By the time I left my position as Assistant Secretary for Strategic Plans at the Department of Homeland Security about a year ago, I had distilled my strategic outlook down to these three issues. Believe me, there’s a lot of meat here.
Over the next weeks and months, I will keep coming back to these three words, not every week, but often enough.
Risk: As a career military officer, civil servant, and senior executive, I have spent a great deal of time, thought, and resources, not only identifying and quantifying risk but more importantly mitigating risk. As a society we do this almost as second nature. Secretary Chertoff outlined his risk model in his first speech, a model that is practical and easy to explain to both policy makers and the general public – risk is a function of threat, vulnerability, and consequence. Translating this model into real “tactical” decisions is tough; translating the model into how we expend our national resources is really tough.
Resilience: If infrastructure protection is Homeland Security 101, resiliency is Homeland Security 301. Protection of critical infrastructure is important. Resilience, ensuring that our economic, transportation, and energy systems can degrade gracefully when necessary and recover quickly when degraded, is vital.
Radicalization: Most of us think of radicalization as the process or “pathway” by which an individual gets to the point of executing a violent act based on an extremist belief. And while this issue has gained a great deal of attention in the law enforcement and policy communities, it is frequently considered only as a one-dimensional issue: countering the threat. Preventing the type of homegrown threats that resulted in the attacks of Madrid and London, however, is a far more complicated issue than simple intervention. It is an issue of social, political, and economic integration, as well as freedom of religious expression and the capacity for redress against real or perceived constraints on civil liberties. We are not Europe. And while we can learn a great deal from our European allies, our great national challenge in the coming years will be how we approach counterterrorism issues without destroying the hallmarks of American life. These hallmarks can so effectively inoculate us from widespread political and social disaffection and the violence that such disenfranchisement can inspire.
In addition to these three macro-level issues, I have two other interests for my blog. The first is to provide some insight into, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.” I often find myself, while reading a news article, turning to my wife or colleague and saying “yeah, this is sort of right, but the reporter didn’t ask the right question,” or “this is simplistic, they don’t understand how difficult it is to do ….” So you are likely to find the occasional musing about border fences, container inspections, use of Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) data, or Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, or immigration reform thrown in to the mix.
The second interest is in the transition of administrations in January of 2009. Whether during my service as an officer in the United States Coast Guard or during my tenure as a Senior Executive with the U.S. Government, I have always guarded my apolitical status. I have publicly expressed my concerns about, and I will publicly express my praise of, what DHS is doing with respect to the upcoming transition. But transition issues go beyond DHS. Political appointees, who have energy and political capital to spend, can leverage their effectiveness by partnering with career officials who have domain expertise and know how the system works.
There’s a lot of fodder here and the great thing about a blog is that it is interactive; so let me know what you want to about.