Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 24, 2014

2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review – a dialogue worthy report

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 24, 2014

It’s only 103 pages.  Plus it’s a government report with a lot of pictures.   And there’s probably not much in it that’s new.

How long can it take to read something like that?

Turns out, longer than I expected.

After about 3 hours, I’m on page 68.  It’s not that I’m an especially slow reader.  I think it’s because the 2014 QHSR is an important and an exceptional document.

In my still forming opinion, this QHSR invites a move into Homeland Security 3.0.  It offers a strategic intent  — and the evidence to support it — that is compelling and, in a 21st century way, visionary.  It provides people who think and care about the entire enterprise subtle, refined ways to think about homeland security.  I expect that some of those ideas are already familiar to people who work with them daily.  But I have not seen them all in one place. Not before the 2014 QHSR.

I’m trying to think of an analogy to capture the feeling tone of the report.

To me it’s like the difference between someone talking about marriage while on his honeymoon, compared with someone else describing what a moderately successful marriage is like as it heads resolutely into its second decade.   Same institution, infused with time and experience.  The honeymoon is exciting and boundless.  A committed marriage takes work and a maturity that can embrace — not always willingly — ideals and reality.

That’s the sense I’m getting so far from the QHSR.

I know those are imprecise generalizations.  But it’s Tuesday, my day to post, and the other homeland security watch writers would like this week to be about the QHSR. Rightly so.

(Did you ever have one of those weeks — even on a Tuesday — when there were a dozen important things to do, but you couldn’t clone yourself because your 3-D printer was out of PolyJet photopolymers? Well, it’s something like that.)

The second QHSR took two years to put together.  And it shows.  In a good way.

I was prepared initially to dismiss the report as another check the box exercise.  But — even after only 68 pages — I can’t. It’s worth a deliberate read.

I do have to dismiss any temptation to comment before I’ve finished reading the entire document. (OK, Islam and Muslim are not mentioned, but terrorism shows up over 4 dozen times)

Thoughtful reflections will have to wait on such QHSR topics as:

  • Lone offenders
  • Drivers: of change, of challenges, of risk, of budgets, of markets
  • Cyber law enforcement incident response
  • The lack of public confidence in the government’s ability to function
  • Exchanging information at machine speed
  • Whether there is a national homeland security strategy, and if there isn’t so what?
  • Growth in domestic energy supplies
  • Universal values, enduring missions, enduring national interests
  • Risk segmentation
  • A “clean” audit opinion (apparently a good thing)
  • Nuclear terrorism and bioterrorism
  • Three dimensional printing (and supplies, of course)
  • Expansion of electronic payment systems
  • Pandemics
  • Climate change
  • Disaster driven migration
  • Cyber-physical convergence
  • Eroded public health capacity
  • Seriously deteriorated (past tense) infrastructure
  • Panama Canal expansion
  • Four (potential) black swans
  • Economic security
  • Priority biological incidents
  • Networked communities
  • National risk management
  • Rapid escalation of biological events
  • Faint signals
  • Risk informed
  • Information-driven community oriented policing
  • Publicly communicate tailored descriptions of homeland security capabilities
  • Emphasize strategic communications that project the effectiveness of homeland security capabilities
  • Weather maps for cyberspace
  • Ensuring a healthy cyber ecosystem
  • Self-mitigating, self-healing cyber systems
  • Mid-range incidents and levels of risk
  • Improving the confidence of our partners
  • Five (public-private) partnership archetypes for homeland security
  • Flexible models
  • “Immigration will always be, first and foremost, and opportunity for our country.”

And lots more to discuss, disagree with, and argue about.

Or maybe a better word is “dialogue.”

In a 1996 essay called “On Dialogue,” David Bohm distinguishes between discussion and dialogue.

Discussion is almost like a ping-pong game, where people are batting the ideas back and forth and the object of the game is to win or to get points for yourself.  Possibly you will take up somebody else’s ideas to back up your own – you may agree with some and disagree with others – but the basic point is to win the game. That’s frequently the case in a discussion.

“In a dialogue, however, nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins if anybody wins. There is a different sort of spirit to it.  In a dialogue, there is no attempt to gain points, or to make your particular view prevail. Rather, whenever any mistake is discovered on the part of anybody, everybody gains. It’s a situation called win – win, whereas the other game is win – lose.  If I win, you lose. But a dialogue is something more of a common participation, in which we are not playing a game against each other, but with each other. In a dialogue, everybody wins.”

The 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Report is worthy of much dialogue.



June 19, 2014

Quadrennial Homeland Security Review

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 19, 2014

This afternoon the QHSR has been released.  It is available for your consideration at:


The document will be the focus of my post next Thursday.  I hope we can generate some thoughtful discussion.

As you will see, the QHSR highlights some key issues — especially related to risk and collaboration — that will certainly frame how both Homeland Security and homeland security unfold in the years ahead.

It is worth your careful consideration and some further conversation here (and elsewhere).

June 19, 2013

DHS’ Alan Cohn talks about the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 19, 2013

I saw the following press release about the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review on the Center for Homeland Defense and Security website today.

A stronger risk-based approach and expanded stakeholder input will be included as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) undertakes the second Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) this summer, a top department official said June 6.

“The second review will also have the benefit of a consolidated DHS office that will guide the process,” said DHS Office of Policy Assistant Secretary for Strategy, Planning, Analysis and Risk (SPAR) Alan Cohn. DHS consolidated the functions of the Office of Risk Management and Analysis with the Office of Strategic Plans to form SPAR in March 2012, creating an integrated strategic planning, risk modeling and analysis function for the Department.

The QHSR is legislatively mandated to be conducted every four years under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, as amended. The first review was completed in February 2010 and set forth a strategic framework for the nation’s homeland security. Five homeland security missions were identified during the first review and will remain the core of the strategic approach: 1) preventing terrorism and enhancing security; 2) securing and managing our borders; 3) enforcing and administering our immigration laws; 4) safeguarding and securing cyberspace; and 5) ensuring resilience to disasters.

The second QHSR will build on this foundation and focus on how DHS will build smarter, more dynamic, risk-based approaches to homeland security that engage the broadest possible range of partners. The key difference for the second review is that DHS and its partners will be able to engage continuously through the study and analysis phase of the review, according to Assistant Secretary Cohn. “We will look for areas where strategic shifts may be necessary to keep pace or get ahead of changes in strategic environment,” he said. DHS will complete the second QHSR review process by the end of 2013.

“The first QHSR spelled out the idea of homeland security, but also described the importance of thinking about homeland security as an enterprise responsibility,” Assistant Secretary Cohn said.

“Beyond being a federal responsibility, this is a national responsibility. There is an enterprise that goes far beyond the halls of DHS that is engaged in assuring the security of the homeland of the United States. For that reason, it’s vitally important for the Department to engage with that broader community of stakeholders in conducting a review of this type.”

DHS plans to connect with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, the private sector, and non-government entity stakeholders through an online community to be established through the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s First Responders Communities of Practice. DHS will use this and other venues to invite stakeholders to offer perspectives, comments and ideas.

Cohn urged academics and practitioners, including those associated with the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, to contribute.

“We encourage the broader homeland security community, including alumni of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security program, to fully and extensively participate in the process of building that community of practitioners,” Cohn said.

The first QHSR was crafted based on input from 42 DHS offices/components, 26 federal departments, and 118 stakeholder groups. The Department received 43 white papers as well as more than 3,000 public comments received during three “National Dialogues.”

February 9, 2010

Grading the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review: A- or B+? (Part 1)

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on February 9, 2010

It is always easier to critique than to create.

I say that as prelude to this unsolicited assessment of the first Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.  (This is Part 1 of my assessment.  Other parts will follow in the next few days.)

There is a great deal of intelligence, effort and reasonableness in the QHSR.  It is a document that should be read cover to cover, including the appendices, by everyone who has an interest in the homeland security enterprise.  However, if the Review were turned in to me as a seminar paper I would struggle deciding whether to give it an A- or a B+.

I would end up giving it a B+.

Let me explain.  I think it is a good piece of work.  With additional effort in clarifying some of the ambiguities and apparent inconsistencies, and in better crafting the presentation of the voluminous research, it could have been an A-.  I doubt the environment the QHSR authors worked in would allow it to be an A.

The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review starts out strong.  It seems to lose its way along about page 37 when it confront the massiveness of the mechanical task it has set out to accomplish.  Surprisingly (to me), it regains its bearings in time for the two page Conclusion and — more surprisingly — provides in Appendix A the best and most succinct articulation I’ve seen of Who’s Who In The Homeland Security Zoo, and what they do.

T.S. Eliot wrote:
“When forced to write within a strict framework the imagination is taxed to its utmost — and will produce its richest ideas.  Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl.”

The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review does not sprawl.  No doubt there were numerous constraints on the collective that produced the document — a collective, I am told, that consisted of government employees.  The Review was not written by contractors.  In spite of — or maybe because of — the constraints, the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review sparkles more than occasionally with creativity and insight.

In some parts, the Review presents a carefully considered and disciplined analysis of how homeland security has evolved since September 11, 2001.  It is forthright about how much more there is to do, and the strategic path to get, not to the end, but to the next phase of this never ending enterprise.

The word “enterprise” appears enough times in the Review (over 100) to give “resilience” (used fewer than 100 times ) serious competition for the BuzzWord Award.  But the Review gave me a new appreciation for the meaning of “enterprise.”

While the word conveys the many pieces and shared goals of the homeland security domain, “enterprise,” also suggests the attitude needed to take advantage of the sometimes subtle invitation the Review offers:  “Homeland Security is about all of us.  Regardless of where you are, find something to do that will help and do it.”

In other words, the Review is an invitation to be enterprising, to look for opportunities within the uncertainty and ambiguity that is homeland security.

But the Review is not unconstrained optimism or creativity.  It is also a sometimes pedestrian working document that is one piece of a larger, almost “faith based” planning effort that continues to believe — in spite of years of disconfirming evidence — it is possible to align vision, mission, goals, objectives, programs, budgets, procedures, training, exercises.  Good luck with that.

The Review is mostly silent about what the new homeland security enterprise learned from the previous Administration’s efforts to do essentially the same thing.  If deliberate thinking and hard work were not enough to build and measure an efficient and effective Homeland Security Machine during the Bush years, it’s not clear what new ingredients will be added by the current Administration.  One is reminded, perhaps unfairly, of Dr. Einstein’s quote about “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”   But perhaps I am not being enterprising enough here.

In parts of the document — primarily in the first pages — the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review is brilliant.  It seeks to construct a new narrative about homeland security, one that moves past the largely reactionary (“reactionary” in a good way) story we told ourselves after September 11, 2001.

“In the closing days of 2001, the first narrative describing homeland security began to take shape: that despite the dramatic changes since the end of the Cold War, the world was still very much a dangerous place. The terrorists that had targeted this country clearly were determined to attack Americans at home, American interests anywhere, and our friends and allies everywhere. As the central part of this first narrative, our Nation believed that it needed to improve its vigilance, increase its preparedness, reduce its vulnerabilities, and strengthen its guard against any future attack in order to confront this threat.”

With a setup like this, I was expecting the Review would present an equally clear statement of the New Homeland Security Narrative.  I could not find it.  To me this is a deficiency in the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.

What homeland security story should we be telling within the enterprise?

Al Qaeda tells a story that Islam is under attack all over the world and it is the duty of all Muslims to defend Islam.  I was looking for something of equivalent clarity in the QHSR.

But one can infer some of the new homeland security narrative by stringing a few of the pieces in the Review together.

(I should note that if one goes out looking for “red trucks,” one sees red trucks just about everywhere.  I bring a certain theoretical preference to my homeland security work.  I found enough material in the Review to support the claim that I am not the only one who shares that perspective, basically a complex adaptive systems view of the homeland security world (details later).  I have a friend — whose opinion I respect — intimately involved in the QHSR process who believes I am reading too much into the Review to support that claim.)

With that as a caution, here’s what I think the Review suggests as the New Homeland Security Narrative.

It has to do first with remembering who we are as a people.

Maybe we used different words in the old days, but securing the homeland was something Americans have been doing since before we were Americans, before the Republic was founded.  So America is coming back home to its security roots.

For example, several of the elements in the current homeland security enterprise — customs, immigration, borders, and maritime — used to be in the same organization.  The Review describes how over the years they were split into other organizations.  Now, like brothers and sisters who have matured enough to stop bickering about trivialities, they’ve come back home to once again work together.

OK,  hyperbolic hokey, but from a story perspective, it’s a start.

Another part of the narrative reminds the reader that homeland security is more than what the Department of Homeland Security does.  Operationally (as I was told), that means the QHSR is not the QDHSR — translation: the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review is not the Quadrennial Department of Homeland Security Review.  Congress told DHS to look at the entire homeland security enterprise, not just at the Department.

One of the appendices in the Review outlines the process DHS used to carry out that assignment.  I’ve already heard people criticize the Review, saying the process was as much window dressing as “coordinating with stakeholders” was in the previous Administration.  My (limited) experience and conversation with QHSR participants does not support that view.

Maybe there could have been fewer emails from on high that said, “Make sure to say ‘resilience’ a lot.”  But if nothing else, the national online conversation during the Review process was a first.  Perhaps one cannot find much of a direct link between that dialog and specific parts of the Review.  That’s for further analysis.

I think of it as similar to the dog who could talk, but who didn’t say much that was very interesting.  The fact that DHS even tried to involve the American people in shaping the Review is the point.  It was a sufficiently enterprising experiment to be worth replicating in the future and in other policy domains.  What might this effort to tap the collective insight of American look like two or three decades from now?  Whatever the answer, it began here.

That said, I was happy to see the Review did not include suggestion by one participant in the Dialog that we place mines along our borders.

The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review is mostly very careful in the way it uses language.  To its credit, it tackles head on the apple bobbing job of defining homeland security.  It devotes Chapter III to the issue.  The review answers the question “What is Homeland Security” in what I think is a very smart way.

It spends much of the chapter describing some of the history, functions, activities, and expectations of homeland security.  Then, like a cat who wants some of what you’re eating but doesn’t want to be too obvious about it, the authors of the Review introduce the notion of “connote.”

“[H]omeland security is meant to connote a concerted, shared effort to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards where American interests, aspirations, and way of life can thrive.”

Why “connote,” rather than”denote?”  Denote means to point at the primary sense of something.  A “denoting definition” makes an explicit claim about the primary meaning of homeland security.  For reasons the Review discusses directly and indirectly, homeland security does not have a single meaning.

“Connote” means to suggest a sense of what something is.  So, if you want to understand what homeland security is you don’t have to look directly into the sun.  It is enough for the enterprising reader to glimpse that homeland security

“connotes a broad-based community with a common interest in the public safety and well-being of America and American society and is composed of multiple partners and stakeholders whose roles and responsibilities are distributed and shared. Yet it is important to remember that these partners and stakeholders face diverse risks, needs, and priorities. The challenge for the enterprise, then, is to balance these diverse needs and priorities, while focusing on our shared interests and responsibilities to collectively secure our homeland.”

The connotation of homeland security does not trip from the tongue with Churchillian ease.  But — and this may be one of those places I’m reading too much into the Review — it is a way to embrace the many dimensions of homeland security.  It is a way to recognize the breadth of membership in the enterprise.

I think the connotation vs. denotation theme also symbolizes a major conflict in the Review (a potentially good conflict, one that can create a productive dialectic).  Some parts of the Review acknowledge the complex nature of the homeland security enterprise — and I mean “complex” in a phenomenological or sensemaking way that I will say more about in the next post.

The conflict is between interests that focus on the organic and evolutionary nature of the enterprise, and the Homeland Security Machine interests — relegated mostly to the back the the Review — whose phenomenological predisposition centers around such values as neatness, order, efficiency and control.  Evolutionists are ok with connotation.  Machine people require the precision of denotation.

My experience says control is not the property of a complex adaptive social system like homeland security; collaboration, coordination, cooperation, co-evolution are properties of such a system.  In my reading, the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review posits, but does not resolve or even address directly the fundamental conflict between these two ways of making sense of the homeland security enterprise.   I think that’s an important gap in the Review, particularly if the QHSR is meant to be a road map.

More about that concern in the next part of this analysis.  In the next post I will also address:

1. Is the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review the new National Strategy for Homeland Security?  Does it replace the 2003 and 2007 National Strategies?  If it does, why doesn’t it come right out and just say that?  Or if it is not the new strategy for the nation, will there be a new one, or are we still operating under 2007 rules?  Or does it matter?

2. If the vision of homeland security is:

“to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards where American interests, aspirations, and way of life can thrive,”

and if Homeland security is defined as

“a concerted national effort to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards where American interests, aspirations, and way of life can thrive,”

is the phrase “a concerted national effort” the only difference between the vision and the definition?  And does it matter?

3. In the definition/vision, is there some punctuation or phrase missing between the words “hazards” and “where American interests….”?  What could possibly be meant by “…other hazards where American interests, aspirations, and way of life can thrive?”   (OK, I know what the sentence is supposed to say, but I don’t think it says it.)

4. Do the authors of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review set out a plan for applying complex adaptive systems theory to the homeland security enterprise?

January 30, 2010

Quadrennial Homeland Security Review: Update

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 30, 2010

Going over my notes from last week’s House hearing on the Flight 253 event, I recalled Deputy DHS Secretary Jane Holl Lute saying DHS was finished with the QHSR, and that it was at the White House for coordination.

I believe next week the Homeland Security Advisory Council is meeting.  Perhaps they will be briefed on the Review.

And eventually so will Congress and regular people.

January 14, 2010

Where is the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on January 14, 2010

The first Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) was supposed to be delivered to Congress on December 31, 2009.

The QHSR is a comprehensive review of homeland security that “will guide the Department for the next four years and inform the nation’s homeland security policies, programs, and missions.”

Unless it was delivered in secret, the QHSR appears to be a bit late.

The potential significance of the QHSR might be evidenced by the national outrage over the Obama Administration’s failure to deliver the report on New Year’s Eve.

There is no telling how many New Year’s Eve parties were ruined because the report was not available.

I know instead of reviewing the QHSR — as we planned — my family was forced to go to Plan B, watching Ice Age 3: The Dawn Of the Dinosaurs.

My children only started talking to me again yesterday.


A  reliable source told me the report is being reviewed by the White House, and will go to Congress on Friday, January 15th (probably around 6 pm, when Friday things happen in Washington).

I also heard two rumors too good not to pass along:

One rumor said that the Department of Defense wants the QHSR to be coordinated with the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).  The QDR is due on February 1, 2010.

There is a certain sense in that, especially since in Presidential Study Directive 1, the president (or someone who works for the president) 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.”

Another rumor said the Department of Justice wanted a hold placed on the QHSR.  I have no clue why.


I am guessing the final touches were being put on the QHSR when the Northwest Flight 253 incident happened.  I figure someone wanted to make sure the Review covered the hornets released from Abdulmutallab’s underwear.

Better to get the Review turned over to Congress late — but complete —  than meet the New Year’s Eve deadline — but with truck sized holes in it.

Whatever the reason, once the report is released, I can only imagine how carefully the Commentariat will review it to prove:

1. The Obama Administration is ignoring terrorism, and

2. The Obama Adminsitration is over-reacting to terrorism.

September 1, 2009

Exit, Loyalty or Voice: The 2nd Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Dialogue

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on September 1, 2009

On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security opened the second phase of its national dialogue about the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR). You can participate in that dialogue (through September 6th) by clicking on this link.  And you can see the results of the first dialogue by clicking on this link.

I am a sucker for people who are trying to do the right thing in homeland security.  I think DHS is trying to do the right thing by getting stakeholders involved in the review process while the review is still going on – rather than waiting until the review is over before asking for outside opinions.

But what can one realistically expect from this process?  Is it possible that someone will contribute an idea so innovative, so creative, so useful that DHS will holler “Stop the Presses!” and reshape homeland security as we have come to know it?

Yes it’s possible.  But not very probable.

Why should you take time from your other priorities this week and devote it to navigating through a web site that — although improved over Round 1 — still gives new meaning to the word “linear?”  What is the big picture value of any idea or comment you might contribute?  Is it likely people who are not the usual homeland security suspects will suggest something that hasn’t been considered before?

And let’s say you have a great idea.  Is it likely to make its way unscathed through the largely opaque decision process that will eventually churn out the QHSR?

I was thinking about these questions as I looked at the suggestion one person posted in the second dialogue: we should put land mines along the border to discourage illegal entry. Nothing like blowing up a few people to show how serious we are about enforcing Title 8, Chapter 12, Subchapter II, Part VIII, Section 1325 of the US Code.

I was also thinking about the “why bother” questions as I read a thoughtful plea in another post to “integrate psychosocial preparedness, response and resiliency building education, training and practice into the full sphere of Homeland Security activities related to disasters.”

Albert O. Hirschman wrote a book called Exit, Voice, and Loyalty.  In simplified form, the actions in the title represent three possible responses if you don’t like what’s going on.  You can exit the system and just refuse to participate.  You can be loyal to the status quo, and wait to be told what to do next.  Or you can use your voice — as quiet and small and hopeful as it may be.

We don’t know what value homeland security ideas might have until we get them into the conversation.  The national dialogue is an opportunity — without guarantees that anyone will listen or act – to use “voice.”

Alan Cohn, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the strategic plans part of DHS policy, spoke yesterday about his expectations for the second dialog:

“We want to increase the number of people who come to the website and we want to increase the number of comments we get from the people who come.”

Since the Dialogue was first announced (on July 16th) over 20,000 people visited the QHSR site.  There were more than 8200 unique visitors to the first dialogue, and about 200 discrete ideas contributed.

Those numbers may seem small, but they come quite close to fitting the 90-9-1 social networking principle: 90 percent of the people who visit a networking site are just there to read; 9 percent make an occasional comment — often just a single comment; and 1 percent of the visitors account for most of the contributions.

So if you really care about homeland security, the Dialogue provides more of an opportunity to be heard than one might think.

Apparently Secretary Cohn and the working groups actually read and — when appropriate — use the comments.  The second dialogue features language that is less wordy, more concise and direct. “Pretty much every [working] group went back and made their visions and goals” more concise and more explicit, Cohn said.

The site is easier to navigate, and — unlike Round 1 — one can now write comments off line and then paste what you have to say into a text box.

In Round 1, the term “man-made hazard” was used in discussions of counter-terrorism.  But not any more.

It’s a start.  People are listening.

After the QHSR is finished, DHS plans a bottom up review, trying to match what the Review says should be happening with what DHS programs and budget suggest is actually being done.

But that comes later. For Round 2, the goal is clear, direct and concise:  “to increase the number of people who come to the website and … increase the number of comments we get from the people who come.”

So what will it be for you this week: exit, loyalty, or voice?

June 22, 2015

Contents: Current issue of Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on June 22, 2015

Volume 12, Issue number 2 of the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management was released today.  The articles are behind a paywall, but you can see the abstracts by going to the Journal’s site. You also may be able to find the Journal in an academic library.

Here are the contents of the latest issue, with links to the abstracts:

Quadrennial Homeland Security Reviews: What Value for Whom?
Kahan, Jerome

Fixing a Failure to Identify Intelligence in the Domestic Setting: Aligning Collection and Analysis to Address an All-Hazards Mission
Tromblay, Darren E.

State Intervention During Public Health Emergencies: Is the United States Prepared for an Ebola Outbreak?
Maras, Marie-Helen / Miranda, Michelle D.

Coerced Confusion? Local Emergency Policy Implementation After September 11
Hildebrand, Sean

A Medical System for Supporting Civilian Crisis Response
Ren, Chiang H. / Smith, William K. / Christensen, James

The Response Phase of the Disaster Management Life Cycle Revisited Within the Context of “Disasters Out of the Box”
De Smet, Hans / Schreurs, Bert / Leysen, Jan

Understanding Risk Communication Gaps through E-Government Website and Twitter Hashtag Content Analyses: The Case of Indonesia’s Mt. Sinabung Eruption
Chatfield, Akemi Takeoka / Reddick, Christopher G.

A Spatial and Longitudinal Analysis of Unmet Transportation Needs During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
Joh, Kenneth / Norman, Alexandria / Bame, Sherry I.

A Two-level Agent-Based Model for Hurricane Evacuation in New Orleans
Liang, Wei / Lam, Nina S.-N. / Qin, Xiaojun / Ju, Wenxue

December 16, 2014

Exponential thinking in homeland security: what could it mean?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on December 16, 2014

In 1927, a New York Times reporter tried to explain quantum theory. He wrote “It is much like trying to tell an Eskimo what the French language is like without talking French.”

Over the years, one element of quantum theory – Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle – has been translated, extrapolated, and culturally distorted into regular-person speak: “the act of observing alters the reality being observed.” One can measure the position of something, or the movement of something. But not both.

What is the status – the “position” – of homeland security? Lots of contemporary strategies, reports, exposés offer opinions on that question. For one example, see the September 2014 GAO report “DHS Action Needed to Enhance Integration and Coordination of Vulnerability Assessment Efforts.”

What’s happening to the movement of homeland security during the time it takes to produce what I’m terming “position descriptions”?

From the DHS response to the September GAO report (p. 65):

“The draft report contains six recommendations with which the Department concurs.”

The next three pages describes how DHS is already doing what the draft report said it should be doing – that is, “we’re already moving in the direction GAO wants us to go.”

That’s just one example.

The 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report offers another example. On page 29 it describes

“four potential ‘black swans’ that could materially change our assessment of overall homeland security risk and priorities over the next five years…. These changes are not planned for or expected in the next five years, yet if they were to happen, they would fundamentally alter the homeland security strategic environment described here.”

Three of the four potential swans have already happened. Maybe even all four.

Can’t measure position and movement at the same time. The world is not as linear as it used to be.

The argument I hear increasingly is the world has become exponential. (For brief illustrations see this video  or this one.)

Here’s Peter Diamandis  starting to explain the difference between linear thinking and exponential thinking (my emphasis).

As humans we evolved on this planet over the last hundreds of thousands of years in an environment that I would call local and linear.  It was a local and linear environment because the only things that affected you as you were growing up on the plains of Africa was what was in a day’s walk.  It was local to you.

Something would happen on the other side of the planet 100,000 years ago you wouldn’t even know.  It was linear in that the life of your great grandparents, your grandparents, you, your kids, their kids, nothing changed generation to generation.  It was pretty much the same.  You used the same stone tools.  You ate the same animals.  You pretty much lived in the same place.

Today we’re living in a world that is exponential and global. Something happens in China or Korea, it affects you in Manhattan literally minutes later, through stock prices, news, whatever it might be.  That’s a global planet we’re living on. The life of your grandparents, your parents, you, your kids is extraordinarily different in every possible way and we know this from going to Best Buy and finding a computer that is twice as fast or four times as fast for the same dollars as you bought it a year or two ago.  So we’re living in a world that’s exponential in that regard.

To give a visualization of this, if I were to take 30 linear steps, it would be one, two, three, four, five.  After 30 linear steps I’d end up 30 paces or 30 meters away and all of us could pretty much point to where 30 paces away would be. But if I said to you take 30 exponential steps, one, two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two and said where would you end up? Very few people would say a billion meters away, which is twenty-six times around the planet.

That’s the difference between our ability to project linearly and project exponentially. It’s what’s really causing disruptive stress because as humans we think linearly, but the world is changing exponentially.

There are arguments against the exponential claim – such as it’s warmed over Malthusianism, or that it may only apply to the technological world, not the social world.

Linear thinking still works quite well in a lot of domains. I’m able to type words on a computer and place them on the internet because many people were very good at thinking linearly about circuit boards, databases, electricity, networks and wireless communication.

But I don’t think the argument is about replacing linear thinking. I believe it’s about augmenting linear thought.

If the exponential claims are correct, what are the implications for homeland security?

What does exponential thinking look like in homeland security? How does it differ from linear thinking?  What would a GAO report based on exponential thinking look like? How would one think exponentially about homeland security policy, strategy, law, threat, preparedness, leadership, education? Are there any advantages to thinking exponentially?

I don’t know. But like the uncertainty principle, it may be worthwhile to take the idea of exponential thinking and translate, extrapolate, and culturally distort it into homeland security speak.

N’est-ce pas?

August 27, 2014

3,287 Days Ago

Filed under: Disaster — by Jerry Monier on August 27, 2014

This essay was originally written on the evening of August 29, 2013 with the title of 2920 Days Ago.  Since then, the essay has been updated to reflect the passing of an additional year since Hurricane Katrina.  The views represented in this essay are those of the author and do not reflect the views of his employer.

Any random date on a calendar represents an important personal or professional milestone.  Birthdays commonly represent another year of personal maturity and growth.  Wedding anniversaries represent the passing of another year of sharing the ups, downs, struggles and celebrations of life with a significant other.  In other instances, a specific date reminds us of the significant tragedies that have influenced the collective resilience of the United States of America.  The date December 7, will always be “a date which will live in infamy” influencing the builder and baby boomer generations of American society.  The date 9/11 will always memorialize the sacrifices of persons who fell victim to the terror attacks of that day having given rise to an American enterprise known as Homeland Security.  The personal perspectives and memories of these events change with the passing of each year.  This essay was originally written on the evening of August 29, 2013 and represents the author’s observations in the years following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi state line on August 29, 2005.

It is about 9:10 PM Central Time on August 29, 2013. I have just finished reading a bedtime story to my seven-year-old daughter. As I lay with her and watch her fall asleep, my mind wanders back to the night of August 29, 2005.  My location at that time was the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, located on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. I was tasked with executing a plan developed the previous week, during the now well-known Hurricane Pam exercise. Our goal was to establish a field hospital at this facility. Over the upcoming days, our facility would treat an estimated 6,000 survivors requiring medical intervention,  An additional 18,000 survivors were triaged and then transported to various mega-shelters located throughout the United States.

In the short time spent with my daughter that evening a year ago, I closed my eyes and listened to her calming bedtime lullabies.  My mind began to shift between the past and present. Earlier in the week, a professional colleague had commented in an email about the “Big 8” coming up this week. That email, coupled with my own thoughts, brought me to realize how much has and has not changed in the days, months, and years since August 29, 2005.  This Friday, August 29, 2014, represents the 9th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the passage of 3287 days.

3287 days has spanned three presidential terms.

3287 days has spanned the terms of three Secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security.

3287 days has spanned the tenure of three FEMA Administrators.

3287 days has spanned the terms of two Governors in Louisiana.

3287 days has spanned the terms of two Governors in Mississippi.

3287 days has spanned the terms of two Mayors in New Orleans.

3287 days has included three significant tropical weather systems making landfall or affecting the same Louisiana coastline affected by Hurricane Katrina.

3287 days has included two significant tropical weather systems making landfall near New York City, and impacting the Northeastern states of the United States.

3287 days has included the largest oil spill in American History impacting the same coastal communities and social economies affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike.

3287 days has spanned four Directors of the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness or the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

3287 days has included countless reports published by the GAO and Congressional Research Service on the preparedness of the United States.

3287 days has included acts of terror committed in the United States.

3287 days has included a school shooting in Newtown, CT.

3287 days has included congressional fact finding and the publishing of A Failure of Initiative.

3287 days has included the passing of PKEMRA legislation.

3287 days has included the development of homeland security to an all hazards environment.

3287 days has included the expansion of homeland security’s focus.

3287 days has included the expenditure of 14 plus billion dollars to build hurricane protection levees around the metropolitan New Orleans area.

3287 days has included the expenditure of 17 plus billion dollars in recovery aid to the State of Louisiana.

3287 days has included the development of catastrophic response plans for major metropolitan areas.

3287 days has included the production of Quadrennial Homeland Security Reviews-each having their own characteristics and personalities and political spin.

3287 days has included the development of several Homeland Security or National Security Strategies.

3287 days has included the development of National Frameworks for Prevention, Response, Preparedness, and Mitigation.

3287 days has included numerous policy changes, defining how we as a nation respond to and recover from catastrophes.

3287 days has included the birth of two beautiful daughters.

3287 days has included the earning of an undergraduate degree.

3287 days has included the earning of a prestigious graduate degree.

3287 days has included many memories.

3287 days has included five career moves.

3287 days has included the rebuilding of Louisiana’s emergency management culture in the face of constant adversity.

3287 days has included the demonstration of resilience in an enterprise known as emergency management.

3287 days has included an unknown number of reports, academic papers, research, and the development of think tanks based on the premise of resilience.

3287 days has included the deaths of 1,836 US residents due to Hurricane Katrina

3287 days has included an influenza pandemic.

3287 days has included a significant natural disaster in Japan with numerous cascading effects, including the loss of fixed nuclear reactors.

3287 days has included the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

3287 days has included a national recession.

3287 days has included detrimental budget cuts to government agencies in the state of Louisiana, potentially impacting their ability to respond to the needs of their residents in the future.

3287 days has included the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

3287 days has included the development and implementation of Presidential Policy Directive 8.

3287 days has included the development and introduction of THIRA.

3287 days has included the consumption of numerous bottles of whiskey.

3287 days has included the process of healing.

3287 days has included a synthesis of interaction, experience, and complexity.

3287 days has included the demonstration of resilience by multiple stratums of society.

As my daughter fell asleep I realized just how much can actually occur in the span of 3287 days. By the same token, I also realized how much can be lost over 3287 days.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed the negative effects of partisan politics on American society.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed the negative effects of finger pointing and blame on the homeland security enterprise of the US.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed how the success of the homeland security enterprise is only as good as the most recent catastrophe.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed attempts to define the concept of homeland security.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed the struggle to define an all hazards approach to resilience.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed how the physical, social and political attributes of the term risk reduction has been negatively applied to public policy.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed an increase in dependency upon the federal government.

In the past 3287 days, I have observed a political desire to “not be the next Katrina.”

In the past 3287 days, I have observed hundreds, if not thousands of applicants and speakers describe their “Katrina Story.”

It is now 9:46PM in the evening, and I have come down from the attic where my personal notes from the “Katrina Days” are stored in a fireproof container.  I open my notes from late August of 2005 and begin to process the emotions of eight years ago, and how my thoughts and perceptions have changed over the past 3287 days.

As the clock approaches 10PM, I locate a picture of an elderly couple and a golden retriever.  A colleague took the picture on the morning of August 31, 2005 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center (PMAC).  The couple arrived as part of the initial push of evacuees from the New Orleans area.  This picture has had a place of prominence in every office that I have occupied over the past 3287 days.

Jerry M picture

As I recall, the only belongings the couple had with them were several days of food for their golden retriever. I remember how I checked on them constantly while they were at the PMAC. I remember making sure they had water and food while they waited on metal chairs outside the PMAC in the dense, late summer humidity of Baton Rouge. I remember walking outside in the late evenings and early morning hours 3287 days ago and seeing the couple sleeping in those folding metal chairs, each with their head on the other’s shoulder. I remember the golden retriever staying awake and observant while his masters slept. I remember walking outside and noticing the couple was missing. 3287 days since then, and I still wonder what happened to that couple.

As I continue through my notes, I remember the promises of federal assistance and how a community embraced those who needed assistance with or without government direction.

3287 days ago, I witnessed the student body of LSU adopt survivors rescued from a nursing home as their own grandparents.

3287 days ago, I witnessed a medical community embrace volunteerism and their professional oath to serve those in need.

3287 days ago, I witnessed a new football coach and his players move pet crates to establish a pet shelter for companion animals who had evacuated with their owners.

3287 days ago, I witnessed my wife, sister-in-law, and father-in-law come to my aid and staff what would become one of the largest companion animal evacuation shelters in America.

3287 days ago, I witnessed a dog named Ollie become the first pet evacuee housed at this shelter.

3287 days ago, I witnessed employees of the State of Louisiana demonstrate and renew a level of energy and commitment to the people of Louisiana.

3287 days ago, I witnessed the best of a community.

3287 days ago, I witnessed what is now termed “self-organizing communities” prior to it becoming another buzz word of this emerging enterprise of homeland security

3287 days ago, I witnessed resilience.

3287 days ago, I witnessed the best of Louisiana.

3287 days ago, I witnessed the resilience of America.

3287 days ago, I determined that I was PROUD to be a Louisiana responder and emergency manager.

It is now 10:30 PM in the evening and the memories of that night and the days to follow continue to flow.

3287 days ago, at this time, I was told to expect the first wave of evacuees from New Orleans.

3287 days ago, I looked a minimal staff of medical volunteers, state employees, and 100 or so LSU students in the eyes and told them that I didn’t know what to expect.

3287 days ago, we accepted our first wave of nursing home evacuees.

3287 days ago, I didn’t know that we would eventually receive the patients and heroic medical practitioners from Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

3287 days ago, I didn’t know that we would hear the first-hand stories of orderlies feeding hospital patients semi-frozen peas one pea at a time to maintain their nutritional intake and survival.

3287 days ago, I didn’t know that something as simple as a beacon light on a crane would shut down the evacuation of patients from New Orleans area hospitals.

3287 days ago, I didn’t know that I would experience the emotional roller coaster of planning for the dead, while rejoicing each birth that occurred at our makeshift campus hospital.

3287 days ago, I never thought that I would reach a point of acceptance, and see those following days in an entirely different perspective.

A lot has happened over the past 3287 days. 

In the past 3287 days, the people of Louisiana have demonstrated resilience throughout various natural and man-made adversities.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that our homeland security enterprise should not be about resilience, rather resilience has and continues to be the strong narrative of this enterprise known as the United States of America.

In the past 3287 days, I have wondered what happened to that elderly couple and their golden retriever.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that our homeland security enterprise has emphasized processes and frameworks rather than focusing on the social networks and community empowerment.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that our enterprise should be focused on helping that elderly couple with a golden retriever.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that our enterprise is a service industry.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that there are those who need our help.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that no matter the governmental policy, citizens will help others, regardless of race or socio-economic status.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized the significance of citizen responsibility

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that in the absence of political motivation, people will help people.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that an overabundance of partisan politics will gum up the works of our enterprise.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized the righteousness of our society.

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that an elderly couple with a golden retriever, an expectant mother, or a dog named Ollie will be taken care of by our “Great Society.”

In the past 3287 days, I have realized that regardless of media biases, this is a great country, and that the resilience of this country is truly dependent upon its citizens.

As for the next 3287 days, I am not sure what lies ahead. 

I know that in the next 3287 days, my daughters will be sixteen and thirteen years of age, respectively.

I know that in the next 3287 days, my wife and I will be celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary.

I know that in the next 3287 days, I will have aged nine years, and be that much closer to retirement.

I know that in the next 3287 days, the people of Louisiana will continue to demonstrate resilience.

I know that during the next 3287 days, I will have eight more opportunities to reflect upon those days following August 29, 2005.

I know that during the next 3287 days, I will continue to ponder the gains and losses made to better the emerging enterprise known as homeland security.



Jerry Monier is a Spring 2013 graduate of the CHDS Masters Program. In the past 3287 days, Mr. Monier has served as a national level homeland security consultant, public health preparedness manager for the State of Louisiana, and most recently, the Chief of Preparedness for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Louisiana. During Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Monier was employed by Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and was assigned to establish a field hospital at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center located on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The PMAC Field Hospital provided medical care to 6,000 survivors and triaged an estimated 18,000 survivors of Hurricane Katrina.  The views expressed are his own and do not reflect those of his employer.

August 12, 2014

Obesity, Homeland Security, and the National Preparedness Goal

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on August 12, 2014

Here’s the national preparedness goal:

“A secure and resilient nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.” 

Some people (e.g., several hundred retired admirals and generals) argue obesity threatens both the security and resilience of the nation.

A few years ago, in a document titled Too Fat to Fight, they claimed

Being overweight or obese turns out to be the leading medical reason why applicants fail to qualify for military service. Today, otherwise excellent recruit prospects, some of them with generations of sterling military service in their family history, are being turned away because they are just too overweight….

[At] least nine million 17- to 24-year-olds in the United States are too fat to serve in the military. That is 27 percent of all young adults. Obesity rates among children and young adults have increased so dramatically that they threaten not only the overall health of America but also the future strength of our military. 

Obesity threatens more than the nation’s ability to staff its armed forces. It’s an economic threat. And, as the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review report points out (p. 31), “homeland security is inseparable from economic security.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (still acronymized as CDC):

• More than one-third (or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.

• Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

• The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

What can be done to “prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover” from obesity?

Among the hundreds of answers offered to that question, here a suggestion from a 1:41 youtube video I saw a few weeks ago.

Homeland security starts at home.


July 29, 2014

“Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of the 9/11 Commission Report” – a disappointing sequel

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on July 29, 2014

“Nobody pays any attention to these reports. But you still keep printing them.”

The quote is from a prominent (former) intelligence official. He was talking about the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. But he could have been referring to the “Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of the 9/11 Commission Report” released last week (available at this link: http://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/report/rising-terrorist-threat-9-11-commission)

One wishes to be fair to the people who wrote the Reflections. No doubt it was as well intentioned as any sequel. But in my opinion it doesn’t come anywhere close to being a worthwhile read. The assertions and arguments in Reflections are as fatigued as the authors claim the America people are.

And that’s unfortunate.

The Commission missed an opportunity to help reinvigorate the homeland security project they were instrumental in shaping.


The 9/11 Commission Report (available here: http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/) starts with the most memorable sentence of any government report I’ve ever read:

“Tuesday, September 11, 2001, dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the Eastern United States.”

Here’s the opening sentence in Reflections:

“With temperatures in the low 50s, April 15, 2013, promised to be an almost ideal day for the 23,000 runners competing in the 117th Boston Marathon.”

This artless effort to draw a parallel between the Boston Marathon and the September 11 2001 attacks comes off sounding, at best, tone deaf. At worse, offensive.

But it’s only the start.

Instead of the thoughtfulness, balance, and bipartisanship of the original 9/11 Commission Report, we get a repetitive rehash of banal assertions: The terrorists are coming and they are really dangerous. Cyber threats are growing and they also are really dangerous. Congress is dangerous too. Their refusal to reduce the number of homeland security oversight committees is making the country less safe.

And by the way, the Director of National Intelligence (not dangerous) should control the budget of the Intelligence Community.


Unlike the hundreds of thorough and informative endnotes supporting the claims in the 9/11 Commission Report, Reflections backs up its assertions with a handful of anecdotes, a few charts, some quotes from unnamed experts and eight seemingly haphazardous endnotes.

The 9/11 Commission Report did not shy away from discussing at length alternative interpretations of “facts” they uncovered. See, for example, the extensive discussion of the intelligence wall.

That balance and realism is missing in Reflections on every significant issue discussed.

Is there no credible argument that the nation continues to overblow the terrorist threat? How about this one: http://www.amazon.com/Terror-Security-Money-Balancing-Benefits/dp/0199795762

Assuming the nation will not take the cyber threat seriously until we have a cyber version of the 9/11/01 attack, what can we do now to mitigate that attack?

Is there a case for having 92 congressional committees looking at homeland security issues? Are all those committees unnecessary?  Did Reflections speak with anyone who defends the current congressional oversight structure? Could it be an example of the messiness that is republican democracy? Is DoD really the efficiency model to be emulated by homeland security?  Are there no substantial downsides to having only a handful of committees looking at Defense matters?


I appreciate this was not supposed to be another 9/11 Commission Report. But I’m guessing – hoping? – it was supposed to be a serious analysis.

The commission members were “struck by how dramatically the world has changed” in a decade.

Struck? When was the last time a decade went by without dramatic world changes?

What about the current terrorist threat? It’s evolving, says Reflections.

“The forces of Islamist extremism in the Middle East are stronger than in the last decade…. The absence of another 9/11-style attack does not mean the threat is gone: As 9/11 showed, a period of quiet can be shattered in a moment by a devastating attack.”

Reflections continues to press the importance of connecting dots, even if one has to wait years. They ask,

Is the April 2013 rifle attack on an electrical substation in Metcalf, California, a harbinger of a more concerted assault on the national electrical grid or another component of critical infrastructure? What might we be missing today that, three years from now, will prove to have been a signal, a piece of a larger mosaic?

What if it’s not? Or is this report only reflecting things to be afraid of?


If you stop reading after the first two dozen pages of Reflections you’d think the nation is hanging by an existential thread, worse off now then it was ten years ago.

You have to get to page 25 of the 44 page report before learning:

There is no doubt that the country is better equipped to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks than in 2001. …The mass-casualty attacks many feared in the wake of 9/11 did not materialize. Today, in large part because of … many [security-related] reforms, the United States is a much harder target.

Senior leaders agree that America’s layered approach to homeland defense, which recognizes that no single security measure is foolproof, has improved our security….  At its best, a layered system integrates the capabilities of federal, state, and local government agencies. America’s resilience has improved as well. Federal, state, and local authorities have absorbed and applied the lessons of 9/11 over the last decade…. The country must continue to prepare for the unforeseen, but it appears to be moving in the right direction….

I think that’s called “burying the lede.”


There is a consensus among the senior officials with whom we spoke that information-sharing has improved significantly since 9/11.

And right before Reflections concludes (page 37):

As we reflect on the last ten years, we believe the government’s record in counterterrorism is good. Our capabilities are much improved, while institutional vigilance and imagination are both far better than before 9/11. Good people in government have absorbed the lessons of the 9/11 attacks, are tracking the evolving threat, and are thinking one step ahead in order to prevent the next attack.

Lest one think that gives us permission to be complacent, Reflections ends with this less-than-upbeat anecdote:

One former senior national security leader told us recently that he expects that his children and grandchildren will be carrying on this fight.

I wonder if there is another former senior national security leader, somewhere, who thinks about his children and grandchildren the way John Adams did:

I must study … war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

If there are any such national security leaders, they were not interviewed for Reflections.

Young Americans need to know that terrorism is not going away. And they need to know that many of our military personnel, intelligence officers, and diplomats on the front lines in the most dangerous parts of the world are like them—young people with dreams of bright futures.


In addition to the full court press strategy (that includes a congratulations-9/11-Commission youtube video from tired-looking President Obama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIA2iiWkvKY), how are young Americans and the rest of the nation to learn “how dramatically the word has changed?”

It’s simple, says Reflections.

Senior leaders, including the President, have to make the case about terrorism and cyber threats and all the myriad things that go (or might go) bump in the night “in specific terms, not generalities.”  

One hoped Reflections would model some of the transparent specificity they want others to provide. Instead, what we get are statements like this one:

“If the American people hear what we have heard in recent months, about the urgent [cyber] threat and the ways in which data collection is used to counter it, we believe that they will be supportive.”


Don Marquis wrote that “a sequel is an admission that you’ve been reduced to imitating yourself.”

I found Reflections to be a disappointing sequel.

July 10, 2014

Needing your help: Core readings in homeland security

Filed under: Education — by Philip J. Palin on July 10, 2014

I have been asked to prepare a reading list for a graduate symposium in homeland security.  The purpose of the symposium (as I understand it) is to facilitate a meaningful introduction to the field by those approaching the end of graduate studies in other fields: especially law, international affairs, public administration, business, and public health.

I perceive the founders of the symposium have at least two goals: First, to provide the graduate students with sufficient grounding in homeland security that they can reasonably assess their interest in homeland security-related careers and, if interested, have a head-start in engaging and networking within homeland security.  A second goal may involve offering homeland security some non-traditional, even provocative insights emerging from this interdisciplinary consideration.

Especially given these goals the symposium does not seek to “teach” as much as “stimulate”.  The reading list should helpfully suggest major issues and trends.  It should prompt conversation and critique by soon-to-be PhDs, lawyers, and executives.  It is a foundation more than a framing.

It has not yet been finalized, but the symposium will probably meet once every 90 days for roughly six to seven hours of sustained engagement. Four sessions are anticipated.  There will be the opportunity for additional informal engagement, online and otherwise.

I have decided the reading list should be available free online.  I am inclined to give attention to the unfolding nature of homeland security law, policy, and strategy since 9/11.   I would prefer to have no more than ten core readings.  Right now I have fifteen and am tempted to list even more.

Readings that I most regret leaving off the list include the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, some of the better (and worst) Presidential Policy Directives, the OLC memorandum on “contemplated lethal operations”, Federal District Court decisions in Klayman v. Obama and ACLU v. Clapper, and several of the Federalist Papers at about which point I lose all restraint, the universe of reading expanding quickly into quantum and complexity theory.

What else would you insist be on the list?  What would you remove from my list without a second thought?

Potentially helpful to persuading me — and probably a subtext for the missive below — I am a product and practitioner of Higher Criticism.  The written word is sacred and mysterious, context-sensitive, layered, open to reason, enlightened by analogy, beyond full understanding while richly rewarding affirmatively critical engagement.

Thanks for your help.

July 8, 2014

The Schneierites on the 2014 QHSR

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on July 8, 2014

Bruce Schneier writes what I consider one of best security-related blogs on the web, “Schneier on Security.”

Over the years, I’ve found most of the people who comment on his blog are serious, generally knowledgeable, and suspicious of unsupported assertions.

A few weeks ago, Schneier told his readers

“The second Quadrennial Homeland Security Review has been published by the Department of Homeland Security. At 100+ pages, I’m not going to be reading it, but I am curious if there’s anything interesting in it.

I’ve been gushing about the QHSR for the last few weeks.  Schneier’s readers are significantly less impressed. Here are some of their comments (italics are intended only to separate the comments):

  • “We have reviewed ourselves and found ourselves to be in compliance.”
  • Nothing of value in most sections I read. It reads like an incredibly long Homeland Security brochure you pick up in their lobby.
  • It says nothing. It reads like an annual report for the Girl Scouts. “We are protecting you… all 1000 federal agencies.” But I especially liked the part about the commitment to human rights… even as the administration justifies drone attacks on civilians.
  • I don’t think I’ll bother trying to read it. Internal reviews are always going to try and put the agency in a positive light, since if they say “This agency is completely useless” then they are all out of a job. Half of their job seems to be to recommend products that various lobbyists promote, the other half is to give an appearance of “We are doing something to combat terrorism” – in reality, I think all we have managed to do is label more and more of the population as potential terrorists, probably making it even more difficult to track real threats.
  • Maybe what’s left out is most interesting. Only a single mention of the “Constitution of the U.S.”
  • Tried to read it, but got bored very quickly. Maybe that’s part of the strategy! Reminds me of a quote from Wittgenstein:”If a lion were able to speak, we would not understand him.”
  • I know that ‘boring your enemy’ is a legitimate tactic. Hell, lawyers have been doing this by handing over large amounts of irrelevant material for the other side to trawl through.
  • They might as well use one of those automatic paper generators (like mathgen [http://thatsmathematics.com/mathgen/] or scigen [http://pdos.csail.mit.edu/scigen/]). [One] wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

I tried the automatic paper generator suggestion in the last comment.  The results were disappointing. One can easily tell the difference between the automatically generated essay and the 2014 QHSR.  There were fewer pictures.

I tried a different generator, found here.  That program produced a 530 word report, also without pictures, but disturbingly connected – in more than a few instances — to homeland security.  Here is a link to that randomly generated homeland security report.

But don’t waste your time.  It’s nowhere near as interesting as the 2014 QHSR.

I’m going back to my echo chamber now.

July 2, 2014

QHSR: tension between HS and hs

Filed under: Congress and HLS,General Homeland Security,Strategy — by Arnold Bogis on July 2, 2014

I’m a week late to the QHSR discussion and while I don’t have any big thoughts, I do have a few small ones.

– – – – – – – –

There are some problems at the foundation of the QHSR. Issues that point to underlying confusion of what homeland security is, or at least an unclear characterization of what it should be, at the federal level. However, this isn’t the fault of the DHS staff who put together the review, but rather the direction of Congress. As readers are reminded of in the report itself, the scope of the QHSR is:

Each quadrennial homeland security review shall be a comprehensive examination of the homeland security strategy of the Nation, including recommendations regarding the long-term strategy and priorities of the Nation for homeland security and guidance on the programs, assets, capabilities,budget, policies and authorities of the Department.

Soooooo…the Department of Homeland Security (let’s call it capital HS) is mandated by Congress to review the current Administration’s homeland security strategy that includes the work of other agencies (counter-intuitively, I’m going to refer to the whole enchilada encompassing what anyone might wish to include in homeland security as lowercase hs), while at the same time providing DHS-specific recommendations on force structure, authorities, budget, etc. I haven’t checked the authorizing language, but on a quick review of the last DOD QDR (which is supposedly the model for the QHSR) , it pretty much focused entirely on the last half of that charge.  There was little to no language that pointed to the concerns of their national security “partners” or the military’s analysis of the National Security Strategy. Instead it focused on questions of force structure and the impact of sequestration on the military.

In this matter, the important difference between DOD and DHS is that DOD has a long tradition, and specifically, a mature relationship with Congress.  DHS, on the other hand, seems to be generally regarded by many (if not most) lawmakers as the sole actor in the hs sphere.  The consequence being that anything that is considered a hs issue by Congress often becomes a HS issue by default.  A dumping agency.  Even if it is a topic long worked by experienced professionals elsewhere in the government.

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Contrasting examples of this can be seen in the chapters on bio and nuclear threats. At it’s creation, I do not believe any of the agencies or offices brought to DHS a primary role in either arena (outside of FEMA’s responsibility post nuclear attack).  But in the wisdom of a few, since that time the agency has grown both an Office of Health Affairs (OHA) and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO).

I can see the utility of a health office for the protection of the DHS workforce, not unlike the equivalent in DOD.  Perhaps over time they develop particular expertise to contribute to the larger efforts of the government as a whole.  Instead, projects such as the never-quite-right Biowatch placed them in a bureaucratic competition with agencies with long-standing expertise in public health, such as the CDC (the center of biosurveillance), and those newer offices with a concentration of expertise and responsibility, like ASPR (ESF-8 lead, partner in the National Disaster Medical System, and the government developers of new medical countermeasures through BARDA). The QHSR seems to acknowledge this, as it stresses a whole of government approach to public health and bioterrorist threats. DHS went hs rather than HS in addressing biological threats.

The reverse is true for nuclear terrorism. After identifying the issue and stressing the importance due to the possible consequence of such an attack (if this is so important to HS you’d think FEMA would have gotten it’s act together by now regarding planning for such an event…but I digress), the QHSR takes an entirely parochial view of the subject.

We prioritize a sustained, long-term focus on preventing nuclear terrorism through two foundational capabilities: (1) nuclear detection and (2) nuclear forensics. These capabilities are aimed at preventing our adversaries from developing, possessing, importing, storing, transporting, or using nuclear materials.

In stark contrast to bio-events, nuclear terrorism can and must be prevented.  And that prevention is likely not to occur along the pathways of the “Global Nuclear Detection Architecture” or due to forensic capabilities. It happens because while large, the amount of special materials required for a nuclear terrorist attack are finite, thus possible to secure or eliminate at the source.  Hoping that THE major plank in preventing such an attack is detection of very hard to detect materials with the cooperation of others sitting along a spectrum of competence, corruption, and cooperation would be unwise.

I am not suggesting detection and forensics are unimportant, only that they are secondary to securing and eliminating fissile material.  Yet the QHSR focuses on these capabilities because that is what the DNDO does.  So DHS went HS for addressing the nuclear terrorism threat.

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One last small quibble with the Review: why did they have to include a “Black Swans” section?  I don’t mean addressing potential future events that could have a significant impact on homeland security.  Rather, why did they have to attempt to co-opt the term itself?  Hasn’t the mess everyone has made with “resilience” taught us anything?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the book “The Black Swan” that popularized the term, summarizes the attributes of these events: “rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability.” The QHSR has already violated the third attribute, and their list of four potential Swans have been previously suggested and analyzed elsewhere.  They are neither unforeseen or unexpected.

Personally, I’d prefer to think of Natalie Portman when considering Black Swans.

June 26, 2014

QHSR: Translating the archetypes (especially anima/animus)

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Private Sector,Resilience,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on June 26, 2014

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.



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.

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