On Tuesday morning, as most of the Beltway world was watching to see what unfolded in the meetings between UN Ambassador Susan Rice and Republican Senators Mc Cain, Graham and Ayotte, the White House press office issued a new fact sheet and posted a piece on the President’s blog concerning the newly created White House Homeland Security Partnership Council. Both documents go a long way toward answering some of the questions raised over the origin and purpose of the new Council (including those raised by me in an earlier post).
The first significant clarification concerns the composition of the Council and answers the question on whether it duplicates the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Apparently, it does not.
The Council will be comprised of current Federal Government employees, outside of Washington, D.C., who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in building partnerships. Its role will be to promote the use of partnerships to achieve homeland security priorities and to advise the White House and other Federal officials on building partnerships (more information in Fact Sheet). Some of the best partnerships and expertise reside at the local level, and the Council will enable the Federal Government to more effectively tap into this experience and best practices to secure the homeland. (Emphasis added)
The most important part of the Council, in my opinion, is that it will be made up of federal employees OUTSIDE the Washington, DC beltway. The extra travel costs of bringing these folks together to meet will be well worth it, provided the members have actual, real-life field experience in dealing with day-to-day local issues. If the members are, for example, pulled solely out of the ranks of supervisors or union stewards, much of the value this Council promises will be lost.
The White House Fact Sheet does not indicate how Council members will actually be selected or, for that matter, when the final selections will be made, other than to note that a “Steering Committee” will be meeting in the next few weeks to “discuss the nomination and selection process.” OK, fine. While that sounds like a lot of bureaucratic process to me, I suppose it is necessary to ensure a representative cross-section of local homeland security leaders.
If the nomination process is still going on in six months, then the answer to the “Is it a serious effort?” will be in the negative. If the Council has been selected and has met at least twice before the end of six months (and that it meets in as publicly transparent manner as possible), then we will be assured that it is a serious effort that is worthy of positive commentary.
Why the White House didn’t put out the Fact Sheet and explanatory blog post at the time the Council was announced a month ago is still a mystery to me. But the clarification that has finally been issued should be applauded. I suspect I’m not the only person who is happy that some answers have been provided. It is a welcomed action.