Homeland Security Questions #2

Last month I decided to try to tackle some of the questions raised by Christopher Bellavita in his article in Homeland Security Affairs.

Why are we unable to measure the relationship between homeland security expenditures and preparedness?

The problem, as seen by Bellavita, includes

I know of a half dozen pilot efforts to satisfy the HSPD-8 mandate and at least one experiment to meet the post-Katrina reform act requirement. Unless I have missed the results of these pilot efforts, none have been turned into an operational program. I have not seen anything even approaching an assessment of the nation’s preparedness, let alone a comprehensive assessment. And let alone even more assessments that link expenditures to preparedness.

Many smart people have worked this issue for years. In speaking with them, the difficulty seems (depending on who one speaks with) to rest with political will, technological capability, knowledge gaps, science, sociology, continuous change, and a host of other factors that turn an engineering-type task into complexity soup.  But assume for a moment that we can measure national, and state, and regional, and local preparedness. What do we do with the answers? What impact would that knowledge have on future resource allocation?

I don’t know, I’m a bit ambivalent about this question since it just seems like another excuse to whine about how sucky our resource allocation system is.  After all, the first question we discussed  that and I’m not sure there’s anything new to say here.

Well, maybe not.  First, I’m not sure there’s much value in making his assumption.  Is it likely, even assuming we could assume super amazing capabilities to measure preparedness, that those measurements would be only one (and probably not even a major) factor in terms of allocating resources.  After all, you don’t have to be a genius to know that it’s hideously inefficient to build a weapons system in 49 states yet it is the status quo now because that’s how you get broad political support.

So let’s say you could measure the effectiveness of X number of dollars on project Y in area Z.  What would you have?  Well, if it looked like the metrics didn’t justify the allocation of resources, I’m guessing you’d have a fight over the metrics themselves.  Don’t think that can happen?  How long has the tobacco industry fought the idea that smoking is harmful or addicting?  Decades past the point that it was firmly established.

So, why would we expect any different here?

Why are we unable to measure the relationship between homeland security expenditures and preparedness?

Because there are too many people who don’t want to measure that relationship or only want to measure it if it’ll produce certain results…

This post is far too cynical…I’m hoping someone out there will pull me out of this funk and give me some good ideas to chew on.

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