Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 20, 2012

Worth Another Look: The application of cost management and life cycle cost theory to homeland security national priorities

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on March 20, 2012

I have no idea how many articles, reports, books, opinion pieces, news stories, journal articles, videos, tweets, or other data and information products have been generated during homeland security’s first decade.

Whatever the number, topic or quality, they represent homeland security’s literature.

As a part of my day job, I’m interested in learning what we know about homeland security, and what we don’t know about it that we should know.

Starting a year or so ago, I asked friends and colleagues to tell me about interesting reading and related materials they believe are worth a second look. Thanks to their efforts, I’ve gathered a collection of about 100 brief reviews of items worth another look. And by brief, I mean less than 500 words.

One day I hope to gather the reviews under a single cover (or whatever the eEquivalent of “cover” is) and make them available to people who care about homeland security.

Until (and if) that happens, I plan to post a few of them occasionally on this blog.

———————

Arnold’s “being sent to the minors” post reminded me of the following article, suggested by Robert Giorgio, the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, fire chief.

The article first appeared in May 2009.  Some of the context and language has been overcome by events.  But Robert and I agree the life cycle cost idea continues to have merit — probably even more than it did 3 long years ago.

———————

The Application of Cost Management and Life Cycle Cost Theory to Homeland Security National Priorities.

By Robert Hall and Erica Dusenberry Dimitrov

The homeland security enterprise remains unable to identify the total costs to acquire and sustain specific homeland security target capabilities or national priorities over fixed periods of time. This problem has persisted since the start of federally supported DHS grant funded programs.

Homeland security officials realize that initial DHS investments did not consider the cost of wear from use, maintenance expenditures, rehabilitation costs, and replacement funding streams. Many local governments also neglected sustainment costs in their homeland security fiscal planning.

Once the excitement of a new capability has worn off, sustainment issues emerge.  The costs of maintaining new capabilities have to be compared with other core expenditures. Knowing the full cost of a capability provides decision makers and analysts with a more accurate fiscal picture as they debate local policy choices.

Hall and Dimitrov do more than agree it is critically important to determine the costs associated with achieving and sustaining target levels of capability. They suggest how to do it.

They recommend using life cycle cost theory (LCC), a methodology for assessing the total cost of owning an asset. LCC is intended to aid decision makers understand the full costs of obtaining and sustaining preparedness capabilities.

LCC helps quantify the costs of the people, planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise that make up a capability.

The Government Accountability Office supports using LCC to determine what agencies and jurisdictions can afford, to prepare coordinated spending plans, and to develop lifecycle cost practices.

LCC can help local, state, and federal officials forecast annual support and replacement costs for homeland security programs. LCC can also generate data necessary to monitor the cost drivers that waste limited investment funds. The authors claim adopting LCC will assist in maturing cost management practices and help to avoid what they term unprofitable pitfalls.

To illustrate their claim, Hall and Dimitrov apply the LCC methodology to the Explosive Device Response Operations (EDRO) target capability.

The authors conclude the article by identifying next steps needed to develop and apply LCC methods to national preparedness. These actions include:

  1. Focusing on capabilities aligned to the national priorities in the National Preparedness Guidelines.
  2. Conducting a national-level LCC analysis for each national priority capability.
  3. Creating and sharing prototype tools with jurisdictions to facilitate use of this methodology.
  4. Creating a central Web-enabled database to share cost models among jurisdictions.
  5. Incorporating LCC tools into future grant management systems for use by state and local jurisdictions.

The article is three years old.  I wonder what, if any, progress has been made employing LCC or something close to it to homeland security.  If limited progress, why?  If something like this has spread within the homeland security enterprise, I wonder what effect it’s had.

 

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March 19, 2012

Being sent to the minors can be a good thing – even in homeland security

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Organizational Issues — by Arnold Bogis on March 19, 2012

As most fans of baseball could tell you, Washington Nationals prospect Bryce Harper is a potential star in the making.  He took his GED to leave high school early and enrolled with a junior college to jump start his professional baseball career.  At the age of 16 he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  In 2010 he was picked first in the baseball draft by the Nationals, switching positions from catcher to right field to speed his arrival to the major leagues.  Going into this year’s spring training, one of the most discussed story lines was whether he would be sent back down to the minor leagues to begin the season or break camp with the Nationals.  The baseball-obsessed community (of which I count myself a member) now has an answer:

The Nationals optioned 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper to Class AAA Syracuse, ending his longshot pursuit to make the opening day roster. Harper will play mostly center field at Syracuse, with some right mixed in, and the Nationals see him as a center fielder when he reaches the majors this season. The position represents a shift for the Nationals, who have been trying to solve a long-standing center field issue.

News that will undoubtedly disappoint a legion of sportswriters (who may only be second to political reporters in regards to trying to stir the pot with stories that stretch credulity). Yet to serious baseball analysts, the idea of promoting such a young player with such great future prospects so soon didn’t make sense.  In essence, the team would be trading a full year in the future when Harper is at the height of his skills for a few months this season when his production is likely only to be marginally better than the expected replacements.  On a cost/value basis, optioning him to the minor leagues for at least a few months makes sense.

If only most homeland security programs could be so analytically managed.  Too often, especially in the years immediately following 9/11, programs and initiatives were approved and funded without serious thought or analysis of details, capabilities, and consequences.

One specific example is the Biowatch Program that aims to quickly detect any pathogens released in a terrorist attack.  Nuclear and biological terrorism were (and remain) big concerns after 9/11 and this program aimed at achieving quick recognition of such an attack that would allow relevant agencies at all levels to begin to respond before the first cases are identified in the emergency room.  The problem has been that the technology never lived up to the promise of the program–filters that required manual replacement each day, added to a delay in getting results from the laboratory tests.

The story is that the situation is improving, but one is left to wonder if a push for prevention above all other potential measures for dealing with the same issue, such as syndromic monitoring and improved communication capabilities between emergency rooms/hospitals and public health officials, could not have provided a better capability at this point for responding to an attack or outbreak of a natural pandemic.

Along the same lines would be many of the difficulties experienced by the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) in DHS.  Analysts with deep experience in the issue of nuclear terrorism have long recognized that securing weapons and fissile material is the sweet spot for this particular problem.  Detection technologies artfully deployed can play useful roles in deterrence and occasionally detection of illicitly trafficked material.  However, they are not an answer to this threat by themselves.  While never officially characterized as such, DNDO efforts often seemed as grasping at technological solutions to diplomatic problems.

In other words, the nuclear terrorism problem could only be marginally affected by detection technologies, while efforts at securing fissile material worldwide represents the real game.  But the “away” game is much messier than the “home” game, and less attractive to officials who believe we should only rely on ourselves for our own security.

Each of these examples deserve their own posts (or papers) to properly characterize their pros and cons. What I imagine as a potential lesson learned is that both initiatives deployed equipment and programs before their time.  Early detection of biological and radiological/nuclear materials is a more than constructive goal, and one that seems not too far out in the future (to a point). But the push following 9/11 for these capabilities resulted in deployment of technology that more likely than not damaged the prospect of future use.  Rushing ahead when the technology wasn’t ready will have innoculated local officials in the usefulness of future systems.

Put another way, will systems exhausted of responding to false alarms now react differently in the near future even if improved technology is in place?  Or, in the language of baseball, why waste a few years early in the development of a significant player if it will truly have an impact in the short term future?

 

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March 16, 2012

Crossing the chasm in preparedness… and homeland security

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on March 16, 2012

Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8) is nearly one year old.  On Tuesday Chris Bellavita pointed to the emerging collection of frameworks intended to advance the policy.

I have given particular attention to the proposed mitigation framework.  PPD-8 gives mitigation much more priority than previous presidential policies.

The mitigation framework is well-conceived, well-written, and helpfully describes the role of mitigation and its relationship with other core capabilities. I don’t know who authored the current draft, but s/he has done a good job.

I also finished each reading a bit more depressed.  I stopped after my third review.

The following, taken from pages 17-18, specifies how community resilience is cultivated as a context for effective mitigation.  This contributed to my dark mood:

Objectives and Key Actions:

  • Inspire and empower accountable action. Individuals and private organizations engage with government at all levels to make resilience happen.
  • Foster social, environmental, and economic resilience in every community to increase the capacity of the community to thrive through all kinds of change.
  • Know how your community works and how to build partnerships and affect change.
  • Understand the full gamut of risks facing a community, including physical, social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities to all hazards.
  • Foster sustained communication, civic engagement, and the development and implementation of long-term risk reduction actions in the whole community.
  • Convince communities of the value of mitigation for reducing the impact of disasters and the scale of response and recovery efforts.
  • Identify and promote incentives, not just regulatory compliance. Reward sound choices and identify bad ones.
  • Recognize the interdependent nature of a community’s domains. Community resilience is expressed through a holistic approach to risk reduction, and the success of one element relies upon the resilience capacity of other elements. For example, when a large business facility is retrofitted to account for wind and flood hazards, the community also strengthens area schools, employee housing, and transportation infrastructure to ensure that workers will be able to quickly rebound from an event and return to work.
  • Acknowledge that the skill sets and leadership structures for different hazards and communities of practice (law enforcement, local businesses) may change, but the need for leadership, collaboration, and partnership is the same.
  • Build relationships before disasters or incidents occur.
  • Learn from the past and from what is working in the present.
  • Educate the next generation of community leaders and resilience professionals.
  • Acknowledge and seek out naturally occurring relationships within communities.

I don’t disagree.  In most instances I strongly agree.  But taken together… wowzer, that’s quite an incline.  And that’s just stage-setting for actual mitigation work.

The mitigation framework is packed with several more lists of ambitious objectives and key actions. But there is a missing link, a crucial missing link.

Peter Drucker argued there are only two sources of value: innovation and sales.  Everything else is a cost.

In the PPD-8 process we can recognize innovation.   But where is the sales plan?  Who are the sales people?  Only with effective sales will the potential value of the innovation be realized.

Resilience, whole-community, mitigation have their enthusiasts.  Each and all have their visionaries.  So do many innovations that fail to achieve broad market appeal.   Most innovations fail.

But a few fabulously succeed.   In 1991 Geoff Moore characterized what separates winners and losers as consisting of three chasms:

1. Crossing the chasm from visionaries to pragmatic early adopters will only happen if the innovation is recognized as generating some form of comparative advantage for the user. (Does the mitigation framework make this case? I don’t think so — not yet, but it probably could.)

2. Crossing the chasm from pragmatists to conservatives can fail if too much effort is required to use the product/service.  (The current description, as above, sounds hard.  In my experience it is difficult.  What can be done to authentically simplify or, at least, chunk and sequence the work to avoid discouraging adoption?  There is still time to do this.)

3. Crossing the chasm from conservatives to skeptics is especially tough, but this tends to characterize truly transformational products.  There can be a big pay-off from creatively listening  to the Eeyore’s.

The biggest, baddest chasm is coming up soon for PPD-8.   What is the compelling comparative advantage for adopting the policy and its frameworks?   Will enough pragmatists be persuaded to pull resilience, whole-community, mitigation and more across the chasm from the early market into the mainstream market?

Can an innovative public policy be sold?  Should it be marketed?  It probably depends on your definition of selling.  I define selling as knowing the needs of the customer and honestly, positively, persuasively demonstrating how a product fulfills those needs.  Co-development of the product with the customer is golden.

Where are the demonstration projects? Where are the exploratory pilots? Where are the shared opportunities for private-public discovery-learning? Where is the inter-governmental professional development and research? Where is the interdisciplinary action research?  These are all strategic, substantive means of selling.

Drucker once wrote, “You need four things.  You need a plan.  You need marketing.  You need people.  And you need money.”

With the frameworks finalized the PPD-8 innovations will have a plan.  There will be money — both administrative and grants — to execute the plan.   There will also be people, especially public sector people, to execute the plan and spend the money.

But Drucker’s second source of value — marketing (and people to do the marketing) — is not yet on the scene.   This is the bridge across the widest chasm.  This is the link to communities, civic organizations, and the private sector.  There is no bridge. There is not even a marketing rope thrown across the gap.  Right now we have Steve Wozniak‘s innovations without Steve Job’s marketing.

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March 14, 2012

Brothers and Others

Filed under: State and Local HLS — by Mark Chubb on March 14, 2012

Does anyone else find it ironic that cops and firefighters (but firefighters especially) refer to themselves as “brothers”, when this term connotes something very different and entirely sinister when applied to government and its officials by the general public?

George Orwell’s Big Brother in the dystopian novel 1984 was an intimidating and invasive presence in the lives of people deprived of freewill. Nevertheless, cops and firefighters see brotherhood and its virtues as practically unrivaled. Loyalty to many is the essence of integrity because it defines consistency of action with respect to one’s peers.

Consider this conception of integrity in contrast to the values of equity or justice, which to most of us demands consistency of action with respect to others – in essence requiring us to treat others as we would our brothers. Cops and firefighters use the concept of brotherhood to exclude, not include, others.

The other is humankind’s oldest device for defining and projecting the presence of evil in the world. As Elaine Pagels’ groundbreaking scholarship on The Origin of Satan makes clear, the essence of evil is fear. We see “evil” in others in direct proportion to the “self” we see in others. Evil reflects our fear of embracing, if not becoming, that which destroys our current sense of self.

This is the point at which I find the tendency of cops and firefighters to rely on the notion of brotherhood begins to diverge as well as unravel. In both instances, it is brothers who provide the primary defense against the other. But in the case of cops, it is the very existence of others that defines brotherhood, for we would not need cops if it not for the presence of evil in others. But firefighters oppose a different foe. To be sure, fire can produce evil effects, but it also is a great source of good when properly harnessed. Those affected by fire as well as those who fail to keep its power under proper control are both seen not as villains but rather as victims. Why then should firefighters see a need for protection against those who call upon their services?

Firefighters seem to cling to the concept of brotherhood even more fiercely than most cops. Who then is the other whom firefighters fear? What’s going on here?

Most firefighters I talk with take a paternalistic perspective when referring to their relationship with the public. To many of them, the public is a body of people who want or need services they cannot anticipate, do not fully appreciate and cannot understand, which makes it the responsibility of fire service leaders to inform (read this as “educate” or “convince”) the public about their need for or dependence upon firefighters. A good fire chief, then, is someone who stands up for firefighters against the public, and who convinces them to give firefighters what they want.

This perspective has made me a “bad” fire chief and a traitor akin to Judas Iscariot in the eyes of many firefighters. What I find peculiar is not that they believe this but that they do not see in others, much less me, a figure more like that of the Apostle Thomas.

I have sat through many meetings lately where articles of faith in respect of fire service delivery are defended as reasonable despite the utter lack of objective evidence to support them. I consider myself a skeptic about most things, but most especially about the virtues of a notional brotherhood that conditions acceptance on adherence to articles of faith about things like fire company staffing and response times when reasonable doubt exists as to whether they influence aggregate outcomes.

Don’t get me wrong, faith and reason each have their place. One need not conflict with the other. I believe in many things I cannot possibly prove. But I remain skeptical that they cannot be proven at all, and as such remain unconvinced they are completely much less innately true. Where reason provides me with a portal to understanding, I find it only bolsters my faith.

I believe what we do as public safety professionals makes a great deal of difference to the communities we serve. I think I can prove what makes this difference in some, but not all cases. And where I can prove it, I almost always find that it is what and how we do things rather than how fast, how much, or how many, that makes the biggest difference.

To many firefighters, I am now the other as opposed to their brother. I will not take on the role of father, protector and defender of the faith, largely because I am unprepared to become the Big Brother people fear and despise. I would like to believe that taking the position I am will ultimately help the firefighters I work with see the brothers in others, and adapt to the new realities of our economy that emphasize what and how we do things over how many and how much.

I believe this is what needs to happen. And I accept that it remains to be seen whether I am right or wrong.

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March 13, 2012

DRAFT National Frameworks and the Recovery Interagency Operational Plan Available for Comment through April 2nd

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on March 13, 2012

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is looking for public comment on several documents mandated under Presidential Policy Directive 8.

As readers of this blog know, PPD 8 is intended to strengthen

the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters.

FEMA posted “working drafts” of several documents on its website for review and comment. The documents include:

• the revised National Response Framework,

• the Prevention Framework,

• the Protection Framework,

• the Mitigation Framework, and

• the Recovery Interagency Operational Plan

You can download copies of the drafts (and the appropriate feedback forms) at this link: Working Drafts

According to the FEMA site:

Everyone is encouraged to review the working draft National Frameworks and the initial draft of the Recovery Interagency Operational Plan posted above, and provide comments using the accompanying feedback submission form. The feedback submission forms should be sent to PPD8-Engagement@fema.dhs.gov (feedback must be submitted via the provided feedback submission forms). Feedback will be received through April 2, 2012

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Preparedness means “we have each others’ backs.”

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on March 13, 2012

“People do weird things when they’re hungry. You might run into cannibals at that point.”

Jason said that.

Slightly more than a year ago, one writer on this blog discussed the less than ideal state of citizen preparedness:

Government officials at all levels decry the public’s lack of preparedness, citing a combination of self-delusion, apathy and sheer stubbornness.

Whether it is called civil defense, a culture of preparedness or the latest catch phrase, “resiliency,” personal preparedness remains an elusive goal for emergency management officials across the nation.

But some people take personal preparedness more seriously than others.

“If the grocery shelves are empty, you’re only 9 meals away from anarchy.”

Mike said that.

“I still love high heels and fashion, but I am also thinking… is there anything I can conceal a weapon in?

Megan said that.

Jason and Mike and Megan are preppers. People who are really prepared.

Their words made the “most memorable prepper quotes” section of the National Geographic Channel’s “doomsday Preppers” website.

National Geographic describes preppers as “otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. … [Preppers] will go to whatever lengths they can to make sure they are prepared for any of life’s uncertainties.”

The Discovery Channel is not to be outdone by National Geographic. Last week they started a series of programs called Doomsday Bunkers.

According to the website, each week will feature the design and construction of survival units.  Then the fun starts.

From sizable underground bunkers with safety measures that include outside hand rails with hidden flame throwers, to special safety structures that include the Pyramid and Tsunami pods, each unit is tested using a battery of attacks that include firearms, fire, and falling vehicles.

Neil Genzlinger wrote a wonderful review of both programs in Monday’s New York Times.  (Thanks for the tip, cw) Here are some examples of Genzlinger’s prose:

Watch either show for a short while and, unless you’re a prepper yourself, you might be moderately amused at the absurd excess on display and at what an easy target the prepper worldview is for ridicule. Watch a bit longer, though, and amusement may give way to annoyance at how offensively anti-life these shows are, full of contempt for humankind.

….These prepers live all over the country, in rural areas, suburbs and cities. Each has a different reason for turning a perfectly adequate home into a canned-food warehouse or building an escape hideaway… in the mountains. One expects the North and South Poles to swap place, one a global economic collapse, one “an electromagnetic pulse that will disable the transportation system of the United States.”

… The unmistakable impression left by these programs is that what these folks want most of all is not to protect their families–the standard explanation for why they’re doing what they’re doing–or even the dubious pleasure of being able to say to the rest of us, see, I told you the world was going to end. What they want is a license to open fire. The number of bullets sprayed around in these shows, by adults and even their children, might give Rambo pause.

But not every prepper is an arm-yourself-dig-a-huge-hole-in-the-ground-stock-up-on-freeze-dried-and-standby-for-the-apocalypse kind of guy.

Kathy Harrison, described by the Discovery Channel as “The Dorris Day of Doom,” has a different attitude about preparedness and resilience. As quoted by Genzlinger, Harrison says

It’s easy to feel a little left out of the prepper community if you live in New England and if you’re not fairly right wing and conservative politically.… But I just don’t spend my time worrying about stockpiling guns and ammunition, because our security comes not from stockpiling weapons but from having a community that respects each other, supports each other, and we have each others’ backs.”

Prepper or not, there’s a measure of preparedness for you.

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March 12, 2012

Remembering the Madrid Bombings

Filed under: International HLS,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Arnold Bogis on March 12, 2012

The focus, of both the homeland security community and general news media, over the last week has been on the anniversary of the earthquake-tsunami-radiation disaster that struck Japan one year ago.  Numerous reports timed to this remembrance have been released. Pre-and-post photo galleries abound on the web.  All for good reason.  A terrible event with horrible consequences that serves as an almost perfect example of a Maximum of Maximums (MOM to you EMA folks) event or “Complex Catastrophe” to those more DOD inclined.

Before this terrible tragedy, this past weekend would have marked yet another anniversary: the Madrid train bombings.  I thought it important to at least bring that particular event up again and ask a few questions (that in all honesty I don’t expect answers to…):

  • I’m guessing that the whole “see something, say something” campaign was inspired by this event.  Bombs were left by terrorists who exited the targets in question.  Yet the London Tube/Bus bombings should have reminded officials that not every terrorist aims to survive the event.  Seeing something and saying something may (or may not) have saved people in Spain, but the situation would not have been altered in London.
  • Talking about Mass Transit security, many ideas have been put forth.  In particular, the idea of randomness appeals to many.  Most likely because it allows a small group of mission dedicated individuals to be seen as doing something about the threat.  Yet I can’t help but think that every time I’ve encountered the heavily armed police at stations randomly checking bags, I could have turned around and left.  Perhaps walking to the next station.  Perhaps altering the attack pattern.  Yet not really preventing the attack itself.
  • Since we haven’t seen an attack on mass transit in the United States, should we assume that our counter-terrorism efforts are to credit?  Is it not as soft a target as we thought?  Or perhaps we shouldn’t worry at all?

I can’t say where I think the security/prevention implications of the 3/11 (and London Tube) bombings will eventually come out.  Just because I can’t fathom a guess.  However, this terrible incident did at least provide the impetus for a serious review of U.S. medical surge plans in the event of a similar incident.

A small example of relevant documents:

A collection of BBC articles on the Madrid bombings:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/europe/2004/madrid_train_attacks/

An “on the ground” perspective of the response:

http://www.taleofourcities-houston.com/presentations/Fernando%20Turegano_Madrid-November-2011.pdf

And the U.S. government review of the incident:

http://emergency.cdc.gov/masscasualties/pdf/surgecapacity.pdf

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Holder v. New York Times on Due Process

Filed under: Legal Issues,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on March 12, 2012

Last week HLSWatch reprinted Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech at Northwestern University’s School of Law.  In those remarks the Attorney General noted:

Some have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces.   This is simply not accurate.   “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.   The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.

The lead editorial in yesterday’s (Sunday’s) New York Times maintains that judicial review is essential to the executive’s purposeful use of lethal force against a citizen.

Mr. Holder argued in his speech that judicial process and due process guaranteed by the Constitution “are not one and the same.” This is a straw man. The judiciary has the power to say what the Constitution means and make sure the elected branches apply it properly. The executive acting in secret as the police, prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner is the antithesis of due process.

The administration should seek a court’s approval before killing an American citizen, except in the sort of “hot pursuit” that justifies the police shooting of an ordinary suspect…

The complete editorial is available at: The Power to Kill.

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March 10, 2012

One year ago after the quake and tsunami: No sky, no land…

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on March 10, 2012

Snow covers remains of Minamisanriku town, Miyagi Prefecture  (March 17, 2011) Associated Press

Rescue workers walk through heavy snowfall in Sendai, northeastern Japan (March 17, 2011) Reuters

Yoshikatsu Hiratsuka grieves in front of wreckage where the body of his mother is buried in Onagawa  (March 17, 2011)  Associated Press


No sky,

No land – just

Snow falling

KAJIWARA Hashin (1864-?)

We cannot run fast

enough, to catch cascading

catastrophe’s roar

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March 9, 2012

What does MOM deserve?

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on March 9, 2012

A phone call once a week or dinner out instead?

A card or a card and flowers ?

Are you going home for the holidays or inviting Mom to join you on a cruise?

What does Maximum Of Maximums (MOM) deserve?

According to the 2011 FEMA strategic plan, a MOM could involve:

  • Emergency medical care for 265,000 casualties,
  • Moving and distributing supplies to meet the needs of 1.5 million disaster survivors within 72 hours,
  • Restoring and sustaining basic services for an affected area of seven million people within 60 days,
  • Recovering the communities of 1.5 million disaster survivors within 5 years of the event.

When MOM visited Northeastern Japan on March 11 last year that’s close to what she left behind.   Casualties were lower, but otherwise the FEMA benchmarks are on target or a bit below actual outcomes.

What else does the Japanese experience tell us about MOM?

  • Catastrophes cascade into complexity becoming fundamentally different than emergencies or disasters.
  • Response will only be as good as mitigation, resilience, and readiness.  Recovery is mostly a function of the same.
  • MOM is beyond controlling.  She may be absorbed or if given enough space she may dissipate, but she will not be contained.

Despite the consequences in Japan and similar recent calamities, many resist embracing or even acknowledging MOM.

Among the minority who give attention to something like MOM there is a dangerous presumption she can be understood.   She cannot, not fully.

Nature affects to be sedate
Upon occasion, grand
But let our observation shut
Her practices extend

To Necromancy and the Trades
Remote to understand
Behold our spacious Citizen
Unto a Juggler turned — (Emily Dickinson)

Her juggling, her dancing, her sudden leaps and skidding stops are beyond accurate prediction.  With MOM we can only be sure of uncertainty.

To give MOM her due, regular attention is required.  Three suggestions for state and local jurisdictions and the private sector:

1.  At least 10% of planning resources should be committed to MOM.

2. At least 20% of training and exercise resources should be committed to MOM.

3.  Regular investment in mitigation especially on resilience of critical infrastructure and key resources.  I don’t think a percentage can capture this commitment.  It needs to be a strategic priority.  Zoning, building codes, public health funding, infrastructure development,  insurance decisions, licensing and regulations… all need to assume a level of catastrophic risk. Incremental yet persistent investment in mitigation is needed.

By the way, I perceive Japan met — and probably exceeded — each and all of these minimums.   The consequences were still horrific.

–+–

For more on lessons learned from the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear emergency please see:

Fukushima in review: A complex disaster, a disastrous response, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (March 6, 2012)

This is the most recent of several excellent examinations of (mostly) the nuclear emergency.  There has been considerably less high-level attention to the the earthquake-and-tsunami.  In my judgment the best single source for issues beyond the nuclear emergency is:

EERI Tohoku Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Clearinghouse

To examine fundamental issues of mass care as well as supply chain resilience and recovery, I recommend:

Disasters in Tohoku, Japan: Preliminary Findings Concerning Postdisaster Humanitarian Logistics Response, Transportation Research Board (January 2012)

The Asahi Shimbun — sometimes called Japan’s New York Times — has aggregated its coverage of response, recovery, and related at:

Special Section: 3/11 Disaster

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March 8, 2012

AG Holder: “due process takes into account the realities of combat”

Filed under: Legal Issues,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on March 8, 2012

Monday evening Attorney-General Holder spoke at Northwestern University School of Law.  According to the Law School’s website,

He talked at length about the use of federal courts and military commissions in combating terrorism and the steps that need to taken before lethal force can be used against U.S. citizens linked to terrorism. In particular, the talked about using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans.

“The Constitution empowers the president to protect the nation from any imminent threat of violent attack,” he said. “And international law recognizes the inherent right of national self-defense. None of this is changed by the fact that we are not in a conventional war.”

The AG’s complete speech is available from the Department of Justice website.  (Early Thursday morning the site is down.)

A video of his remarks is available at the Northwestern University School of Law website.

–+–

For several days my access to the DOJ site has been spotty.  With a strong solar storm heading our way, who knows what might happen.  So, with apologies for the very long post, following is the text of  the AG’s prepared remarks with a few pleasantries edited out.

I have also highlighted a few paragraphs which I consider particularly important.  The Attorney-General deserves our close reading of his full argument in context.  But regular readers will not be surprised I remain concerned about the power of the executive to intentionally use lethal force against a citizen without judicial review.

Previous posts on this issue include: Killing a Fellow Citizen and Persons and Due Process, Terrorism and War

–+–

ERIC H. HOLDER, ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, SPEAKING IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, MONDAY, MARCH 5, 2012:

I’m grateful for the opportunity to join with you in discussing a defining issue of our time – and a most critical responsibility that we share: how we will stay true to America’s founding – and enduring – promises of security, justice and liberty.

Since this country’s earliest days, the American people have risen to this challenge – and all that it demands.   But, as we have seen – and as President John F. Kennedy may have described best – “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.”

Half a century has passed since those words were spoken, but our nation today confronts grave national security threats that demand our constant attention and steadfast commitment.   It is clear that, once again, we have reached an “hour of danger.”

We are a nation at war.  And, in this war, we face a nimble and determined enemy that cannot be underestimated.

Like President Obama – and my fellow members of his national security team – I begin each day with a briefing on the latest and most urgent threats made against us in the preceding 24 hours.  And, like scores of attorneys and agents at the Justice Department, I go to sleep each night thinking of how best to keep our people safe.

I know that – more than a decade after the September 11th attacks; and despite our recent national security successes, including the operation that brought to justice Osama bin Laden last year – there are people currently plotting to murder Americans, who reside in distant countries as well as within our own borders.   Disrupting and preventing these plots – and using every available and appropriate tool to keep the American people safe – has been, and will remain, this Administration’s top priority.

But just as surely as we are a nation at war, we also are a nation of laws and values.  Even when under attack, our actions must always be grounded on the bedrock of the Constitution – and must always be consistent with statutes, court precedent, the rule of law and our founding ideals.   Not only is this the right thing to do – history has shown that it is also the most effective approach we can take in combating those who seek to do us harm.

This is not just my view.   My judgment is shared by senior national security officials across the government.   As the President reminded us in 2009, at the National Archives where our founding documents are housed, “[w]e uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and it keeps us safe.   Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset.”   Our history proves this.   We do not have to choose between security and liberty – and we will not.

Today, I want to tell you about the collaboration across the government that defines and distinguishes this Administration’s national security efforts.   I also want to discuss some of the legal principles that guide – and strengthen – this work, as well as the special role of the Department of Justice in protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.

Before 9/11, today’s level of interagency cooperation was not commonplace.   In many ways, government lacked the infrastructure – as well as the imperative – to share national security information quickly and effectively.   Domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence operated in largely independent spheres.   But those who attacked us on September 11th chose both military and civilian targets.   They crossed borders and jurisdictional lines.   And it immediately became clear that no single agency could address these threats, because no single agency has all of the necessary tools.

To counter this enemy aggressively and intelligently, the government had to draw on all of its resources – and radically update its operations.   As a result, today, government agencies are better postured to work together to address a range of emerging national security threats.   Now, the lawyers, agents and analysts at the Department of Justice work closely with our colleagues across the national security community to detect and disrupt terrorist plots, to prosecute suspected terrorists, and to identify and implement the legal tools necessary to keep the American people safe.   Unfortunately, the fact and extent of this cooperation are often overlooked in the public debate – but it’s something that this Administration, and the previous one, can be proud of.

As part of this coordinated effort, the Justice Department plays a key role in conducting oversight to ensure that the intelligence community’s activities remain in compliance with the law, and, together with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in authorizing surveillance to investigate suspected terrorists.   We must – and will continue to – use the intelligence-gathering capabilities that Congress has provided to collect information that can save and protect American lives.   At the same time, these tools must be subject to appropriate checks and balances – including oversight by Congress and the courts, as well as within the Executive Branch – to protect the privacy and civil rights of innocent individuals.   This Administration is committed to making sure that our surveillance programs appropriately reflect all of these interests.

Let me give you an example.   Under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence may authorize annually, with the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, collection directed at identified categories of foreign intelligence targets, without the need for a court order for each individual subject.   This ensures that the government has the flexibility and agility it needs to identify and to respond to terrorist and other foreign threats to our security.   But the government may not use this authority intentionally to target a U.S. person, here or abroad, or anyone known to be in the United States.

The law requires special procedures, reviewed and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to make sure that these restrictions are followed, and to protect the privacy of any U.S. persons whose nonpublic information may be incidentally acquired through this program.    The Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence conduct extensive oversight reviews of section 702 activities at least once every sixty days, and we report to Congress on implementation and compliance twice a year.   This law therefore establishes a comprehensive regime of oversight by all three branches of government.  Reauthorizing this authority before it expires at the end of this year is the top legislative priority of the Intelligence Community.

But surveillance is only the first of many complex issues we must navigate.   Once a suspected terrorist is captured, a decision must be made as to how to proceed with that individual in order to identify the disposition that best serves the interests of the American people and the security of this nation.

Much has been made of the distinction between our federal civilian courts and revised military commissions.   The reality is that both incorporate fundamental due process and other protections that are essential to the effective administration of justice – and we should not deprive ourselves of any tool in our fight against al Qaeda.

Our criminal justice system is renowned not only for its fair process; it is respected for its results.   We are not the first Administration to rely on federal courts to prosecute terrorists, nor will we be the last.   Although far too many choose to ignore this fact, the previous Administration consistently relied on criminal prosecutions in federal court to bring terrorists to justice.   John Walker Lindh, attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid, and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui were among the hundreds of defendants convicted of terrorism-related offenses – without political controversy – during the last administration.

Over the past three years, we’ve built a remarkable record of success in terror prosecutions.  For example, in October, we secured a conviction against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for his role in the attempted bombing of an airplane traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.   He was sentenced last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  While in custody, he provided significant intelligence during debriefing sessions with the FBI.  He described in detail how he became inspired to carry out an act of jihad, and how he traveled to Yemen and made contact with Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen and a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.   Abdulmutallab also detailed the training he received, as well as Aulaqi’s specific instructions to wait until the airplane was over the United States before detonating his bomb.

In addition to Abdulmutallab, Faizal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber, Ahmed Ghailani, a conspirator in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and three individuals who plotted an attack against John F. Kennedy Airport in 2007, have also recently begun serving life sentences.   And convictions have been obtained in the cases of several homegrown extremists, as well.   For example, last year, United States citizen and North Carolina resident Daniel Boyd pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons abroad; and U.S. citizen and Illinois resident Michael Finton pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his efforts to detonate a truck bomb outside of a federal courthouse.

I could go on.   Which is why the calls that I’ve heard to ban the use of civilian courts in prosecutions of terrorism-related activity are so baffling, and ultimately are so dangerous.  These calls ignore reality.   And if heeded, they would significantly weaken – in fact, they would cripple – our ability to incapacitate and punish those who attempt to do us harm.

Simply put, since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in Article III courts and are now serving long sentences in federal prison.   Not one has ever escaped custody.   No judicial district has suffered any kind of retaliatory attack. These are facts, not opinions.   There are not two sides to this story.   Those who claim that our federal courts are incapable of handling terrorism cases are not registering a dissenting opinion — they are simply wrong.

But federal courts are not our only option.   Military commissions are also appropriate in proper circumstances, and we can use them as well to convict terrorists and disrupt their plots.   This Administration’s approach has been to ensure that the military commissions system is as effective as possible, in part by strengthening the procedural protections on which the commissions are based.   With the President’s leadership, and the bipartisan backing of Congress, the Military Commissions Act of 2009 was enacted into law.   And, since then, meaningful improvements have been implemented.

It’s important to note that the reformed commissions draw from the same fundamental protections of a fair trial that underlie our civilian courts.   They provide a presumption of innocence and require proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.   They afford the accused the right to counsel – as well as the right to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.   They prohibit the use of statements obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.   And they secure the right to appeal to Article III judges – all the way to the United States Supreme Court.   In addition, like our federal civilian courts, reformed commissions allow for the protection of sensitive sources and methods of intelligence gathering, and for the safety and security of participants.

A key difference is that, in military commissions, evidentiary rules reflect the realities of the battlefield and of conducting investigations in a war zone.   For example, statements may be admissible even in the absence of Miranda warnings, because we cannot expect military personnel to administer warnings to an enemy captured in battle.   But instead, a military judge must make other findings – for instance, that the statement is reliable and that it was made voluntarily.

I have faith in the framework and promise of our military commissions, which is why I’ve sent several cases to the reformed commissions for prosecution.  There is, quite simply, no inherent contradiction between using military commissions in appropriate cases while still prosecuting other terrorists in civilian courts.   Without question, there are differences between these systems that must be – and will continue to be – weighed carefully.   Such decisions about how to prosecute suspected terrorists are core Executive Branch functions.   In each case, prosecutors and counterterrorism professionals across the government conduct an intensive review of case-specific facts designed to determine which avenue of prosecution to pursue.

Several practical considerations affect the choice of forum.

First of all, the commissions only have jurisdiction to prosecute individuals who are a part of al Qaeda, have engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, or who have purposefully and materially supported such hostilities.   This means that there may be members of certain terrorist groups who fall outside the jurisdiction of military commissions because, for example, they lack ties to al Qaeda and their conduct does not otherwise make them subject to prosecution in this forum.   Additionally, by statute, military commissions cannot be used to try U.S. citizens.

Second, our civilian courts cover a much broader set of offenses than the military commissions, which can only prosecute specified offenses, including violations of the laws of war and other offenses traditionally triable by military commission.  This means federal prosecutors have a wider range of tools that can be used to incapacitate suspected terrorists.   Those charges, and the sentences they carry upon successful conviction, can provide important incentives to reach plea agreements and convince defendants to cooperate with federal authorities.

Third, there is the issue of international cooperation.   A number of countries have indicated that they will not cooperate with the United States in certain counterterrorism efforts — for instance, in providing evidence or extraditing suspects – if we intend to use that cooperation in pursuit of a military commission prosecution.   Although the use of military commissions in the United States can be traced back to the early days of our nation, in their present form they are less familiar to the international community than our time-tested criminal justice system and Article III courts.   However, it is my hope that, with time and experience, the reformed commissions will attain similar respect in the eyes of the world.

Where cases are selected for prosecution in military commissions, Justice Department investigators and prosecutors work closely to support our Department of Defense colleagues.  Today, the alleged mastermind of the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole is being prosecuted before a military commission.   I am proud to say that trial attorneys from the Department of Justice are working with military prosecutors on that case, as well as others.

And we will continue to reject the false idea that we must choose between federal courts and military commissions, instead of using them both.   If we were to fail to use all necessary and available tools at our disposal, we would undoubtedly fail in our fundamental duty to protect the Nation and its people.   That is simply not an outcome we can accept.

This Administration has worked in other areas as well to ensure that counterterrorism professionals have the flexibility that they need to fulfill their critical responsibilities without diverging from our laws and our values.   Last week brought the most recent step, when the President issued procedures under the National Defense Authorization Act.   This legislation, which Congress passed in December, mandated that a narrow category of al Qaeda terrorist suspects be placed in temporary military custody.

Last Tuesday, the President exercised his authority under the statute to issue procedures to make sure that military custody will not disrupt ongoing law enforcement and intelligence operations — and that an individual will be transferred from civilian to military custody only after a thorough evaluation of his or her case, based on the considered judgment of the President’s senior national security team.   As authorized by the statute, the President waived the requirements for several categories of individuals where he found that the waivers were in our national security interest.   These procedures implement not only the language of the statute but also the expressed intent of the lead sponsors of this legislation.   And they address the concerns the President expressed when he signed this bill into law at the end of last year.

Now, I realize I have gone into considerable detail about tools we use to identify suspected terrorists and to bring captured terrorists to justice.   It is preferable to capture suspected terrorists where feasible – among other reasons, so that we can gather valuable intelligence from them – but we must also recognize that there are instances where our government has the clear authority – and, I would argue, the responsibility – to defend the United States through the appropriate and lawful use of lethal force.

This principle has long been established under both U.S. and international law.   In response to the attacks perpetrated – and the continuing threat posed – by al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces, Congress has authorized the President to use all necessary and appropriate force against those groups.   Because the United States is in an armed conflict, we are authorized to take action against enemy belligerents under international law.   The Constitution empowers the President to protect the nation from any imminent threat of violent attack.   And international law recognizes the inherent right of national self-defense.   None of this is changed by the fact that we are not in a conventional war.

Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.   Indeed, neither Congress nor our federal courts has limited the geographic scope of our ability to use force to the current conflict in Afghanistan.   We are at war with a stateless enemy, prone to shifting operations from country to country.   Over the last three years alone, al Qaeda and its associates have directed several attacks – fortunately, unsuccessful – against us from countries other than Afghanistan.  Our government has both a responsibility and a right to protect this nation and its people from such threats.

This does not mean that we can use military force whenever or wherever we want.  International legal principles, including respect for another nation’s sovereignty, constrain our ability to act unilaterally.   But the use of force in foreign territory would be consistent with these international legal principles if conducted, for example, with the consent of the nation involved – or after a determination that the nation is unable or unwilling to deal effectively with a threat to the United States.

Furthermore, it is entirely lawful – under both United States law and applicable law of war principles – to target specific senior operational leaders of al Qaeda and associated forces.   This is not a novel concept.   In fact, during World War II, the United States tracked the plane flying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto – the commander of Japanese forces in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway – and shot it down specifically because he was on board.   As I explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee following the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the same rules apply today.

Some have called such operations “assassinations.”   They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced.   Assassinations are unlawful killings.   Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government’s use of lethal force in self defense against a leader of al Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the Executive Order banning assassination or criminal statutes.

Now, it is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that some of the threats we face come from a small number of United States citizens who have decided to commit violent attacks against their own country from abroad.   Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during this current conflict, it’s clear that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted.   But it does mean that the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations with respect to United States citizens – even those who are leading efforts to kill innocent Americans.   Of these, the most relevant is the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, which says that the government may not deprive a citizen of his or her life without due process of law.

The Supreme Court has made clear that the Due Process Clause does not impose one-size-fits-all requirements, but instead mandates procedural safeguards that depend on specific circumstances.   In cases arising under the Due Process Clause – including in a case involving a U.S. citizen captured in the conflict against al Qaeda – the Court has applied a balancing approach, weighing the private interest that will be affected against the interest the government is trying to protect, and the burdens the government would face in providing additional process.  Where national security operations are at stake, due process takes into account the realities of combat.

Here, the interests on both sides of the scale are extraordinarily weighty.   An individual’s interest in making sure that the government does not target him erroneously could not be more significant.   Yet it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks.

Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen – even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaeda in a foreign land – is among the gravest that government leaders can face.   The American people can be – and deserve to be – assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws.   So, although I cannot discuss or confirm any particular program or operation, I believe it is important to explain these legal principles publicly.

Let me be clear:   an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances: First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

The evaluation of whether an individual presents an “imminent threat” incorporates considerations of the relevant window of opportunity to act, the possible harm that missing the window would cause to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks against the United States.   As we learned on 9/11, al Qaeda has demonstrated the ability to strike with little or no notice – and to cause devastating casualties.   Its leaders are continually planning attacks against the United States, and they do not behave like a traditional military – wearing uniforms, carrying arms openly, or massing forces in preparation for an attack.   Given these facts, the Constitution does not require the President to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning – when the precise time, place, and manner of an attack become clear.   Such a requirement would create an unacceptably high risk that our efforts would fail, and that Americans would be killed.

Whether the capture of a U.S. citizen terrorist is feasible is a fact-specific, and potentially time-sensitive, question.   It may depend on, among other things, whether capture can be accomplished in the window of time available to prevent an attack and without undue risk to civilians or to U.S. personnel.   Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack.   In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.

Of course, any such use of lethal force by the United States will comply with the four fundamental law of war principles governing the use of force.   The principle of necessity requires that the target have definite military value.   The principle of distinction requires that only lawful targets – such as combatants, civilians directly participating in hostilities, and military objectives – may be targeted intentionally.   Under the principle of proportionality, the anticipated collateral damage must not be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.   Finally, the principle of humanity requires us to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering.

These principles do not forbid the use of stealth or technologically advanced weapons.   In fact, the use of advanced weapons may help to ensure that the best intelligence is available for planning and carrying out operations, and that the risk of civilian casualties can be minimized or avoided altogether.

Some have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces.   This is simply not accurate.   “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.   The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.

The conduct and management of national security operations are core functions of the Executive Branch, as courts have recognized throughout our history.   Military and civilian officials must often make real-time decisions that balance the need to act, the existence of alternative options, the possibility of collateral damage, and other judgments – all of which depend on expertise and immediate access to information that only the Executive Branch may possess in real time.   The Constitution’s guarantee of due process is ironclad, and it is essential – but, as a recent court decision makes clear, it does not require judicial approval before the President may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war – even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen.

That is not to say that the Executive Branch has – or should ever have – the ability to target any such individuals without robust oversight.   Which is why, in keeping with the law and our constitutional system of checks and balances, the Executive Branch regularly informs the appropriate members of Congress about our counterterrorism activities, including the legal framework, and would of course follow the same practice where lethal force is used against United States citizens.

Now, these circumstances are sufficient under the Constitution for the United States to use lethal force against a U.S. citizen abroad – but it is important to note that the legal requirements I have described may not apply in every situation – such as operations that take place on traditional battlefields.

The unfortunate reality is that our nation will likely continue to face terrorist threats that – at times – originate with our own citizens.   When such individuals take up arms against this country – and join al Qaeda in plotting attacks designed to kill their fellow Americans – there may be only one realistic and appropriate response.   We must take steps to stop them – in full accordance with the Constitution.   In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out – and we will not.

This is an indicator of our times – not a departure from our laws and our values.   For this Administration – and for this nation – our values are clear.   We must always look to them for answers when we face difficult questions, like the ones I have discussed today.   As the President reminded us at the National Archives, “our Constitution has endured through secession and civil rights, through World War and Cold War, because it provides a foundation of principles that can be applied pragmatically; it provides a compass that can help us find our way.”

Our most sacred principles and values – of security, justice and liberty for all citizens – must continue to unite us, to guide us forward, and to help us build a future that honors our founding documents and advances our ongoing – uniquely American – pursuit of a safer, more just, and more perfect union.   In the continuing effort to keep our people secure, this Administration will remain true to those values that inspired our nation’s founding and, over the course of two centuries, have made America an example of strength and a beacon of justice for all the world. This is our pledge.

Thank you for inviting me to discuss these important issues with you today.

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March 7, 2012

What’s Good for Us

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,State and Local HLS — by Mark Chubb on March 7, 2012

Efforts to improve the efficiency and accountability of government services, as I discussed last week, are more likely to involve questions of quality than quantity. This, of course, presents certain problems, in part because our judgments about such things are influenced not only by different perspectives but also different values.

As the nation’s political discourse has become more hostile and divisive, I have discerned equally clear and consistent calls for consensus. To me, these calls often strike a dissonant chord, that comes across more like, “Be reasonable, do it my way,” than “What can we do that will satisfy everyone.” I chafe at this suggestion not because I dislike agreement (or alternatively, like disagreement), but rather because of the dangers such mindsets pose in monocultures.

Sadly, too many public safety organizations present just such problems. Not long ago, many public safety organizations suffered under the self-imposed oppression of autocratic, top-down management styles. Today, the pendulum has, in too many instances, swung too far the other direction. Some agencies are, in the words of a colleague, in danger of letting “the inmates run the asylum.” (The corollary to this perspective goes something like this: “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but you might find it helpful.”)

Recently, some people have tried to convince me that this new cultural orientation reflects a generational shift in the workforce, others argue it is evidence of maturity or even diversity. (“We all agree, so anyone who disagrees with us is not only wrong but self-serving, petty, immature and intolerant.”) Consider me less than convinced.

Instead, what I see is a growing tendency to promote consensus as a way to avoid making decisions. It works this way: If I agree with you or you with me, I will support you and urge others to follow your direction. If what you suggest does not benefit me, even if it might arguably benefit others, I will not only refuse to support you, but I will actively organize others to oppose you. Moreover, if you don’t take the hint and desist from the course of action I dislike, I will attack you personally.

I find some of the most supportive and compliant people in my organization are the youngest and least senior employees. That is not to say, however, that they are the least experienced or mature. Note this distinction: Many of the employees with limited tenure in my organization defer to positional power not only because they lack tenure, but also because they often bring diverse experience outside public safety agencies to their positions. Put simply, they appreciate their positions in the organization and are usually more prepared to play them because they have no expectations of preferential much less deferential treatment. In many cases, they view their jobs as just that: a job, not an entitlement or a calling or a vocation or a profession. They work to live, not live to work.

Much of the conflict I experience in the workplace involves what I term “violent agreement.” Put another way, “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.” These days, it seems when people get what they want it often comes to them as a surprise. The problems this poses are amplified by the fact that many of their requests come in without goals or priorities attached.

This problem operates at all levels of the homeland security system. When I worked for a regional professional organization of public safety executives in the mid-1990s, I cautioned the board I worked for that their requests of Congress to expand federal grant opportunities would come at significant cost to them in the long run. As more resources became available, I suggested, more people would begin lining up at their desks with their palms extended. And as the line grew, they could expect that it would require them to pile the bills higher and higher to meet any one demand just so they could move on to the next one. And if, heaven forbid, the money stopped flowing, so too would the gratitude and support they received from those lining up to tell them how important and respected they were.

I would like to say I was proved wrong in my prediction, but sadly the evidence suggests otherwise. In addition to what I predicted, we have also experienced something I only feared. Ready access to more resources clearly made many public safety organizations less creative, flexible and responsible. In many ways, this has made them less reasonable as well. Not only are many public safety professionals unprepared to respond to calls for new ways of doing things close to their core business, they are also incredibly incensed that anyone would have the temerity to expect this of them. Two of the many examples of this that have come to my attention in recent weeks involve the cities of San Jose, California and Phoenix, Arizona.

In San Jose, an IBM Global Business Services team has recommended significant changes in the way the city manages fire department resources. For starters, they have openly questioned the practice of allocating firefighting resources to equalize or at least minimize disparities in response times across a geographic area. They have rightly noted that evidence of the effectiveness of this strategy is not only lacking, but that much of the evidence that does exist suggests marginal improvements in response times greater than three minutes and less than ten minutes do not pay in aggregate. In other words, they are inefficient because it costs more to shave a few seconds off average response times than any additional firefighting crew can ever hope to save in fire losses. The same can be said of emergency medical service, where the evidence points to bystander interventions, particularly CPR and automatic external defibrillators as key factors in improving outcomes in cases of witnessed cardiac arrest.

What makes the San Jose case even more interesting is the fact that IBM suggests a risk-based resource allocation as an alternative. This would result in staffing fluctuations based on trends in call volume and severity. It might also result in more units, staffed with fewer people being based in more flexible locations. Which is to say, it sounds an awful lot like the way private-sector ambulance services manage themselves already.

This, of course, not only frightens, but also angers firefighters. You see, EMTs who only ride ambulances get paid far less than firefighters. Using firefighters to perform roles as EMTs may make them more productive, but it does not improve efficiency and is thus steadfastly opposed by most firefighters.

Meanwhile, in Phoenix, the management consulting firm Management Partners, has recommended replacing many uniformed officers with lower-paid but similarly or better-qualified civilian staff. This and other interventions, including new technology for compiling electronic patient care reports in the field, could save the city as much as $5.1 million per year.

Both cities face some formidable challenges in implementing their consultants’ visions. San Jose has already cut staffing by 18 percent since the recession began. Their firefighters union is openly hostile to absorbing any further cuts.

Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan has defended his department’s performance by arguing that joint labor-management committees have already begun implementing many of the consultant’s recommendations. I suspect this means they are happy to implement the ones they like — those that do not offend anyone, but expect a fight over the rest.

All this leaves me wondering why, in an era when public safety employees like many in the public itself openly question the old saw, “What’s good for GM is good for America,” they still believe that what’s good for them is what the community wants, expects and supports. When job security, pay and benefits trump public safety, I have to wonder. I wonder no less though when these same things (masquerading as public safety) are said to trump efficiency and accountability.

It is not my place to tell the public they cannot have public safety, efficiency and accountability all at once. It is not my responsibility to defend job security, pay and benefits that far exceed the median household incomes of those who pay for these services. And it is not reasonable to assume they – the public – will tolerate public service leaders who will accept or make such arguments for very much longer.

 

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March 6, 2012

Occupy the Three Little Pigs

Filed under: Events,Futures,General Homeland Security,Preparedness and Response — by Christopher Bellavita on March 6, 2012

Here’s a weatherman talking:

“We have no idea what’s going to happen [in the weather] beyond three days out.”

Here’s an explanation about why it’s so difficult to get weather forecasts right:

“Weather forecasting is complex and not always accurate, especially for days further in the future, because the weather can be chaotic and unpredictable…. Moreover, the earth’s atmosphere is a complicated system that is affected by many factors and can react in different ways.”

As difficult as it is to predict what is going to happen in a system where the material parameters are known,  imagine trying to predict how human systems will behave several months from now.

—————————

Imagine you are sitting on top of a mountain and you can see:

Organizers calling on “redeemers, rebels, and radicals” to occupy Chicago during the the G8 and the NATO summit in Chicago in May.

The G8 summit switching its location (on Monday) to Camp David.   Administration officals explain “the prospect of the antiglobalization protests common to such gatherings was not a factor in the decision to change locations.” But folks are still coming to Chicago anyway.

Republican and Democratic political conventions coming this summer to Tampa and Charlotte.

Some Americans demonstrating to exercise their First Amendment rights. They don’t like what’s going on in the country and they want their voice to be heard. Other people demonstrating to smash windows and throw urine on police officers. Cities trying to figure out how to pay for all this.

The Occupy Movement in several cities issuing Good Neighbor policies, trying to guide behaviors for the next incarnation of the movement.

Sophisticated police departments who experienced Year 1 of Occupy increasingly able to identify “the good guys” from the “bad guys.”

Anonymous and Occupy join hands.

A growing domestic intelligence network sharing information about potential threats from a stutteringly resurgent occupy movement.

Popular uprisings in other countries continue to be routine news.

Both houses of Congress agreeing to the provisions of HR347, innocently titled the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.”  (According to one of the few representatives who voted against the bill,  it should be called “the ‘First Amendment Rights Eradication Act’ because it effectively outlaws protests near people who are ‘authorized” to be protected by the Secret Service.”  Apparently that also includes restricting protests at National Special Security Events, like political conventions.)

Social media tools — hardware and software — making it even easier than it was a year ago to spread information and rumor, truth and lies, and streaming video.

Add to those terrain features, the pressure gradients of unemployment, gas prices, a fragile global and national economy, the 1% versus 99% meme, terrorists looking for a win, a congress that seems unable to agree on much, stuff we have no clue about right now, and a presidential campaign.

With those images in mind, as you sit on top of your imaginary mountain, watch this 121 second video from The Guardian.

 

Now make a forecast: what will happen in Chicago in May, in Tampa in August, Charlotte in September, Oakland tomorrow, and other America cities any day now?

If a nation knows there’s a good chance a storm is coming, how does it prepare?  What does the 72 hour kit for that look like?

 

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March 5, 2012

Increased chances of Iranian conflict does not equal increased radiation threat

Filed under: International HLS,Radiological & Nuclear Threats,Risk Assessment — by Arnold Bogis on March 5, 2012

Normally I would welcome any reason to extol the virtues of brushing up on your nuclear and radiological-related preparedness planning. However, I strangely find myself wanting to push back on some nuclear-alarmism that I’ve come across lately from usually professional and restrained quarters.

To be clear before I begin: I believe nuclear terrorism has been and remains a real threat; that a dirty bomb is a question of when and not if; and that the two are entirely different animals that look similar in the same manner that one’s house cat may occasionally remind you of a lion in the wild…but not really.

The meme I suspect is emerging is that heightened tensions in the Middle East, in particular the increased threat of conflict with Iran over it’s nuclear program, is increasing the chances that the U.S. will either be the victim of a nuclear or radiological attack or that we may be involved in treating radiation-related casualties originating from hostilities in the Middle East. The mistaken perceptions involve current Iranian capabilities and the results of any possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, particularly by Israeli forces.

First capabilities: no evidence has been made public that Iran has enriched uranium beyond 20%.  While that gets them a lot closer to having the material for nuclear weapons (it is a strange fact, but enriching uranium up to 20% is more difficult than taking it from 20% to 90% and above, which is generally considered weapons grade; as Harvard’s Graham Allison has put it: “In effect, having uranium enriched at 20 percent takes Iran 90 yards along the football field to bomb-grade material.”), it does not give them a nuclear capability at this moment.  Barring work at a secret enrichment facility, this means that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon to use (whether directly or through allied terrorist groups) against any potential attacker.

Yes, this could change in the future through any number of potential scenarios.  Yes, there are serious concerns for U.S. national security if Iran was to become a nuclear state.  The most likely of these would not involve Iran directly attacking the U.S with a nuclear weapon.  Many others have sunk their teeth into this topic and debated various outcomes.

A dirty bomb could be a possibility, but in taking stock of that particular threat the pieces don’t point toward any special Iranian capability. Neither the low-enriched or high-enriched uranium that Iran is producing, or any of the stages of pre-enriched material, would make particularly effective dirty bomb material.  Uranium is not highly radioactive, in fact one can handle highly enriched uranium with nothing more than a simple gloved hand. In other words, the Iranian nuclear program does not add to their capability to carry out or assist others in carrying out a dirty bomb attack.

An Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could potentially embolden, radicalize, or otherwise incentivize terrorists to carry out a dirty bomb attack.  One can imagine a desire to carry out some sort of event involving radiation in retaliation.  Yet the particulars of Iran’s nuclear program do not affect the odds of this occurring, nor would the products be particularly helpful.

If homeland security officials at all levels want to prevent a dirty bomb attack, in addition to planning and exercising to respond and recover from any such incident (deterrence through denial of goals), they can take stock of the radioactive sources in their own jurisdictions and connect with the owners and licensees about security and safety. Every big city has potential dirty bomb ingredients without the necessity of terrorists attempting to smuggle in Iranian radioactive sources.

The second layer of concern seems to center on the possibility that hostilities between Iran and Israel, and maybe the U.S., would involve populations being exposed to high levels of radioactivity.  However, at this point in Iran’s nuclear development that is also unlikely.

Despite the bluster out of some corners, Israel is not going to use nuclear weapons it does not officially acknowledge having to destroy a nascent nuclear capability the goal of which is contested by various world powers.  Nuclear weapons are political weapons that are best used to deter nuclear attack and invasion.  It is often pointed out that a reason Iran might want to either develop a breakout capability or the weapons themselves is that they witnessed what happened to Iraq and Libya and what has not happened to North Korea.

An Israeli nuclear strike on Iran without direct nuclear provocation would likely result in their achieving North Korean-like pariah status.  Instead, if they decided it was in their national security interest to strike the Iranian nuclear program it would involve conventional weapons.  These bombs may cause dispersion of nuclear material, but as I mentioned before the uranium involved would not be highly radioactive and the effects would be more toxic and less radioactive.

Would there be detectable raised levels of radiation in the surrounding areas  following such an attack?  Likely. Are we talking about an Iranian Fukushima?  Probably not.

Israel could decide to bomb the nuclear reactor at Bushehr, but this would do little to stop any weapons program as light water power reactors are poorly suited for the production of plutonium for bombs and this particular one is under stringent IAEA safeguards.  In addition, it would earn the ire of potentially sympathetic Gulf nations who may bear the brunt of the radiation released.

Following any strike by Israel on its nuclear program, Iran is judged likely to attack Israel with missiles.  Whether launched from Iranian territory or by allied groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, some of these weapons may be targeted at the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona.  It is possible that the reactor would sustain enough damage to release radiation, but these facilities are not soft nor large targets.  The relatively unsophisticated missiles involved would have to be lucky in both hitting the target and achieving enough damage to release any radiation.  Only in the worst case might there be a call to evacuate any casualties to the United States due to radiation injury.

So to end this already too long foray into predicting the results of events that may never occur, let me just reiterate:

  • homeland security officials at all levels should worry about the security of radioactive sources within their jurisidcitions and make sure that they are prepared to respond and recover from any dirty bomb attack;
  • yes Dorothy, a nuclear terrorist attack is possible, if not likely, and should be regarded as a national catastrophic event planned for on a regional basis including non-traditional partners (in FEMA-speak this is a MOM event requiring a WOC response);
  • in the short-to-medium term, events regarding Iran’s nuclear program will not directly impact the risks of a radiological or nuclear attack upon the U.S.
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March 3, 2012

Fukushima on PBS Frontline

Filed under: Catastrophes,Media,Radiological & Nuclear Threats — by Arnold Bogis on March 3, 2012

This past week, PBS’ acclaimed show Frontline put a spotlight on the story of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown.  You can watch the entire episode, as well read the supplemental materials, here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/japans-nuclear-meltdown/

It is a moving story and I highly recommend watching the episode.  It made me think about how we rate or judge performance in catastrophic incidents.  It is often easy to look back and critique, but for those working in the midst of crises who operate on limited data and without the benefit of a strategic vantage point the decisions are not so clear. In this case it seems that the process resulted in (eventually) the correct calls being made.  A different decision at any of various points may have resulted in the evacuation of almost 30 million people in and around Tokyo.

What has the U.S. faced recently that comes close?  Are responsible organizations, in and out of government as well as at every level, ready to face such a challenge?

I hope so.  But I wouldn’t bet my own money on it.

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March 2, 2012

Taking preparedness a litte too far…

Filed under: Humor — by Arnold Bogis on March 2, 2012

Continuity of Government planning is important and should be taken seriously at all levels of government: federal, state, and local.  However, like a newcomer to the World Series of Poker, Wyoming has apparently decided to go all in:

State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.

House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.

That seems a little over the top.  Well…maybe a bit more than that.  But still, I’m sympathetic to any group that seriously wants to plan for the worst case scenario.  Yet…

The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.

What is not explained in the article is exactly how a land-locked state could access the aircraft carrier in times of trouble.  If the situation is really as bad as requiring your own air wing and power projection capability, perhaps accessibility might be a problem if your borders don’t exactly have any deep harbors.  But I could be going out on a limb here…

 

[A big tip o' the hat to Daniel Drezner at Foreign Policy for the link to this story.]

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