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Sunday, November 23, 2014

In Brief: Incident/Disaster Response and the Private Sector

Note: the following is a repost from a PSU course discussion prompt on how the private sector could be better integrated into an incident management framework.


The private sector, as always, requires explicit instructions and parameters in order to function in any collaborative environment, particularly when one of the parties is any form of government. Without incentive or specific structure, the private sector inevitably seeks methodologies that best suit its inherently profit-oriented form. Therefore, the National Incident Management System (NIMS) -- which incorporates the Incident Command System (ICMS) and the Multiagency Coordination System (MACS) -- are merely theoretical constructs, although rather detailed, that outline behaviors, various reporting structures, Chain of Command, and other valuable aspects necessary for any effective incident response. However detailed a systemic blueprint NIMS provides, it does not provide key elements that the private sector would require for greatest efficacy in such an effort, elements that would similarly benefit the public sector: actual tools and resources.

NIMS takes a very academic and thorough approach to incident response, but it would be impossible to fully deploy in the field, much less by the variety of responders likely to be available for the primary response wave. Moreover, it assumes responders have an intimate knowledge of the management frameworks and systems -- including semantic details such as the difference between a helibase and helispot -- along with some form of infallible communication system and access to required resources. To be more effective, the private sector requires a specific role pre-written into structures such as these, clearly enumerating what actions need to be taken, in a variety of scenarios, and how they are to properly integrate with the more flexible and Command-driven public sector response. Additionally, key issues must be addressed, such as the standardization of communications equipment (radio type, frequency, encryption, protocol, etc.), if any private sector entity is expected to be intimately and immediately involved with incident response, where appropriate.

Incident management is about far more than the complex, generic structures that have been developed, as the application of such idealistic efforts inevitably falls short of perfect. Rather, scenarios and plans should be developed and integrated into these frameworks -- similar to those the Department of Defense has for nearly every conceivable form of incident -- to better clarify the roles each party has to play, in some detail. Without this, reporting structures, lists of terminologies, and Chain of Command flowcharts can quickly become useless, to both the private and public sectors. The National Response Framework (NRF) goes to greater lengths to provide some concrete details, but it, too, falls far short of the requirements for a comprehensive, theoretical exploration of all plausible scenarios, the roles all possible actors would play, and other such war-gaming details of necessity. If DHS were to execute the development of a substantially revised NRF on a level commensurate with DOD’s contingency plans, the country would be far better prepared for disasters, as would the private sector, knowing what actions to expect, when, and from whom.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In Brief: DOD, DHS, and a Homeland Security Force

Note: the following is a repost from a PSU course discussion prompt regarding the role of the Department of Defense in national security and homeland security efforts.


When considering the global commitments of the Department of Defense (DOD) and the increasing need for military support in homeland security matters, it may appear, to some, that these conflict. This would appear to be particularly true in a modern era that has overemphasized a downsizing of the military’s physical and personnel size, while increasing both its dependence upon technology and the breadth of its mission. However, the solution is not a multi-tasked military or to exclude the military from homeland security, but, rather, to better align interests with parties.

The Department of Defense should be, as it always has been, entirely focused upon efforts and enemies abroad, wherever and whatever they may be. Although the size and scope of the military’s mission may change with time, the general theatre in which it operates -- outside of American borders -- does not. In this way, homeland security interests are involved with military efforts as an extension and expansion of national security interests that are engaging with an evolving field of threats -- actors, weapons, and tactics. However, the military does not, nor should it, seek to exercise the use of force, its intelligence services, or any aspect of its considerable might inside American borders, except, perhaps, in a time of disaster or declared war requiring literal domestic defense. This principle was enshrined in the very founding of the United States, and it should continue to be upheld.

Rather, the United States might be best suited to approach any such domestic needs -- those that might require the specialized services of the military -- through the continued advancement of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts. If the US Coast Guard is a limited military branch tasked with domestic protection and the various law enforcement agencies have their individual missions -- ranging from counter-/anti-terror activities, weapons control, criminal investigations, etc. -- then consideration may be provided to forming a nationwide, DHS-controlled, strictly domestic militia wholly owned and operated by the federal government. In doing so, National Guard units can be better tasked to their present purposes, and full-time domestic force protection can be pursued without threatening fundamental Constitutional rights. By creating a national DHS militia -- modeled after the highly successful, professional, and unparalleled efforts of DOD -- there would exist no conflict between the domestic and foreign protection interests of the United States, and any issues requiring swift military-style expertise and action could be properly, legally, and effectively executed. There would, of course, need to be jurisdictional, mission, and oversight considerations, but the benefit to a custom-built DHS militia could possibly outweigh the effort and concern required to birth it.

In Brief: Terrorism and Inequality

Note: the following is a repost from a PSU course discussion prompt regarding the link between terrorism and inequality, as well as whether terrorism could ever truly be eradicated.


So long as inequality and inequity both exist, there will be strife between classes; so long as these exist on large scales and in the international theatre, there will be strife between cultures and this strife will be expressed through war, both traditional and asymmetric. Since the modern era sees the existential frustration of desperate disparity expressed, increasingly, through the venue of terrorism, acts of terror and the underlying ideologies should both be expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Only when a certain equilibrium is reached -- wherein no entity feels as if it is fighting for its very right to exist and guide their own destinies -- could terrorism ever be expected to recede from its current and future heights.

The international theatre, and the underlying forces of order, facilitate and exacerbate the present terror-engendering situation through an insistence on democracy, capitalism, and Western ideals as universal, despite their demonstrable shortcomings and well-known relativism. Self-determination is as important for many cultures in the present as it once was in the West, long ago, and this ideal is seeking a successful path of execution: the outcome may not be identical, or even palatable, to the West. The importance of self-determination remains, regardless of outside opinions, so long as it is, truly, a collective path forward that represents the overall will of the relevant peoples. In any development that does not address the fundamental, systemic inequality and inequity -- both real and perceived -- an indignant, defensive group will always seek to force adjustments, and such adjustments could come, as they presently are, in the form of acts of terror.