On October 10, 2001, I stood in the field of wreckage of the World Trade Center. Now, a dozen years later, I returned to the site of that destruction and terror. The memory of 9/11 persists, but the wreckage is long gone, replaced by the One World Trade Center. On this 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, building a resilient nation is as important as it has ever been. The World Trade Center site offers many lessons in that regard.
The Department of Homeland Security has been at the mercy of the White House, and nowhere has there been a greater concern than in the seeming lack of urgency in filling vacant positions. What else (other than incompetence) could explain the failure of this Administration to fill the multitude of vacant and dual-hatted positions in DHS leadership? As President Obama is likely to say in his Tuesday night national address, America must take action. Concerning DHS, the President should follow his own advice.
On Monday night, the Washington Sanitation and Suburban Commission (WSSC) announced that in order to do emergency repair work on a major main, it would be shutting down water service to roughly 150,000 people for a period of several days. Unfortunately, instead of celebrating this as a victory and recognizing how well WSSC handled this situation from top to bottom, there are those who are choosing to find ways to blame the utility for causing public alarm.
The Transportation Security Administration recently posted on its website a notice about some of the religious activities the traveling public may see in airports during the current Islamic holy month of Ramadan. This was a well-meaning effort from TSA, but it left me asking – who is making these decisions about communications to the public? There are some big problems with this notice to travelers.
Charles Kenny, a Fellow with the New America Foundation and the Center for Global Development, published an opinion piece in Bloomberg BusinessWeek called, “The Case for Abolishing the DHS.” He makes some powerfully accurate assessments on the return on investment from DHS, but as powerful as those arguments and examples may be, Kenny’s declaration that “closing the DHS is a small government solution that works” is a glass-is- half-empty summation that misses some important metrics.
At the beginning of June, NATO held the first Alliance meeting of ministers dedicated exclusively to the subject of cyber defense. this comes at a time when countries are strapped for funds and citizens have little appetite for additional defense expenditures. In the months ahead, NATO will decide how to support members that are the target of cyber attack and request aid. As always, the real test resides in the manner and extent to which agreed-upon principles are operationalized.
In an era of diminished budgets and vanishing security grants, a recent break in at the Carters Lake Water Treatment Plant in Georgia highlights how the federal government is leaving small water systems, and the communities they serve, hanging in the wind. I’m not suggesting DHS throw obscene amounts of money at rural water systems, but I would argue that these systems can make major strides with small amounts of money.
Americans are suspicious of drones. Reports of the unmanned aerial vehicles’ use in war zones have raised concerns about what they might do here at home. For instance, in Seattle earlier this year, a public outcry forced the police department to abandon plans for eye-in-the-sky UAV helicopters.
For all the calls to consider ramping up rail security after police foiled what’s being called the first al-Qaeda directed plot in the country, experts suggest investing in counter-terrorism intelligence remains the best way to keep the public safe.
In 1999 a technology manager called Kevin Ashton coined the phrase “The Internet of Things”. Today, these “things” now include elements of our critical national infrastructure via what are called SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems or ICS (Industrial Control Systems). Unfortunately, these systems can be just as vulnerable to attack as our laptops.