated the right strategy. We will undermine the strategy by minimizing challenges involved in making the collaboration operational.
On July 16 there will be an early signal of our operational readiness and sophistication. That’s when new applications for the Homeland Security National Training Program: Continuing Training Grants are due. This includes Focus Area 4: Maturing Public-Private Partnerships. Will be interesting to see what’s submitted.
Brian, please be very cautious of any proposals received from twenty-something Russian princes.