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Subject: RE: [emergency] FEMA IPAWS Note on CAP Profile

Art Botterell, Manager
Community Warning System
Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff
50 Glacier Drive
Martinez, California 94553
(925) 313-9603
fax (925) 646-1120
>>> "Alessandro Triglia" <sandro@oss.com> 02/20/09 5:31 AM >>>
Could someone please explain why they see a conflict of interests here?

Each time I think things can't possibly get more outrageous another shoe drops, so I can't guarantee that this is a complete list, but right now I see not just one conflict but a consistent pattern of conflicts:

1) OASIS, ostensibly the steward of our standards process, has entered into a side-contract with DHS, an OASIS member that has work it requested before the TC.  The terms of that contract haven't been shared with the other members, but we may infer something from a DHS representative yelling "OASIS has a contractual obligation!" on our last conference call after he learned that the TC wasn't going to adopt the draft Profile on first reading.  The practical effect is that we no longer can assume that OASIS staff, or even its Board, are disinterested in the outcome of the current process.  (And if OASIS staff are without influence in the TC, how do they explain not one but three of them involving themselves in that same TC call, as well as in this email thread?  Are we expected to believe that they think they're just wasting time?  Talk about "silly!")

2) A large number, in fact a majority, of active TC members are themselves being paid by DHS under some contract or subcontract, so we can't reasonably expect them to bite the hand that feeds them.  That's very different from the usual situation in a TC, where the members are assumed to be relatively independent actors with a representative range of interests.  And OASIS membership isn't free, so each of their memberships can be linked at least to some degree to the money they're receiving from DHS.  I suspect some of them may also have been billing their time on OASIS work to their DHS contracts.  That the OASIS guidelines don't prohibit such packing of TCs is regrettable, but it certainly doesn't magically remove the taint of conflict of interest.

3) Our Chair for the Profiles subcommittee was not just a DHS contractor, but one directly staffing DHS S&T on IPAWS standards issues.  And his loyalty to his employer is unquestionable; he's admitted, with commendable candor, that he's made presentations to other groups at the behest of S&T that were contradictory to what he knew was the direction of the OASIS subcommittee he chaired.

4)  Our Chair for this TC, again with laudable candor, has admitted that she's been expecting to receive payments for her services from DHS via the as-yet undisclosed OASIS side-deal.  (It may be entirely unrelated that the COO of her company was, until recently, the president of OASIS.)

5) DHS has made it clear that it is using OASIS as part of a regulatory process, and yet DHS representatives have also made it clear that they have some strong preferences as to the content of the OASIS document.  (That's arguably a matter beyond the TC's scope, but it does form part of what I think is a pretty clear pattern of intent.)

Conflict of interest rules, where they exist, are established precisely because we can never really know one way or the other the actual intent of any individual.  Thus it can be said that in this domain appearances really are everything.  And given that we're no longer in the business of voluntary technical standards, but have agreed to involve ourselves in a governmental regulatory process, this is more than just a question of whether OASIS rules are perfect and immutable.

I think, and most folks I've spoken with seem to agree, that anyone standing back from the details and viewing the situation overall will find the independence of the whole process highly dubious. 

- Art

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