"Ready the Guardians"

"How can, or should, the United States make homeland security a more layered, networked, and resilient endeavor?"

A 2010 DHSEssay Submission

“The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions.” Claude Levi-Strauss)

In answering this question about how should we make homeland security a more layered, networked and resilient endeavor involving all citizens, a host of other questions arise. Let’s begin with a simple one before we begin the process of mapping out an answer: “Why?” Why are we even discussing this? Why are we pondering ways to make homeland security more interoperable on multiple layers? Didn’t we figure this out over the last eight years? We have a Department of Homeland Security, we have Fusion Centers, and we have grant programs to strengthen our local, regional and state capabilities. Isn’t all of that the solution? Aren’t we all safer now, and we can rest comfortably and confident that nothing like September 11th will ever happen to us again?

Hopefully, by now I have got us all answering the “why” very quickly and internally. Let’s make this collective assumption: we are examining this issue because, although we are safer than we once were, we have farther to go. We are not as safe and secure as we can be, and the wolf of evil continues to prowl outside the fence line of our domain (and sometimes amongst the sheep inside the fence line, but that’s another subject paper all to itself.) The moment we think we have reached an acceptable level of security and become comfortable in ourselves, we become complacent. That is the beginning or our demise as complacency is the birthplace of failure. Og Mandino, author of over 20 books including U.S.A. In a Nutshell said it best, “I will not allow yesterday's success to lull me into today's complacency, for this is the great foundation of failure.”

We recognize that homeland security can be more effective if we ask some poignant questions. And as we continue on our search for the answers, I encourage you to think outside of the box you or we may be in, and seek to see the obvious that may be lying right in front of us. It is worthy to continue to find new technologies and capabilities, but the resources may be here right now. In the words of Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) “It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.” So let’s keep asking some questions. The answers may lie within.

“A wise man's question contains half the answer.” (Solomon Ibn Gabirol)

As we probe deeper into the answer to the “why” question I raised in my opening paragraphs, another is raised: “Who?” Who is ultimately responsible for keeping our country and its citizens, you and me, safe and secure? Is it the Department of Homeland Security? That sounds good, but I think we would all agree that its vast resources are not as vast as we would like. They are limited and incapable of putting a cop on every corner, a boat at every inlet, a listener on every phone call, and a surveillance camera on every corner or every floating dock in the nation.

Is it our state or local law enforcement agency in my town? Are they the ones responsible for my security? Again, the reality is that they definitely don’t have all the resources. And in this age of diminishing budgets and increasing constraints, the funding to sustain state and local efforts is waning. Unless of course we would all like to raise the taxes we pay in order to afford more officers, enhanced technologies and robust security, but I can already see your eyes rolling at even the suggestion.

Ok, so who is it then? The only one left on the room of responsibility is me, John Q. Public, and all my friends, colleagues, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents and neighbors (even the ones I don’t like.) I certainly don’t have the resources, the ability or the technology to keep the country safe…. do I?

I have news for everyone. Something you may not be aware of, but I am here to unveil the secret: we live in “Whoville” (just like in the Dr. Seuss book) and all of us are the “Who’s.” From the President and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, all the way down to the neighbor or the co-worker I don’t like, and every law enforcement officer at the federal, state, county, local and tribal level in between, WE are the “Who’s.” We are ALL responsible for the safety and security of our country. And although we live in a culture that is quick to point the finger at someone else when it comes to responsibility of any type, this one is mine and yours. This one is ours. This is a joint effort, just like coalition warfare, because none of us in “Whoville” can do it on our own or independently. No one agency or department can keep us all safe, but we all can all do it collectively.

If you haven’t noticed, we just answered another element of the “why” question. Because all of us are dependent on each other to accomplish the mission, we have answered why it is important to make homeland security a more layered, networked, and resilient endeavor involving ALL citizens. No one can do it alone. If we collectively pursue the goal, we all have a better chance of reaching it. The best illustration of that is from the ancestress of Genghis Khan, and we know what he was able to accomplish. He used this lesson that he was taught to bring his forces together as one team in one fight.Alan Ho’a, had five sons who were constantly fighting with each other. One day she gathered them around the hearth fire and gave them each an arrow. She told them to break it, which they did with ease. Then she tied five arrows together and told them to break the bundle. None of them could. She then told her sons, “Brothers who work separately, like a single arrow shaft, can be easily broken. But brothers who stand together against the world, like a bundle of arrows, cannot be broken.”

So what is it that we want to achieve… what is our goal? How can we do it? Where do we begin? The pyramid of homeland security information. It starts at the bottom, on the street, in the office, on the playgrounds and in our schools. We are the sensors.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. To those that want to be a part, make an impact. To those that don’t, prepare for impact.