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DHS “Very Happy” With Public Involvement So Far In Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Dialogues; But Is Hoping For “A Whole Lot More” Citizen Input Going Forward

September 1st, 2009 · 4 Comments

The second of three online Dialogues on the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review is now open for business. The Dialogues are an innovative web-based outreach tool created by U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Academy of Public Administration to help solicit stakeholder input on the “Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR). The QHSR is a congressionally-mandated process which will help guide the nation’s homeland security policies over the next four years. The final report is due December 31, 2009.

The first Dialogue took place in early August. The current one runs through September 6th [Update: The deadline has been extended to September 9th]. (The third will take place September 28th through October 4th). To participate, you can go to to weigh in on six topic areas – Counterterrorism and Domestic Security Management; Securing Our Borders; Smart and Tough Enforcement of Immigration Laws; Preparing for, Responding to, and Recovering from Disasters; Homeland Security National Risk Assessment; and Homeland Security Planning and Capabilities. The public input through the Dialogues complements the work of the Department’s QHSR study groups in each of the areas.

In a Blogger Roundtable teleconference yesterday to promote the launch of the second Dialogue, DHS Deputy Assistant Secretary Alan Cohn said that the Department had been “very happy” with the first round. He said that there had been 8200 participants (who posted more than 200 individual proposals) with 20,000 individuals visiting the site in total.  (DHS Assistant Secretary David Heyman held a similar Roundtable when the Dialogue process began earlier last month.)

Cohn said the Department had learned a good deal from public input during the first Dialogue on the process (how to make the site more user friendly and have less overlap among areas), on the lexicon (no more use of “man made disasters” and language is more consistent throughout) as well as on the content (participants requested more emphasis on mitigation and resilience; and in fact, resilience has a much higher profile in the second Dialogue). The challenge of course is defining the concept of resilience better and showing how it impacts the various areas of the review — which Cohn hopes will be discussed by Dialogue participants going forward.

In the second Dialogue, participants are asked to use a point system to prioritize various objectives in each area and then will hopefully provide recommendations on how those objectives should be achieved. The discussion will continue through the week and the ideas with the most support rising to the top” (though most of mine did not rise all that high in the first Dialogue so the system is not perfect!).

Other bloggers at the Roundtable included Martin Jones of National Terror Alert, Christopher Bellavita of Homeland Security Watch, P.J. Coyle of Chemical Facility News, Max Cacas of Federal News Radio, Steve Lunceford of, and Robin Paoli of @MilitaryTweets.

As I mentioned earlier in the month, I think that DHS should be commended for reaching out to its stakeholders, including the public, in this way. It is the first high profile example of Secretary Napolitano’s pledge last month to use the public as an “asset” in the nation’s homeland security.

There are definitely limitations to the online format for soliciting comments and facilitating discussion on often complex and subtle homeland security goals and objectives. But, as is true in much of what this blog covers, we shouldn’t let the best be the enemy of the better. The Dialogues do give citizens the rare opportunity to talk directly to DHS (and, yes, Cohn says every comment is read and given to the study groups for consideration) on pretty much all homeland security issues. In fact, Cohn said repeatedly during the Roundtable that the Department was really depending on that involvement.

“We’re very happy [with the input so far], but we’d like to get a whole lot more comments…Everyone has something to contribute,” Cohn said, adding “The more people who participate the more valuable this tool is going to be.”

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Tags: Department of Homeland Security

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