Since September 11, 2001, the nation has been struggling with the problem of responding to an ill-defined but potentially very large and complex terrorist threat. Initial homeland security efforts have sought to address obvious deficiencies in airline security, border controls, defense against weapons of mass destruction and the capabilities of first responders. Billions of dollars have been budgeted to provide additional personnel, equipment and training in these areas. A new cabinet department, the Department of Homeland Security, has been created. A special Terrorist Threat Intelligence Center is being created.
Despite these efforts, most experts give the administration only passing marks for their homeland security efforts. Much of the current literature on homeland security tends to focus on the magnitude of the problem. They criticize the administration’s slow progress in addressing these many potential threats.
These judgments are not entirely fair. Threats appear almost endless and overwhelming. Absent adequate threat assessments it is difficult for the new Department to establish sensible priorities for addressing possible vulnerabilities. Without a good set of metrics, it is also impossible to know whether the American people are safer today than they were on September 10, 2001. Thus, it appears to some as if the only way of enhancing homeland security is to spend and do more in every area and against all possible threats.
These four essays present refreshingly different perspectives on what has been accomplished in homeland security to date and what more needs to be done. Dr. Loren Thompson provides a cogent case for the importance of public education and communications, an oft-overlooked area of homeland security. His essay emphasizes the role of strong leadership in providing the reassurance that the public needs in an era of terrorist threats. Dr. Martin Libicki makes the case that the nation may be much less vulnerable to cyber attack than has been suggested in most public analyses. He suggests that a set of limited measures, largely in the hands of the private sector, could be sufficient to provide robust protection. Mr. Michael Scardaville thoroughly assesses federal critical infrastructure protection efforts employed since September 11. While applauding the early stages of the administration’s approach to securing critical infrastructure, he acknowledges that long-term success hinges on both the ability of numerous federal agencies recently transferred to the Department of Homeland Security to quickly consolidate into a focused effort. It will also depend on continued improvements in how intelligence is shared. Dr. Joseph Barbera looks broadly at the problem of managing catastrophic terrorist events. Such events, involving the use of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons can be expected to result in injury to thousands, even tens of thousands.
The essays are part of a study conducted by the Lexington Institute to assess the state of homeland security more than a year after September 11, 2001. Other analyses examined such topics as border and transportation security, defense against weapons of mass destruction, infrastructure protection and the role of the military in homeland security. Each sought to address the progress made to date in reducing the homeland’s vulnerability and to identify steps that still need to be taken. The Lexington Institute plans to publish additional essays over the course of the year.
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