Monday, July 22, 2013

Interviewing Louis J. Schiliro, DE Homeland Security Czar

Louis J. Schiliro, our
Homeland Security czar
The whole interview actually took place about a year ago in Security Management, the PR blog for ASIS International, which does puff pieces on "security professionals." But you would never have read it--because you weren't supposed to.

But since this is hardly investigative journalism, I thought it would be instructive to provide a little context on the things that Mr. Schiliro, Delaware's Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security DOES and DOES not say.

For example, when asked the question, "What assets and threats make the state unique?" Mr. Schiliro [who has presided over a gigantic mushrooming of the state Homeland Security budget since 2009], admitted that the chief terrorist threat to Delaware is ... snow and rain:
We have a small state, but many of the same issues that the larger states do, just in terms of the things that we need to plan and prepare for. As it stands right now the issues that we spend the most time on are weather-related. We are a coastal state, with hurricane issues and nor’easters that hit the state have been issues. DEMA spends a fair amount of time on that. As you know last winter we got hit pretty heavily by some of the snow storms, so that takes up a lot of our time just in terms of preparation and anticipation of those kinds of issues.
I figure that this looking has to
be worth at least $10 mill, right?
This is followed by the incredibly pro-active:
But also we’re in the shadows of a nuclear plant in New Jersey. We spend a lot of time looking at that. 
I thought it would be nice to have a visual of our Homeland Security apparatus, for which we spend millions and millions each year, looking at the nuke plants across the Bay.

There.  I feel safer already.

OK, to be fair [not that I'm trying to be], Mr. Schiliro cites other potential terrorist threats:

We have a number of chemical facilities in the state; we have Dover Air Force Base. Certainly we have Interstate 95 that runs through our state; we have major financial institutions in the city of Wilmington, major universities that do a lot of research here, just a variety of things that we monitor on a fairly regular basis.
Yep, we have a number of chemical facilities in the State, which--frankly--most of the people living around them would rather be protected from them than to have them protected.  Dover Air Force Base is, to be honest, far better prepared to protect itself than the Delaware State Police ever will be.  The biggest terrorism on our little stretch of I-95 is perpetrated by the State of Delaware whenever you pass a toll booth.  We hand those "major financial institutions" in Wilmington millions of State taxpayer dollars in corporate welfare annually; why don't they look after their own security?

How about, "How has your professional background informed your work?"

Take one:
I spent most of my career in the FBI: 25 years. I retired as the head of the New York Field Office which is the largest FBI field division. 
Reality check:  Mr. Schiliro retired when Louis Freeh was booted out as FBI Director, and he realized that as a Freeh confidant he was suddenly no longer in line to take over the organization.

Take two:
I worked in the private and public sectors between my retirement from the FBI in 2000 and 2009. And that is helpful in terms of developing partnerships, both the public sector and the private sector; getting people together to share information.
Reality check:  Mr. Schiliro's time with MBNA, the Freeh Group International, AIG, and Hain--along with his contacts with none other than Joe Biden--were not just helpful but personally profitable, as the incomplete public records for just one of his private sector associations reveals him cashing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock options--it would hardly be surprising to find that the total was well into the millions, and that retiring from the FBI for a brief interlude in the private sector made Mr. Schiliro a millionaire in about nine years.  Nice work if you can get it.

Take three:
I think we’ve made huge inroads in terms of information sharing. We operate as you know the Delaware Information and Analysis Center (DIAC), which is a fusion center. It’s just unbelievable to me the amount of information that is being shared
It's unbelievable to me, too, Mr. Schiliro, for a state in which you just noted that the primary danger was bad weather.

Then there is, "What is the greatest challenge of your office's mission?"

Take one:
As you probably hear from everybody, it’s budget. It’s money. The job would be a lot easier if we had the money it took to do the things we’d like to do. And the challenge is really to look at the resources we have and apply them to the greatest risks that we face.
 Reality check:  First, the mind cringes at the things Mr. Schiliro would "like to do."  But, second, this is all so much horsecrap.  In 2009 when he came to town, the Secretary's Office (just ONE of his budget entities) was being funded at $6.3 million; this year it got $13.5 million.  In other words, money from the State (and, one presumes, from Federal grants) has been pouring into Mr. Schiliro's coffers with great abundance.  During the same time, however, he pled poverty to the General Assembly so that he could stop paying for School Resource Officers in our schools, and admitted that he saw the Office of Highway Safety as primarily a revenue-generating organization.

And--let's not forget--that he got so much money that Delaware now has a f--king navy.

I love this one:  "What has been the state's greatest success in the homeland security mission?"

Even I was expecting to read about some major crime his effort over four years had either solved or prevented.  I figured there would be something.  Nope.  What Mr. Schiliro is proudest of is his ability to use the state millions to gather more information about the people of Delaware:
We’ve also launched a public education campaign similar to those in New York City and elsewhere around the country called, “See something, say something.” So now our ability to gather all of the resources that are available and channel them toward developing intelligence and disseminating it—I really think that that is really the heart of what homeland security has to become.
Please, please, PLEASE do not forget that part and parcel of this "see something, say something" campaign was a mobile phone app that secretly turns your cell phone into an involuntary spy device for Delaware law enforcement.

"Is your mission affected by the financial crisis?  If so, how has the state adjusted?"

Start with a flat-out lie:
Delaware is no different than any other state. Right now we’re at a zero-based budget, which means we don’t have a lot of room to grow programs. 
Mr. Schiliro's budget has NEVER gone down since he arrived in Delaware.  As for expanding programs, what was that new state maritime unit (the aforementioned "navy") that he brags about throughout the article?

As a matter of fact, let's visit this observation by our law enforcement leader that places that Maritime Unit in perspective:
Many of the local agencies in this state have done well on the Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS grant, getting some additional officers. Last year the State Police was the recipient of maritime grant that’s going to allow us for the first time to create a maritime unit. 
So, let's see--shootings are again at an all-time high in Wilmington, and you're buying boats?

Yeah, those local law enforcement agencies can really count on you, boss.

Here are a couple of other great takeaways: 

Regarding the most important events he has presided over--again, weather.  He tries really hard to make weather sound exciting:
In my time here the biggest events have been the snow storms. In my view many of these things you win or lose within the first few hours. You don’t get a do-over. So I guess the lessons-learned are to make sure you are prepared and know that often times there’s no second chance. 
Some nights, I have to admit, I wake up in a cold sweat at 2am and wonder just how Delaware survived for those first 225 years without a crack FBI agent and a multi-million-dollar homeland security apparatus to clean the snow off my driveway.  Oh, wait, they don't.  In fact, as one editorial cartoonist opined a few years back [I think it was Rob Tomoe], Wilmington's snow removal plan is still best described as "July."

Or, there's this nugget:
Our communication with the governor’s office is outstanding, and we’re able to react in a relatively short amount of time. There’s not a lot of bureaucracy involved in this and that’s a huge benefit. 
This is insider-speak:  when he says "there's not a lot of bureaucracy involved," what he really means is that he is free to operate his office almost entirely without civilian oversight.

In response to, "What are your office's major goals looking forward?"
I think this year we’re going to look very hard at the issue of school security and schools safety plans throughout the state. I think if anybody can do that we can do this in the state of Delaware. We’re going to try to identify model schools safety plans and see if we can apply them across the board to every student in this state. I think that’s critical.
It is important to note that this interview took place before the Sandy Hook school shootings, but before you give Mr. Schiliro some credit, please recall two things:  (1) he was instrumental in taking police officers OUT of many of our schools because they cost too much; and (2) he didn't actually do a damn thing beyond agree to a bizarre school safety grant competition.

Then there's this:
Another initiative this year will be some kind of a more concentrated traffic enforcement in the state—being able to direct additional resources to that. We’re very concerned as all states are with aggressive driving and speeding. And if we can get more resources on the road we can cut down on some of the resources on our road and I think that would be a great thing to be able to do.
Laudable?  Well, not quite.  Schiliro has admitted publicly before the General Assembly that traffic enforcement is actually about revenue:
But the department, whose largest component is the Delaware State Police, could meet that goal with a combination of cuts and revenue boosts that could include grounding its fixed-wing aircraft and increasing fines for driving under the influence, Schiliro said. 
What's missing from Mr. Schiliro's major goals?  Once again:  he never says a single damn word about cutting down the murder rate in Wilmington.

Apparently that's not on the radar for the Delaware Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security.

He's rather talk about his navy.
 
 
 
 
 

4 comments:

kavips said...

What a coincidence. I looked at Artificial Island's nuclear plant last week.

Anyone else looked at it since? Gosh, I feel bad now; I haven't kept up. i hope it's still there.

A.reader said...

Very.Nicely.Done.

cassandra m said...

A WPD friend sent me a link to this and I have to add to the WPD Marine Boat story.

When the WPD was first on a track to replace their marine unit, Schiliro had apparently found them some grant to help do this. It was controversial in some circles in Wilmington (there were LTE even), if anything because no one was being shot on the river; there weren't any home invasions on the river; and the corner boys were no where near being on the river. I and several others really objected to this -- the WPD shouldn't just collect up assets rather than do policing.

One of my best pals at the WPD and I had a long argument over this -- the WPD position was that they needed to be ready to assist of something happened over at Salem. They needed to be ready to deploy when people needed them on the river there. My position was that if something serious happened over at Salem, the WPD would have their hands full directing an orderly evacuation of the city. We live no more than an hour rapid response away from the law enforcement equipped to deal with a criminal or terrorist incident at Salem and those guys wouldn't be calling the WPD for a darn thing, except to make sure that the city citizens were out of their way. It was a bad fight -- and mainly a fight over how the WPD sees themselves vs. how a taxpayer sees them.

Anyway, the grant comes up for a vote in a contentious City Council vote (including letting Shiliro speak. Sometime during the back and forth it was discovered that the city hadn't met some of the requirements for the grant -- including missing the due date. So there's egg all over everyone's faces and the grant disappears. It did come back up with much less fanfare and the WPD got their boat. Oddly, I live a quick walk from the river and I never see this thing except at its dock.

All of the money floating around for these police departments seems to incentivize them to be grant writers rather than police officers. And then they have to make use of all of this new equipment.

tom said...

And a week after your post, I'm still trying to parse this clause:

"And if we can get more resources on the road we can cut down on some of the resources on our road"

My best guess is that he wants more automated ticketing and vehicle tracking and fewer police officers.