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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Homeland Security: a failed model for preparedness

Its a war on terrorism...the real war is against complacency.

(I can hear the black helicopters over my house already)

Homeland Security...that's the name of the game. The objective of the game is security. Thus, a majority of funding dollars have been dedicated to law enforcement-type agencies; from CIA and FBI to your local police department. All in the name of security. To a lesser degree, Homeland Security dollars have been allocated to other places; CDC, Public Health, USFA and FEMA.

How's it working for us?

I've been critical of the term Homeland Security. I've been critical of the term because "security" implies people with guns, badges, and secret surveillance are needed to make us safe. I've been critical of the logic that makes law enforcement the top recipient of funding at the expense of other public services...EMS, for example. To be fair, I also think the much of the funding and grants that have gone to the fire service in the name of Homeland Security have been poorly allocated if not wasted. Where has Homeland Security improved our response to natural disasters - Katina or more recent floods and hurricanes?

I've been criticized for my views. Recent reports, however, are indicating that I might just be onto something.

One such report indicates that our National intelligence agencies are no better prepared for counter-terrorism than they were on 9/10/01. Other reports indicate that the growing threat of Homegrown Terrorism domestic terrorism is not able to be managed appropriately under the current counter-terrorism structure of the CIA, FBI, or the Department of Homeland Security.

The McKinsey report on the operations of FDNY and NYPD note that incident command, communications and interoperability were lacking during the 9/11/01 attacks. Keep in mind that the shortcomings were not soely related to communication but to organizational structure as well. NIMS, anyone? While FDNY and NYPD are the cited examples...the same shortfalls continue to exist today at the local level. Yes, I realize some areas have tackled these issues better than others; yet, the point remains that little progress has been made after nearly ten years under the Homeland Security  model. Sure we have the Patriot Act, "See Something, Say Something" and, of course the TSA with their pat downs and body scans...but to what success? Our Homeland Security approach didn't do much for our Public Health ability to deal with a naturally occurring biological events...Swine Flu, anyone? Or, how about that fantastic color-coded threat level?

Again, how's all that working?

My solution - Change the name...and change the way of thinking...get rid of Homeland Security and go back to what worked...civil preparedness with an eye toward the all-hazards approach! Civil Preparedness embodies readiness for more than terrorism. Then get the funding (by the way, funding for preparedness is drying up every day) to the local responders who can put it to use for all-hazards - naturally occurring as well as intentional.  Under my view of Civil Preparedness,  training and funding for civilian (individual families, communities) would take a much larger role. And I'm not talking about just another Ready.Gov style approach - I mean actively engaging civilians and communities to be better prepared and as self sufficient as possible. I believe that approach alone will improve local and state responses to natural and intentional events.

Homeland Security...how's it working for you? Isn't time to try a new old approach to preparedness?