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Top Homeland Security Stories

December 10, 2009

Christopher Bellavita has an interesting post up at Homeland Security Watch soliciting requests for what their readers think is the top homeland security story of the year. They even have a prize for the winning entry.

The first response is from one of the most prolific commenters (William R. Cumming) on that blog, and is exceptionally interesting. He lists his top twenty failures of the past year, and several of them apply to the subject matter of this blog. I’ve reproduced the full list below, and have highlighted those most relevant.

1. Continued failure to create a domestic civil crisis management and response system [as mandated by statute] and chain of command.

2. Breakdown in implementation of vaccine production and distribution and utilization despite months of warning for current WHO Swine Flu pandemic.

3. Failure to improve federal efforts on cyber security.

4. Continued failure of Congress to assist in improving Executive Branch efforts on Homeland Security by failure to organize itself properly and going through the 1st session of the 111th Congress with no Homeland Security Authorization bill continuing the record since March 1, 2003, when DHS opened its doors.

5. Continued meaningless reorganizations of DHS and FEMA by their respective management.

6. Continued failure of the FBI to change its culture to fit the post 9/11 effort.

7. Continued failure of the DNI to produce update NIE that could assist in priortization of effort in US foreign policy and foreign relations.

8. Continued failure to produce adequate linguists for the military, state department, USAID, DOD generally, DHS, the FBI and of course the INTEL community.

9. Continued failure to defend against foreign INTEL penetration of US governmental and military systems and in particular the US Congress for its sensitive activities.

10. Continued failure to make progress developing resilency in US political systems (COG and COOP–e.g. no way to quickly replace Senators should there be a catastrophic loss of members) including STATE and LOCAL COG and COOP, economic systems, and military systems vital to national defense and homeland security.

11. Failure to prevent building of DHS HQs at former ST. Es for several reasons. First, targeting. Second, effort is largely a public works project with no real effort at resiliency or dispersal of critical staff and infrastructure.

12. Continued upgrading and building of fixed site EOCs, at FEDERAL, STATE, and LOCAL level instead of creating mobile EOCs.

13. Continued failure to fund, staff, and verify capability of technical response agencies like EPA and DOE that will be reuqired for domestic WMD incident/event.

14. Continued failure to document the exact capability of each STATE for responding to their greatest threats and risks.

15. Reductions in funding and staffs of STATE and LOCAL public safety [Fire Service and Police, EMT, EM, HAZMATS, Communications resiliency, interoperability, and redundancy]!

16. Failure to adopt rumor control mechanisms to deal with rumor spread by new social media in various crisis scenarios.

17. Continued failure of White House and MSM to understand the difference between Public Affairs and Emergency Public Information.

18. Continued failure to view the drug wars as part of the GWOT and prevent terrorist funding through illegal narcotics production and distribution including domestically.

19. Continued failure to develop understanding of what SCOTUS and federal judiciary is undertaking in its various decisons on GWOT!

20. Continued failure to understand that domestic production of terrorists might require different doctrine from the FBI and Law Enforcement Community.

And there are several others that I find intensely interesting beyond those highlighted (specifically #10, #12 and #14).

My first impression of this list is that most of the points start with the word “[c]ontinued,” and most of the rest of them easily could start with that word, as well. While the continued (to overuse the phrase) failure to create a comprehensive homeland security effort deserves to be shouted from the treetops, it’s really same old, same old.

To me, the story of the year is the breakdown in H1N1 influenza vaccine production (and the only slightly less talked about seasonal flu vaccine shortage). For all of public health preparedness and homeland security talk about making biosurveillance a priority (and it worked, mostly!), our complete dependence on the private sector to provide vaccine has proved to be the pinch-point. Too few facilities, too much lag in production, too much pollyanna-ish thinking about delivery dates and amounts set up the public health infrastructure for failure. My over-the-holiday assignment must be to learn more about Project BioShield (which before I’ve written off as a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry — though in all honesty, the lack of movement toward developing a unique means of influenza vaccine development in the face of H5N1 really makes me wonder how much of Project BioShield really was a giveaway).

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