Give Homeland Security an Army

The United States already has seven uniformed services

  • Air Force
  • Army
  • Coast Guard
  • Marine Corps
  • Navy
  • NOAA Corps
  • Public Health Service

While the latter two are relatively toothless, the first five on the list do show that uniform services can become critical.


Give Them Guns

While at the Boyd Conference, one questioner asked a panel composed of William Lind, Frank Hoffman, and Bruce Gudmundsson if they could help with a new legislative initiative to be proposed shortly: create a Uniformed Service under the Department of Homeland Security. I regret not writing down the questioner’s name. This is an amazingly exciting proposal, for one reason: capabilities create intentions.

In the panel proper, Bruce explained how the trench warfare of World War I was enabled by the large gun factories created by the British and French for a naval war against each other that never happened. Nonetheless, the ability to mass produce lots of very large guns remained after the English Channel Threat had passed. So when a new problem (German aggressiveness) came up, warfighters reached for the tools they already had: in that case, including large artillery pieces.

If this sounds familiar, it should. While pre-Great-War Britain and France featured miniature Military-Industrial-Artillery complexes, the United States currently possesses an enormous Military-Industrial-Leviathan-Complex (MILC). While the MILC has largely outlived its usefulness — what was once our front-line defense against a Soviet takeover of the world is now relegated to topping the odd tyrant and defending Taiwan — the way it enabled our 5GW against Soviet Communism is something we must always be greatful for.

Now it is time to build a Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex (MISC) to win our 5GW to shrink the gap. Because 5GW relies on observation and not orientation, it does not matter if policy makers intend to fight the 5GW at the outset, so long as what they observe leads them to do so anyway. You know the old expression, “when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?” The 5GWarrior who wishes to shrink the gap must think the same way. We need to give our policy makers a Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex so that more problems in the Gap looks like jobs for the Sysadmin.

Creating a uniformed service under Homeland Security is a way to do this. It does not matter if policy makers originally see the Homeland Security Corps as a tool for rescuing people from hurricanes, fighting forest fighters, or state-building in Arab Africa. All that matters is that it has the capability to do system administration, in the same way that those old naval guns had the capability to do trench warfare.

Capabilities create intentions. Shrink the Gap. Build a Gap-Shrinking-Platform.

Create the Homeland Security Corps.

31 thoughts on “Give Homeland Security an Army”

  1. Hm, interesting paradigm shift.

    I see where you're coming from in that, in my experience, our authorities too often plan and war-game to capability rather than conditions. Doing so works out for careerists in peace-time, but kills us in war-time.

    I'm a vision guy, so I prefer starting from a desired outcome, working backwards and ordering the conditions to inform capability, then shaping capability to use. Perhaps it makes more sense to start addressing the problem at creating real capability ASAP with logical applications that will guide use, even if at the start, doing so is divorced from its ultimate vision.

  2. Dan,
    I have to say that this is a very bad idea. The DHS is run by political apparatchiks. Giving people like Chertoff a military capability will undermine this country at an alarmingly rapid rate. DHS already has paramilitary police forces under its control and it is increasingly militarizing police forces through out the country with grants that are used to buy military hardware & equipment (the Pentagon is also to blame for this as well.) I do not see the need for another standing military force, especially one that operates within the U.S. In fact I see such a thing as a destructive force.

    Regards,
    TDL

  3. Could you give a list of what these people would do? The first two items you list are definite, fire fighting and disaster relief are specific enough, but “state-building” seems like a black hole we'll throw money and people into forever.

  4. While I do'nt know about the specifics of giving DHS an army (they have very few Executive Service people in the top spots – i.e., almost entirely political appointees), I totally agree with this idea:
    “Capabilities create intentions.”

    It's similar to the argument advanced by Dave Gompert in “For a Capability to Protect: Mass Killing, the African Union, and NATO” in the Spring 2006 edition of Survival. Instead of DHS, Gompert's starting point is NATO. If you don't have access to Survival I can send you a pdf.

  5. Fantastic discussion!

    Eric Chen,

    We're on the same page!

    TDL,

    “I do not see the need for another standing military force, especially one that operates within the U.S. “

    I assume you oppose the reap of the Posee Commitatus Act?

    sonofsamphm1c ,

    How is your comment useful?

    Steve,

    “Could you give a list of what these people would do? The first two items you list are definite, fire fighting and disaster relief are specific enough, but ;state-building' 'seems like a black hole we'll throw money and people into forever.”

    Physically, hopefully they'd duplicate many of the functions of the National Guard, except with a different organizational structure. Disaster relief and patrols, the same basic toolset that was needed everywhere from the Tsunami to Katrna to post-conflict stabilization.

    As part of the 5GW that establishes the MISC, they're function is primarily structural: complete the iron triangle [1].

    Adrian,

    I'd love pdf! The article sounds fascinating!

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/07/07/describing-the-military-industrial-sysadmin-complex-how-we-w.html

  6. But we already have a national guard and regular military though, why have they not been sufficient to function sufficiently as a vested interest? What new capability would duplicating their function somewhere else bring?

  7. The regular military is a closed society of people, mostly men, who are trained to kill. That is a poor skillset to use when trying to pacify a non-hostile but wary population (post-Tsunami, post-Katrina, post-War, etc).

    Regarding duplication of the National Guard: yup. The purpose of supporting a DHS Uniformed is to build the Military-Industrial-Syadmin-Complex in financial and political party. We need federal deployable units, not nondeployable local projects [1,2,3].

    [1] http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0719homeland-security0719.html
    [2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/18/AR2007071801507.html
    [3] http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20070718-1355-bn18grants.html

  8. Dan,
    I certainly do oppose the repeal of Posse Comitatus. I have to also point out a historical flaw in your argument. Right after Katrina the most effective response “units” were non-governmental (Red Cross, Wal-Mart, etc.) In fact they were prevented from being even more effective by DHS. Furthermore, FEMA now has standing orders that after every event that they are called into action they have a process of confiscating all weapons, whether or not they are legally owned (this is one example of the powers they claim.) This begs the question, if the existing agencies under DHS already have extra-constitutional powers (attempt to speak your mind to a TSA agent in airport and see how much your 1st Amendment rights matter) how much more extensive will these unconstitutional powers be when they have an organized, uniformed, military force to deploy to “problem” areas? The DHS should not be further empowered, it should (and most likely the bulk, if not all, of the agencies it controls,) be scrapped entirely.

    Regards,
    TDL

  9. Dan, TDL,
    Seems to me your viewpoints aren't so far apart. The current military is limited from sysadmin work (foreign and domestic) by training. Given that training, though (assuming it could be acquired without losing too much leviathan ability), it would still be limited by Posse Comitatus from domestic activities. The challenge, then, is a new force: sysadmin from the ground up, with its own governing laws to prevent abuse.

  10. I do not think I was being clear. I am saying any centralized approach to Katrina type events will ultimately fail (centralized planning does not work, especially in very large and complex matters.) If you are looking for a ground up solution to these problems it is already provided through the market with countless numbers of individuals, groups, and organizations giving their time, money, and expertise. No entity, like the one Dan describes, is necessary because the work gets done. The only thing that a “sysadmin” force will provide is a barrier to an effective response to a catastrophe. Leviathans are nothing more than power aggregators; that do not resolve problems, merely use them to gain power. Remember Ronald Reagan's quip; “What are the nine scariest words in the English language? We're from the government, and we're here to help.”

    This link speaks to my point:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/19/AR2007071901039_pf.html

    Regards,
    TDL

  11. TDL,

    “I am saying any centralized approach to Katrina type events will ultimately fail (centralized planning does not work, especially in very large and complex matters.)”

    The dictum of “decentralize tactically, centralize strategically” (as Col. Dr. Osinga mentioned at the Boyd conference) is just as true in system administration as in leviathan operations. It is not a cause to scrap the leviathan nor abort the sysadmin, however.

    “What are the nine scariest words in the English language? We're from the government, and we're here to help.””

    In the context of a functioning society, this may be true. The SysAdmin is not designed to intervene in functioning societies, however.

  12. All the decisions about the SysAdmin would be made in the functioning societies though. I honestly don't see how you're going to get the incentives, information and feedback to harmonize well enough to get this to work, even if it should be done.

  13. “All the decisions about the SysAdmin would be made in the functioning societies though”

    Of course. How does this matter?

    “I honestly don't see how you're going to get the incentives, information and feedback to harmonize well enough to get this to work,”

    Could you rephrase?

  14. Steve makes an excellent point. Even if you take the operational aspect away from the central decision makers, they still will not have adequate information to strategize effectively in a fluid situation. I am still talking about Katrina type events. The only way such problems are resolved are by allowing the bottom up effort to materialize. Despite the arguments for agencies such as FEMA or a DHS army, private forces still marshal the resources necessary to ameliorate Katrina type events. Incident after incident has shown that private, voluntary efforts come to bear on these problem areas. Incident after incident has also shown that top down interference (even if only strategic in nature) has prevented these spontaneous ordering forces from effectively dealing with Katrina type problems.

    Regards,
    TDL

  15. That verbiage was a bit mangled – the phrase “I honestly don't see how you're going to get the incentives, information and feedback to harmonize well enough to get this to work,”

    Should read “The people making the decisions in Washington would not have the incentives, information, and feedback to get the desired result in far away lands. The new government agency would act like every other government agency. It would probably be worse since the connection between those who are paying for it (the US taxpayer) are quite separated from those receiving the benefits (the agency itself, government contractors, and the people who need state-building)”.

  16. Steve,

    Are you arguing that American involvement in post-Tsunami Indonesia and British involvement in insurgent Malaya were failures?

    Or are you stating such exercises are hard, and therefore require expertise?

    Or are you stating that such operations will have a failure rate greater than 0 but less than 1?

    The first of these choices seems nonsensical, while the second two don't add much to the conversation.

  17. I think we're talking about two different things. I was talking about a new agency that is the in full time business of disaster relief and state-building by moving troops and money into regions that they designate “afflicted” not ad-hoc actions by the existing military (which has pre-existing incentives and interest groups).

  18. It sounds like TDL's argument is that a government agency will, by definition, run everything in a top down manner and therefore screw everything up on the ground. I don't think anybody on here would disagree that that kind of stupidity happens way too often. But if they were destined to ALWAYS happen, then what point would there be to HAVING a government? If we can't make it work, then a shortage of sysadmin capability is low on the list of our problems!

    If we assuming that government can't work, then this conversation is meaningless. But if we assuming it can work, then the question becomes “What would an effective sysadmin agency look like?”. How would it have to operate to do a better job than FEMA and co?

  19. The reason the people on top make bad decisions (in the best case, leaving aside all of the Public Choice theory problems) is that they are separated from the information and incentives they need to make good decisions.

    It seems to me that if the goal is to integrate societies into the “Core”, the separation from information and decision makers is so vast it's comparable to the Soviet 5 year plans of the 1930s.

    In short, the government can't do everything, and this is one of those things.

  20. Steve,

    “I was talking about a new agency that is the in full time business of disaster relief and state-building by moving troops and money into regions that they designate “afflicted” not ad-hoc actions by the existing military (which has pre-existing incentives and interest groups).”

    I think we may be talking past each other.

    As I've written before, an important goal is to build up the “pre-existing incentives and interest groups” [1], so criticizing the MISC, which is designed to build those, as not having those is strange!

    “It seems to me that if the goal is to integrate societies into the “Core”, the separation from information and decision makers is so vast it's comparable to the Soviet 5 year plans of the 1930s.”

    Integration with the core is an economic, not military, feat.

    The MISC primarily operates through the “Core-enabled SysAdmin force,” which is a stepping stone between the “US-enabled Leviathan force” and the “International Reconstruction Fund” in processing politcally bankrupt states [2].

    Michael,

    “If we assuming that government can't work, then this conversation is meaningless. But if we assuming it can work, then the question becomes “What would an effective sysadmin agency look like?”. How would it have to operate to do a better job than FEMA and co?”

    EXACTLY!

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/07/07/describing-the-military-industrial-sysadmin-complex-how-we-w.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/12/14/embracing-defeat-part-i-barnett-s-two-strategies.html

  21. Dan,
    My criticism would stand if we removed the Katrina reference. I see no need to create a full time agency of this nature when the marketplace already provides effective remedies in disaster relief (that are profoundly more effective than government activities.) You are right to point out that after the tsunami the U.S. military did a good job of providing logistics, but Wal-Mart, FedEx, and UPS are just as (if not more so) effective and cost significantly less to boot. My criticism is towards the idea of such a force, not any specific event that has occurred in the past.

    One last point; I would not conflate sysadmin with government. Governments can take on sysadmin types of roles, but it is not necessary for the existence of government. I think (in my limited understanding of) sysadmin work ultimately fails because of the assumption that an agency can take control of a system, when the system in question is a society. I do not views societies as single systems. I would love to expound on that argument, but I am a bit pinched for time. Hope you all have a good weekend.

    Regards,
    TDL

  22. If we assuming? Maybe I should have logged off sooner yesterday. . .

    TDL (if you're still following this), Dan: I'm starting to think you two have different definitions in mind of sysadmin. Walmart, Fedex, etc, are good, but I've yet to hear of them operating in places with no functional infrastructure.

  23. Michael,

    I have to agree. UPS, Fedex, and other private companies do amazing logistics work, but the US military is the most resilient logistics providers in the world. (Last time I tried to UPS an armored brigade into a warzone, they got lost in customs…)

  24. Dan,
    Everybody know you do not send an armored brigade anywhere via UPS, you use DHL!
    More seriously, however, Blackwater can raise a brigade and place it anywhere globally. Many large insurance companies that insure shipping have begun to raise their own navies after the recent uptick in piracy over the past ten years.

    Regards,
    TDL

  25. Well, DHS already has a uniformed corps, the USCG. In what is very likely an odd and unintended result, the USCG has the broadest authority of any uniformed force in the country. For example, the USCG is at ALL times, a military force. They are also a member of the intelligence community and have a law enforcement capability. It is not a coincidence that DHS was ultimately represented at New Orleans during the Katrina mess by a USCG Admiral who I believe has become the Commandant of the USCG. There is no other organization, including the FBI and CIA that has this breadth of authority. What needs to be examined in depth is whether it makes sense to have something like a land-based USCG. I see this as a version of something like the Italian Carabinieri. Military and Police and more. Yes, there would be issues with things like Posse Comitatus, but in all but the most reactionary mindsets, Posse Comitatus is a relic and there is little likelihood of a power grab by the military or a use of the military for a purely political purpose. Checks and balances in government and public opinion would clearly limit a significant misuse of a domestic military force. I would suggest that an examination of this area begin with a study of the Carabinieri and criticism and commendation that they have received over time. In a pet hypothesis of mine, I believe that a number of good ideas in terms of HLS can only be brought close to domestic debate through a thorough study of external similar concepts. I believe that many smart ideas hit too many hot buttons if brought up without a thorough study that can only be accomplished by looking at systems operating externally and not domestically.

  26. The Coast Guard did an exemplary job in Katrina …. it was probably the most effective government agency there. It demonstrates that government agencies can be efficient if properly led, organized and staffed. I’m not sure we need a a full-scale army for DHS, however. Perhaps a better (and less expensive and intrusive) approach would be to create a professional core around which qualified volunteers (including people with medical, firefighting, search and rescue, law enforcement, military backgrounds) could be rallied. While the volunteer groups would be locally mustered, they could be utilized regionally or even nationally. For instance, in California we have forest fires 10 months out of the year. A fire in, say, the Bay Area, could draw teams from Sacramento, the North Coast, even the Central Valley and LA Basin. It need not interfere with existing first responder professionals; a fit 50-year-old retired police officer, military or fireman would be a tremendous asset. Cross-training folks to set up evacuation centers, run field kitchens and more would provide further services. We’re talking CERT teams on steroids, and more. There’s almost no limit to what can be done, with the proper levels of desire and expertise.

  27. Brendan & Jim,

    Excellent points!

    If plussing-up the DHS uniformed service is a choice between a USCG Land Force or another service, then which way is chosen is a method of which is easier bureaucratically and politically, rather than a high-minded discussion.

    Feedback like this is why I blog — thanks!

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