Saturday, October 13, 2012

Another Short Notice NIAC Meeting

DHS has posted a meeting notice in Monday’s (available on-line today) Federal Register (77 FR 62521-62522) announcing yet another short notice meeting of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council on October 16th, 2012 in Washington, DC. The Council will receive and discuss a presentation by the Regional Resilience Working Group.

Delayed Notification

The notice states that: “The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that notices of meetings of advisory committees be announced in the Federal Register 15 days prior to the meeting date.” That’s not entirely true the Act states {§10(a)(2)} that:

“Except when the President determines otherwise for reasons of national security, timely notice of each such meeting shall be published in the Federal Register, and the Administrator shall prescribe regulations to provide for other types of public notice to insure that all interested persons are notified of such meeting prior thereto.”

I’ll accept that 15 days is ‘timely notice’, but I doubt that anyone would believe that 1 day (officially this notice isn’t published until Monday) constitutes timely notice of a physical meeting (as opposed to a teleconference). Even four days (it was published on the Federal Register Inspection page on Friday) doesn’t come close to constituting ‘timely notification’ by anyone’s definition.

Now, what is the ‘reasons of national security’ that allows the avoidance of the ‘timely notification’ requirement? The notice states:

“This notice of the NIAC meeting is published in the Federal Register with less than 15 days notice due to the complexity of the issues within the current study. Due to the complexities, the NIAC Working Group was not able to complete the interim finding of the report within this aggressive time line. Waiting for the full 15 day notice period to conduct the meeting will delay the discussion of the report. In order to not delay the continuation of this important study, this meeting is being announced with less than 15 days notice.”

I certainly see the national security tie there (Severe Sarcasm Warning).

The Presentation

According to the notice this meeting is to receive a presentation “from the NIAC

Regional Resilience Working Group documenting their work to date on the Regional Resilience Study”. This will not be a final report, just a report on work in progress. The notice goes on to explain that “The presentation will be posted no later than one week prior to the meeting [emphasis added] on the Council's public Web page on”

Well, the presentation is there as of 07:00 EDT, but JQ Public cannot access it. We just get an “Access Denied” message (“You don't have permission to access ‘’ on this server.”). I suppose that Council members and DHS staff and other special people have access to the document as well as to the following documents listed on the NIAC web page as being “meeting resources”:

Note that neither of these is listed in the Federal Register notice about the meeting.

Public Comment

The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that {§10(a)(3)}:

“Interested persons shall be permitted to attend, appear before, or file statements with any advisory committee, subject to such reasonable rules or regulations as the Administrator may prescribe.”

The notice does state that “we are inviting public comment on the issues to be considered by the Council as listed in the SUMMARY section below. Comments must be submitted in writing no later than October 11, 2012 [emphasis added]”. I’ll get my time machine out so that I can get these comments in in a timely manner (More Sarcasm). Fortunately, persons who wish to make oral comments to the Council have until 15 minutes prior to the start of the meeting to register their intent to speak.

I’ll provide the pro forma details for submitting written comments; comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (; Docket # DHS-2012-0056).

Reality Check

Okay, I’ll admit that in the great scheme of things, even in the not-so-great Washington scheme of things, this meeting is a non-issue. The final report of this working group will not be issued until sometime next year, so this meeting is just a chest-beating exercise to allow Under Secretary Beers and supporting NPPD politicians to ‘give direction’ to NIAC big shots. Even the final report will be a relative non-issue, rating just short news reports read by Washington insiders and quickly forgotten.

The larger issue here is that DHS is flaunting their refusal to play by the rules. There is absolutely no reason that this meeting could not have been held on October 30th or later; allowing for the 15-day notice. But the current political management at DHS would rather ignore the rules to make themselves seem more important than they really are. And that is sad because they do hold important positions in the government, and they do wield a certain amount of political power. That they have to stoop to such petty political gamesmanship is a commentary on their political ineptitude.

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