National Readiness System possibilities
Dear Colonel Lee, ....in response to your query through my website.....
The fact that you are compiling a vision for a National Readiness System under the SECDEF Corporate Fellowship Program is highly encouraging to me, and it should be so for ALL Americans, as well.
From the outset of my campaign for the U.S. Senate earlier this year, I felt the main emphasis should be on National Security, and its components. National readiness if only part of that broad issue, but whether we see it as controlling terrorism, immigration, energy independence, encouraging technical education, a draft system for national service, better fiscal integrity, etc., the facts are clear that national disasters will occur when you least expect them, and this country MUST ALWAYS be ready to respond to protect our citizens.
Whether the disasters are terrorist attacks, massive power outages, hurricanes, widespread flooding, ice storms/blizzards, tsunamis, tornados, earthquakes, etc., the New Orleans debacle in the wake of Hurricane Katrina proves there are civil authorities in America who are incapable of responding with sufficient speed and resources to save the lives of our own citizens. Clearly we need to know where those deficiencies are before more lives are lost to incompetence and/or unpreparedness.
Being a military officer, you know the importance of operational inspections. I have a similar background, and I have always believed YOU INSPECT WHAT YOU EXPECT. Accordingly, I believe DHS should lay out an annual inspection routine for all states. All such inspections should consist of:
1. advanced planning, which involves all affected agencies of the respective state/county/local governments....co-ordinated with DHS/FEMA (including the Department of Defense);
2. alert/execution, which is forecast with anticipation, so the media can publicize, and the citizenry will not be unduly alarmed;
3. DHS should compile an evaluation for each State, critique the participants, then release to the public media, so the inhabitants of each State can see how well its elected/appointed leaders are ready to respond to their emergency needs.
I think the role of the respective States' National Guard deserves special emphasis. The Guard has some of the heavy assets of the U.S. Armed Forces, but more to the point...these men and women of the Guard are typically residents of the State affected. They deeply care about being of service to their NEIGHBORS.
Also, the use of our active duty military apparatus can mobilize extraordinary assets, which can be very expensive (e.g. hospital ships, aircraft carriers to support helicopter operations), especially when diverted from their principal missions to defend the Nation from foreign forces. They should be used in extremis, but sparingly if possible.
So many uncertainties in the security of our country can be discovered by a regular periodic examination of our Nation's mechanisms of response. It may not address ALL potential calamities, but it will minimize the uncertainties, and more importantly, avoid the loss of life from atrophied ignorance.
Perhaps most important of all, most of the component resources needed ALREADY EXIST; the "system" may need only to be (for the time being) a series of Command Post Exercises (CPX), which use all communications facilities AS A MINIMUM. No doubt the first ones would be mass confusion, if indeed you can establish the end-to-end connectivity....with backups.
Finally, while much of the talent needed can be found on the major military command staffs, I would not ignore the possibility of involving our military command and staff colleges, and war colleges. Here are housed some of our best and brightest young officers who are anxious to help solve real-world problems. You obviously qualify for that talent pool, as well.
This is my first attempt to address your questions. I hope it is of some value. If you think I can be of help in the future, please advise. Above all, ignore the politics which will inevitably surround your mission, which may be looked upon by some as an attempt to embarrass others. Call it like you see it, and accept the likelihood you may be edited (NOT censured) by the chain-of-command.
Good luck, Colonel Lee, and be inspired by the likelihood that whatever you compile will be a major contribution to America's safety in the future.
/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr. RADM USN (Ret)