Overview of Napolitano’s Action Directives

In her first 10 days in office, new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has issued 12 “action directives” focused on specific homeland security areas.  Here’s an overview of all the action directives, including their purpose and a brief look at what they may indicate for Homeland Security policy in the Obama administration.

What is an action directive?

According to the DHS press release, action directives “instruct specific offices and agencies to gather information, review existing strategies and programs, and to provide oral and written reports” by a specified date.  The dates are specified separately for each directive.

So essentially the action directives are reviews of existing programs.  Although the action directives do not direct any changes to the programs under review, the specific areas each directive specifies for review give an indication of programs that may begin seeing changes after the reviews are complete.

List of Action Directives

The list of action directives follows.  I’ve listed all the relevant dates for each directive as [Date issued / date oral presentations due / date written reports due].  I’ve linked each directive in this list to the DHS press release that includes it.

Note: Although the initial press release didn’t give both oral and written dates for the 5 action directives issued on that date, based on the press releases for the other action directives, this appears to be an error, and I’ve made the assumption that all 5 of those directives have the same oral and written response dates.  No date was specified for oral presentations for the last action directive (immigration and border security).

Brief Analysis:

Although immigration and border security was the last action directive issued, it is by far the longest and most specific directive, while at the same time allowing the shortest time between issuance of the directive and due date for the final report.  This may be a reflection of Secretary Napolitano’s experience with immigration, but in any case it indicates a likely increase in emphasis on immigration and border security compared to the previous administration.

The other theme clearly evident in many of the action directives is interoperability and integration, integration, integration.  Napolitano stated during her confirmation hearing that a primary focus under her watch would be integration of DHS agencies into a single cohesive agency, and the action directives reflect that.

Advertisements

Introduction: Lobbying 101

Some of you may have some interest in a new blog I started, Lobbying 101.

The purpose is to share some of my experience and advice on working with lobbyists, including understanding what they do, the value they add to our government (yes, they actually can help), deciding if you should hire one, finding and hiring a good lobbying firm, and working with lobbyists effectively.

While Washington D.C. insiders are very familiar with lobbyists, when someone first suggested to me that my company should hire a lobbyist, I found it very difficult to find good information on them – even a good description of what they do.  Finding the names of appropriate firms proved even more difficult (Google wasn’t much help).  And then when I did finally find some firms, since I didn’t really know what they did, it was hard to even know what questions to ask them.

I eventually found my way through, and found several very good lobbying firms, but it took a while.  So hopefully, if you’re facing similar questions and decisions, Lobbying 101 will help make it a little easier for you.

Biological terrorism warnings gaining increased attention

Concerns about the risk of biological attack on the United States have led the list of potential threats in 3 important reports released in December, making it increasingly likely that both policy and technology to combat biological terrorism will be at the forefront of HS policy in the Obama administration.

  • WORLD AT RISK: The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism: The bi-partisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism released this long-awaited report on December 4th about the current state of the WMD threat against the U.S..  The report states that the odds are greater than ever that the world will see an attack using a biological or nuclear weapon in the next five years, with biological weapons considered the greatest threat.
  • Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism: Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released the sixth annual Ready or Not? report, which finds that progress made to better protect the country from disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and bioterrorism is now at risk, due to budget cuts and the economic crisis.  In addition, the report concludes that major gaps remain in many critical areas of preparedness, including surge capacity, rapid disease detection, and food safety – all of which could increase the damage from a biological attack.
  • DHS Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013: This intelligence assessment predicts that in the next five years, terrorists will try to carry out a catastrophic biological attack.
    • NOTE: This assessment was marked “for official use only,” but was leaked to the media the week of Dec. 22.  Since I don’t condone leaking details of reports not intended for public distribution, I won’t include any links to the report or to any details of it until/unless it’s officially released for public distribution.
  • Update 01/08/2009: The threat of biological terrorism was emphasized at at a Washington Institute Special Policy Forum Wednesday, with speakers including current Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Ken Wainstein and former CIA Counterterrorist Center department chief Charles “Sam” Faddis.

Public Exposure: Both the WMD Commission report and the DHS threat assessment received widespread coverage on mainstream media outlets, including Fox, CBS, MSNBC, and the Los Angeles Times.

Expectations: In my post on the WMD Commission report, I said to expect alot more focus on biological terrorism, including legislation and funding for both R&D and increasing capabilities.  In addition, as these reports gain more public exposure, and as voters become more numb to bad financial news, expect alot more political attention on homeland security and biological terrorism, especially from U.S. Senators who will be up for re-election in 2010.

Expect changes in U.S. approach to cybersecurity

The U.S. approach to cybersecurity is likely to change significantly under the Obama administration.  Although it’s not clear yet exactly what priorities will be sacrificed to make room for the increased focus, or how the changes will all play out, here are some highlights of recent activities in this area:

  • Reports: A recent report highlighted weaknesses in U.S. cybersecurity efforts, and recommended changes to U.S. cybersecurity leadership and policy, including the White House taking over the lead for cybersecurity efforts from DHS.
  • Obama Administration: President-elect Obama’s statements during the campaign, and his relationships with the authors of the reports (several of whom are advisors to his campaign), suggest that he’ll probably appoint a “cybersecurity czar” at the White House to coordinate national cybersecurity efforts.  Speculation is rising about who he’ll appoint to the post.
  • Congress: Key members of Congress have stated concerns about our lack of preparedness and inability to protect from and respond to cyber attacks.
    • Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), chair of the House Intelligence subcommittee on Technical Intelligence, says billions of dollars need to be invested by both government and the private sector.  Rep. Ruppersberger also supports appointment of a “cybersecurity czar” at the White House.
    • Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), chair of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Cybersecurity, said “We’re way behind where we need to be now.”  Rep. Langevin has also called for leadership of cybersecurity efforts to be removed from DHS, and for increases in our offensive cyber warfare capabilities to use as a deterrent (much as our offensive conventional and nuclear capabilities are used as a deterrents to conventional and WMD attacks).
  • DHS: Although DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff agrees we have significant vulnerabilities, he cautions against changing leadershipof cybersecurity efforts at this stage.  But incoming Secretary Janet Napolitano may have a different view, especially if changes are supported by President-elect Obama.
  • Front-Line Stakeholders: Many key participants in a recent cyberwar simulation exercise reported that we’re not prepared for a real cyberwar.
  • Recent Precedents: Cyber attacks aimed at Estonia earliet this year, and aimed at Georgia during the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia underscored both the likelihood and effectiveness of cyber-attacks during a conflict of any kind.  These attacks were effective, even though they are widely believed to have come from non-state actors (Russian sympathizers).

Summary:

With agreement about our vulnerability all the way from the front line to Congress and the White House, expect some major changes in both leadership and policy.  Increases in funding should also be expected, though whether funding comes as new expenditures or shifting of funding from other areas remains to be seen.

For more information:

Impact of auto maker bankruptcy on Homeland Security

If you’re wondering how an auto industry bailout – or lack thereof – might affect homeland security, you’re not alone.  I’m also trying to find some good answers.

I’ve seen many articles and an exponentially increasing number of blog posts on the Big 3 bailout plan and the arguments for and against letting them go bankrupt.  But other than a few very short mentions (mostly in comments to some of the articles), I haven’t seen any attempt at an analysis of how a complete failure of one or more of the Big 3 would affect national security/homeland security; anecdotal references to the role auto makers played during World War II are the closest I’ve seen yet (see item #6 in this blog post for the longest discussion of this that I’ve found so far).

There seems to be a consensus (which I haven’t been able to trace back to any real analysis) that it would have some impact on national security for there to be no major auto manufacturing in the U.S., because if there were a real conventional war, we wouldn’t have the manufacturing capacity and expertise needed to produce the military vehicles needed to support the war.  The need to maintain conventional warfare manufacturing capabilities has been highlighted by Russia’s recent war with Georgia in South Ossetia.

However, I haven’t seen anything even mentioning other more direct potential effects of the failure of the U.S. auto industry.  For example, does the auto industry share any suppliers in common with the defense and homeland security industries (it seems likely there’s at least some overlap), and if so, how would failure of one or more of the Big 3 affect those suppliers – and the defense and homeland security companies that rely on them?

If you see anything about this (preferably with some hard data rather than just opinion – but opinion is better than nothing), please post the link or some other pointer in a comment.  This is an area where politics could have some significant unintended consequences for defense and homeland security companies, and trickle down to the rest of us in unexpected ways.  I’d like to help everyone follow it.

Thanks,
Michael

McCain and Obama differences on intelligence

From Bloomberg.com:

John McCain and Barack Obama agree that the next president needs to shake up U.S. spy operations. That’s where the similarity ends.

Whoever wins Nov. 4, the next president must overhaul a $47.5 billion intelligence effort, spread through 16 agencies, that’s still struggling seven years after failing to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks and six years after wrongly concluding that Iraq had WMD.

The latest challenge involves revamping a 2004 law that was supposed to repair flaws exposed by 9/11 and Iraq, national security analysts say. The law established a new office led by a director of national intelligence, or DNI, to oversee the CIA and other intelligence operations. So far, the law has added a layer of bureaucracy without giving the director – currently former NSA Director Mike McConnell – enough authority over agencies’ budgets, national security analysts say.

“The DNI is still very much a work in progress, and a lot people are thinking it’s not working,” says Mark Lowenthal, former CIA assistant director for analysis and production. The next president must get it right, because U.S. spies face an array of threats besides terrorists and hostile countries like Iran and North Korea, advisers from both campaigns say.

Why HS isn’t an election issue: Voters don’t know what they want

From CQ Politics:

The presidential candidates’ deafening silence on homeland security has a logical explanation: voters have no particular policy preferences on the topic, so there’s no advantage in being specific.

“If you ask [voters] ‘are you concerned about homeland security, are you concerned about terrorism,’ they actually are,” James J. Carafano, a senior homeland security fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said Friday in a speech at George Mason University. “They’re very concerned about that. But the reason why it’s not a campaign issue is because people don’t know what they want. So whatever their candidate wants, that’s OK by them.”

“They know all they have to do is say something and then their constituents will be happy and then they’re done,” he said.

The lack of focus on homeland security should not surprise anyone.

“The point is now there hasn’t been an attack, al Qaeda’s on the run in Iraq” and there haven’t been a lot of attacks in Western Europe, Carafano said. “So Americans are still greatly concerned about terrorism, they don’t think they are going to be the victim of a terrorist attack and they just want to be reassured that somebody’s looking out for them.”

The situation, he said, is “exactly” what transpired during the Cold War.