Monday, September 27, 2010

Homeland Security

This blog is largely about history and the changing fortunes of FEMA, DHS, and the US generally in the context of the second decade of the 21st Century. I recently posted my outline of the future on another blog that I frequently post comments on the posts that appear on that blog. Sic Semper Tyrannis. That Latin phrase also appears on the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia and translated means "Thus always to Tyrants" with Liberty standing above the deceased tyrant. The comment came in the context of Israel/Palestinia issues and policy.

This post is dedicated today to the proposition that now after almost 2/3rds of a decade in existence the existence of DHS and FEMA will not be the crucial frontier for Homeland Security and perhaps not EM either. It is likely in my opinion that the DHS Homeland Security effort will diminish and FEMA will diminish also both following actual incidents or events that might otherwise seem within the portfolios of this department and it bureau known as FEMA. Time will tell.

But the point of this post will focus on the energy, efforts, budgets and staffing of other federal departments and agencies.

First, HHS and CDC and other components. It is likely that efforts will be towards the prevention and response to biological warfare and terrorism over the next decade.The British are well ahead of the US on this front but HHS/CDC are doing their utmost to take and keep and hold leadership over this front even from DOD. After all HHS is health and human services, and if the health component of disasters were to be emphasized one might foresee FEMA and even EPA as part of HHS as opposed to DHS. My guess is that health and technology, two areas in which FEMA is weakest may well dictate FEMA's future. Strangely this battle and line drawing was previously a FEMA focus under Director Julius Becton whose principal aid and Chief of Staff Heidi Meyer was interested in FEMA taking the lead on emergency medical issues. Assisted by a highly competent although with huge ego [probably deserved Leo Bosner--longtime union head later in FEMA] Ms. Meyer and Leo took on HHS over emergency medical services. Rumor was that Ms. Meyer's husband then a retired Admiral heading health issues in DOD wanted to be the Secretary HHS. He did not make it. Well the point of the spear was the NDMS (national disaster medical system) and its control. Later issues involving the Metropolitan Medical Response Teams and the National Stockpile control [there is also a National Defense Stockpile but this stockpile included medical supplies and vaccines] that bounced back and forth between FEMA, DHS, and HHS. HHS utimately winning on all fronts. This also was a reflection of relatively power of the concerned Congressional Committees. Anyhow look for a bright future for HHS/CDC in Homeland Security. FEMA and DHS don't get the fact that an ultimate stovepipe is being built by HHS and CDC and perhaps the forthcoming revisions to various Executive Orders and Presidential Directives will reveal this.

Second, is DOD the huge gorilla in the room and one in which its policy changes impact homeland security greatly and of course starves the civil agencies. Under the paradigm of Homeland Defense DOD has yet to sort out its various components roles, including the NG [National Guard] and NORTHCOM and other units like DTRA. Well there is no chance this will happen under GATES who probably is now going to depart after the election. I personally hoping SAM NUNN is the next SECDEF but may not happen. Another favorite candidate of mine would be retired General Zinni.
Okay the battle within DOD is going to be marked by the policies and staffing and budgeting impacting the NG. Several recent studies have documented directly that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have damaged the NG domestic role and that DOD still does not have its act straight on WMD. Note how this overlaps with item one and the HHS/CDC role. I expect one "reform" is that VA could easily become a dual hatted Emergency Medical Response and Recovery lead for both HHS and DOD. The VA participation in NDMS was originally designed to find 100,000 hospital beds for war casualties but is much beyond that now. And VA is a vigorous participant in that system led by the able retired General Shinsheki. Another potential leader for DOD. Also the whole cyber security effort in the Executive Branch continues to be a sought after goal for DOD. Another fun battle to watch as the civil agencies in general and DHS in particular struggle against DOD supremacy.

Finally, the Treasury Department. Terrorism lives on secretive money flows and financing. Still getting enormous somes from some nation state actors--Like Saudi Arbrian princes-- the money flows are crucial to successful terrorist activity. Treasury's efforts at "following the money" are underfunded and understaffed but I at least give them a B- based on their efforts since 9/11. This is and should be a high priority effort and note that DHS was alert to its significance and made a major effort to get the lead from Treasury, arguing for the role of the Secret Service to be expanded. This effor was defeated in detail by the Treasury Department which at the bottom is more expert on money issues than DHS. Just like FEMA was often defeated by more expert agencies and departments, that is now occurring with DHS. Its stock of 1000 politically vetted positions is largely lacking in raw brain power and expertise but is great at covering its sins through public relations.

Well I will be returning to the topic of these bureacratic battles from time to time. Looks like a weak adminstration just does not care if the infighting continues to detract from the effort. Many efforts to study policies and issues, like cyber security, announced with much fanfare by the Adminstration have now failed to have followup (examples being WMD issues and cyber security issues). Note that a number of these missions and goals comptemplated a highly competent DHS which now can be labeled dysfunctional under the current Secretary. Not that she had a high standard to meet.

Hey no more lawyers to head DHS please.