From Thesis Research to Presidential Policy

Quin Lucie is a problem solver. It may be attributed to his diverse background as a scholar, Marine Corps Judge Advocate, and FEMA attorney. Or, maybe he’s just wired that way. However, regardless of the circumstances, he has an incredible knack for “cutting through the BS.” As a graduate of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security master’s degree program, his drive to understand and address security issues reinforces the point that we must continue learning or be doomed to repeat our collective mistakes.

H. Quin Lucie, FEMA Legal Advisor

Mr. Lucie is also an excellent writer. He has authored numerous in-depth articles that take aim at issues afflicting the homeland security enterprise. “Professional writing has allowed me to break out of the silos that separate agencies. It‘s a platform that can speak not just to the public but to your peers and get things jumpstarted that may otherwise languish,” he said. The impact of his writings can be measured in results, from new Presidential Policy Directives to federal antifraud plans to FEMA’s adoption of the disaster deductible concept. While some of his contributions may seem innocuous at first glance (e.g., Stafford Act Disaster Response Authority for Federal Military Forces), his most recent article initially sounds quite abrasive: “How FEMA Could Lose America’s Next Great War.” But the Homeland Security Affairs journal entry is far from scathing; it’s more like a comprehensive summary of his CHDS research. In the article, Quin combines his knowledge of force mobilization and the history of FEMA to explore the strategies and programs that are responsible for protecting the United States from attack by a peer adversary on home soil.

How did we get here? To fully understand the evolution of Quin’s latest article, we have to step back and examine the genesis of his work. Harold Quinton Lucie (you can call him Quin) began his career of service as a Marine Corps judge advocate. He earned the rank of Captain and received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for professional achievement while stationed at Camp Lejeune. In 2006, he became an attorney for FEMA, and was immediately deployed to Baton Rouge on the back end of Hurricane Katrina. “It was interesting—back then we weren’t too organized yet and I spent two weeks learning to be a public assistance leader (because that was the only kind of training they had for me) which included a half-day of FEMA law,” Lucie shared. “By the next week, I was on my way to Baton Rouge to be a FEMA attorney.” That was the training he received, but he was doing everything—whether it was FEMA programs, historical preservation, or the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). “There’s no way I could’ve done it without having been a Marine judge advocate first. It was so much continuity, in terms of knowing how to be a member of staff, and handling questions with an orientation towards solving problems,” he said.

After completing his six months in Louisiana, Quin was brought back to FEMA HQ, where he was tasked with reviewing over 7,500 DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports that were related to Hurricane Katrina. In retrospect, the reports were probably meant to “go away,” but he’s not wired that way. He was able to come up with a system to categorize and process the reports quickly by identifying which may be fraudulent. “The vast majority were potentially fraud related,” he recalled. At the end of his detail, they were able to locate $11M in potentially-fraudulent payments and prosecute dozens of people who were taking advantage of the system. One interesting anecdote involves a person who was on federal probation in Los Angeles and yet he received money from Katrina. The suspect never even lived in Louisiana and it only took a few minutes to confirm his status with probation authorities. Quin figured they would just revoke his probation, but then two weeks later, he received a call from a DHS Inspector General Agent who said the case ‘kind of rings a bell.’ At the agent’s suggestion, Quin pulled up the case in FEMA’s records system and began manually entering addresses from the same street. Before he knew it, they had over 70 fraudulent claims from 90 different people of over $100K! Quin initially wrote a memo to his supervisors notifying them of his concerns but, surprisingly they were unable to continue down the path of this investigation. Looking for an outlet to share his findings in a larger context, Quin drew on his experience as a Marine. The Marine Corps Gazette is a professional magazine that provides a platform for Marines to share new ideas with peers and senior officials. He surmised, “The closest I could find to the DHS/FEMA version of the Gazette was the Journal of Homeland Security.” The article, titled “Establishing a Comprehensive Antifraud Plan for FEMA,” eventually made its way to the DHS Inspector General and other officials who recognized the issue. Ultimately, the Florida Fraud Prevention Unit became a permanent function and attached to the FEMA Office of Security. The unit’s Standard Operating Procedure, which Quin wrote at the request of its creator, became the agency directive on fraud prevention.

Lucie on campus at NPS.

Nearly a year after seeing the impact of his article on fraud, Quin identified another issue that needed to be addressed: the growing disconnect between FEMA attorneys and the staff they were assigned to advise. So, once again he engaged the wheels of change by crafting an article that illuminated the problems and offered viable solutions. Once again, it was published in the Journal of Homeland Security, and it achieved immediate results. The principles he outlined in “The Role of FEMA Attorneys in the New FEMA and Its Renewed Emphasis on Operational Matters” led to a lasting reorganization of the way FEMA’s attorneys provide legal services and advice including the creation of a legal manual for the Office of Chief Counsel, embedding attorneys with their clients and providing counsel to each of FEMA’s ten regions.

With such a wide breadth of experience within the homeland security field and a desire to learn more, Quin decided to apply for the CHDS master’s program. He wanted to synthesize his experiences in a way that provides a broader interpretation of homeland security issues within DHS and FEMA. Upon arriving on the Naval Postgraduate School campus for his first in-residence session, he immediately felt welcomed. “One day I was walking across campus and there’s one of my buddies I haven’t seen in 15 years,” he joked. “The first thing he said was, ‘Quin, you have a beard now!’ There’s a lot of similarities among folks in the military and folks that come to FEMA. You’re dealing with large, complex problems that can’t be completely solved, only mitigated.”

While trying to figure out what to do his thesis on, Quin had an idea. Hurricane Katrina was a major flashpoint for FEMA. It is the singular event that most people associate with the agency and Quin was there to experience the recovery efforts first-hand. “Professor Bellavita was my thesis advisor and he’s a national asset. I mean that literally. His ability to push you and make you think two or three levels beyond what you’re doing. I can’t say enough about what he does for the program—and I thought to myself I can bring that back to my thesis…that was a direct result of Katrina.”

So, after much discussion and research, Quin identified a thesis topic to investigate: Unity of Command for Federal Consequence Management. When studying the federal response to major disasters, it was apparent that higher levels of presidential interest provide a positive impact on results. The lack of coordination of federal response efforts and the inability of the President to impose his will to marshal federal resources effectively were major problems identified after Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew.

“One of the things I learned while working on my thesis is you can practically cut and paste Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew. I don’t think a lot of people understand that; almost all the issues that you saw with Katrina, you also saw with Andrew—many of which related to breakdown in communication. It is fascinating when you look at both of them,” he concluded. The action plans and response programs were very similar, but they had not effectively incorporated lessons learned from previous disasters, so it was plagued by the same issues. Quin’s thesis argues the most efficient way for the President to supervise the federal response to an existential catastrophe is by delegating authority for operational consequence management decisions to a single federal official that would allow the President and his cabinet to focus on strategic decisions. In his proposed plan, the FEMA Administrator would lead the portion of the federal operational response formerly known as consequence management while the Commanding General for U.S. Northern Command, and presumably the Attorney General or their designee, would lead all federal military and law enforcement efforts. Together the three would provide the President complete unity of command over all federal disaster response efforts rather than the more distributed unity of effort that currently exists among federal agencies. After publication, the thesis permeated across the agency; it was directly turned into a Presidential Policy Directive a couple years ago under the Obama administration—to designate lead federal agencies, in all types of events. “This is a great feather in CHDS’ cap. I couldn’t have done it without the help of Dr. Bellavita and the rest of the staff.”

Lucie at the graduation ceremony for CHDS master’s cohort 1101/1102.

Back to the present, it is easy to see the correlation between Quin’s thesis research and his most recent article, “How FEMA Could Lose America’s Next Great War.” A lot of his background is related to the operational authority of FEMA and that has allowed him to really delve into the history of the agency—which has been largely forgotten or lost. Quin explained, “When I started my master’s thesis almost a decade ago was when I first started to come across the basis for my article. That’s how I started to peel back the onion.” In the article, Quin argues that our capacity in wartime is diminished without a strategy to protect the civilian population and defense industrial base, or to mobilize and sustain the nation. The initial response to his article may have been skeptical, due to the potentially salacious title. “As I went down this road beginning a few years ago, I started with the concept of looking at civil defense before I discovered much of what I was reading actually supported the closely aligned concept of national mobilization,” he explained. Now the article is gaining momentum within the federal government. “The U.S. Air Force Academy is making it mandatory reading for the Military and Strategic Studies program next year,” Quin added.

What’s next? Last December, Quin was contacted by the head librarian for the German version of FEMA asking if they could include another of Quin’s articles in their library, “What Comes Around, Goes Around (and Around and Around): Reviving the Lost History of FEMA and its Importance to Future Disasters.” They have now added his thesis and several of his other articles. He’s providing tremendous value to the homeland security enterprise, mainly a result of his research at the Center. It’s also a very welcoming network. “Whenever I run into another marine, we can find common ground in similar experiences and sometimes we’re only once or twice removed from mutual peers. It is the same thing with CHDS—as soon as you find out you’ve both gone through one of their programs, there’s an instant connection and immediate validation. It makes me think I better pay attention because this person knows what they’re talking about.”

As a result of the CHDS network, Quin was afforded the opportunity to teach homeland security as a visiting professor at the US Army War College. “That solely came about because of the connections I made through CHDS. One of my classmates, Dr. Eric Powell, was concluding his tenure as a professor there so he promoted the vacancy within CHDS.”

After completing the CHDS program, Quin taught a homeland security course at George Washington University for two semesters. “I heavily relied on the CHDS materials that are available to us post-graduation. While homeland security is being incorporated into more courses and programs at private institutions, CHDS provides that leading edge to the rest of the enterprise; it really does set the standard. It’s a great nucleus for all of this other education to occur.”

Earlier this year he was invited to speak at the National Defense University’s (NDU) Eisenhower School, where he addressed more than 300 members of faculty and staff. According to Quin, NDU has a mobilization program but over the years it has become narrow in its focus after FEMA gave up its national mobilization mission. He received really good feedback and was invited to return next year (he even received a letter of appreciation from an Air Force Brigadier General as the school Commandant). “CHDS has greatly affected my work and will continue to be an integral part of my knowledge-base for years to come.”