30 April 2010

Resilience: Homeland Security Strategy...

Homeland Security is under siege the past few weeks in the United States. The "Deep Horizon" oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The Coast Guard is the lead agency. On the other front is the battle for the southern border with the state of Arizona and their quest to stem the flow of humans and millions of pounds of illegal narcotics from infiltrating the country.

For several years we have advocated the arguments for "Resiliency" for the corporate operational risk paradigm and now it seems that Homeland Security is making it's way towards the migration away from "Protection." And for good reason:

For example, resilience is listed as one of the five homeland security missions in the recently published Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, which defines it as “fostering individual, community, and system robustness, adaptability, and capacity for rapid recovery.”

Typically, the response to resilience is focused on critical infrastructure and the protection of these assets, such as our electrical, information technology and telecommunications sectors. At some point in the asymmetric warfare being waged daily online you realize that the the only strategy has to be that of resilience as the barriers of protection continue to fail. If you think about any system that has so many moving parts, complexity and shear breadth of vulnerabilities you realize that spending all of your efforts and resources on protection is fruitless.

Now if we apply the thoughts of resilience to the physical aspects of drilling for oil offshore and defending the borders that are thousands of miles long, what comes to mind? Remember, there is no possible way to eliminate the vulnerabilities completely to an unprotected mile of the border or a blowout on the drilling platform.

You see, as you come at the problem from a point of view that has to do with "Resilience" not just protection, you begin to think of new ideas that certainly should be considered going forward.

Notably, Dr. James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation spoke to this issue at a congressional hearing on resilience in the homeland in 2008. He said, “The current paradigm of ‘protecting’ infrastructure is unrealistic. We should shift our focus to that of resiliency. Resiliency is the capacity to maintain continuity of activities even in the face of threats, disaster, and adversity.”

So what would be some of the activities that we must have the capacity to maintain as we defend our U.S. borders? And what activities would we deploy, to keep oil from reaching the magnitude it has so far in the DeepWater Horizon breach in the Gulf? If you are one of these companies your Operational Risk teams are billing overtime:

Transocean Ltd (RIGN.S) (RIG.N) - The Zug, Switzerland-based company owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon Rig. The rig went into service in 2001 and was drilling the Macondo prospect about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

BP Plc (BP.L) (BP.N) - BP hired Transocean's rig at a rate of about $500,000 per day to drill the well. BP is the project's operator and has a 65 percent working interest in the well.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp (APC.N) - The Houston company owns a 25 percent nonoperating interest in the well.

Cameron International Corp (CAM.N) - The Houston company supplied a piece of equipment known as a blowout preventer. Blowout preventers are put in place to stop an uncontrolled flow of oil or gas. The Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer failed to operate and seal the well.

Halliburton Co (HAL.N) - The oilfield services company, which has headquarters in Dubai and Houston, provided a number of services on the Deepwater Horizon. The company was providing cementing on the well to stabilize its walls, according to Transocean's website. (Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

In each case these are wake up calls to the work that is still to be done and the ideas yet conceived to address the key issues. One item of certainty will be the increased focus on compliance and regulatory oversight. The government is already mandating the inspection of all the Gulf oil rigs for the types of safety and security measures that may be mandated for these types of incidents.

And when it comes to the kinds of resiliency strategies for the continued influx of humans and contraband coming into the U.S., from Canada, from Mexico and from almost every other nation through our ports and airports, we have to be more creative. And the strategies have to be more robust.

Take it from someone who has been dealing with insurrections, 4th Generation Warfare and other irregular methods for dealing with systemic threats to our well being and our security interests:

"Insurgents are living proof of why man is at the top of the food chain. We are the most creative, treacherous, loyal, aggressive and determined life form to yet evolve. Any nation that assumes it is inherently superior to another is setting itself up for disaster." Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, USMC

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