Thursday, October 1, 2009

QHSR Blogger Roundtable

Yesterday I was able to participate in a blogger roundtable with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Alan Cohn about the 3rd and final Dialogue that DHS, with the assistance of the National Academy of Public Administration, has established to encourage public participation in the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR). A number of bloggers that deal with homeland security issues were invited to a conversation with this conversation with Secretary Cohn to learn what DHS intended when they setup this last dialogue. The first thing that we learned is that the goals, objectives and expected outcomes listed in each of the four operational areas of the dialogue are the final version of these documents that are being submitted by the DHS Study Groups. These documents now go into the final review process that will determine if and how these statements will make it into the final QHSR report that the Secretary is required to submit to Congress by the end of the year. Final Review Process Now, if these are the final version going into that review process, why is DHS using this 3rd Dialogue to ask for public comments? The answer is simple; DHS is using this in a way that is similar to the public comment period found in the regulatory development process. The comments will be used in the review process to affect the final document that will be provided to Congress. This makes it even more important that the public and various homeland security stakeholders get involved in the discussion process. Written comments, or ‘ideas’ (the term used on this site) are even more important in this dialogue. This can take the form of submission of a ‘new idea’ that comments directly on one of the goals, objectives or expected outcomes. The alternative is to provide comments on an ideas submitted by someone else. Importance of Making Comments In any case the comments should be constructive comments, explaining why you support disagree with, or would modify the idea. The comments should not be used to engage in the kind of shouting match that made so much news this past summer during the health care debate. Besides, ‘shouting’ someone down in a written forum like this is counter productive; it tends to make someone skip your comment. If you don’t have the time or inclination to provide written comments on the ideas submitted by others, there is still an effective way that you can participate, you can rate the ideas submitted by others. If you are signed into the site, all it takes is a mouse click on one of five stars to rate the idea. It takes no more time to rate the than it does to proceed to the next one. If you are going to read the idea, the least you can do is to rate it. Today the 3rd Dialogue is just about half over. Personally, I check into the Counterterrorism section at least once a day to read and rate new ideas. Then I go back and check for new comments on the ideas that I have previously identified as being of particular interest to me. Come this weekend, when I have some free time, I will go through the other effective areas reading and rating the ideas. Since those areas lie outside my particular area of expertise, I will be less likely to contribute ideas or directly comment on the ideas of others. If you are an expert or informed person in one of the DHS subject areas you have a special responsibility to contribute to this effort. This is especially true if you work at the point of the spear. Too often people in the government that make decisions about the rules and regulations without hearing from the people that are directly affected by those rules. This dialogue gives people with direct experience in homeland security matters a chance to provide personal input into the regulatory process.

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