Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

DHS internal news system reveals extensive knowledge of problems -- what else will we find out?

Variety describes, "Slow Burn" as "Nobody is who they seem to be."

That sums up DHS and FEMA well.

[This is the third in a series exploring Katrina. The Part 1; Part 2.]

[Note: See also the WsPO article on the e-mails to DHS/FEMA's brown in re Katrina.]

* * *
"Constant, you do a consistently excellent job at linking together all of these seemingly disparate issues and putting them in a rational and legal perspective. You are a service to the blogosphere." -- bvac
You're welcome, bvac.

* * *

One of the "big mysteries" in the wake of Katrina was "how DHS could be so clueless."

One of the arguments was that there's a communication problem, forcing FEMA into a very subordinate role.

Constant's pations can prove that this is a lie.

* * *

One of the things government officials like to do after disasters is plead ignorance, or blame someone.

But DHS has a problem. Within their own communication system are the electronic archived copies of news reports of interest to all areas of DHS control.

Some would like to argue before the public media, congress, and the public that DHS didn't know, or they weren't kept in the loop, or they just had no idea of the scope of the problems.

This would ask that we have too many problems despite the catalyst of 9-11.

Well, we've found their news files. They're online, available, and they're archived going back years.

DHS has a system that allows their employee's to log-on, find current information about all sorts of public information going on.

Anytime there's a Congressional action, bid issues, or major contract award, guess where this information is located?

The public is currently being fed a line of non-sense about the DHS communication problems; and asked to believe they didn't know about the local problems.

Small problem: The FEMA communication system includes press releases outlining all the problems.

DHS knew, or should have known, about the Press releases outlining the problems with the levees.

It's the Job of Congress to subpoena these electronic records, find out what specific information was available to DHS management, and why the news reports that DHS employees were reading didn't translate into solutions.

* * *

Here is just one sample from the DHS news archives.

That's just one section. If you want to see more, and understand how the information is divided up into convenient topics, look here.

If you want to subpoena the information, you'll have to go to this website: here.

The Guardian has a sample of the types of warnings sent within DHS.

Here is a sample DHS report obtained by the AP.

The DHS internal news and information system would have found articles that were related to contract awards, grants, and other public information related to this DHS report.

"Who cares. . .?" you may ask. Well, if you happen to have a word-compatible reader, you can look at the word version of the newsletter, and see who it is addressed to DHS personnel: "THE SECRETARY AND SENIOR STAFF".

If you check the DHS organization chart, you'll see who is still considered part of the "senior staff." -- Chief of Staff, and the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs

DHS was very clear with what the expectations were for the public affairs office:
Besanceney will manage both internal and external communications for the Department and all of its component directorates, as well as provide management and oversight to the Office of Public Affairs.

Think back to what happened during Katrina: Communication problem.

That implies that the "Public Affairs" role of DHS not only failed, but it was unprepared despite the access to classified information, exercises, and checklists.

If you're looking for a smoking gun, all you have to do is look to the DHS Public Affairs office and figure out what broke down.

* * *

Let me say this another way. The American public is being asked to believe non-sense.

We're asked to believe that DHS didn't know; or there was an unimaginable problem.

Well, the key people who would have "access" to this information had the specific responsibilities to ensure there was communication.

DHS knew there was a problem with the pre-Katrina situation, yet Brown specifically recognized Louisiana has being a model town.

At the same time, we're asked to believe that "despite all this information flowing around about problems with levees" that nobody knew. Small problem: The public affairs office recognized the shortfall and manning, and brought someone in to address the communication problem.

Self-evidently, by hiring someone, DHS has admitted that they not only have had a communication problem, but that they had a plan in place to address it. Thus, there is no merit to believe that DHS "didn't know" or "this was a surprise."

If this internal communication from DHS to FEMA problem was "truly a surprise," then they wouldn't have hired someone to manage a problem that they "didn't know existed."

* * *

DHS has a major problem. Their senior staff had access to these files. There were specific people's who job was to review this information, put it together, and then monitor the staff notes and responses to these writings.

Also, it was the job of other staffers to translate these concerns and talking points into action items for further study.

These taskers were assigned to file numbers with due dates, then farmed out to the SETA contractor for action, study, and then a briefing back to the DHS staff.

The point is that there's plenty of paper flying around both within DHS and in Booz Allen that will show who knew what, what information they were reviewing from the public wires, how this information was translating into actions items, and then how the issues and concerns were resolved in the contract submittals that Booz Allen was then returning back to DHS staff.

* * *

I'm sure there are people out there who would like to know more. Rest assured, you won't be let down. I'll go through a couple examples of how the read file in the news alerts gets channeled into action items; and how these initial news reports then flow into final reports.

I'll skip back and forth between DHS online data that is archived, and show point by point how the action items relate to information in a once-classified document available through the Associated Press.

You'll quickly see that the information is clear, easy to understand, and not all that difficult to follow.

Also, you'll see how easily the news read files can be used to then trigger action items, studies, and use as a staff-reminder to follow-up on plans and programs.

Finally, you'll also get some insight into how the news clipping service within DHS is used as a trigger by the Staff to respond to Congressional inquiries, look into DHS contract efforts, generate new ideas to resolve issues, and generate questions that translate into staff reports.

In short, you'll see that DHS is well organized, they have plenty of people who are keeping track of information, and their staffers know the importance of their role in addressing these issues.

The funding, resources, and information were all there prior to Katrina. The problem was with leadership and driving the system to get results.

Whether this was an integration issue between DHS and the SETA contractor Booz Allen remains to be further explored by Congress, GAO, and the DHS IG. What is clear is that this problem is not new, nor is it a surprise.

The issue going forward is: What's the requisite catalyst to ensure the system is responsive and drives toward timely results.

* * *

Here's a sample of how effective the DHS news system can be: Accounting problems with DHS contractor known before contract award.

Look for this news title: Graham Wants GAO Investigation Of DHS Contract Awarded To BearingPoint

SNIP: the agency was aware of the computer problems at Bay Pines before it awarded the contract

SNIP: Homeland Security officials acknowledged BearingPoint performed poorly on the computer experiment at Bay Pines

Guess who shows up after Katrina? BearingPoint, the one mentioned in the DHS database.

"What FEMA is going to be faced with is an enormous amount of small, medium and large projects to tackle different issues related to the relief," said Darryl B. Moody, BearingPoint's senior vice president of homeland security and intelligence. "FEMA is going to be contracting with companies like ours and others for that support."Ref

DHS management have already been told about BearingPoint.

* * *

Let's go through a specific example taken from the AP Medical Report.

  • First, go to 9 of 13

  • Second, read the section called, "Deployed Medical Response". Notice there are a number of concerns: That there is the lack of ability to manage a quarantine situation; teams are not adapted to deal with requirements with basic policies, organization, training, or equipment.

  • Third, now go to the DHS news database here: DHS Wants Hazardous Chemical Signs Pulled From Trains


    There are recurring "news events" reminding DHS management of the continuing deficiencies identified in the DHS medical report?

    * * *

    The News report system also acts as a warning system to notify DHS of problematic trends.

    Go to This article: DHS Wants Hazardous Chemical Signs Pulled From Trains, showing how a policy for first responders isn't effective: People need to know what is inside the dangerous chemicals.

    Department of Homeland Security wants those placards taken off the trains, which has some people worried. 'We won't know what kind of chemicals are on the train and how it can affect us,'

    We've got two problems and there needs to be a leader making a single decision. What do we do? We develop a policy and program to go forward.

    Here it is: We go to the DHS report on 11 of 13, and see the specific Occupational Deficiencies deficiencies identified, inter alia

  • A lack of people in position ot administer occupational health policies;

  • "No occupational health and safety policy communication."

    In other words: The news reports that DHS was getting well before the DHS audit report was simply a constant reminder of the problem: Even the public knows about the problem.

    In theory, the DHS SETA "should have" translated these many pieces of information called "feedback" into a credible plan to achieve a result by a specific date.

    It's called leadership. It means making a decision. Then moving forward.

    * * *

    Let's use the database in another way. Suppose you don't have enough money.

    What do you do? You go to Congress.

    And how do these meetings get tracked? The DHS database shows this article, Congressional Negotiators Approve Bill Adding $896 Million To Bush's DHS Budget Request, which will give managers a heads up on what funding issues are popping up; how much money is getting worked.

    Then, in the ideal world, the money that you get from Congress gets applied to a program that needs money.

    Like what? Oh, take this program: 10 of 13 which outlines the need to develop a "surge capacity".

    Brilliant. So what happened: Why is DHS going to Congress asking for money; then tracking the increases in the DHS news database; identifying in the reports a need for a surge capability; but then doing nothing about it: Making sure the clearly identified requirement is matched with the funding increases from Congress?

    There's no point tracking "funding increases from Congress" if you don't ensure those funds are applied to programs that need it.

    * * *

    Here is the recurring theme: DHS knows what they need to do; they have a system in place that communicates what the problems are; the know what programs need money; and they are clear on what needs to be done.

    They have the information.

    The problem they have is translating that funding into results.

    * * *

    12 of 13 talks about the need for a "paradigm shift."


    Wasn't 9-11 supposed to have been the "needed catalyst"?

    Apparently, Pearl Harbor in 1941 was the wakeup call.

    Now we have 9-11 and Katrina.

    What other "catalysts" and "paradigm shifts" are required to "translate known problems into results"?

    That's absurd: The purpose of government is to do just that: Solve problems that the legislature has charged it with solving.

    Not simply using the "next example of ineffectiveness" as a "catalyst" to "start doing something" that it already knows it's supposed to do.

    This is ridiculous.

    How many more disasters is it going to take to wake them up?

    Why should the American public have confidence in this "system" that approaches "problems" in this manner?

    Are we saying that "unless there is a disaster, the system will not respond"? That is the definition of an unresponsive system.

    That is a legitimacy issue. Governments are supposed to be responsive, not allowed to blow in the wind spewing more excuses.

    * * *

    The idea of having access to information technology is so that it is used. Clearly, the technology is working; the information is flowing; and Congress is adding additional money.

    DHS even has specific programs it wants to allocate the money. These were clearly discussed well in advance of the problem.

    The DHS internal program planning, requirements, audit reports, and internal tracking of funding and contracts shows they were well aware of the problems, what needed to be done.

    What happened: Why does a system that "on paper" and "as evidenced by their own documents" appear to be sufficient supported with information . . .fail?

    What happened to the auditor reports?

    Does management actually have to have this information in these databases spoon fed to them by engineering contractors or Systems Engineering support?

    What information are they actually reviewing at these program milestone reviews?

    When they travel around the country and conduct reviews and assessments, are they translating the information they are getting into actionable milestones and deadlines for the contractors to meet?

    Where's the emphasis on ensuring there are results based on the IG and GAO audit reports?

    How long were they willing to "let this problem" linger before they "got around to it"?

    * * *

    If you think this is "such a big problem" and "nobody can be expected to address it," think again.

    Here's a sample contractor: Booz Allen Hamilton; $250 million to Oversee program planning, risk mitigation, and provide technical management for human resources.

    In other words: Exactly what was outlined as being a "big problem" in the DHS Medical findings.

    This isn't news to anyone in DHS or the SETA Contractors office: They all know. Their job is to review this information and deliver results.

    DHS issues contracts to SETA contractors to do all of the above: Intake information, develop plans, ensure training plans are written, and then achieve results.

    Booz Allen has had this contract to provide assistance to these agencies for years, well before 2005. There are reports from 2002 which Booz Allen authored outlining concerns with management training deficiencies.

    I give up: How many other DHS SETA contracts have been issued since these "problems in the DHS news reports were known" but we have nothing to show for it?

    How much money has been awarded to SETA contractors for their "award fees," but we have results like Katrina to show for what they did?

    * * *

    Bottom line is: Alot of money went into not simply getting DHS up and running, and then getting people trained, but we had plenty of feedback reports along the way.

    What did we get for the money that was put into these reports, information systems, and news archives that management supposedly had access to?

    It appears they had the information, were fully aware of the problems, but failed to translate their knowledge of "what was the current status" into a "credible result."

    It sounds as though the issues are malfeasance: Failing to do what should have been done; and not adequately performing ones job despite having the resources, information, feedback, reports, contractor support, feedback, and program funding to meet those requirements.

    * * *

    Don't be so quick to call FEMA employees idiots. Their strategy is to play stupid.

    They actually have an extensive information system that would amaze you.

    DHS and FEMA were well aware of the problems prior to Louisiana and they had no credible plan to resolve these issues.

    Here's a taste of the information DHS and FEMA management had prior to Katrina hitting: [More . . . ]

    The issue is: Despite the problems, why are we still hearing the story "we didn't know" as we heard prior to 9-11? The answer is: They wanted to let the crisis occur in order to get the needed funding, attention, and national "boo-hoo".

    Congratulations, America: You got sucked again, just like with 9-11.

    But this time, it's about justifying relying on the military at home, not just abroad.

    If you want to cry about being suckered twice, you can whine here.

    * * *

    You can read through the archived data and get an idea of the following issues:

    What kind of lessons learned did they have after the Isabel hurricane slammed into Maryland?

    How ere the Isabel storm surges in Maryland factored into the lessons learned report?

    How did the FEMA/DHS lessons learned from the Isabel Hurricane get factored into determining which grants to award?

    Which specific communities in Maryland were tasked with writing up lessons learned for DHS?

    How were the St. Inigoes Maryland first responders fed back through national training schools?

    After first responders indicated there were problems with storm surges in Maryland, which specific personnel assigned to St. Inigoes, MD had direct or indirect contact with Gulf Coast FEMA points of contact?

    How were the national lessons learned data bases accessed, updated from lessons learned from Isabel?

    Once it was known that the press was reporting several years ago, how were these problems and issues with the levees in Louisiana highlighted on the press releases on the DHS news site; and how was the information timed to coincide with Commerce Business Daily requests for proposals?

    * * *

    If you can't read between the lines, the DHS website is a central communication hub on Congressional mark-ups of house bills, testimony, and contracts.

    Here's how the categories are divided up: Look on the left hand side. This is just for a single day: Contracts, grants, policies, testimony, press release . . .!

    This is the database which DHS staffers, program managers, contract personnel, and legal counsel would know about, access, and regularly review when evaluating projects, program status, and the adequacy of the program performance relative to program milestones.

    If there is truly a problem with this "oversight system," [as DHS would like us to believe], then we have to take a broader view: To what extent are these "communication problems" also pervasive in other departments that rely on the same "contract oversight, management, and budgeting systems"?

    Here's a hint, all the branches and departments use the same management system.

    Either it's all screwed up; or it's all working correctly.

    Based on the lessons and results from Iraq, it's reasonable to presume the same "flawed system" that failed in FEMA-DHS [can't get results despite spending lots of money], is alive and well in DoD.

    * * *

    Only four years after 9-11, and we learn the nation's entrenched bureaucracy hasn't changed. Looks like alot of the post9-11-firings that never happened are coming full circle: The same SES is still in power, in charge, and acting clueless.

    Unfortunately, they can't claim ignorance: Their own databases show they had access to the information that we're all "digging up."

    It remains to be understood how many "other well known problems" that have been well discussed in the media have similarly failed to translate into credible results.

    * * *

    Last time I checked, the President already said he was responsible. Is he serious, or does he just mean "when he said it."

    If he's truly responsible, then he needs to take responsibility for what failed not only in Katrina, but the same failures in re 9-11: Well known public information was on the table inside the agencies, not acted upon, and then the federal bureaucracy mobilized the nation to refocus their attention, all the while the flawed oversight and management systems fail to get the needed reforms.

    * * *

    Leadership means being accountable. That means taking responsibility.

    This is the second time.

    Bush needs to resign. We're going to find alot more in this DHS news database and then the real questions will start: Where else is this flawed system putting us at risk?

    Do you want to find out the easy way, or the hard way? The time to find out is now, review the records.

    It's the second time in the wake of a disaster that we've found out the information was there, well discussed, but nothing was done.

    A third time would be foolish indictment of the stupidity of those who retain the sovereign power: The American people.

    Time to choose: Do you want your country back, or do you require the catalyst of a third disaster for the White House to mock you again?

    Other comment

    FEMA asks Brown to stay on as consultant. Does he know too much about what really happened?

    * * *

    What you can you do?

    Write your representatives and ask them to look into this matter.

    Also, ask them to look into allegations of Michael Brown committed perjury before Congress on 27 Sep 2005.

    Use this form to get instant access to your Congressional Representative.

    * * *

    Not sure what to say?

    Maybe the Congressional staffers don't know all the news instantly available to managers. Here are some ideas:

  • Start off with a question:

    "Did you know that FEMA/DHS has an internal communication system?"

  • Tell Them What's There:
    "It shows the press releases, contacts, and information provided to Congress in nice categories."

  • Emphasize the Issue:
    We shouldn't be too quick to believe "nobody knew" . . the real issue is: "Why despite this DHS news system did the DHS contracting/management system not timely address what was well known and on these websites?"

  • State Your Concerns With the Senior Executive Service:
    "It is troubling that during a national response to a major natural disaster, we cannot rely on the most sernior ranking public officials to provide reliable information to Congress."