Thursday, April 29, 2010

Functional Exercises - Lower Cost Options

I've been reflecting on a recent Washington Post article about the National Exercise Program. I'm not sure what the article was trying to communicate, but one thing is clear.

In my time as a state Homeland Security Director in Maryland, there was a lot of concern about "exercise fatigue" and the ability to get actual cabinet leaders to engage in exercises.

With Governor Ehrlich's support and his Chief of Staff's participation, we developed a process that focused less on the full scale "field show" and more on executive decision making.

We established mini-drills that were made part of the daily work schedule and embedded table top and functional exercises as part of the routine cabinet retreats and meetings.

One morning, we had every cabinet secretary go to the nearest state police barracks on their way to the office to do an emergency radio check to the Governor's mansion to simulate a state wide emergency where all normal communications had been disrupted. The whole thing was done in 60 minutes and we learned a lot from it.

We held a statewide local elected officials seminar to reach out to those officials. That was very well attended. We did small functional exercises with key decision officials to game our operational plans.

On another occasion we did a 2 hour table top on Avian flu as an agenda item at a cabinet retreat.

So, when we received then Governor Napolitano's letter when I was at FEMA, I was sympathetic to the substance of the letter.

We went about trying to redirect the approach to designing future national level exercises. I was very satisfied with the outcome of the Phoenix based functional exercise and went to each venue to observe the activity during NLE-08. The play was very serious and the players were definitely being pressed.

NLE-09 was designed as the first prevention exercise without the type of field play previously done. We also asked FEMA Region 6 to lead the engagement with the states involved. The Intelligence Community was very well represented and from my vantage point and made a terrific impact in the early planning. We also pressed to have real private sector play in the planning process.

These changes caused some consternation, but were the first small steps in addressing the problems addressed by the Governor's letter.

We also developed the National Exercise Simulation Center (NESC) to support federal play anywhere in the country and to allow for a federal simcell co-located with the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC).

I've been away from it for 15 months so I'm not sure how things have unfolded since then. By all accounts it appears as if NLE-09 went off well.

It will be interesting to see where the road ahead leads.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Maturing the Homeland Security Enterprise-Federally Funded Research and Development Centers(FFRDC)

The QHSR lays out an ambitious agenda to mature and strengthen the homeland security enterprise. In order to accomplish this agenda, DHS will will need to employ a comprehensive systems engineering capability both inside DHS and in support of the federal inter-agency and state and local jurisdictions nationally.

Dr. Michael French (Mitre) and I presented our groundbreaking paper at the American Society of Public Administration conference last week in San Jose, CA. that discusses the use of FFRDCs and UARCs to support state and local governments. The link to the paper-

DHS S&T has access to significant resources and capability to facilitate the use of FFRDCs and UARCs to do systems engineering work in the enterprise.

The program managers in DHS Headquarters activities and the operational components will have to become more familiar with S&T resources and processes in order to create the collaboration necessary to deploy systems engineering to improve the enterprise.

DOD and DOE and other federal agencies have effectively used systems engineering to develop their programs over the past 65 years through FFRDCs and UARCs. This proven methodology bears careful consideration.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Maturing the Homeland Security Enterprise through Regional Preparedness

The QHSR has identified Fostering Unity of Effort as one of the 4 strategic aims to mature the enterprise. The seven objectives to support this aim are highly inter-related and definitely on target. The objective to promote regional response capacity ties very nicely to the objectives for professional development, institutionalized planning, and the military-homeland security relationship.

One current initiative, the Regional Catastrophic Grant Program (RCGP) is being piloted in the Tier I Urban Areas and four of the Tier II Urban Areas. The results of this effort will be coming to light in the next several months.

One way to build on this effort would be to link the RCGP to the development of the FEMA regional preparedness organizations. FEMA developed a Concept of Operations for this effort in February 2008. This was in direct compliance with the Post Katrina Act requirements. I've included a link to the document.

I would urge state and local public safety officials to become familiar with this document and engage the FEMA regional preparedness organization. This will enhance the RCGP efforts over time and mature the enterprise.

This is also consistent with the Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) recommendations.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

TISP Sends Resilience Recommendation to White House

The Infrastructure Security Partnership (TISP) developed seven resilience recommendations for a white paper it submitted to the White House last month.

TISP White House resilience letter

The engineering community can make an important impact as resilience policy is developed in the next 2 years.

Bill Anderson from TISP and Ernie Edgar from PBSJ deserve a lot of credit for driving this product.

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