President Obama has directed that the White House Homeland Security Council and the National Security Council be merged with the combined staff of about 240 personnel reporting to National Security Advisor General James Jones, USMC (Ret).
(See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/26/AR2009052603148.html?sub=AR or http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/27/us/27homeland.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Security%20Shuffle&st=cse) (Photo Source: http://www.defenselink.mil/dodcmsshare/newsstoryPhoto/2003-01/200301092a.jpg)
The White House website does not have a listing of the members of the NSC except for those who are required to be members by statute. According to the White House Website:
“The NSC is chaired by the President. Its regular attendees (both statutory and non-statutory) are the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the statutory military advisor to the Council, and the Director of National Intelligence is the intelligence advisor. The Chief of Staff to the President, Counsel to the President, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy are invited to attend any NSC meeting. The Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget are invited to attend meetings pertaining to their responsibilities. The heads of other executive departments and agencies, as well as other senior officials, are invited to attend meetings of the NSC when appropriate.” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/nsc/)
This is prudent recognition that the dangers facing our country no know borders. The action should have the effect of increased information sharing among staff members and perhaps a more cohesive approach to security issues overall.
A key question that should be raised is: how will the new and improved organization address information engagement issues across the board? It is reasonable to assume that the NSC has a Strategic Communications representative and it is clear that the Press is a critical component of the Homeland Security Council.
At issue is how information will be crafted and distributed under this new approach. The Department of State is the lead for Public Diplomacy, but often lacks the resources and reach to exert information influence in many parts of the world where conflicts exist. On the domestic front, Department of Homeland Security will work with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and coordinate incident response using the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Neither of these two organizations have the robust resources that DOD has to deploy under the kind of exceptionally adverse conditions that would exist after major natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
It would appear then the some real work needs to be done to fold DOD resources into the NSC/Homeland Security mix. This work entails more than the development of contingency plans, but has to include a modicum of training for PSYOP and PAO personnel and will have to run across Active, Reserve and National Guard Forces.
Furthermore, the kinds of holistic responses that may be required may also need to employ contingency commercial resources that need to be identified and trained beforehand as well.
Given that DOD is still working out the kinks of how PSYOP and PAO will work together, watching the new and improved NSC unfold will be interesting. Let’s hope the equipping, planning and training takes place before any negative incidents.