Shortly after the terror attacks of 9/11, our nation created a cabinet department of the U.S. federal government named The United States Department of Homeland Security. Its stated missions involve anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cybersecurity, and disaster prevention and management. But 17 years and billions of net discretionary dollars annually, we are met once again with a potential crisis that we are not utilizing or prepared to handle.
When we reflect on natural disasters just after 9/11, such as hurricanes Katrina, Irma, and Maria, our nation with an allegedly prepared Emergency Management System in place witnessed casualties surpassing the 9/11 events. Today, these epicenters are still in some forms of recovery mode in planning because of the beuracacy of how emergency management is mitigated.
In 2009 our nation endured the H1N1 virus pandemic, where an estimated twelve thousand people in the United States died from flu symptoms. After action reviews by the CDC and healthcare professionals began recommending annual flu vaccinations so that such a crisis does not occur again. The problem with that particular plan and model is that the debate over healthcare, where, and who should be vaccinated a mixed bag of messages. Additionally, the congressional political hot potato of “repeal and replace” health coverage has many citizens, not uninsured or underinsured. Therefore, there is no plan and billions of dollars wasted while our leadership sits on the sidelines using political tactics rather than scientific or strategically planned tactics to win a pandemic war.
Today we are witnessing a crisis without any planning. However, most disturbing is that the very agency, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the very agency that is supposed to keep the public informed, has been almost silent and somewhat nonexistent. Instead, the Vice-President of the United States has been the Coronavirus “expert,” leaving the Centers for Disease Control and Homeland Security out of the equation. To prove my point, I bet many of us cannot name who the Secretary of Homeland Security? That assessment alone should send a chill any emergency management taskforce because once again, we do not have a plan to execute and remedy the coronavirus.
A question we should begin asking leadership is, “where did the nearly $51 billion dollars spent each year at Homeland Security go?” “where is our investment to handle any crisis?” After all, these are your tax dollars and should meet a means test as to how your money is spent and how we prepare ordinary citizens.
What I have learned about Homeland Security and various emergency management agencies isn’t a pessimistic outcome but a reality. Emergency Management agencies are ill-equipped in strategic leadership to handle any situation. A critical reason is that emergency management is not led by professionals and experts in their field, but led by politicians with an amateur role to read from a teleprompter without an ounce of understanding about the topic at hand. It is as if we have handed out honorary doctoral degrees to politicians and kept the real doctors on the sidelines.
While I am optimistic that the coronavirus will go away, I am increasingly concerned that agencies such as Homeland Security and elected leadership is far behind the learning curve of understanding and impact on its citizens. You wouldn’t send troops to the front lines of battle, ill-equipped and untrained. Perhaps we need to learn how to defend ourselves on the domestic front by learning to win a pandemic war and solve some critical local issues.