There are numerous issues facing DHS where progress can be tedious and slow. Many times these are the toughest issues requiring extensive collaboration with the private sector and signify a mature government agency. Emergency preparedness falls into this category. Agree or disagree, the fact is that President Bush’s DHS has made a Herculean effort to move from day to day crisis management to a more thoughtful consideration of threat based risk management priorities. A prime example is the evolving emphasis that all parts of DHS are placing on emergency preparedness.
TSA is emerging as an excellent example. The agency is taking important steps to protect the nation’s transportation infrastructure and all Americans who use it and depend on it every day. TSA has developed an emerging capability to disrupt plots through actionable intelligence in full coordination with the federal law enforcement community and has now thought through in considerable detail what it will take to recover from an emergency or a disaster.
As an early employee of the agency, I remember when we initially invaded Iraq, TSA stood up its first emergency operations center which was a transformed conference room with about a dozen laptops and as many phone lines put in place in order to be prepared for a terrorist retaliation. To say the least, not a lot of time was expended on planning – time was something we didn’t have.
TSA has come a remarkably long way since then. Today there is an agenc- wide Preparedness Committee that produces doctrine and response plans. Its purpose is to assure full coordination, and it has developed an advanced incident command structure so that everybody knows who is supposed to be doing what during a terrorist incident.
From my perspective, remembering the invasion of Iraq, the advances TSA has made in its emergency response capabilities are a significant and proud legacy of the Bush Administration for which each of us should be grateful.