Notes from the Editor (Vol. 1, Iss. 2)

Download the full issue.  Welcome to the second issue of Homeland Security Affairs. The central theme is Hurricane Katrina. We also offer articles about critical infrastructure protection and capabilities based planning.

One of homeland security’s most recognizable aphorisms is “the private sector owns 85% of the nation’s critical infrastructure.” This frequently cited, but rarely examined, “statistic” often leads to the view that government can do little to improve the security of critical infrastructure (CI) and key assets. In “Potholes and Detours in the Road to Critical Infrastructure Protection Policy,” Ted Lewis and Rudy Darken challenge this and other conventional wisdom about CI protection. They maintain that myths about private ownership and what that implies for policy are part of the reason why the national strategy for protecting critical infrastructure is not working. The mistaken notion that critical infrastructure sectors are so large and complex that only the highest consequence, lowest probability events can be prevented has also contributed to strategic missteps. The authors contend that states do not yet have even the most basic understandings needed to conduct vulnerability and risk analyses. Nor are the precise objectives of such analyses clear. Lewis and Darken close by recommending specific policy changes that address the issues they raise. The central theme throughout the article is the federal government should take greater responsibility and control over state and local decisions that affect the security of critical infrastructure.

Capabilities based planning (CBP) is a conceptual technology developed by the Department of Defense and subsequently adopted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Instead of planning for specific threats, capabilities planning aims to develop the means to respond to a wide range of threats. In “Homeland Security Capabilities Based Planning: Lessons from the Defense Community,” Sharon Caudle reviews the CBP lessons learned by the military communities in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The Department of Homeland Security employs CBP as a key element in the implementation of Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 8. Caudle outlines the significant challenges DHS faces in implementing CPB. In the course of her analysis, she describes the major barriers faced by DHS carrying out the requirements of HSPD 8. Inferentially, Caudle’s work also defines many of the broader problems DHS encounters executing its homeland security mission. Caudle’s analysis demonstrates once again there are substantial differences between homeland defense and homeland security. Techniques that work well in one domain do not migrate seamlessly into the other.

The nation’s ports are both economically and strategically important. An attack against critical infrastructure within the ports could cause major economic and social disruption. In “Maritime Critical Infrastructure Protection: Multi-Agency Command-And-Control in an Asymmetric Environment,” Robert Watts reviews the historical threats against U.S. ports. The lessons he draws from those experiences suggest how to defend ports against 21st century terrorist threats. The central focus of Watts’ analysis is the role that multi-agency command-and-control protocols can play in defending maritime critical infrastructure.

Hurricane Katrina is the central theme for this issue of Homeland Security Affairs. We present four articles that offer differing interpretations about the implications of Katrina for homeland security.

Charles Perrow, in “Using Organizations: The Case of FEMA,” asserts that “organizations are tools; their masters need not use them for their nominal ends.” He briefly reviews FEMA’s history in an effort to understand what went wrong in its response to both Katrina and Rita. He offers four possible interpretations to explain the different responses to the 2004 hurricanes in Florida and the 2005 Katrina and Rita responses. His analysis considers the nature of the specific disasters, and the political and organizational factors that shaped preparations and response. Perrow concludes that FEMA’s most important failing may have been the degeneration of its ability to innovate. He offers several provocative ideas about why this loss occurred.

Christopher Bellavita, in “Changing Homeland Security: An Opportunity For Competence,” looks at the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina from the perspective of public administration. He claims that the problems unearthed by the Katrina response provide an opportunity to rediscover the ethic of public sector competence. Almost everyone involved in homeland security is a public administrator. From that perspective, it is useful to review the changing understanding of what “competence” has meant to administrators. In the past 120 years, public administration has gone through several eras. Administrators have been artisans, scientists, social reformers, and public managers. Each era brought with it different standards for defining competence. Bellavita believes Katrina provides public administrators with an opportunity to rediscover a spirit of competence that is appropriate for the homeland security mission. Taking advantage of that opportunity, however, will require dissolving the tradition of psychic feudalism that characterizes much of the contemporary public sector.

William Carwile was the Federal Coordinating Officer in Mississippi during the Katrina response. Hurricane Katrina provided the first major test of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the National Response Plan (NRP), and (at the multi-state and national level) Unified Command. Carwile writes that in Mississippi the unified command system worked well in reducing the chaos of this catastrophic disaster. In his article, “Unified Command and the State-Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi,” Carwile presents a clear description of what unified command means within the NIMS and NRP context. He defines the often-misunderstood term “unified command” as “a mechanism to define and achieve a set of objectives in situations where two or more political or functional entities have authorities and/or assets.” His article outlines the concepts and history of unified command, and the use of unified command principles in the Katrina response and in several other major disaster responses. He describes the success of the unified command structure in Mississippi, and reviews the conditions that contributed to that success. Carwile notes that in a federalist system “consensus building and a collaborative approach to problem-solving” are the elements that make unified command work. He also outlines the unresolved issues that limit the effectiveness of NIMS and the NRP. Throughout this article, Carwile emphasizes the differences between homeland security and homeland defense, and between ideas that work in a military context and ideas that work in the civilian context.

Larry Irons closes this issue of Homeland Security Affairs with “Hurricane Katrina as a Predictable Surprise.” Irons looks at Katrina through the conceptual lens of the “predictable surprise.” He discusses predictable surprise as an organizational event that results from the failure of organizational processes to support “surprise-avoidance” actions by the members of the organization. FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pre and post-Katrina activities provide the specific focus for Irons’ analysis of surprise. He concludes his article by presenting several policy proposals that emerge from viewing Katrina as a “predictable surprise.”

Homeland Security Affairs aspires to be a forum for thoughtful discussions about homeland security. We seek to be a journal that hosts critical analyses of important homeland security ideas. It would be hubris to declare that every article published in Homeland Security Affairs attains our goal. We are a journal still searching for its voice. We aspire to continuously improve the quality of what we publish in this journal. We are looking for articles that frame and contribute to the continuing conversation about significant ideas in homeland security. We invite you to join in that search.

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