Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 21, 2014

“We were Boston Strong, because we were Boston Ready”

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Resilience,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Arnold Bogis on April 21, 2014

Today, nine thousand more people are running the Boston Marathon than last year.  Officials expect over one million spectators – roughly double the average. Hotels have been booked for months, and people looking to volunteer have been turned away for weeks due to the crush of applicants.

I take a couple of points away from this and all the other outpouring of support for today’s race, runners, and the Greater Boston area:

  • To steal NSFW terminology from Big Papi, this is basically a big fuck you to terrorism.  It doesn’t work if people aren’t scared, and the people of Boston, Massachusetts, and runners and spectators from across this country and world are obviously not scared.
  • Not only do Bostonians (and Cantabrigians and Watertown-ians(?) and etc.) not scare easily, Americans in general do not scare easily.  So I hope pundits leave behind flawed concerns that the unprecedented shelter-in-place order on the Friday following the Marathon bombings was a sign of underlying weakness rather than determined strength born out of  in-the-moment operational necessity.
  • We as a society are resilient.  Yes, there are significant concerns about infrastructure and emerging threats.  Things can and should be improved across a range of sectors and issue areas.   However, I simply have not read nor heard convincing proof that our current society is any less resilient than in decades past.  Stephen Flynn I’m looking at you. Instead, we live in a different world with different vulnerabilities but also different strengths.

Leading up to today, there has been much said about the potential of missed clues or signals that could have led authorities to prevent this attack.  There has also been much shared about the resilience of those directly affected by the bombings. Rightly so.

I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t admit to being a little concerned.  The medical response to the attack has been lauded.  It has not been sufficiently explained.  It should not be taken for granted.

The concept of a “dry run disaster” has been advertised.  Lessons learned from the Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Israeli experience have been explored. It is easy to point out that the explosions occurred yards away from a medical tent, and that Boston is blessed with an overabundance of world class hospitals just minutes away from the scene.

Yet the underlying strength of the Boston response originated from years of planning, practice, and collaboration.  Similar examples of which are difficult to find across our nation. Boston was, and is, strong because it has, and continues to, work on preparedness.

Boston Strong because Boston Ready.

This should be noted and shared.

All I have to offer in addition is a few suggestions:

  • The Federal goverment, both the Administration and Congress, should increase funding to such programs as the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) that aims to instill the cross-sector collaboration that was so successful in Boston.  It would also be nice if top Administration officials not only talked about resilience but actually did something to drive actual change in their departments.
  • State and local governments should embrace the “whole of community” approach.  This would require that first responders embrace the possibility of a robust civilian response in their plans, as well as encouraging cooperation among private stakeholders.
  • Those private stakeholders, hospitals and healthcare systems and etc., should understand that cooperation and collaboration with others should not be viewed as a net loss on the ledger books, but as an overall positive contribution to their business model.
  • And finally, the individuals among us should realize that having health insurance is a good thing.  Not unduly burdening the emergency medical system during times of unexpected stress, such as the Marathon bombing, could save lives. Learning what to do to help our neighbors would be even better.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Recently, NBC’s “Meet the Press” aired a segment on “Boston Strong: The Marathon Bombing, One Year Later.”

You can watch a video of it here: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/boston-bombing-anniversary/boston-strong-marathon-bombing-one-year-later-n79161

It was a round table discussion with an audience of Boston first responders.  The individual making the incisive observation I took as the title of this post was Senator Ed Markey.  His full quote:

And, you know, we were prepared. We were Boston Strong, because we were Boston Ready. The city was ready. And the commissioner has a lot to do with that. The people who were here. There was a lot of cooperation at the local level. And then we needed the bravery of people then to respond on that day. And they did. And the resilience of people afterwards.

He makes a subtle and often overlooked point.

April 9, 2014

Boston Marathon Bombing Roundup

With the Boston Marathon quickly approaching, along with the one year anniversary of the Marathon bombing, you can imagine there has been a surge of related events and releases.

Here are some of the more informative, in case you missed them.

Today, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing “The Boston Marathon Bombings, One Year On: A Look Back to Look Forward.” It mostly focused on the law enforcement-related decisions, and served as a podium to denounce the Administration’s stated plans to consolidate homeland security grants into one block grant to states.  However, it also contained interesting questions and answers/testimony on the current and future state of NIMS in disaster response.

The Committee’s page for this hearing can be found here: http://homeland.house.gov/hearing/hearingthe-boston-marathon-bombings-one-year-look-back-look-forward

A better quality video can be found here (apologies, but I couldn’t find one I could post on this blog): http://www.c-span.org/video/?318765-1/boston-marathon-bombings-anniversary-review

The Witness list with links to written statements:


Mr. Edward F. Davis, III

Former Commissioner, Boston Police Department and Fellow

John F. Kennedy School of Government

Harvard University

Witness Statement [PDF]


Mr. Edward P. Deveau

Chief of Police

Watertown Police Department

Witness Statement [PDF]


Mr. Jeffrey J. Pugliese


Watertown Police Department

Witness Statement [PDF]


Prof. Herman “Dutch” B. Leonard

Professor of Public Management

John F. Kennedy School of Government

Harvard University

Witness Statement [PDF]

Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]
Two of those testifying, Dutch Leonard and Edward Davis, participated in the development of the report, “Why Was Boston Strong, Lessons from the Boston Marathon Bombing.” Among it’s conclusions:

 The report highlights a number of factors that contributed to a largely successful response and emphasizes what, exactly, made Boston Strong and resilient in the face of tragedy. It also provides a set of recommendations for jurisdictions to consider going forward. Among other findings, the authors urge responders:

•    To quickly establish a cross-agency, senior strategic and policy-making level of engagement and secure command post — with dedicated space for strategic, tactical and logistical teams — that looks to both the big picture and a longer timeframe.

•    To provide responders and political leaders with more training and experience in the doctrine of incident command in complex circumstances through exercises and utilization of regular “fixed events” to develop skills.

•    To develop a more effective process to manage the inevitable self-deployment of responders who in response to crisis arrive as independent individuals rather than in organized units.

•    To critically review current training and practice on control of weapons fire, which may call for new paradigms.

•    To design and routinely establish a staffing schedule for all levels of personnel ensuring rotation and rest that are essential to sustained performance when critical events last for days.

•    To consider a legislative change to the HIPAA regulations regarding release of information to family members about the health status of patients critically injured in an attack, in order to provide them the best care possible and to cater to their wide range of needs.

The National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, a joint Harvard Kennedy School and Public Health School venture, just released their preliminary findings on “Crisis Meta-Leadership Lessons From the Boston Marathon Bombings Response: The Ingenuity of Swarm Intelligence.” What’s it about?

The Boston Marathon Bombings required leaders of many agencies – scattered over numerous jurisdictions and with different authorities and priorities – to rapidly respond together to an unknown and complex set of risks, decisions and actions. This report analyzes their leadership through the event. It seeks to understand how they were able to effectively lead an operation with remarkable results. These outcomes are measured in lives saved, suspects quickly captured, public confidence maintained and population resilience fostered. These leaders were observed to exhibit “Swarm Intelligence,” a phenomenon in which no one is in charge and yet, with all following the same principles and rules, leaders are able to accomplish more together than any one leader could have achieved separately. These rules include: 1) unity of mission that coalesces all stakeholders; 2) generosity of spirit; 3) deference for the responsibility and authority of others; 4) refraining from grabbing credit or hurling blame; 5) a foundation of respectful and experienced relationships that garner mutual trust and confidence. That confidence, both personal and systemic, bolstered these leaders individually and as a coordinated force over the 102 hours between the attacks and the conclusion of the incident. They handled difficult decisions in the face of credible risks: Whether to keep public transit open? Whether to release blurry pictures of the suspects? The study found that over the course of the week, they learned how to lead and lead better, so that by the time they reached the chaotic conclusion of the event, they acted as a coordinated and unified cadre of crisis leaders.

Finally, 60 Minutes aired a segment several weeks ago about the decisions made behind the scenes during the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.

April 7, 2014

Nostalgia – a key component of resilience?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Dan OConnor on April 7, 2014

My oldest daughter and I were having a conversation which led to talk about my grandfather.  We were discussing the toughness and ruggedness of him and his era.  Born at the turn of the 20th century “Gramps” was everything I thought a man should be.  He was a boxer, slept in jails during the depression, worked in the Brooklyn Navy yard during World War II and did whatever he needed to do in order to provide.  I have yet to meet the man who I respected as much as my grandfather. He embodied what I thought all men of his age and Americans were: strong, smart, capable, dutiful, and unafraid.

I reminisced about one day sitting on a school bus with a bunch of cub scouts going to a New York Mets game for a father and son night.  My grandfather, then in his mid-70s, and another “grandpa” began to talk.  I listened agape as he described how he played against Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during barnstorming games.

In the conversation I realized that this reminiscence, this idea of nostalgia has a powerful effect on expectations, performance and point of view.  In my maturation I recognize what I saw in him was probably not completely accurate, but was my interpretation of him. His characteristics, in my nostalgic point of view, are tantamount to what I need to return to when things and life are not ideal.  His actions in my nostalgic recollections are tantamount to resilience.

Resilience — as has often been mentioned in this blog — has many formulas and definitions.  It’s an overused aphorism in many instances and somewhat nebulous in others.  Resilience is part of a broader definition of panarchy and biodiversity.  Resilience is many things to many people and I think very easy and at the same time very difficult for some to define.

From the metaphorical point of view, I see resilience as the owed narrative of our nostalgic past.  We often speak about the Greatest Generation, the Depression, the Right Stuff, the American way.  All those phrases are versed in nostalgic virtue and have a theme of returning to something.  The return is part of the resilience definition.

In many of my postings over the years I notice I have an “I owe” theme.  I believe in my heritage and to a large extent the nationalist themes of exceptionalism and my time in the Marine Corps.  That said, it’s a bit abstract to shape ones actions on a subjective past.  Marines don’t want to let down marines of the past, those that came before them. It is certainly a bit weird, but then again not.

Our history, our expectations, and our belief system are shaped by a narrative of nostalgia.   To channel Phil Palin for a moment, the word nostalgia is a formation of a Greek compound, consisting of nóstos, meaning “homecoming”, a Homeric word, and álgos, meaning “pain, ache”; the word was coined by a 17th-century medical student.    Nostalgia can also be seen in that aching for home and the past as a purported ideal. That idea, the longing for a return, has a resilience theme in it.   Nostalgia may reflect an ambivalence of sorts, but it is a positive emotion.

Nostalgia, whether captured in history books or propagated in Frank Capra pictures, is part of the American experience. Maybe America has always been nostalgic, whether from our multiple immigrant pasts or simply the fringe of the empire creating a culture that embraced such reminiscence.  We often read and hear today that our online, nearly virtual lives and cultural shifts have eroded the sense of community and togetherness that we once experienced. Maybe more nostalgia at work!

In some psychological circles it is believed that nostalgia is necessary for people to be resilient.  Nostalgia may have a restorative function amongst resilient people and also bolster mental health.  Several studies indicate that it is a key attribute in returning to some type of mental symbiosis.   If the key to resilience in social-ecological systems is diversity, as some researchers present, than perhaps our national resilience and personal resilience would benefit from a diverse and rich nostalgic discovery .

The homeland security aspect of resilience is spoken of regularly and often in this blog.  Perhaps that’s an ingredient that we have overlooked: the narrative, with its distorted warts and all is a decidedly important aspect of building a resilient nation.

I was never unsafe, unprotected, or fearful in the presence or company of my grandfather.  He was easily the toughest, bravest, and most fearless man I have ever met.  He’s been gone now a good while, but his legacy and my remembrance of him lives on by what he would expect of me and how he lived his life.  If that is not nostalgia, than I do not know what it is.

Nostalgia is an important and often overlooked aspect of a personal and national resilience. It is based not in myth but in narrative shaped by two perspectives kluged together.  Maybe it’s time to reinforce who we are and where we come from as a key component of resilience.

March 18, 2014

Five homeland security thesis abstracts

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on March 18, 2014

I had the opportunity this weekend to read five engaging theses, written by people who will graduate next week from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security master’s degree program.  I’m posting the thesis abstracts below.  The documents will be publicly available in about 6 weeks.  But if you are interested in seeing the thesis before then, please email me (my first and last name [at] gmail dot com), and I’ll put you in touch with the author.  


In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration will open national airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAS). Nonmilitary uses for UAS range from agriculture services to entertainment purposes, and include tasks as mundane as inspecting gutters and as consequential as fighting fires.

Outside of the safety issues that accompany many breakthrough technologies, the effort to integrate UAS into national airspace is enmeshed in political, legal and economic policies that require careful navigation. Factors like cybersecurity and technological advancements will continue to influence the way UAS can be used.

This thesis provides an orientation to the key considerations in UAS integration. Policy recommendations include early stakeholder engagement; a national data protection law; no-fly zones around private residences; clearly identifying UAS operators and owners; non-lethal payloads in national airspace; adapting current surveillance laws to UAS; a single, national privacy law to facilitate the free flow of commerce and coordination across state lines; a federal office in charge of monitoring data privacy; accountability of data collectors; limited exemptions for activities conducted in the interest of national security or to protect life and property; and managing cybersecurity risks.


The study of a law enforcement response to a national movement is a homeland security issue. How America polices its population establishes the benchmark for how it treats the world and is worthy of exploration. What can the experiences of four major U.S. cities, in their response to the Occupy Movement, tell us about using emergent strategies for policing protest in the twenty-first century?

In the fall of 2011, the Occupy Movement protests swept across the United States in a matter of weeks. Activists demonstrated against income inequality and the state of the economy, and they established camps in major urban areas, occupying public spaces.

I conducted case studies of New York City; Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; and Dallas, Texas and analyzed the results. That analysis revealed common themes, including a lack of negotiated management, restricting access to traditionally open public spaces by the police and the use of emergent practice in the complex adaptive environment of demonstrations. From this analysis, I am able to provide strategic recommendations for city and police leaders in dealing with protests in the twenty-first century utilizing a sense-making framework that will assist leaders in strategic planning for protests for large and small cities alike.


The United States defines terrorism through the lists it maintains identifying those who are engaged in, support, and/or facilitate terrorism. One such list is the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. Since the FTO designation process occurs without the organization’s knowledge or ability to challenge the evidence relied upon, classified information is used in making the determination, and judicial oversight is limited, concerns have been expressed that the Executive Branch has too much discretion in this process. The concerns are exacerbated by the perception that political motivations dominate the decision-making process.

Using content analysis, the FTO list is analyzed using a quantitative and qualitative approach. First, the terrorist designation processes used in allied countries is examined, and the list is analyzed reviewing FTO decisions made before and after 9/11. Through an analysis of the annual State Department country reports describing the FTOs, the non-statutory factors that influence FTO decisions emerge, and include whether a group attacked Israel or other allied nation of strategic interest to the United States, attacked the United States or its citizens, or is affiliated with al Qaeda. These non-statutory factors and their application to U.S. counterterrorism strategy, is how the United States defines terrorism at any point in time.


The subject of this project is the state of fire service substance-testing policy nationwide, and what it should be. This thesis analyzed 12 substance-testing policies from fire departments across the country. The project looked at the language fire departments were using to convey the intent, process, and consequences of their policy. Common themes emerged as each policy was examined. However, upon closer examination, more inconsistency was found than uniformity. Differences ranged from policy purposes to prevailing guidance to types of substances tested for, threshold levels, and employee treatment; the greatest difference was found in the terminology. As a result of the analysis, this thesis identifies best practices and required components of a standardized national substance-testing policy, and asserts that such a national model should be implemented.


There is a great opportunity for collaborative learning when agencies conduct emergency preparedness exercises together. If different members of the community contribute to the development of these exercises, then this learning benefits the entire population. As it stands, preparedness exercises are being conducted with minimal regard to recommendations from previous exercises and real-world events. Along with the incorporation of intelligence into these exercises, the objectives should promote a more inclusive design process based on focused relevance, encouraging agencies to view themselves more as members of the greater community rather than individual entities.

Terrorist organizations learn from past failures as well as successes, and emergency responders should strive to parallel this learning in order to develop tactical improvements. Emergency responders need to promote the idea of intelligence-driven exercise design in order to support community resilience through collaborative training. Municipalities should spearhead this effort, supported financially by the private sector. With this fusion of intelligence and collaborative exercise design, we can learn from the fires of yesterday and prepare for the emergencies of tomorrow.

March 6, 2014

Neighbors: Engaged or Not

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Resilience — by Philip J. Palin on March 6, 2014

Maybe you saw the reports of a neighborhood’s response to an avalanche last Friday:

Rescue officials say about 100 neighbors converged to help find three people buried Friday when an avalanche swept down a mountain in a residential area of Missoula in western Montana and crushed a house at the bottom.

“It was very chaotic but a lot of energy,” said Jeff Brandt, assistant chief of operations for the Missoula Fire Department.

Scores of neighbors had already started the rescue effort when he arrived about half an hour after the slide, and some 20 professional responders helped provide focus to the effort, Brandt said. An 8-year-old boy was pulled from the snow just as he arrived, he said.

The three people remained hospitalized Saturday, a day after the avalanche slid down 4,768-foot Mount Jumbo into the northeast Missoula neighborhood…  MORE

In crisis situations, we see this again and again.  We saw it on 911.  We saw it at the Boston Marathon.  In a few weeks we will see the annual festival of neighborliness called the Red River Flood.

But it is interesting to me that among urban public safety personnel a positive neighborhood response tends not to be expected.  In a few situations I have even heard police, firefighters or emergency management tell “civilians” not to get involved and let the professionals take charge.  Over a beer in Baltimore, Chicago, or Philadelphia many (not all) pledged to protect and serve the public consider that same public their greatest threat.

On March 13, 1964 Kitty Genovese was killed in a middle-class neighborhood of Queens.  Her story became a modern parable of corrupt priests, fearful pharisees, and bad Samaritans.

According to the New York Times and the story told and re-told, scores of neighbors did nothing even as they heard her screams for help.  Maybe you can depend on your neighbors in Missoula, but not in the big cities became a common understanding.  Since then we have looked for and found corroboration. Expect the worse and you will not be disappointed.

There are tw0 new books out on the Genovese story.   A debate is renewed over what happened — even more what did not happen — a half-century ago.  In the current New Yorker Nicholas Lemann reviews the books, sympathizes with the argument that urban apathy was amplified far beyond reality, and concludes, “The real Kitty Genovese syndrome has to do with our susceptibility to narratives that echo our preconceptions and anxieties.”

Meanwhile in the Daily News, Catherine Pelonero, author of the one of the new books, defends much of the urban myth.  (“In speaking of myths and mythologies we do not make claims regarding empirical truth,” a favorite professor explained, “but instead point to the power of popular perception.”) Yet even she writes, “The witnesses weren’t chronically hard-hearted  New Yorkers who couldn’t bother intervening while a neighbor was murdered.  They were normal people hobbled by a mix of fear, self-interest, and apathy.  We all fail at times, and how bravely we behave varies from day to day, moment to moment.”

I spend a good deal of my time and energy working with people who expect the worst and that may well include human nature.  Given this expectation they plan, act, and at times decide not to act in anticipation of viciously self-interested behavior.  I am aware evidence for this predisposition exists.  It is not, however, the only or always predominant evidence.

Emerging directly from the Genovese case is the empirically demonstrated “Bystander Effect“. We are, it would seem, more heroic when there are fewer folks about.  The larger a crowd,  the more we tend to defer to the heroism of others.

But — or especially — in a crowd, when one steps forward to help, s/he will often be followed.  A significant element in social resilience is facilitating individual initiative to help.

Dorothy Day was about nine years old when she lived through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.  Years later she recalled:

What I remember most plainly about the earthquake was the human warmth and kindliness of everyone afterward. For days refugees poured out of burning San Francisco and camped in Idora Park and the race track in Oakland. People came in their night clothes; there were new-born babies. Mother and all our neighbors were busy from morning to night cooking hot meals. They gave away every garment they possessed. They stripped themselves to the bone in giving, forgetful of the morrow. While the crisis lasted, people loved each other.

It shows a susceptibility to narratives that echo my preconceptions and aspirations, but it seems to me part of being involved in homeland security, a large part of any presumed leadership role, and a significant part of being fully human is to do our best to love each other.

But I am embarrassed to speak in such terms.  Is my embarrassment part of the homeland security problem or is it just that love is as tough to define as homeland security?

February 26, 2014

Previewing the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Arnold Bogis on February 26, 2014

Last week George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs hosted an event on “Previewing the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit.”

Harvard professor, and nuclear expert, Graham Allison provided his insight regarding the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit. The conversation is interesting on a lot of levels.  For me personally, I was very intrigued by the idea of the summit as an “action-forcing event.”

Despite the amount of time spent on deterrence and non-proliferation, this topic is incredibly relevant for homeland security as any failure in nuclear security can have a potentially large impact on the resilience of our nation.


January 29, 2014

Homeland security and the State of the Union

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 29, 2014

I think it’s fair to say that this year’s State of the Union address had even less directly related homeland security content than the last. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as beforehand everything indicated an economic heavy speech. It was still there, however, if you look hard enough.

For those of you possibly concerned by the lack of the phrase “homeland security” anywhere in the speech, rest assured that “national security” received only one mention. I am not sure there are any lessons to be derived from the paucity of homeland or even national security issues. The United States remains the strongest, most secure nation on Earth.  Perhaps it is just time that we realize that fact.

What little there is I’m going to divide up among three tiers.  Tier 1 are those issues directly dealt with by the homeland security enterprise and those with impacts on that community.  Tier 2 are topics that can have second or third degree impacts.  Tier 3 are much broader, societal resilience issues. Feel free to disagree about my sorting.  I still have second thoughts.

But first a few side notes:

  • The cable news stations are treading dangerously close to parody with their hours of pre-speech analysis.  It is beginning to have a Super Bowl-all-day-programming-filled-with-inane-segments feel to it.  Add to that the amount of time spent on the Oscar/Grammy-like red carpet segment showing the arrival of members of Congress, though they definitely skewed older and conservatively dressed.  Though I’d bet the First Lady could rock the red carpet.
  • More time was spent on the arrivals than the impact of the winter storm down South.  Thousands of people are stuck on the roadways in Atlanta alone with hundreds of schoolchildren sheltering in place overnight and CNN was able to tear itself away from post-speech analysis for a good five minutes. Thank god for the Weather Channel.
  • The White House labeled last night’s speech the “most accessible and interactive SOTU yet.”  Sure, you could watch it online or just look at the handful of slides they provided with additional information on particular topics.  And of course there was Facebook, Twitter, and other social media links for sharing with your friends.  But would it have killed them to simply post the text of the speech in a readily available location?  I searched around for a while, gave up, and Googled it.
  • The important trivia for the night: Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz was the Cabinet Secretary chosen not attend the speech but instead spend the night in a secure, secret location to ensure continuity of government in case of catastrophe on the Hill.  The odd thing is that last year then Secretary of Energy Steven Chu was the designated Cabinet official.  Is the thinking that physicists will do very well as a near dictatorial leader following the elimination of the rest of government?  Or are they just more likely to be bored with the speech?

Tier 1


Moreover, we can take the money we save from this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes — because in today’s global economy, first- class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We’ll need Congress to protect more than 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer.


Finally, if we’re serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement — and fix our broken immigration system. (Cheers, applause.) Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted, and I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill their dreams — to study, invent, contribute to our culture — they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.

Gun violence:

Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters and our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.


If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al-Qaida. For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country.

The fact is that danger remains. While we’ve put al-Qaida’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. In Syria, we’ll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks. Here at home, we’ll keep strengthening our defenses and combat new threats like cyberattacks.

We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us — large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.

So even as we actively and aggressively pursue terrorist networks, through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners, America must move off a permanent war footing.  That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones, for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence.

That’s why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that privacy of ordinary people is not being violated. And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals and setting an example for the rest of the world.

Nuclear security:

American diplomacy has rallied more than 50 countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles.

Tier 2

Energy (as we continue to reduce our reliance on foreign sources of energy, our strategic relationships should change in a fashion that reduces our vulnerabilities):

More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years.

The “all the above” energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades.

And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

Climate change (a topic not directly worked by most federal homeland agencies, for example see the Recovery Diva’s recent post on the challenges facing FEMA, but many states and coastal cities are taking the risks very seriously):

But we have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.

But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.

Iran (a nuclear Iran would not be in the national interest of the U.S., but it would not represent an existential threat; the danger would not be a direct attack but rather further proliferation in the Middle East and the risk of poor control of weapons or materials; there is little evidence, and much academic work that concludes the contrary, any state would voluntarily hand over a nuclear weapon to a terrorist organization):

As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium.

It’s not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify every day that Iran is not building a bomb. And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)

These negotiations will be difficult; they may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and we’re clear about the mistrust between our nations, mistrust that cannot be wished away. But these negotiations don’t rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.

Tier 3

The majority of the speech was focused on jobs, education, and healthcare.  There are vast ideological differences on how to advance all three, but all are vital for the long term resilience of our society.

January 22, 2014

Promoting research on healthcare system recovery following disasters

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 22, 2014

After a hurricane, tornado or other disaster hits, lots of newspaper ink (and pixels) are spent on stories about the impact on people’s lives, homes, and their communities’  infrastructure.  Little attention is paid to their health or the impact on their communities’ healthcare system.  Where there is little attention paid to a topic often there is little money available for researching that topic.

Thanks to funds appropriated as part of the Hurricane Sandy relief act (or, more accurately, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013), that is beginning to change.  According to HHS:

Over the next two years, the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) will dedicate $8.6 million to support research that examines long-term recovery of health systems and communities in areas of the country hard hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

ASPR collaborated with the New York Academy of Medicine and the Institute of Medicine to engage the research community and examine how the response to Hurricane Sandy and recovery could be enhanced through scientific research. Experts from state health departments, community health organizations, federal government, and academic institutions identified some rapid research that could promote ongoing long­-term recovery efforts.

ASPR awarded it’s grants last October to the following recipients:

  • American College of Emergency Physicians, Irving, Texas – approximately $444,000 to study how health care systems were impacted negatively before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy and to develop comprehensive recommendations on how to strengthen health care systems going forward to treat patients effectively during disaster events:
  • Columbia University, New York City – approximately $596,000 to assess how community-level factors such as economic development, communication, and social connections influence mental and behavioral health recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and a second grant of approximately $276,000 to assess the resilience of residents of high-rise public housing in responding to Sandy’s impact.
  • New York University School of Medicine, New York City – approximately $752,000 to assess the resilience and response of a complex regional health care system impacted by Hurricane Sandy and the evaluation of patient care during and after the disaster.
  • RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, Calif. – approximately $657,000 to explore how partnerships between local health departments and community-based organizations contribute to the public health system’s ability to respond to and recover from emergencies and contribute to resilience.
  • Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, N.J.– approximately $681,000 to examine how social networks within neighborhoods play a critical role in determining resilience of older Americans exposed to disasters.
  • University of Delaware, Newark– approximately $574,000 to identify critical factors that influence community resilience and use these factors to create a computer program that supports community resilience in New York City after Hurricane Sandy.
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore – approximately $417,000 to determine how social connections in a community of Maryland watermen influence their individual behavior and how the behavior impacts disaster recovery after Hurricane Sandy.
  • University of Pittsburgh – approximately $576,000 to study ways to minimize disruptions of access to primary health care services during recovery from major disasters, especially for at-risk populations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) also awarded research grants funded by the Disaster Relief Act.

More recently, a kickoff meeting was held in New York City at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health that brought together all of the grant recipients, as well as public health officials from some of the area impacted by Sandy.

How can Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the healthcare system inform future disaster planning and responses? Can research on this cataclysmic disaster help us to better integrate organizations, agencies, or services across the healthcare, public health, and emergency response systems? How do we better communicate with different cultural groups and communities before, during and after a disaster?

These were just a few of the questions on best practices tackled by a joint Hurricane Sandy meeting on January 7th.  The meeting convened with the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, representatives from the CDC and NIEHS, and principal investigators on Sandy recovery projects including the NIH’s Disaster Research Response Project. TheMailman School of Public Health hosted this first meeting as New York City was one of the communities most deeply affected by Sandy and home base to several research award recipients and partners.

Marcienne Wright, a Science Policy Advisor in ASPR who is currently managing this grant portfolio for that office blogged  a summary of that meeting’s outcomes (yes…ASPR has a blog…who knew?):

This week these three agencies did something pretty unusual — we convened a meeting with this group of grantees who will be researching public health, environmental health and healthcare in Sandy-impacted communities along with their public health and community partners. The meeting’s goal was to encourage grantees to explore opportunities for collaboration at the beginning, rather than at the end, of their projects.

Our grantees and their research partners were wildly enthusiastic. Distinct groups of researchers now want to work together to better support community needs in Sandy-impacted areas, do better science without duplication, and advance scientific knowledge on building resilience in these communities.

The research being conducted in Sandy-impacted communities is an example of what’s needed to support the decisions that communities across the country must make after disasters and every day – decisions about infrastructure, policies, procedures, partnerships, coalitions, and funding that drive your community’s resilience.

A better understanding of the science supporting response and recovery is absolutely needed for communities across the country – including yours – to become as ready and resilient as possible so that health stands up to disaster.

Sharing the information gained from this research with the impacted community and the nation is vital to building a country that is resilient to whatever comes our way. These projects as well as future studies initiated by the scientific community hold tremendous potential to bring people together to talk about tough decisions and difficult topics. A bonus to bringing people together for research purposes is that the action can lead to new coalitions, new partnerships and in turn stronger communities.

Potential researchers: think about it; by pursuing this line of inquiry you could help strengthen the health security of our entire nation. To learn about the projects underway now, visit www.hhs.gov/sandy.

January 20, 2014

“HLS is in its adolescence”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 20, 2014

Last week there was a brief but vigorous discussion on the Friday Free Forum.  Dan O’Connor, who I only know from his prior blog comments, offered a framing of Homeland Security that I found helpful,  sadly sobering, and — at least potentially — redemptive. I received Dan’s permission to re-publish on the “front page”.  You can revisit the original context of his comment here.  I hope discussion might continue and involve others.


When HLS is a by and large dictated Federal idea or disposition, it almost by default must take on the legalese or “bureaucratic stupor” of Washington because that is the expected language.

Even if we were to speak in metaphor, HLS is in its adolescence and within that context trying to find its place. John obviously goes to great length to point out the source documents for a formalized definition and structure. However, the idea of HLS leaves much to be desired.

The HLS enterprise or community, depending on ones’ predilection or syntax has much it can address for future relevance.

Its exercise and evaluation process is broken…inexorably broken. It’s contrived and scripted to such a degree that not a lot is accomplished annually. Is that because leaders do not want to be embarrassed by the lack of capability and potency or…because it’s been dutifully bureaucratized? The idea of a centralized exercise program is reasonable in a bureaucracy because so many hope to control the outcome. That’s not real.

Also, there seems to be a lack of adaptability and nimbleness in the construct. I like Rafe Sagarin’s biological disposition and ideas in this regard. So if we are not adaptive, decentralized, and nimble, the gaps created by Bill’s “bureaucratic stupor” become hardened, calcified if you will, and permanent. That is vulnerability. Instead of addressing these gaps we continue to reinforce antiquated ideas of what is security and threats, paying lip service instead of attention. Perhaps an overstatement on my part, but resilience and adaptation are far more important than the biannual review of Federal Continuity Directive 1 (FCD1)…

And DHS has issues with hiring qualified people. Yes morale stinks and yes, DHS will again be voted the worst place to work in the Federal Government. Initial numbers from the annual survey are still trending down. Survey’s being what they are may skew the reality a bit, but with 40% of its leadership positions unfilled and no qualified and quantified idea on how to develop HLS professionals should be a cause for concern.

Political patronage is destroying any semblance of vertical opportunity and the risk averse culture and professional bureaucrat stymies initiative. Look carefully at the leadership positions within DHS and one will see hundreds of political appointees.

It’s the nature of the beast sure, but it does not lend itself to growing and developing capable subordinates that will rise through the ranks. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare to the DoD but Generals are selected from Colonels and Colonels from Major’s, and Majors from …well, it’s pretty clear that there is a system in place that screens, evaluated, and prepared leaders and operators.
Unfortunately the OPM and organizational nepotism and cronyism make the organization unlikely to get well rounded, mature, and critical thinkers and operators.

I know there are exceptions to this, but the building of an organization, training and educating them, and preparing them for uncertainty has been left to what many would say are amateurs. Again, perhaps a bit unfair, but it is something that should be discussed. I know people who have great experience, graduated from CHDS and have unbelievable achievements who have applied for hundreds of Federal jobs with no interviews. It becomes a bit surreal. It also has its effect on both the attitude and opinion of the HLS but more specifically DHS enterprise.

It may be a function of its maturation but these are some of the challenges you who contribute to this blog illuminate daily.

So the real discussion I’d like to hear about are expectations too high or should we continue to expect a lessening of impact and relevance, so much so that DHS and HLS become as relevant as the Bureau of Engraving and Printing? No disrespect to the B.E.P.

Are these the growing pains an organization kluged together after an attack should have anticipated or has the entire idea of homeland security become so boiler plated in rhetoric and contrived that potency and capability are diminishing every day? Growing up is tough. I guess that’s why they call it growing pains and not joys!

January 16, 2014

Engaging Uncertainty

Filed under: Catastrophes,Disaster,Infrastructure Protection,Preparedness and Response,Resilience,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on January 16, 2014

Water-Order     Gov. Tomblin (right) and Jeff McIntyre, West Virginia American Water

Late on January 9 not much was known about the chemical leak into the Elk River. No one seemed to know how much of the chemical had poured into the river or been sucked into the water system. No one could be sure what sort of health-risks might arise from skin contact or ingesting water tainted with the obscure chemical. There was uncertainty about when the contamination had begun and how long it might take to remove the contamination. When 300,000 people might again be able to consume their tap water was beyond reasonable prediction.

Our species survived — and eventually thrived — largely based on our weird ability to imagine the future and recognize steps to achieve (or avoid) what we imagine. When this imagination is anchored in experience or knowledge (indirect-experience) it is a source of confidence, even solace. When the anchor is ripped up and our fragile craft is swept into a cyclone of uncertainty… well, different folks respond in different ways. But there is a tendency for fear to proliferate, which can unwind in atypical behaviors and amplify uncertainty.

In the first two days of the West Virginia water crisis there were many indicators of imagination untethered. Rumors spread. Conspiracies were alleged. Even worse to come was envisioned. But mostly fears were contained, rumors corrected, and a covenant of social trust and mutual concern was, if anything, strengthened.

A 500 word blog — okay, I’m not always so concise — is not the right place to undertake a full analysis of what happened and did not happen in terms of community resilience. But I advocate this being done.

My hypothesis is that what happened mostly involved the expression of preexisting social networks and relationships.

But I also want to credit — and ask others to more rigorously explore — the role of leadership that was courageous enough to embrace uncertainty.

I was in eastern West Virginia (outside the impact area) from Sunday through Tuesday, close enough to get a bit more of the local media angle. I was impressed by the calm, realistic, and consistently understated approach of the Governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, and the President of West Virginia American Water, Jeff McIntyre.

I never heard them claim to be in control. I did hear them state clearly the sources of uncertainty. They outlined in writing and in their remarks what was being done to engage the uncertainty. They did not try to distract citizens from the uncertainty with accusatory vents. They did focus on what citizens could do for themselves and their neighbors. They recognized progress. They did not over-promise.

Here is one of the first statements made by the Governor (bold highlights by me).

We urge all residents in the affected areas to follow West Virginia American Water Company’s “do not use” order until it is lifted. This includes water companies supplied by West Virginia American Water in this area. If you live in one of these areas, do not use tap water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, washing, or bathing. At this time, I do not know how long this will last.

Don’t neglect the use of that personal pronoun.  Next he said:

We ask that all West Virginian’s check on their friends, families, and neighbors—especially those with small children and seniors living in their households—to make sure they have enough water, food, and supplies. If you—or anyone you know–experiences symptoms including: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, irritation of the eyes and skin, seek care immediately.

Here’s what a citizen can do, even should do.  The most important action that can be taken is to practically and personally renew the human relationships on which we all depend.  Begin some new relationships if you can.  Then, here’s what  your government is doing on your behalf (he said more, this is one of four paragraphs):

I’ve mobilized and deployed all appropriate government assets and resources, including our Office of Emergency Management, our experts at DEP, DHHR Bureau of Public Health along with our National Guard—who are out doing health and wellness checks across the area along with collecting, testing and monitoring the water. The federal government is also providing assistance. The President has approved my request to issue a federal emergency declaration to provide FEMA resources. County emergency offices are also working 24-7.

Your basic human needs can and will be addressed:

If you are low on bottled water, do not panic. Help is on the way. We are taking every measure to provide water to you. There is no shortage of bottled water. Supplies are moving into the area as we speak. We encourage all West Virginians in affected areas to contact their local emergency management office for water distribution sites.

Please be active in helping yourself and others:

If you or your organization would like to donate supplies, please contact your local emergency center. If you are in the Kanawha Valley Area, we are organizing a call to action drive for needed items—including water, sanitizer, wipes, liquid baby formula, paper plates, plastic utensils, and microwavable meals. The drive will take place on the Boulevard in front of the State Capitol from 2:30 – 6:30 today. It is important to emphasize, water and supplies are available—there is not a persistent shortage of bottled water.

We are grateful for the offers of support from private firms and charities—and our fellow West Virginians—to aid in providing relief.

This is the second time I have listened-in to Governor Tomblin deal with a basically no-notice and hard-hitting disaster.  The first time was the late-June 2012 Derecho.  In that multi-state event I was able to compare and contrast his approach to that of other governors, mayors, and such.   When others were attacking, blaming, and threatening, Governor Tomlin was thanking and encouraging and informing.

I think there are some lessons to be learned.

January 14, 2014

The Constitution as homeland

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 14, 2014

This is the sixth in a series of anticipated posts closely reading the Constitution of the United States for homeland security implications. Readers are encouraged to use the comment function to add background, analysis, exegesis or exposition related to the text highlighted.



We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


There are two references to “general welfare” in the Constitution. In addition to the Preamble, there is the following from Article I, Section 8:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.

Historical, political, and legal understandings of general welfare differ.  Madison argued that the Constitution was explicit regarding narrow enumerated powers.  Hamilton used the general welfare references to justify much broader authority by the national government.

Prior to United States v Butler (1936) the Supreme Court seemed convinced by Madison.  But in that New Deal-related decision the majority found:

The clause confers a power separate and distinct from those later enumerated is not restricted in meaning by the grant of them, and Congress consequently has a substantive power to tax and to appropriate, limited only by the requirement that it shall be exercised to provide for the general welfare of the United States. … It results that the power of Congress to authorize expenditure of public moneys for public purposes is not limited by the direct grants of legislative power found in the Constitution.  

The ghost of Hamilton has seemed to haunt the Supreme Court ever since.

Accordingly taxing and spending — and evidently borrowing — are not limited by enumerated powers or the Tenth Amendment or in any other constitutionally required way.  Madison’s ghost has, perhaps, been awakened from peaceful sleep.   Strange things have been seen at Montpelier.

From this evolution of the  general welfare clause has emerged much of the contemporary federal apparatus including (it seems to me) Homeland Security, critical infrastructure protection, national preparedness, whole community resilience, FEMA grants, disaster assistance, and much more.

January 9, 2014

Homeland security: A self-definition

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on January 9, 2014

For the last quarter-century my wife and I — and until the last five years, our children — have engaged in a recurring year-end ritual of visiting family in Kentucky, Illinois, and this year Washington State.  We are usually on the road for ten or more days.

I can and do continue working, usually waking at 4:00 AM Eastern no matter where I am (which is a problem when visiting the Pacific Coast).  This is a flexibility most do not enjoy.  It is a benefit that allows us to have more time with widely dispersed family and friends.  We can travel to them.

But each year this atypical flexibility also prompts questions about, “What does Phil do, that allows him to stay away?” (Away from where? I could ask.) The questions are especially persistent — and usually directed to my wife — if I am suddenly on the phone or lock myself in a room with my computer.

For most of these years I have been an executive with or co-owner of an enterprise and my wife would respond with a largely meaningless title that nonetheless satisfied.  Really, what does it mean to be a banker, lawyer, or even a candlestick maker to a non-banker, non-lawyer, or pyro-paranoid?

But the last five years-plus I have been entirely on my own and she often tries, “Well, he works in homeland security.”  (Which I bet they hear as Homeland Security.)  But when they begin talking about TSA, she is inclined to say, “He’s really not involved in that.”  And so they ask, “Then what does he do?”  Which she always finds tough to explain.

It occurs to me that this is another form of our seemingly perpetual question, “What is homeland security?”

I am not — never have been — part of a legacy profession: not law enforcement, not firefighting, not emergency management.  Neither Defense nor Intelligence have directly paid me one red cent.  I try to practice good habits, but have never “officially” practiced Public Health.  Recently and indirectly, I have done considerable work with the Coast Guard.  But I still get sea-sick.

Maybe I’m just a beltway bandit, a dirty contractor, a lousy vendor.  But this last year I donated more time than I billed.   Some consider me an academic, but I have never held a faculty appointment and have not been regularly employed by a post-secondary institution for nearly thirty years.  After a ten minute conversation a real scholar is sure I am not.

But I agree with my wife, I work in homeland security (not capitalized).

Here are a few things I did from December 30 to January 1 mostly from north of Seattle:

  • Continued drafting a briefing book on supply chain resilience.
  • Took a call from DHS officials on how a pandemic would likely impact the “national supply chain.”
  • Polled several supply chain professionals on the prior question.  Forwarded their answers.
  • Exchanged gifts with my sister’s family.
  • Reviewed and responded to policy drafts by others on an approach to advancing private-public relationships in homeland security (and Homeland Security).
  • Read Judge Pauley’s decision in ACLU v Clapper.  Wrote an HLSWatch post on same.
  • Researched problems UPS had with a Christmas surge in demand.
  • Contributed to an email exchange with scholars and practitioners on a Harvard Business Review article related to supply chain disruption. Forwarded the HBR piece to others.
  • Ate a large piece of rhubarb pie for breakfast and had a mid-morning snack of pecan pie.
  • Worked ahead on a late January conference keynote focused on catastrophic cascades in supply chain disruption.
  • Went with my Dad to get a massage and steam then joined my wife and sister’s family for dinner at a restaurant.
  • At 2:00 AM (Eastern) on New Years Day received an urgent request from a hospital for 10,000 bottles of water, reached out to various private sector sources.
  • Took my Dad to SeaTac Airport.
  • Confirmed delivery of water.
  • My wife and I had local oysters for lunch near Pike Place Market in Seattle.
  • Invoiced my in-kind donations related to a homeland security project, invoiced for a Coast Guard deterrence project, began bringing together some other invoices.  I am paid mostly by private sector clients. In some of these cases the money can be tracked back to public sector funding.
  • Flew back to Chicago into a blizzard.

And every morning I read the Bible and write some poetry.  Most weeks I dabble in art.  I am, at least in my own head, retired because I no longer supervise anyone nor belong to an organization.

I will give my wife a link to this post and suggest she forward to her family and friends. This is a good example of what I do.

It occurs to me that my particular case might be deconstructed into a set of abstractions that could also advance our understanding of homeland security.

What about:  Homeland security is a multidisciplinary perspective and set of skills usually focused on strategic threats and strategic vulnerabilities with regional or national consequences.  Homeland security gives particular attention to understanding and actuating functional and personal relationships to support analysis and action to mitigate risk by local, state, and national entities both public and private.

That’s also what I do.  How about you?

December 11, 2013

Another example of sports aiding recovery – this time in Japan

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on December 11, 2013

During baseball’s postseason I posted about the apparent contribution to Boston’s resilience and recovery following the Marathon bombings provided by the Red Sox. I said it then and I’ll repeat it now: while difficult to quantify or even confirm, it seems that local sports teams can be particularly helpful in aiding a region’s recovery from a particularly bad event.

With that note of caution in mind, I’d like to share another similar story.  Baseball again, but this time in Japan.

Dean of baseball writers, Peter Gammons, recently penned a piece for the Boston Globe on the impact that a Japanese League baseball team had in the area hardest hit by the tsunami of 2011.  I want to just note up front that this is a piece from a Boston-based baseball writer on the impact of a baseball team on a region’s recovery.  While he has few peers in writing about baseball, he does not have any background in recovery, nor is his piece explicitly linking the magnitude of what took place in Japan with Boston (just wanted to get that out of the way…).

(For you baseball fans, the team involved in this story also is the one that would/could/may post a coveted Japanese pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, he of the 24-0 season.)

Hiroshi Mikitani was in Boston a week after April’s horrific Marathon bombings, so he had a sense of the scars that were inflicted to the city and region where he had studied twenty years earlier. Months later, in Sendai, Japan, he watched on television as his friend Koji Uehara closed out the United States World Series, then, four days later proudly watched in person as ace pitcher Masahiro Tanaka came out of the bullpen—a day after throwing 160 pitches—to close out Mikitani’s Rakuten Golden Eagles’ seventh game 3-0 victory over the Yomiuri Giants to finish the Japan Series and give Sendai its first championship.

The point of future research perhaps?

“I understood the similarities in terms of what each championship meant to their regions, their communities,” says Mikitani.

The value added:

“I know how sports teams can be a symbol of recovery,” Mikitani says. He knows very well, first hand. He got into the sports business in 1995 when he took over the Visser Football Club in Kobe when an earthquake had rendered so much damage that the city could no longer afford to maintain the team in Japanese professional soccer and made it a symbol of recovery.

And when the Golden Eagles won that seventh game of the Japan Series championship, there may have been no greater symbol of a region’s recovery than Rakuten. Two years earlier, the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated Sendai and the Tohoku region, resulting in what the National Police Agency estimated as close to 16,000 deaths, 340,000 people displaced and more than $120B in damage.

“It was very emotional when we won,” says Mikitani. “It was a great, historical moment. There had been so much interaction between the fans, the people of the region and the players, there was a feeling that they won not just for themselves, but for hundreds of thousands of people whose lives had been devastated. Our baseball people did everything they could do to take part in the recovery from 2011 on. They visited shelters. They donated food and blood and money, they volunteered, they tried to aid in the coordination of the recovery, always saying ‘we’ll do whatever we can do.’ And they became more than a baseball team.”

My question, is this valid?

The Rakuten Golden Eagles became the soul of the once-devastated city of Sendai and Tohoku region. So the 2013 champions of the major league baseball cultures of the West and East are effectively soul mates, fellow symbols and participants in their constituents’ recoveries that extend far beyond “championship ring” significance.

Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball.  However, I’m still lukewarm on resilience as a concept/strategy/anything other than a buzzword. Regardless, I’d like to believe the following is true:

“To get to this championship was a great moment,” Mikitani says. “Personally, it was very satisfying. For all the people with the team, it means so much. Most important, for the fans and the people of Sendai and the region, it was the fulfillment of hope.”

December 10, 2013

The Constitution as homeland

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on December 10, 2013

This is the second in a series of anticipated posts closely reading the Constitution of the United States for homeland security implications.  Readers are encouraged to use the comment function to add background, analysis, exegesis or exposition related to the text highlighted.



We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


Our prior polity under the Articles of Confederation had proven insufficient.   There were many shortcomings — and threats of worse to come — emerging from the self-interest of individual States (and factions within each State) which ill-served the people as a whole.

James Madison gathered his thoughts, and the most credible critiques of the (original) Confederacy, in his Vices of the Political System of the United States.  The document includes:

The practice of many States in restricting the commercial intercourse with other States, and putting their productions and manufactures on the same footing with those of foreign nations, though not contrary to the federal articles, is certainly adverse to the spirit of the Union, and tends to beget retaliating regulations, not less expensive & vexatious in themselves, than they are destructive of the general harmony.

Hence the Commerce Clause and the role of economic union as a (necessary?) foundation of political union.

One fundamental means for advancing “general harmony” is to cultivate a political culture so expansive and diverse as to make factionalism a creative rather than destructive force.  In the same critique of the Confederacy Madison writes:

If an enlargement of the sphere is found to lessen the insecurity of private rights, it is not because the impulse of a common interest or passion is less predominant in this case with the majority; but because a common interest or passion is less apt to be felt and the requisite combinations less easy to be formed by a great than by a small number. The Society becomes broken into a greater variety of interests, of pursuits, of passions, which check each other, whilst those who may feel a common sentiment have less opportunity of communication and concert.

The profound paradox at the heart of the American notion of political union and personal freedom is prolific division and difference.  Our interests are so diverse and our opinions so disparate as to mitigate against a sustained political consensus by which a majority can continually oppress a minority.  Our Constitution anticipates, reflects, and nourishes variability as the best guarantor of prosperity and freedom.  As the beauty and resilience of a great garden depends on the abundant diversity of species and parts, so does our Union.

The prior polity had not been perfect.  The new polity has not been perfect. But the Constitution facilitates a perpetual process of forming a more perfect union.


Implications for homeland security:

Diversity of opinion and practice is a source of economic and cultural strength, proof of freedom-in-action.

Jurisdictional diversity is a framework for protecting diversity of opinion and practice.

As a matter of constitutional predisposition we do not merely tolerate diversity but depend on diversity as the most effective breeder of freedom, therefore of creativity and adaptation, and thereby of strength and resilience.

Hence the preoccupation of homeland security with intergovernmental and private-public collaboration, of engaging the whole community, and a strategic focus on resilience.

November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on November 28, 2013

In the midst of profound challenges — national and international, personal and social, practical and philosophical — I pause to give thanks.

I give thanks that the original ambitions of al-Qaida have been fractured, diminished, and are being pushed to the periphery.

I give thanks for the substantial recovery of New Orleans, the Gulf, Joplin, Tohoku, the Jersey Shore, Staten Island, Long Island and in this very moment the Visayas.  For the extraordinary creativity of the human spirit, I give thanks.  For the deep resilience of biological systems, I give thanks.

I give thanks that the men and women involved in air and ground transportation have demonstrated the potential of science and thoughtful design to engineer systems that over time substantially reduce risk of death, injury, and destruction.  May we seek to apply their lessons elsewhere.

Especially during these days of intense holiday travel, I give thanks for the polite, patient, and professional demeanor of the vast majority of TSA officers.

As I consider the extraordinary bounty of a beautiful world offered for my pleasure (often at an amazingly low price), I give thanks to the professionals at Customs and Border Protection and ICE.

For blueberries, raspberries and so-sweet clementines in bleak mid-winter, I pause in childlike wonder and thanksgiving.

Inspired by the hope and hard work of the newest Americans, I give thanks to the men and women of USCIS and their work to preserve and protect this nation of immigrants.

For Abdellilah, Annick, and Bahija, Arash, Jonathan, and Tessa, Vino, Shekar, and Toyoka, I give thanks.

I give particular thanks to live in a nation where the ballot is sacred and — with all our current frustrations — elections matter more than guns.  So I give thanks to the Secret Service as guardians of our collective choice.

For all my old friends at FEMA I daily give thanks.  You are expected to do much more than you are authorized, funded, or organized to do.  Yet most of you — most days — do the very best you can with the burden, threat, and opportunity of these extravagant expectations.

For my new friends at SPAR, I admire your intelligence, insight, and ambition, your confidence that the elephant can yet learn to dance.  I give thanks for practical idealism and tough-minded optimism.

As a collective the men and women of the United States Coast Guard are the most consistently competent, capable, creative, caring, and courageous I have ever personally encountered.  You give me hope that large organizations are able to combine command-and-control with actual thinking and meaningful, mindful action.  Thank you for your challenging contrarian model.

I don’t know many from NPPD, I&A, S&T, and other DHS components.  I only have the broadest notions of what you do.  But thank you.   To say much more would probably seem gratuitous (which once meant to express gratitude, but has morphed).

Over the last decade (and a bit more) my life has been enriched to work in homeland security.  There are so many state and local officials, so many private sector executives, so many neighbors caring about neighbors who have inspired and taught me so much.

It is also true there are too few Jocks and not nearly enough Leonas.

Chris Bellavita can seem a lonely archangel luminous in pure thought and flames of complex kinosis raising a bright sword to inspire a righteous but worried and rather absent-minded angelic host.  Those gathered about him at times seeming much more Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class, than Michael or Gabriel golden and glorious. Yet the archangel persists in loving and leading them.

And please remember, Clarence got the job done.

There are too few Teds, Jennifers, Janets, Patrices and Davids.   Each a plural because beside you stand others — still too few — but a remnant that may in the end be sufficient, just enough to see us through.

Working with each of you has been a constantly unfolding blessing.  Thank you.

There are days that I decide we are — at least I am — doomed, not merely to death (which is not for me a particular cause of dread) but to futile floundering, missed opportunities, and stupid self-limiting selfishness.

But then Ellen or Angela or Ryan — Tuesday it was Maybelle  – someone my children’s age, demonstrates such keen intelligence, strategic insight, and willingness to work that I am reassured that strings of mindfulness still stretch over the frets of this species’ long neck.  We are instruments capable of great beauty.

Thank you, each of you, for your music.

November 16, 2013

Post-typhoon supply chain: Some preliminary observations

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on November 16, 2013

The following is tentative, hypothesis-stating and offered for correction. It is written to think-aloud about issues with implications beyond the Philippines, but informed by the concrete consequences observed in the Philippines. It is focused on Tacloban because that is the location for which there is the most current information. I am also of the opinion that urban environments tend to more clearly unveil supply chain vulnerabilities than stress in less densely populated areas.



Prior to the typhoon Tacloban was a city of about 220,000 people. It is located in the Eastern Philippines adjacent the strait separating the islands of Leyte and Samar. It is the principal urban concentration in the Eastern Philippines and a regional center for trade, transportation, education, medical care, and government services.

Leyte Province has a population of roughly 1.6 million (including Tacloban). Neighboring Samar Province has a population of roughly 730,000. The economy is largely based on rice, coconut, and sugar farming, fishing, and commerce.

Tacloban is on the Pan-Philippine Highway. The highway bridge connecting Leyte and Samar was not seriously damaged by the November 8 typhoon. Tacloban is 536 miles by highway from Manila. This usually requires at least 18-26 hours to travel (including a ferry crossing from Matnog to Allen). This week the same distance has required up to 60 hours (sometimes more see update below). Passenger ferries and, especially roll-on/roll-off ferries are key elements in the Philippines transportation system.

Maritime transport from Manila to Tacloban generally requires 30-to-40 hours depending on class of carrier and weather.  Ferry transport to Cebu (now the emergency relief hub for the region) typically takes 13 hours.

Impact and Starting Basis

Tacloban was hit especially hard by the CAT-5 typhoon, perhaps the strongest to ever be recorded making landfall. Sitting at the head of the Leyte Gulf it is likely the storm surge piled up against Tacloban (as was the case at Staten Island). A 12-to-20 foot tsunami-like wave has been described by survivors.


Click on graphic to access larger view (courtesy of the BBC)

Clearly other locations in the Philippines were also hit hard. But given its especially vulnerable geography and population density, it is possible Tacloban will end up being the disaster’s epicenter even as a more complete picture emerges in the days ahead.

There is no indication of acute resource shortages prior to the typhoon. Some interviews and media reports even indicate sufficient supplies of some resources — such as fuel — for several days following the typhoon’s landfall. In other nearby locations — the city of Ormoc, for example — authorities reported at least two days supply of food on hand four days after landfall.

Further, by the end of the first week after landfall there were multiple reports of resources piling up at emergency hubs established to channel official relief supplies. (There was a Thursday post on the status of humanitarian logistics.)

Private Sector Supply Chains

I have found  very little reporting related to private supply chains per se.  But some impressions based on bits and bites reported here and there:

Clean water is a serious problem.  The Tacloban water system was taken off-line by loss of electricity and damage to infrastructure.  As of today, only about 20 percent of the city has had water service restored.  Other potential sources of water were contaminated by the consequences of the typhoon.

Several key transportation nodes, especially the airport, seaport, ferry docks and such, were essentially obliterated by wind and surge. (On Saturday  International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), in cooperation with the Philippine government, announced plans to donate a “mobile” port to Tacloban.  It is expected to begin operations by Tuesday.)

The road network was made impassable by debris and destruction of some infrastructure. (But in most cases bridges and tarmac seem to have held up remarkably well.)

Loss of electricity and communications — as usual, interdependent — seriously compromised situational awareness, operational flexibility, and near-term response and recovery.  Pumping fuel, refrigeration, financial services, and much more collapse or crawl without power.

The horrific impact on residential housing and the deaths of thousands resulted in wholesale and retail operations remaining closed in the days immediate following landfall.  (The inability of local employees to staff operations in the immediate aftermath of a significant disaster is a systemic problem far beyond the Philippines.)

There are spotty reports of retailers — particularly food and fuel retailers — choosing not to re-stock or reopen due to concern over looting and other security problems.   There have been confirmed reports of some looting, but the scope and scale is difficult to discern.   Did actual looting create a response and recovery problem, or did the fear of possible looting repress supply chain resilience, or was the looting that occurred the outcome of a delay prompted by concern about looting?  What is cause and what is effect can be easy to confuse.

Medical supplies were quickly exhausted by a dramatic spike in demand and the absence of a proportional re-supply surge.  It is my impression (what little it’s worth) that medical supplies originate in the Manila metro area and were not moving until assurance of open roads and reasonable security south of Matnog.

There are very mixed — even contradictory — reports related to the availability of fuel.  But whatever the available stock, it is clear that distribution of fuel was a problem over the first week.  The distinction between supply and distribution is crucial and too often neglected.  For some reason public sector folks seem to automatically assume supply is the problem (or simply don’t understand the distribution function).

The most mysterious aspect of what I have been (un)able to access relates to trucking.  The Philippine Minister of the Interior, quarterbacking the relief operation in Tacloban, told NPR that he had sixteen trucks to supply all of Leyte province.  One OCHA report highlighted twenty army trucks finally making it to Tacloban seven days after landfall.   Where did all the trucks go?

In terms of supply chain resilience, in the typhoon’s aftermath there were — and are — obvious physics problems: destruction of infrastructure, impassable debris, disrupted demand signals, diminished local distribution capabilities (caused by deaths of wholesalers/retailers and destruction of facilities).  There were also psycho-social problems: grief, confusion, fear…

With the exception of clean water — certainly a crucial exception — I cannot find compelling evidence of a serious problem with actual sources of supply.  In other words throughout the crisis there has been sufficient strategic capacity to provide the necessary life-sustaining resources.  But there has been a period of several days when connections were lost between that strategic capacity and the local capability to distribute and receive.


As noted above, I don’t feel certain of anything here.  But I hope by making these impressions explicit I will attract more accurate information.

I will pay a reward to the person that tells me what happened to the trucks.



From a Philippines television news outlet, reporting on a private-public supply chain summit held earlier today (Saturday):

Their initiative came amid reports of a logjam in relief distribution, with hundreds of trucks and other vehicles bearing relief goods stranded for days at Matnog port in Sorsogon, as there are not enough ferries to bring them across the sea to Allen town in Samar, from where they can go to Leyte and Samar areas devastated by the super typhoon.

This still doesn’t explain where the local trucks have gone, but this is certainly a big part of the problem. Further, the entire piece (HERE) is an interesting read.  There are also sidebar stories on fuel distribution and other related issues.


According to several reports the municipal water system in Tacloban is again operating at or near full capacity.  Current operations are even characterized as “normal.”

A story in the Inquirer, a Philippine daily, includes:

Dump trucks, payloaders, graders and other road-clearing equipment belonging to private contractors outnumber those deployed by the government in areas devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

I wonder if prior reports have only focused on “official” trucks.  In any case, there are several reports of trucks being transferred from Manila, Cebu and other locations to assist with resupply in the hardest areas.

(In the United States it is common for major trucking firms to “evacuate” their fleets out of harm’s way in advance of a notice-event, and even to pre-stage for response and recovery.  I cannot tell if anything similar was done in the Philippines.)

The back-up at Matnog continues (see above).  Below is a photograph of the four-to-five mile long line of trucks waiting to access one of the roll-on-roll-off ferries heading south into the impact zone.

matnog truck backup


On Sunday the Philippine military deployed Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs) at Matnog and another smaller port between Luzon and Samar.  This has begun to reduce the bottleneck of supplies.

Emergency food packets, bulk rice distribution, and water have been the principal commodities distributed in the first week since the typhoon.  On Monday the Philippine Secretary of Agriculture announced several measures to jump-start (replace? complement? compete with?) the regular food supply chain:

The DA (Department of Agriculture) chief also instructed concerned agency officials to immediately transport frozen chicken, potatoes and other vegetables from Manila and Baguio to Tacloban using three refrigerated vans from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Three more vans, from the Philippine Fisheries and Development Authority will load and deliver food items from Albay in Region V to Tacloban and neighboring areas.

“We will be also utilizing all available closed vans of the Department and its attached agencies to deliver eggs and other dry food items,” Alcala said.

The DA chief has also instructed BFAR Director Asis Perez to deploy a 1,200-tonner vessel, currently anchored in Cagayan de Oro (CDO), to deliver food items to the Region. Smaller ships will ferry food items to smaller islands.

The Department is set to implement market mechanisms to move food items from the production areas to affected communities via the Barangay Food Terminal and local government food trading centers. Functional food warehouses will also be utilized for food stocking.

“We will engage big market players such as the San Miguel Corporation in CDO to supply poultry products to affected areas,” Alcala said.

The National Food Authority in Region VII will begin to supply rice to parts of the region in an effort to augment rice stocks in areas severely damaged by the super typhoon.

Robinson’s Retail, the Philippines second largest grocer, has over fifty retail outlets in the area most impacted by the Typhoon.  Except for their main supermarket in central Tacloban, all were able to reopen on November 9.

As of Monday morning roughly 65% of retail gasoline stations in the impact area have reopened. There is no indication of a fuel supply problem, but distribution remains uneven.

Restoration of wireless communications ranges from roughly 60 percent to over 90 percent in the impact areas.  On Leyte and Samar islands about 75 percent of pre-typhoon service has been restored.

The electrical grid remains offline in Leyte, Samar, and nearby.  On the periphery of the typhoon’s main path brown-outs are being used to manage load.  Generation capacity was reduced by storm damage, so even where transmission and distribution networks are in place power is a problem. With a 1,077 megawatt capacity and a demand of 1,012 megawatts, there is no regulating reserve.  Restoration of the electrical grid to something close to pre-typhoon capacity is anticipated by late December, but in some areas full restoration may take up to six months.

Pan Philippine Map


Just to bring this consideration to a sort of resolution:

First, it is now my judgment that plenty of trucks and fuel were available in the impact zone throughout this crisis.  There was, however, essentially no coordination — or really attempt to collaborate — between private and public networks.   The public sector did not seriously endeavor to engage private sources.   Private sources have been responding to social needs, but in mostly spontaneous ways that neither official or media decision-makers tend to recognize as substantive.  (An analogy to Euclidean and Non-Euclidean geometry comes to mind… and to be explicit, both are real.)

Second and closely related to this non-Euclidean reality, there is now increasing evidence of the resilience of this complex, self-organizing system of private initiative and resources. Please see a report from the Straits Times of Singapore.

We do not give enough attention to this other reality.  Too often official action unintentionally suppresses this crucial source of resilience.

But third — official action is also crucial — especially in opening the space needed by the unofficial to operate.  This is the strategic implication of the following success story.   From the Inquirer:

Matnog, Sorsogon — The line of relief trucks and passenger buses going to typhoon-ravaged Samar island has eased at Matnog port in Sorsogon, after the deployment of additional ships.

Jun Hilbero of the Philippine Ports Authority told INQUIRER.net on Wednesday that more ferries were assigned to the port and that another port in the nearby town of Bulan was also authorized to accommodate special trips to Samar.

“We have eight regular trips a day, which was augmented by another three vessels. And in Bulan there are mercenary trips…Our relief trucks were diverted there,” he said.

Hilbero, officer-in-charge of PPA Matnog, said additional ramps were also in place, allowing more vessels to load simultaneously.

He said that as of Wednesday morning, only 15 buses and 12 trucks were waiting at the Matnog port. Last week, reports said the line going to Matnog port was around four kilometers long. 

Meanwhile, four ferries were deployed at Bulan port on Monday.

“Now we have enough ships…Actually in three to four days we expect operations to return to normal,” Hilbero said.

Among the vehicles waiting to board at Matnog port are trucks carrying gas, aluminum posts and other items to aid and rebuild communities hit by super typhoon “Yolanda.”

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