Sunday, October 28, 2012

An Overview of Homeland Security (part I)

            So why do we have Homeland Security at all?
1.    Technology has advanced to the point that little people have access to very large weapons. The trend is accelerating.
2.    Our society has become so complex that major damage to the nation and the economy anywhere is felt everywhere.
3.    American expectations have changed, and many citizens now believe government should protect them pre-event, and restore them post-event to an unprecedented extent.

Ok, what is Homeland Security about?
Well actually, homeland security was conceived as preparedness for and response to events that threaten the health and economic vitality of the nation as a whole. It is actually about securing the sinews of national power, not promoting the safety of individuals. 
But individual citizens don’t like hearing that they are less important to the nation than a sector of critical infrastructure. And responders, focused for years on public safety issues, tend to agree.
Also, we can only afford one set of responders, so the people who address public safety issues must respond to crises in the security arena as well.
Consequently, “homeland security” now includes both public safety and security of national resources within the domestic confines of the nation.

            What is Homeland Security concerned with?
            Homeland Security is generally concerned with three categories of events: Threats (terrorist attacks), Hazards (accidents, with the same potential for disaster as terrorism), and Natural Disasters.
            Threats and Hazards are usually based on one of the following dangers: Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or Explosive.
·         The primary difference between Threats and Hazards is Intent – attackers may combine types of events, stage multiple events, or even target responders themselves. Hazards may have a terrible impact, but it is not compounded by malevolent planning to make the impact worse.
·         Terrorists may create other situations as well – like sniping, hostage taking, active shooting, or attacks on population centers (a hotel district in India -- a theater in Russia).
Natural Disasters come in many forms: Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Pandemics, etc.
Another subtle but important distinction is that hazards and natural disasters do not get smarter after each event. Terrorists do.

Why is all this new?
It is not. And the forces used to respond (fire, police, medical, FEMA, National Guard, etc.) are not new either. But see the top paragraph above – the potential damage from such events is new and growing with the complexity of our society. A coordinated response can reduce the likelihood of an event, our vulnerability to it, and the consequences if it takes place.

Well what IS new about Homeland Security?
·         Cooperation.  While public safety might seem an innocuous term, it denotes a deep rift, almost a schism, in American government and society. Under the US Constitution those powers and responsibilities not specifically assigned to the federal government are reserved to the several states (and by extension their local governments). “Common defense” is named at the federal level; “public safety” is not. The same is true of law enforcement, with some crimes assigned federal status, but most remaining the purview of state and local police and courts. In emergency management, local jurisdictions respond first, then state, then partnerships between states, and finally federal agencies. And private industry has traditionally welcomed government support but spurned government “interference.” This has changed. After some early false starts, homeland security is today encouraging unprecedented cooperation across jurisdictional lines.
·         Capability. A decade of legislation, expenditures, and experience has resulted in new capabilities (some based in technological advances, some in doctrinal changes) that promote better preparedness before an event, and better response after – as well as better communication to enable cooperation at every level.
·         Focus. Traditional public safety organizations remain focused on . . . well . . . public safety. But hard thought about the domestic security of the nation as a whole has resulted in placing priority on 18 sectors of Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources. These are defined by DHS as “the assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, public health or safety, or any combination thereof.” New focus on CIKR has directed funding, capability and cooperation to maintaining the sinews of domestic national power.
·         Funding. The first National Strategy for Homeland Security envisioned expenditures about three times as great as present levels, and equally divided between federal, state, and local providers.  That did not happen. And (inevitably) some of the tax money made available was spent on items of limited long term utility. But by and large, homeland security organizations at every level have received capabilities and training undreamed of before 9/11. These improvements do show, both in the prevention of terrorist incidents, and the response to major disasters like Hurricane Sandy. 

(For the conclusion, see  An Overview of Homeland Security (part II) below)

An Overview of Homeland Security (part II)

continued from An Overview of Homeland Security (part I)

How does homeland security all come together? 
Homeland Security exists because of the increasing danger of attacks, accidents and natural disasters in the modern world. Every action in homeland security may be thought of as contributing to Preparedness for or Response to such incidents. Some experts call this “Left of Boom” (that is before the incident), and “Right of Boom” (after the incident.
·         Preparedness has three parts:
o   Mitigation – reducing the impact of an event before it takes place (like moving people out of a flood zone before a flood begins).
o   Prevention – impossible for natural disasters but a high priority for counterterrorism, and thus the subject of major efforts by intelligence and law enforcement.
o   Protection – the shielding of people and things from the effects of an event if it does take place.
A good perspective on the various aspects of Preparedness is provided by the DHS National Infrastructure Protection Plan.
·         Response also has three parts:
o   Immediate Response – life and property saving measures in the first 72 hours “Right of Boom.”
o   Recovery – which includes all efforts at every level to return the victims of an event (whether individuals, business, or government) to their “Left of Boom” condition.
o   Resilience – a relatively new concept which emphasizes promoting the ability of individuals and organizations to anticipate, absorb, adapt to, and rapidly recover from a disruptive event either on their own or with collaborative assistance at the lowest possible level.
·         A good perspective on the various aspects of Response is provided by the DHS National Response Framework.

The linear nature of this framework suggests the concepts are linear as well.  They are not. Improvements in Preparedness promote Response, and vice versa. All aspects of this framework are taking place at all times. (For example, New Orleans may be Recovering from a past hurricane while actively Preparing for the next.)
And finally, the whole business of homeland security can be quite expensive in money, time and opportunity cost. The cost of Preparedness (and by extension, Response) can be reduced by Risk Management. The cost of Response (and by extension, Preparedness) can be reduced by Whole of Community Resilience.

What are the remaining challenges? 
Now it gets interesting.
Everything discussed up until now has been a matter of organizing, employing, and resourcing capabilities, individuals or agencies. To a citizen, it all looks like moving boxes and lines on an organizational chart.
But huge hurdles remain, and they are all related to the human participants – getting people from different agencies to cross artificial boundaries and work together for the common good.  Training, Education, Management and Leadership are the tools of progress in homeland security – and unfortunately they have all proven inadequate to the task of truly coordinating efforts up until now.  
If the American experience demonstrates the power of a single motivating concept over the history of our nation, it is that of Incentive. So if there is one concept that deserves top attention as a problem solver in the field of homeland security, it is creating new incentives for people to work together within this framework. For future progress in homeland security, we must promote our Common Defense and General Welfare through new and imaginative incentives.

To summarize, one way to think about homeland security is that the types of concerns are not new, but the scope and scale of those concerns are. And many of the players who prepare for and respond to these concerns are not new either, but their coordination and capabilities most certainly are.  As a result, our preparedness and response to domestic security issues is greatly improved, and by extension, so is our ability to deal with public safety issues as well.
But human nature being what it is, we must ask “at what cost” have these improvements been gained? That is the subject for a different essay and a different day.
And of course, Thinking Enemies really do exist. And they are trying to unravel our improvements in homeland security more rapidly than we are instituting them.  Homeland Security can never be "solved." It can only be managed . . . from day to day to day . . ..

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why is it called Homeland Security?

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, it set in motion a reevaluation of US security and national strategy that has yet to run its course.
By 1990 military critics were calling for major cuts to defense and the defense budget.  After Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, the new Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, set out to establish some analytical basis for the size and shape of the military with the “Bottom Up Review.” It proposed a military mix prepared to fight conflicts in “Two Major Theaters of War” (2MTW) simultaneously. This was followed by a National Security Strategy issued by President Clinton which focused on “Engagement and Enlargement [of democracy],” and drew heavily on a scaled down military to act as a means of engagement with governments and militaries around the world.
In 1996, a Republican Congress came to power, and asked whether sufficient military resources were being focused on a proper force structure, raised, trained and equipped to fight and win wars. A part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 was a requirement to conduct a public assessment that matched defense strategy against defense resources, starting in 1997 and every four years after that. The assessment was, and still is, called the Quadrennial Defense Review. Since the Department of Defense would essentially be evaluating itself, a group of outside defense experts was also formed, designated the National Defense Panel, and charged with issuing a report on the report.
Released in December of 1997, the report was called Transforming Defense-National Security in the 21st Century ( ). In one chapter, the panel looked back at the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and other terrorist events around the world, and concluded that the Department of Defense must be prepared for more and larger attacks against "our homeland.”
The report was actually something of a turning point in the debate on defense issues, as it also applied the term “Transformation” to DOD – thus contributing two concepts that have influenced the national security debate for more than 15 years.  But as it turned out, “homeland” is not a term that rolls off the American tongue, and it immediately prompted uncomfortable comparisons with “Fatherland,” and “Motherland,” and the worst aspects of national and international socialism. The term “Homeland Security” has subsequently been the source of angst and suspicion from people across the political spectrum.
I had the opportunity to interview staff authors of the report shortly after its release and asked “What were you thinking to use a term so foreign to American ears?”  Their answer was simple: “We were up against publication time, everybody knew what we meant, but nobody had a better term. So we used ‘homeland.’ We had no idea it would take on a life of its own.”
But it did.
Check Thinking Enemy again soon to see a recommendation for a different term that would better suit our national purpose.

This post is from the to-be-released book Connecting the Dots: A Primer on Homeland Security, by Dave McIntyre.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thinking About a Little Bed

            Not everything on Thinking Enemy is about an Enemy.  Sometimes it is just about Thinking. And today I am thinking on a very personal level about why we do all this national strategy and homeland security stuff. It is not to advance national interests, no matter what the professors and textbooks and politicians say. It is to “Provide for the Common Defense and Promote the General Welfare” of those we love. I am thinking about that today because the little bed is going away.
This is the bed that every one year old hates and every two year old loves, for the same reason – because it is the first foray out of the crib – out of the security of the pack-n-play, and into the independence of your own bed with its own little pillow and its own little sheet.  In seven and a half years, six of our grandchildren have made that transition. And now we are done.  No more stories in the little bed. No more nightlights next to the little bed. No more “one more drink of water” in the little bed. No more little prayers in the little bed.
            Everyone who visits, sleeps in a “big boy” bed now (or a princess bed as the case may be) – even Daniel, the littlest guy. And so the little bed is going. It is following out the door that shopping cart thing with the lights and annoying electronic music that six unsteady little people pushed through the kitchen until they learned to walk. And that dash board thing with a wheel and horn and blinkers and a radio button that played “Jimmy Crack Corn,” while little feet danced and big feet fled the room. Our house will never be the same again.
            This is not a tragedy. It is just another phase of life. Parents hardly notice. They are just happy to be rid of the clutter. But pushing the bed out the door hits grandparents hard. They know what parents don’t – that the time between an empty little bed and an empty bedroom at the end of the hall is the blink of an eye. And then it is gone forever. Unless the kids bring home their kids, and then – for a brief Indian Summer – you get another turn at bat.
            This time – if you are Thinking – you try not to blow it. You try to listen to the little voices, and give head to the little questions, and take the little egos seriously.  Because, as the poet Andrew Marvell said, “At my back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”
But that’s the rub. Even if you are Thinking, time hurries on. The little voices learn to get their own drink of water. The little feet make their own way to a big bed. And the little bed heads out the door. It becomes hard to ignore the fact that you will eventually follow it.
And so – what to do?  Well, first, don’t miss the opportunities that this Indian Summer affords. And second – for those of us who understand that there ARE Thinking Enemies out there – Think Harder.  That’s a very little bed in a very big and ugly world. Someone must stand watch if the occupant is to grow out of it, and into responsibilities of his own.