National Preparedness (PPD-8) examines how the nation should approach preparing for threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk to U.S. security. It is the view of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that "national preparedness is the shared responsibility of our whole community. Ever member contributes, including individuals, communities, the private and nonprofit sectors, faith-based organizations, and Federal, state, and local governments" (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2011). Therefore, the Department of Homeland Security feels that increasing preparedness across all sectors, public and private, better enables the entire society to deal with potential disasters. Moreover, one of the Department's goals is to increase resiliency; they are aware that not all disasters can be avoided, but want to make sure the country is well-prepared to weather a disaster.
One of the recurring issues with homeland security-geared legislation is that it is seen by many as being somewhat overbroad and unconstitutional. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Americans were willing to endorse laws that emphasized security over constitutionality. "As has been true in the past, such events typically lead to a movement in the federal power pendulum toward centralization of power in the national government" (Clovis, 2006). However, after the immediate threat has dissipated, people become increasingly uncomfortable with this new balance of power, and seek to undo some of the centralization of power. History has shown that there does not appear to ever be a scenario in which power, once preempted by the federal government, ever wholly returns to the state or local governments. Instead, power remains in the federal government. This certainly appears to be the case in the area of homeland security. It has been over a decade since the last terrorist attack on U.S. soil, yet there has been no significant lessening of post 9-11 governmental power increases in response to 9/11. Moreover, even those who advocate for reducing federal power and insist upon adherence to the constitution are stymied by the unproveable argument that these increasing restrictions have resulted in greater safety for Americans. Advocates of these increased laws and restrictions repeatedly suggest that they have increased safety for Americans, but suggest that governmental confidentiality issues prevent the release of this information, because releasing it would reveal to the terrorist how the government has been able to foil planned attacks and increase vulnerability to future terrorist attacks.
Unclassified strategic national risk assessment document
Under the auspices of PPD-8, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in an effort supported by the offices of the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General, sought to conduct strategic national risk assessment (SNRA) to identify which threats to national security are the most significant. The SNRA identified the biggest national security issues as: terrorism, cyber attacks, natural disasters, and pandemics. The SNRA helps establish a new baseline for the homeland security risk. It did so by evaluating, "the risk from known threats and hazards that have the potential to significantly impact the Nation's homeland security. These threats and hazards were grouped into a series of national-level events with the potential to test the Nation's preparedness" (Department of Homeland Security, 2011). Moreover, it is important to realize that the concerns addressed in the SNRA were not necessarily those concerns that many people perceive as a risk to homeland security. "Only events that have a distinct beginning and end and those with an explicit nexus to homeland security missions were included. This approach excluded: Chronic societal concerns, such as immigration and border violations, and those that are generally not related to homeland security national preparedness, such as cancer or car accidents, and; Political, economic, environmental, and societal trends that may contribute to a changing risk environment but are not explicitly homeland security national-level events (e.g.,
demographic shifts, economic trends)" (Department of Homeland Security, 2011).
The SNRA identified several factors as posing a significant risk to domestic security. These national- level events were grouped into three categories: natural, technological / accidental, and adversarial / human caused (Department of Homeland Security, 2011). Examples of natural events include wildfires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, but also outbreaks of human or animal disease (Department of Homeland Security, 2011). Examples of technological/accidental events include accidental release of nuclear material, chemical spills, biological food contamination, and dam failure (Department of Homeland Security, 2011). Examples of adversarial / human caused activity include the use of aircraft as a weapon, armed assaults, chemical or biological terrorism, cyber attacks, nuclear attacks, and explosive terrorist attacks (Department of Homeland Security, 2011).
What the SNRA identified is that national security prior to 9/11 was at tremendous risk and that the greatest risk was not necessarily from a terrorist attack. One of the themes of the SNRA was that "a wide range of threats and hazards pose a significant risk to the Nation, affirming the need for an all-threats/hazards, capability-based approach to preparedness planning. Overarching themes include: Natural hazards, including hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods, present a significant and varied risk across the country" (Department of Homeland Security, 2011). Infectious disease, particularly an influenza pandemic, could pose a real threat to Americans, as could technological failures and the risk of those increases as America's infrastructure ages (Department of Homeland Security, 2011).
Efficacy of PPD-8 in the fight for homeland security
Most research on post 9/11 legislation has focused on PPD-* and HSPD-5, Management of Domestic Incidents. Together the two directives "lay the foundation of all subsequent policy development related to homeland security national preparedness (Clovis, 2008). PPD-8 is strongly associated with national security, particularly in the response to terrorism, major disaster, and other emergencies. The document describes "preparedness as the existence of plans, procedures, policies, training, and equipment for governments to maximize their respective abilities to deal with major events" (Clovis, 2008). As a result, PPD-8's directives have impacted current policies regarding national preparedness. The guidelines of PPD-8 direct the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to: build support for and assessment of state and local first responders; develop methods for effective, efficient, and timely delivery of federal assistance to state and local governments; focus on terrorist events; establish readiness priorities and targets that balance the potential threat and magnitude of terrorist attacks, disasters, and other emergencies, with the resources required to deal with those attacks; develop standards for preparedness assessments; award grants based on risk calculations; and develop quantifiable performance measures for federal, state, and local governments (Clovis, 2008).
Furthermore, the SNRA suggests that, despite recent history, it is reasonable to expect the recurrence of events within a decade-long cycle. The SNRA findings support the development of core capabilities for dealing with any of these issues. Moreover, while some have criticized Obama for suggesting that resiliency in the face of a disaster is an appropriate goal; the reality is that many of these events are simply not preventable. The reality is that the U.S. will face natural disasters, industrial accidents, and pandemic illness at some point in time in the future. It is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of these events. Moreover, the overwhelming likelihood is that the U.S. will continue to be at risk for terrorist attacks. Therefore, resiliency is an appropriate goal. Furthermore, "Although historic events provide a useful perspective on homeland security risks, the changing nature of society and the risk landscape means that the Nation must also be prepared for new hazards and threats or for events that result in greater consequences than have occurred in the past" (Department of Homeland Security, 2011). What this means is that disaster preparedness cannot be seen as a one-time event; as risks evolve, so must the nation's capability of dealing with those risks. Particularly, "within an all-hazards preparedness context, particular events that present risk to the Nation -- such as nuclear attacks or chemical releases -- require additional specialized response activities. Some events, such as explosives attacks or earthquakes, generally cause more localized consequences, while other events, such as human pandemics, may cause consequences that are dispersed throughout the Nation, thus creating different types of impacts for preparedness planners to consider" (Department of Homeland Security, 2011).
Strengths and weaknesses of PPD-8
The primary strength of PPD-8 is that it attempts to provide a reasonable level of security for all people in the nation, without making the erroneous assumption that all people in the nation are at the same level of risk. Inhabitants of certain cities are at a greater risk of terrorist activity than inhabitants of other cities, suburban areas, and rural areas. Likewise, while people along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic seaboard might be at an increased risk for damage due to hurricanes, they do not fact the same risk of earthquakes as people along the West coast. Understanding these regional differences is a critical component of PPD-8. It would be a waste of resources to try to equally prepare all state and local governments for dealing with all disasters; instead, local risk assessments help indicate the best, most efficient allocation of risk-reduction and risk management resources.