Congressional Primer on Responding to Major Disasters and Emergencies

I believe the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which is a research arm of the Library of Congress, publishes an updated version of this document for each Congress.  While the primary audience is Congressional representatives, it provides a good overview of disaster response fundamentals and the relationship between the federal and state/territorial/tribal governments which can be a good reference for many, including practitioners, students, state and local officials, and members of the media.

Give it a look and pass it on to others.

https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=804217

– TR

Homeland Security Priorities Needed – Any Ideas?

Homeland Security Today recently published an article citing the Congressional Research Service‘s study regarding DHS‘ failure to align and prioritize its variety of mission areas.  The results of this study shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  The massive quantity of DHS programs, including both those at the federal level as well as those pushed down to state and local governments is mind-boggling.  If you aren’t familiar with the size and complexity of DHS, see my post on the 10 year anniversary of DHS.

I won’t tackle at length the issues associated with combining 22 agencies as I did in that post, but consider the number of agency missions, directives, and requirements that DHS must have as a result of that merger.  It’s no wonder they can’t keep track of their own business!  A monster has been created, and with it a huge bureaucracy intended to manage it – but, alas, it’s impossible to manage such a beast!  Does Janet Napolitano even know all the programs and mission areas within the agency?  Doubtful.  And that’s no slight to her, it’s too big for anyone to commit to memory.  In an effort to reduce bureaucracy and streamline services and missions, they have, in fact, done the opposite.  Essentially, DHS is over-diversified.

As the HSToday article points out, DHS published a strategic plan last year, but that plan fails to give any priority to their array of missions.  It also fails to provide a cohesive strategy to the entire federal homeland security amalgamation.  This certainly is not what an agency strategic plan should do, but federal and national level strategies should be created.  DHS does require states to formulate and maintain State Homeland Security Strategies – so why can’t they do the same?

There have been a number of articles and blogs in the last few days citing the fact that ‘homeland security’ as a term, has a very loose and amorphous definition.  This is a clear signal that clarification is needed on many fronts.  I believe that part of that clarification is that homeland security is a concept, not a mission area.  There may certainly be a need for a coordinating agency to address mission areas related to the concept of homeland security, but that agency is not DHS as we now see it.  What needs to be done?  As a trainer, I say a needs assessment is a good start.  The writing is on the wall, now let’s do something about it.