It is no coincidence that President Obama delivered his Jobs Creation Plan only three days before the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. In addition to the loss of thousands of lives, the attacks on September 11 resulted in a decade-long Global War on Terror, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and expenditure of billions of dollars to secure our country, which have all had a significant impact on our current economic crisis. Don’t get me wrong – we needed to spend the money on the GWOT, and it was imperative that we exponentially grow the federal government’s ability to protect this nation from further attacks.
Since the attacks, we have made tremendous progress, and our nation is more secure today than at any time in our history. However, we have a long way to go before we can declare that we are at a level of security that we need to be – if we will ever be able to make that statement. Though we have made progress, we have significant vulnerabilities in our physical and digital infrastructures. The question remains: how do we continue to reduce vulnerabilities without breaking the bank?
The Job Creation Plan is an opportunity to actively link our economic security with our nation’s security. The Jobs Creation Plan should not only focus on “shovel ready jobs” and infrastructure but should also help this nation build the long-term capacity to protect itself in a sustainable way. The President’s Plan calls for the creation of an Infrastructure Bank – it is a perfect way to link funding for loans and improvements to the nation’s infrastructure to very specific goals the federal government has identified to improve security as well. Since the creation of DHS, we have called for metrics to better understand how the billions of dollars in spending has had a material impact on reducing our vulnerabilities. This has been an elusive goal – we still cannot quantify what we have gotten in return for spending the money. Here are just a few things that could get us closer to that goal through the Obama Administration’s Job Creation Plan:
1. Focus infrastructure spending in the areas we need to provide infrastructure security (bridges, tunnels, cyber and mass transportation infrastructure). DHS has identified many of the vulnerabilities to infrastructure that could be addressed through such projects. We would then be able to link the investment to the list of the thousands of vulnerabilities that need to be reduced and finally be able to quantify the progress.
2. Require companies, as well as local and state governments, that receive the benefits of the Job Creation Plan to articulate how a portion of that money will improve their security.
3. Focus on developing workers who can respond to the needs we have in the Sciences and Engineering disciplines to regain our edge and create jobs that can contribute to the economy in the long term. There are thousands of unemployed, newly minted graduates every year who have the skills and education needed to help us build the technical capacity we need. We need cyber security engineers at an unprecedented level to respond to the inherent weaknesses in our cyber networks. Every day, citizens and companies are at significant risk to financial loss from cyber attacks, and the overwhelming majority of computer users don’t have the money or a clue about how to adequately protect themselves. Let’s put a high tech civilian corps in place that can help people better protect their identities, finances and data.
We know that the economic security of this country is highly dependent on our ability to create and secure an infrastructure that supports our financial, energy, telecommunications, transportation, and other systems that we depend upon every day and upon which our economy runs. Let’s take this opportunity to make a lasting change that we can benefit from for the generations to come.