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As he surveyed the lifeless bodies surrounding him, Andr� Hollis was certain he should have been one of them. The windows of his office in the E-ring on the second floor were blown in, and 22 co-workers in neighboring offices were killed. Combined with the passengers on American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon that morning, a total of 189 people perished at the nation’s military headquarters. By dumb luck, Hollis says, he was at a conference in Northern Virginia’s Crystal City the morning of the attacks. The former deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics eventually worked his way back to the Pentagon, where he navigated the shattered complex, helping the wounded out and onto the south parking lot until 2 the next morning. For Hollis, who is now a homeland security lobbyist at Van Scoyoc Associates, the work he currently does has distinct meaning: “It’s personal,” he says, clasping his hands together and banging them firmly and repeatedly on a table as his eyes close. “It’s personal.” With photos of three close friends killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars pasted on a side panel of a bookshelf in his office, in clear view of his desk, Hollis says it’s a challenge not to sound too fatalistic to potential clients about the dangers the country still faces. “I remember walking through the Pentagon and I couldn’t see my hands,” he says of the smoke that surrounded him. The attacks of Sept. 11 gave rise to a new world on K Street: the homeland security practice. Born out of the tragedy are scores of lawyers and lobbyists fine-tuning their young practices at some of the top firms in town, such as Van Scoyoc and McKenna Long & Aldridge. “It’s truly an outgrowth of 9/11, and then again it isn’t,” says Joe Whitley, a partner at Alston & Bird and the first general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security. “So much of what is being packaged as homeland security is a lot of old wine — old wine and some new wine in a new bottle.” LONG-TERM SECURITY The Department of Homeland Security was officially launched in March 2003, dumping 22 legacy agencies with different philosophies and temperments, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, United States Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, and the Secret Service, under the giant Homeland Security umbrella. The Cabinet-level agency is already on its second secretary, Michael Chertoff. “They each have unique cultures that have been utterly changed by being pushed together,” says Hunton & Williams partner Steven Solow, whose homeland security practice primarily involves the area of risk management and integration of security matters with regulatory issues. “It’s obviously a work in progress, which isn’t always pretty, but it’s what we have and what we have to learn to work through.” Many lobbyists say they are motivated to work in this field by a desire to protect and secure the nation. But money is not a bad motivator, either. Bruce Aitken, president of the nonprofit Homeland Security Industries Association, says that before Sept. 11, homeland security was a $5 billion-a-year government-contracting industry. When Congress passed an aviation security bill in November 2001, the measure moved $50 billion from the private sector into government contracting. And the money is still increasing. According to the Homeland Security Research Corp. (HSRC), the United States and the international community spent $44 billion on homeland security in 2005. The research firm estimates that by 2015, $174 billion will be dished out globally. The statistics are based on an “ongoing crisis” scenario, a “medium-level, painful but not devastating terrorist activity,” according to HSRC reports. “Our worst nightmare has already happened in other countries, and, I’m sad to say, once that happens here you will see a huge public outcry,” says Aitken, who is also co-chairman of Aitken Berlin. “We will get attacked again, and at some point al-Qaeda will stop trying to throw the proverbial Hail Mary by going after monuments and will go after shopping malls and frighten the hell out of the public.” Though fortunes are already being made now by smaller companies, Aitken predicts they will increase exponentially should a series of attacks by terrorists occur against institutions like churches and sports arenas. But entering this line of work is anything but simple. Since the terrorist attacks, D.C. firms have all too easily slapped the homeland security label onto their marketing brochures, but lobbyists and lawyers entrenched in the daily grind say the work is difficult and the three-year-old department is a maze. And the big matters at hand often involve the nuances of regulation and compliance law versus contract acquisition and appropriations. The D.C. firm Cassidy & Associates, for example, has branded its practice a “national security” one, claiming on its Web site that the practice is more comprehensive than a straight defense or homeland security one. “Many firms want a homeland security practice, although they may not fully know what that entails,” says Jason Klitenic, a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge who was the former deputy general counsel at DHS, the agency’s second-ranking legal officer. CHECKING THE BOXES And, indeed, the work is difficult and better suited to a law firm with a lobby practice than a non-law firm like Van Scoyoc or Cassidy, some say. “I think a law firm has a lot more in the way of resources to draw on, particularly if they have a robust government contracts practice,” says James Burnley IV, a partner in Venable‘s homeland security group and secretary of transportation during the Reagan administration. “Mostly, lobby firms hold themselves out as being helpful, but you really have to have lawyers who practice in the government-contract field.” But Gregg Hartley, a lobbyist at Cassidy, disagrees. “If you’re a general lobbyist like me . . . I have great Hill connections. I won’t be helpful, personally, to help someone get a contract at Homeland Security or the Pentagon,” he says, “but I don’t think a lawyer who knows the regulatory process will be beneficial, as well. But the people who know how to get you down that corridor to get those boxes checked are the people who’ve worked in that process before.” Some firms, such as DLA Piper, began establishing practices shortly after the terrorist attacks. Former Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas), who joined DLA Piper in January 2003, was hired primarily because he was involved early on in creating the department. But Armey, who co-chairs the firm’s homeland security practice, says no one knew in the early days of the practice how the new department was going to develop. Armey, who was involved in one of the biggest overhauls of government since the Department of Defense was created a half-century ago, is surprised at the different shapes the department has taken. “The initial attitude that prevailed on K Street was that this was going to be a big market and everyone was going to be selling something,” he says. “Well, areas like compliance and regulations have become much more important. The work is deeper than it is a matter of schmoozing the client through the appropriations process.” Of chief frustration to many lawyers and lobbyists is figuring out who at the department is in charge of what. “This is often the most challenging assignment,” says Burnley. “They’ve reorganized reporting relationships in the short history of the department, and they’ve had a fair amount of turnover. They get burned out.” Van Scoyoc has sought to minimize this roadblock by hiring Tim Cook, who spent 20 years in the Coast Guard, three of them as the Coast Guard Senate liaison officer. He specializes in homeland security along with Hollis. “Your access and assistance to them [officials at Homeland Security] will be based primarily on personal relationships,” says Cook. “If you don’t have that with the upper leadership like Andr� [Hollis] does, or with lower folks like me, you won’t be as successful.” Lawyers and lobbyists have also found success in other aspects. Brian Finch, a former homeland security attorney at McKenna, joined Dickstein Shapiro‘s homeland security practice this year and has done work with companies seeking liability exemptions for products with an anti-terror component. But even in the short time this practice has been around, there’s even been turnover on K Street. Mark Holman, a former senior principal at Blank Rome and deputy assistant to the president at the White House Office of Homeland Security, has returned to Pennsylvania to work on Lynn Swann’s Republican bid for governor. And Asa Hutchinson, the former undersecretary of Homeland Security who used to run Venable’s practice group, is running on the Republican ticket for governor of Arkansas. But for now, lawyers and lobbyists just want some stability at the new department. “Hopefully, more people are thinking of staying rather than leaving,” says Whitley. “The knowledge of the agency is hard to come by when you don’t have that many people who’ve been there for a while. Some think it will take eight years for the department to be on its sea legs.”
Joe Crea can be contacted at [email protected].

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