Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

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.

———-

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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.”

Later:

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.

- – - – - – - – - -

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.

- – - – - – - – - – - – -

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.

–+–

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.

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 21, 2014

QHSR Context

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 21, 2014

In the Homeland Security Act of 2002 the Department of Homeland Security is required to undertake what is clearly intended as a thoughtful reconsideration and anticipation of reality.  According to the law:

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. 

The entire legislative mandate is provided in the new QHSR.

Congress was inspired by the preexisting Quadrennial Defense Review.  You can find the QDR here.  Despite a similar purpose, the QHSR and QDR are apples and oranges in terms of resources inputted and product outputted.   But precisely because of their differences, comparisons and contrasts between the two documents can point to potential “creative tensions” between Homeland Defense and Homeland Security.

Probably worth at least scanning the first QHSR released in February 2010.

While you’re at it scan the National Security Strategy, also from 2010.  Are the Quadrennials coherent with it? Consistent?  Where do you perceive one or both of the Quadrennials suggesting something different?  Very different or just a nuance?  Significant nuance or just a gloss?  A new NSS is in draft… will be interesting to compare the new with the current.

Where you agree with the QHSR but perceive a problem with implementation, how would you better ensure effectively advancing the effort?

Where you disagree with the QHSR, please explain what you perceive is wrong in the underlying analysis and/or outline your alternative.

Chris, Arnold and I have exchanged notes and hope to give most of the first week of summer to the QHSR (pending of course personal or planetary explosions). Given the emails I have received from many of you since Thursday there seems to be a lot to say.  I hope you will say it here.

Feedback — especially thoughtfully (concisely) argued — can have an impact.  Positive or negative and I urge you not to forget the positive.  Do not underestimate how difficult the fight may have been to get into the QHSR something that seems to you self-evident.

Full Disclosure: I was involved in preparing the QHSR, at least enough to receive a thank you email.  I also received a modest honorarium for a specific engagement with prior drafts.   My work focused almost entirely on private-public relationships.  I tried to have influence on supply chains and catastrophe preparedness but totally failed.  Even on private-public — where I was given considerable time and opportunity — I cannot find where the QHSR reflects any specific recommendation that I made.  So no pride-of-authorship.

But I did come to respect — and appreciate — the process and people doing their best to fulfill the mandate and serve the nation.  At least some of them are as frustrated as some of you seem to be, so don’t over-do an inclination to question intent or effort.  It is much more constructive to focus on the meaning or implications of what is actually in the document.  As you will see on Thursday, while they may not have listened to me, I perceive there is much to commend in how the QHSR anticipates the challenges ahead.

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:

http://www.dhs.gov/quadrennial-homeland-security-review-qhsr

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).

July 26, 2013

DHS Deputy Secretary confirmation fight exacerbates vacancies problem

Filed under: Congress and HLS,DHS News,General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on July 26, 2013

In late June the President nominated Alejandro Mayorkas, current Director of USCIS, to be the next Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  This nomination was a critical first step in addressing the issue of DHS leadership vacancies that I wrote about here a couple of weeks ago, and which has attracted notable media attention since Secretary Napolitano announced her resignation two weeks ago.

Until a few days ago, I assumed that this nomination would move forward smoothly, given Mayorkas’ very good reputation and his performance leading USCIS for the last four years.   But as has been reported in the news this week, there’s been a bump in the road in his nomination process, related to a reported DHS Inspector General investigation into certain investments made via the Immigrant Investor Program (known as EB-5), and Mayorkas’ alleged involvement in key decisions related to this matter.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held its confirmation hearing for Mayorkas yesterday (July 25th), likely having scheduled this hearing before this news broke with the intent to try to get him confirmed before the August recess.  Senator Coburn and the other Republican members of the Committee boycotted the hearing, arguing that these  issues raised by the IG needed to be resolved before the nomination should move forward.

I’ve reviewed the transcript of yesterday’s hearing, all relevant news clippings on this EB-5 matter, and the relevant documents released by Senator Grassley yesterday.  This is definitely the kind of issue that Senate Committees need to look at and sort out as part of a confirmation process.  There’s still a lot of confusing and contradictory information in the public record on this matter, so I don’t feel confident to comment on the substance of the allegations.  But from a process standpoint, I would note that these allegations are being brought forward publicly by the IG (who is under his own investigative cloud) in a way that seems very unfair to Mayorkas – who was perplexed and blindsided by these allegations at the hearing, and appears to have had no opportunity to respond to them in the year that the IG’s investigation has been open.   The IG’s actions in relation to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee also appear to be very strange – the Committee apparently only learned about this matter from the IG earlier this week, and Senator Carper indicated at the hearing that he found no relevant information on this matter in Mayorkas’ FBI background report.

And unfortunately, the net result of this matter is that it now seems unlikely that Mayorkas will be confirmed before Secretary Napolitano departs DHS on September 7th.  (The Senate will be on recess from August 3 to September 9, so will have no opportunity to confirm him after next Friday, August 3rd).  That will create a significant and troubling leadership gap at the top of DHS, just in time for the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and right in the middle of hurricane season.  The Department is also likely to have a full legislative agenda this fall (cyber security, border security, appropriations etc.) and on the policy front is charged with working on the second Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) and updating the National Infrastructure Protection Plan this fall.   These issues will all suffer if there is a prolonged senior leadership gap after Secretary Napolitano’s departure.

For these reasons, I hope that the Senate will find a way to resolve this issue and move forward soon on Mayorkas’s nomination.  And it is also imperative that the White House nominate someone as soon as possible to be the next Secretary of DHS, and also finally move forward on nominating and appointing individuals for other key vacant positions (CBP, I&A, ICE, IG, etc.) as soon as possible.

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.”

August 8, 2011

“The Challenges of Developing a Homeland Security Discipline to Meet Future Threats to the Homeland”

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on August 8, 2011

This week Homeland Security Watch will focus on homeland security as a professional and academic discipline.

As noted a few days ago, we will start with Linda Kiltz’s recent Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management paper called “The Challenges of Developing a Homeland Security Discipline to Meet Future Threats to the Homeland.”

I will summarize the main points of the Dr. Kiltz’s article today. Our regular writers will contribute their thoughts during the rest of the week.  Readers are encouraged to contribute to the conversation.

My summary consists primarily of excerpts taken from the paper, occasionally rearranged, and lightly edited to synthesize portions of the argument for this post.  I have not included the citations.

Interested readers are encouraged to read the complete paper for a detailed explication of the argument summarized here.

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The paper makes three central claims:

1. Homeland security education must continually adapt to future risks, threats and vulnerabilities. To do this, it will be necessary to consider homeland security thinking and practice from multiple perspectives and disciplines. Looking at the homeland security enterprise through a variety of perspectives can deepen understanding and shed additional light on the scope of the field or discipline.

2. Existing and future educational programs in homeland security should include the theories, practices and research methods of emergency management, despite the current cultural differences between emergency management and homeland security.

3. Homeland security education programs have to confront three challenges:

  • the development and implementation of a standardized curriculum with core functions and competencies that are inclusive of emergency management,
  • the evolution into a new academic discipline;
  • the adoption of multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning.

Need for Collaboration Between Emergency Management and Homeland Security

Our ability to plan, respond to and recover from a broad range of disasters in the future will be determined in large part by the quality of our local, state and national emergency management systems and homeland security policies and programs.

There can no longer be stove pipes and divisions between emergency management and homeland security practitioners and scholars as we educate and train professionals in these fields in the years ahead. The success of the homeland security enterprise depends on our ability in higher education to work collaboratively across disciplines to design, develop and teach a curriculum that prepares professionals across the entire domain of homeland security (including emergency management), and to conduct research that serves to enhance our understanding of the complexity of the homeland security enterprise.

Vision and Missions of Homeland Security

In order to build educational programs for the homeland security enterprise it is important to have a clear understanding of how the Department of Homeland Security and the Obama administration envision homeland security.

The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report (QHSR) sets forth a shared vision of homeland security in order to achieve a unity of purpose. This vision of homeland security assumes the functions needed to achieve that unity will include both emergency management and homeland security, and will be seen under one overarching concept of the homeland security enterprise that recognizes the need for joint actions and efforts across previously discrete elements of government and society.

The traditional view of homeland security focused on terrorism. The current view encompasses an all-hazards approach that recognizes the value of emergency preparedness structures and processes.

The homeland security missions include: preventing terrorism and enhancing security, securing and managing our borders, enforcing and administering our immigration laws, safeguarding and securing cyberspace, and ensuring resilience to disasters through hazard mitigation, and effective emergency preparedness, response and recovery efforts. Accomplishing these missions is the responsibility not only of DHS, but also of the hundreds of thousands of people across all levels of government, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations.

To be successful in accomplishing these missions, homeland security professionals in the public and private sector must have a clear sense of what it takes to achieve this overarching vision, as well as the knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve national, state and local homeland security goals. Our challenge as homeland security scholars is developing and implementing undergraduate and graduate curriculum that is grounded in a set of core competencies, and continually adapts to future threats, hazards, risks and vulnerabilities.

Current and Future Threats

It will be necessary to provide homeland security professionals with the knowledge and skills to perceive, analyze and respond to disasters and crises from multiple perspectives and paradigms. This will be challenging and critical given the on-going threats and hazards we face now and in the future.

The scope and magnitude of the disasters in 2010 provide us with a warning signal of increasingly catastrophic disasters to come. These 2010 disasters include:

  • 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti
  • 8.8. magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile
  • Twenty earthquakes at a magnitude of 7.0 or higher before the end of the year
  • Record heat and drought in Russia,
  • Typhoons in the Philippines and China, and
  • Mass flooding in Pakistan.

Climate change is expected to have a number of adverse socio-economic impacts within the global environment, including:

  • Shortfalls in water for drinking and irrigation, with concomitant risks of thirst and famine;
  • Changes and possible declines in agricultural productivity stemming from altered temperature, rainfall, or pest patterns;
  • Spikes in the rates and extended geographic scope of malaria and other diseases;
  • Associated shifts in economic output and trade patterns;
  • Changes and possibly large shifts in human migration patterns; and
  • Larger economic and human losses attributable to extreme weather events such as hurricanes.

Coastal populations in North America will be increasingly vulnerable to climate change—and nearly 50 percent of Americans live within fifty miles of the coast.  Impacts of climate change in the U.S. include:

  • An increased likelihood of flooding throughout the nation,
  • More intense hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico,
  • An increase in the number and duration of urban wildfires,
  • More severe and longer heat waves, cyclones and winter storms.

It is clear that a homeland security curriculum focused on all hazards, disaster research and the practice of emergency management should be a major part of future undergraduate or graduate programs in this field.

Given the link between climate change and natural hazards, future curriculum in emergency management and homeland security should include topics related to the adverse physical, social, and security impacts of climate change on the United States.  Future emergency managers and homeland security professionals will need to evaluate and better understand how climate change could affect the identification and selection of disaster mitigation strategies, the types of preparedness activities that jurisdictions undertake, the execution of response operations, and the implementation of long-term recovery strategies.

In addition to preparing for more frequent and devastating natural disasters, professionals should also be prepared for unpredictable man-made and technical disasters such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The threat of terrorism persists. Another low-probability, high cost terrorist event appears to be inevitable given the on-going threat of terrorism, particularly by “homegrown” jihadists. Developing and implementing antiterrorism and counter terrorism strategies to this rapidly changing enemy will require homeland security management professionals to have an advanced understanding of terrorist organizations and terrorism.

Challenges in Developing Homeland Security Programs

To provide well-educated professionals for the homeland security threats described above, it is critical that academic programs in homeland security:

  • Develop and implement a standardized curriculum with core functions and competencies that are inclusive of emergency management,
  • Evolve into new academic disciplines or stay grounded in a traditional academic discipline, and
  • Utilize multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning.

Homeland Security degree programs were initially established with no standardized or consistent core curriculum. This is due, in part, to the lack of agreement about the definition of homeland security. Additionally few professional associations or government organizations provide program level student learning outcomes or guidance on model curriculum.

Emergency management has become more professionalized over the past three decades because of the increase in emergency management higher education programs.  Numerous workshop sessions at the FEMA Higher Education Conferences and scholarly articles have produced several lists for individual emergency management practitioners about competencies, and knowledge, skills and abilities for each level of education in emergency management and homeland security. For example, here is a list of graduate competencies generated in 2004.

The Homeland Security and Defense Education Consortium has attempted to propose standardized educational outcomes at all degree levels in homeland security education. In 2010 a work group recommended core content areas to be included in homeland security graduate programs:

  • Current and emerging threats;
  • Context and organizations;
  • Policies, strategies and legal issues;
  • Processes and management; and
  • Practical applications.

The author synthesized a draft list of core functions and competencies for graduate programs in homeland security based on a review of her own research and related studies.

Comparing the list above with core competencies in emergency management suggest there are a number of areas of overlap that could be integrated into a comprehensive multi-disciplinary degree program. This will be difficult to do while there is no clearly defined set of standardized educational outcomes that is publicly available to guide program development in homeland security education across degree programs. If any level of integration is to be achieved between homeland security and emergency management programs, then the culture clashes between homeland security and emergency management scholars must be minimized.

To overcome some of these conflicts between these two fields, scholars in the fields of emergency management and/or homeland security would need to expand their vision and adjust their paradigms to be more inclusive of the concepts, theories, practices and methodologies used by the different disciplines in these fields. This can be very difficult because it requires conceptual competence-the ability to identify, interpret and apply appropriate tools from participating disciplines relevant to the problem at hand.

Another challenge in developing a homeland security program is identifying the academic discipline and department in which it should be situated within the university. This is necessary because homeland security is currently not an academic discipline. We need to ask ourselves a number of questions: Should homeland security be a subfield of public administration, political science, criminal justice, national security, or something else, or should it be developed into a new academic discipline?

For homeland security to become a discipline there must be consensus on the following topics commonly found within disciplines and reflecting core issues often found in accreditation:

  • Naming the field
  • Defining the field
  • Concepts: What are the key concepts and definitions? What is the core curriculum and does it serve both student and employer needs
  • History: What is the history of the field?
  • Theory: What are the theories, paradigms, and philosophies of the
  • field?
  • Methods: Which research methods should be taught to students?
  • Practice: What are the roles and relationships between educators and practitioners?
  • Student Outcomes Assessment: What are the demographic backgrounds of students? What types of recruitment and retention work best? What do graduates do with their new education? What are employer views of graduates?
  • Faculty Roles: What are the roles of faculty? How can faculty be evaluated?

To date, there is no agreed upon definition of homeland security, no grand theory explaining the phenomenon of homeland security, no standardized curriculum, little discussion of the history, paradigms and philosophies of the field, and ill defined faculty roles. Without these components of a discipline, it would be very difficult to create an interdisciplinary program despite the claims of some programs to have done this very thing.

An interdisciplinary program is one in which two or more disciplines are brought together preferably so that the disciplines interact with one another and have some effect on one another’s perspectives. Despite the benefits of interdisciplinary education, such an approach to homeland security is unrealistic at this time because the conditions necessary for such programs to succeed are too difficult to meet.

Homeland security education programs that are multidisciplinary are more realistic and easier to implement. Multidisciplinary is defined as “research, problem solving or teaching that mingles disciplines but maintains their distinctiveness.” It also refers to the involvement of several different professional areas, though not necessarily in an integrated manner. The advantages of multidisciplinary approaches are that they not only are much easier to develop, implement and evaluate, but also they still allow faculty and students to look at homeland security thinking and practice from multiple perspectives and disciplines.

Conclusion

Given even the challenges of implementing a multidisciplinary approach to homeland security education and its lack of disciplinary status, the best option may be to define homeland security as a subfield within a traditional discipline in the short term, while continuing moving toward becoming a discipline. In the meantime, there must be an on-going dialogue among homeland security scholars on whether homeland security is a discipline, a multidisciplinary endeavor, or a truly interdisciplinary field integrated into something greater than the sum of its parts.

Despite these challenges in developing homeland security education, homeland security has the potential to become an academic discipline if the academic community associated with it makes a concerted effort to develop a standardized curriculum with core functions and competencies, to shape the discipline in the future, and to construct the missing disciplinary components in partnership with scholars and practitioners in the field of emergency management. By working together we may some day be better able to answer the question, “What is homeland security?”

 

April 12, 2011

“There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness”

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on April 12, 2011

“There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretend order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.”

The harsh quote is from Jane Jacob’s 1961 masterpiece, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I thought of the quote as I read Presidential Decision Directive 8, harshly titled — but in a different sense of harsh — National Preparedness.

Jacobs was not talking about homeland security as we know it now. She was writing about a different kind of government program focused on a different kind of homeland security:

… there is a housing project with a conspicuous rectangular lawn which became an object of hatred to the project tenants. [Government representatives were] astonished by how often the subject of the lawn came up, usually gratuitously… and how much the tenants despised it and urged that it be done away with. When [a goverment representative] asked why, the usual answer was, “What good is it?” or “Who wants it?” Finally one day a tenant more articulate than the others made this pronouncement: “Nobody cared what we wanted when we built this place. They threw our houses down and pushed us here and pushed our friends somewhere else. We don’t have a place around here to get a cup of coffee or a newspaper even, or borrow fifty cents. Nobody cared what we need. But the big men come and look at the grass and say, “Isn’t it wonderful! Now the poor have everything.”

I do not mean this as a criticism of PPD 8. I tend to agree with Palin’s analyses over the past few days. PPD 8 seems to be a modest evolution of HSPD 8, with more attention to a broader set of stakeholders, and with at least the hint of more flexibility about what preparedness means.

I also do not intend this to be a critique of the men and women who worked (I am told) even before the Obama Administration to author and socialize this evolution of homeland security doctrine. I agree with Teddy Roosevelt’s words, spoken more than 100 years ago:

It is not the critic who counts…. The credit belongs to the man [and woman] who is actually in the arena….

I translate his words to mean it is easier to comment on PPD 8 than it was to bring it to fruition.  Here are some initial reactions to PPD 8.

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PPD 8, to me, is another example of “the dishonest mask of pretend order, achieved by ignoring … the real order that is struggling … to be served.” Such dishonest masks characterizes much contemporary rhetoric marking the struggle to make room for something other than a technicist worldview about governance.

It might be less pretentious to express more narrowly my view PPD 8 is a recent example of the struggle in homeland security between an effort to impose pretend order and the burgeoning emergence of real order.

I wrote about this dynamic in 2010 for an analysis of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.  It is a struggle — in bare metaphorical terms — between Newtonians and Darwinians.

Newtonians see homeland security as a machine whose parts need to be integrated into a cohesive whole, a whole – perhaps — governed by a National Preparedness Goal. Darwinians see homeland security as the emergent product of multiple complex adaptive systems.

Both approaches value order.  Newtonians achieve order through understanding how to use power. Darwinians achieve order by shaping — as they can —  variation, selection, and replication.   One approach is not troubled by pretend order.  The other approach avoids the artificial, not for esthetic reasons, but because of its waste.

When I compare PPD 8 with the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, I am encouraged to think the Darwinian forces are edging ahead in the struggle. But when I compare PPD 8 with HSPD 8, the questioning WTF? refrain comes to mind.

Was the squeeze that produced PPD 8 worth the juice?

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PPD 8 supports an “all of Nation” approach.

The 2007 National Homeland Security Strategy’s vision was:

The United States, through a concerted national effort that galvanizes the strengths and capabilities of Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments; the private and non-profit sectors; and regions, communities, and individual citizens – along with our partners in the international community – will work to achieve a secure Homeland that sustains our way of life as a free, prosperous, and welcoming America.

So how is PPD 8 different? If anything HSPD 8 is more expansive with its “all of planet” approach.

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PPD 8 supports “an integrated, all-of-Nation, capabilities-based approach to preparedness.”

Or, as several analysts have already noted, we now focus on capabilities, not scenarios.

As I understand it, rather than relying on a dozen or so major catastrophe scenarios, the new emphasis will be “maximum of maximums (MOM).” As best as I understand MOM, it means figuring out the worst of the worst things that can happen to a particular jurisdiction, and then working on figuring out what capabilities that situation would require.

How is this not switching from 15 really horrible scenarios to 1 outright ugly and horrible mega-monster scenario?

I know some Newtonians felt chained to the 15 scenarios (almost all of which ended up with the feds showing up to help).  I know Drawinians who treated working on the 15 scenarios as the price they had to pay to get the grants to develop capabilities they wanted.   Is the evolutionary advance that the Newtonians will now be chained to a different rule set?  The Darwinians are already strategizing about how to use PPD 8. Newtonians are waiting for implementation guidelines.

And maybe I’m missing something really significant here, but what is new about the emphasis on capabilities based planning?

Surely one recalls the HSPD 8 spawned Target Capabilities List (TCL):

The TCL describes the capabilities related to the four homeland security mission areas: Prevent, Protect, Respond and Recover. It defines and provides the basis for assessing preparedness. It also establishes national guidance for preparing the Nation for major all-hazards events, such as [my emphasis] those defined by the National Planning Scenarios.

HSPD 8 went from the 15 planning scenarios to 37 TCLs that would allow one to prepare for those scenarios. The TCLs were (are?) grouped according to common, prevent, protect, respond, and recover capabilities.

Does the PPD 8 focus on prevent, protect, mitigate [new?], respond, and recover mean a new set of “core” capabilities are needed? Or are the old ones still ok?

Can Jurisdiction X, whose MOM differs from Jurisdiction Y’s MOM choose to focus on capabilities that are different from Jurisdiction Y?  Does the homeland security ecosystem allow for different “scalable, flexible, and adaptable” capabilities in different parts of the enterprise, or does the homeland security machine demand “a unified system with common terminology and approach?” Or is the answer both?

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And then comes the national preparedness goal (NPG). The PPD 8 version of the NPG is due in September 2011. I say “version,” because I thought we already had a national preparedness goal.

On March 31, 2005 (six years and a day before PPD 8 was signed), DHS issued its interim national preparedness goal:

[The] vision for the National Preparedness Goal is: To engage Federal, State, local, and tribal entities, their private and non-governmental partners, and the general public to achieve and sustain risk-based target levels of capability to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from major events in order to minimize the impact on lives, property, and the economy.

That reads like “whole of nation” and “preparedness capabilities” to me. The words may differ, but the semantics seem the same. Where is the evolutionary advance here?  Do we really need a new national preparedness goal?  If so, where is the demand coming from?

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Then there is the matter of metrics in PPD 8:

… a comprehensive approach to assess national preparedness that uses consistent methodology to measure the operational readiness of national capabilities at the time of assessment, with clear, objective and quantifiable performance measures, against the target capability levels identified in the national preparedness goal.

Assessing preparedness — a code phrase that can be approximately translated into “what has all the money spent on homeland security bought the nation, and how do we know?” — has proven a hellish task.

Some people have suggested the way the Centers for Disease Control assess their capabilities of interest might be a model for the rest of homeland security.

I looked briefly at the CDC March 2011 report, “Public Health Preparedness Capabilities: National Standards for State and Local Planning.”

The 153 page, very well organized, document — based on lots of stakeholder input — describes 15 capabilities, further subdivided into functions, that are still further divided into tasks. (The report is structurally similar to several early DHS publications.)

The document deserves a closer reading than I gave it. It does include a number of measurable objectives (e.g., “Production of the approved Incident Action Plan before the start of the second operational period.”)  But I ran across the following phrase 43 times: “At present there are no CDC-defined performance measures for this function.” (For example: Provide methods for the public to contact the health department with questions and concerns through call centers, help desks, hotlines, social media, web chat or other communication platforms.)

Like the rest of homeland security, the public health community still has some work to do on the measurement issue.

As I wrote in this blog two Octobers ago, there have been at least 6 well-funded pilot efforts to figure out how to measure preparedness. They all proved fruitless for reasons that have more to do with the wickedness of the assessment problem than with the lack of talent, skills and intellect of the people who worked the problem.

Jay Rosen provided a good synopsis recently about the nature of wicked problems that speak to this dilemma. After summarizing the characteristics of wicked problems, he writes

… we would be better off if we knew when we were dealing with a wicked problem, as opposed to the regular kind. If we could designate some problems as wicked we might realize that “normal” approaches to problem-solving don’t work. We can’t define the problem, evaluate possible solutions, pick the best one, hire the experts and implement. No matter how much we may want to follow a routine like that, it won’t succeed. Institutions may require it, habit may favor it, the boss may order it, but wicked problems don’t care.

Rosen suggests a way to treat wicked problems that might be considered for the preparedness effort:

Wicked problems demand people who are creative, pragmatic, flexible and collaborative. They never invest too much in their ideas because they know they are going to have to alter them. They know there’s no right place to start so they simply start somewhere and see what happens. They accept the fact that they’re more likely to understand the problem after it’s “solved” than before. They don’t expect to get a good solution; they keep working until they’ve found something that’s good enough. They’re never convinced that they know enough to solve the problem, so they are constantly testing their ideas on different stakeholders.

Assigning such creative, pragmatic, flexible and collaborative people to the measurement issue might be an evolutionary advance. My guess is they would include many of the people who developed and staffed the PPD. (Many. Not all.)

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I think there is a simple test for the success of PPD 8:

Within 1 year from the date of this directive, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit the first national preparedness report based on the national preparedness goal to me, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. [my emphasis]

In case that language sounds familiar to you, here is something similar from the December 2003, HSPD 8:

The Secretary shall provide to me through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security an annual status report of the Nation’s level of preparedness, including State capabilities, the readiness of Federal civil response assets, the utilization of mutual aid, and an assessment of how the Federal first responder preparedness assistance programs support the national preparedness goal. The first report will be provided within 1 year of establishment of the national preparedness goal. [my emphasis]

I don’t think this requirement to submit a national preparedness report was ever met.

The Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 also required an annual federal preparedness report. I think one such report was written, and completed a few days before the end of the Bush Administration.

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PPD 8 is a 6 page page stone tossed into the water. Its impact on the homeland security enterprise is neither predictable nor knowable. This is one of those situations where we will see causes retrospectively.

But we can fairly accurately predict how stakeholders will respond. As one either cynical or experienced person (or both) noted in a comment to one of Palin’s posts:

Just what we need, More Frameworks, yay! Let the interagency flogging begin and let the state and local stakeholders stand-by to shift course again and relearn new Federal stuff for the 3rd or 4th time this decade.

It need not be that way. PPD 8 is very clear that stakeholder involvement is an important part of turning words into actions that increase the nation’s preparedness.

PPD 8 notes several times that the Secretary “shall coordinate this effort with other executive departments and agencies, and consult with State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public.” [my emphasis]

I do not know what “coordinate” or “consult” means in a Newtonian world. But it is the sine qua non of a social world that values variation, selection, and replication as the path to order.

Watching the changes in the homeland security enterprise over the past decade leads me to believe there is a real order struggling to exist and to be served in homeland security.  The one word name for that order is federalism.  It is accompanied by messiness, inefficiency and other faults that drive Newtonians crazy.  But — like our republican democracy — pretend order is not one of federalism’s faults.

Let’s see how PPD 8 does without a mask.

 

 

October 12, 2010

Homeland security as a legacy concept

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on October 12, 2010

A few weeks ago a friend suggested that homeland security was a legacy concept.

Legacy is a polite word. It is used as a synonym for something no longer in fashion. It also refers to what’s left when somebody dies.

In the computer world, legacy means something that has been superseded but that is difficult to get rid of because it is still widely used.

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“Homeland security’s outlived its usefulness,” my friend said.

To paraphrase the rest of his argument:

Most terrorism prevention is either law enforcement or military work; sometimes both. The concept of “homeland security” does not add much value to what the police or the defense department already do.

Emergency management takes care of things that can’t be prevented. Except for a few very well publicized events, the nation’s emergency management enterprise does a good job responding to disasters. Covering emergency management with a coat of homeland security paint doesn’t add much.

To many state and local agencies, homeland security means “what we have to do to get emergency management grants so we can prepare for the events we will actually experience.”

Public health may not have performed perfectly during the H1N1 season; but it’s not obvious how incorporating public health into the homeland security stew made anything better.

DHS component agencies — Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, TSA, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service — take care of their areas of responsibility. Why do they need to be connected to the same federal overhead agency?  And does anyone recall why we keep the Customs part of Customs and Border Protection separate from the Customs part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

What do any of the overhead management agencies in DHS actually contribute to making the nation more secure? Is there any evidence other than rhetoric about the value overhead agencies add?

Sure there is DHS rhetoric about value:

“We are a unified Department with a shared focus: strengthening our Nation – through a partnership with individual citizens, the private sector, state, local, and tribal governments, and our global partners. We must also coordinate across Federal agencies, while shaping homeland security policy and coordinating incident management.”

But that language comes from the DHS “One Team, One Mission, Securing Our Homeland” strategic plan. It was issued in 2008. By DHS Secretary Chertoff. It’s still featured on the DHS website, in spite of language on the same web page that says

“…it is important to acknowledge that this Strategic Plan is a living document and will be revised as needed to guide a dynamic Department and its ever-changing requirements.”

If the strategy has not been revised in two years, is that evidence of a legacy strategy and a moribund department?  Or should we look at the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review as the new living document?

There is little question “homeland security” as a concept has been replaced at the national level by “national security.” Last year the homeland security council staff dissolved into the national security staff.  The country no longer has a national homeland security strategy.  The 2007 National Homeland Security Strategy was replaced, with little fanfare, by the May 2010 National Security Strategy.

If homeland security is not already dead, it’s getting there.

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I dismissed my friend’s argument out of hand — meaning I didn’t think much about it. Or rather I tried not to think about it.

But the thought would not go away.  What if he was right?

I asked colleagues what they thought of the idea.  Most agreed with my first reaction: the idea is wrong.   There are no unambiguous measures of whether we are better prepared to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks and catastrophes today than we were a decade ago.  But the consensus of people I asked was agencies were better at sharing information and working together than they were in early 2001.  Is that improvement because something called “homeland security” served as an organizing and funding device? Possibly.  Probably.

No, I don’t think homeland security is a legacy concept.

But what if it were true? Or at least in the early days of being true? What kind of argument could be constructed to support the claim that the nation is moving beyond the concept of “homeland security?”

What if, like a soft green blanket, homeland security was what the nation needed to get past the trauma of the first years of this new century? How would we know when it was time to let go? When it was time to move on?

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