For the past few months, a Blue Ribbon Panel on Biodefense has been receiving input from industry and policy experts on the challenges America faces from the bio-related threats. The public testimony portion of their assignment recently concluded, and now the Panel will begin its review and recommendation work.
Good Idea, Bad Idea is a weekly recap of the brilliant and stupid things America’s homeland security community does every day, because sarcasm is good for the soul. This week, a cat catches the tongue of OHA’s Dr. Kathy Brinsfield and Sen. Chuck Schumer gets a paper cut.
The House Homeland Security Committee did something yesterday it has not done in the past several years, for anyone: it came out in full force for DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s maiden appearance before the committee. It was a positive performance by the Secretary, who showed himself adept at answering questions, even as his lawyer’s instincts kept him from falling into political traps.
Biological weapons present a potentially catastrophic threat to the United States, and one way the nation’s security professionals have sought to mitigate this threat is through BioWatch, a detection warning system. The program’s flaws and high costs have prompted some to call for the end of BioWatch, but as I wrote in a recent piece for the LA Times, this is not a good idea.
The Aspen Institute’s Security Forum, held at the end of July, proved why it has become, in only three years, a “must-attend” event for those of us working in the homeland and national security space. The four-day program was packed with insight from leading thinkers and past and present policy makers and influencers on the subject of national and homeland security. There was not a single bad panel, but three sessions stood out in my mind as being a slight cut above the rest.
Events of the past decade—including 9/11, the anthrax attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic—have shown that public health and emergency management efforts are interconnected and often overlap in time of crisis. In a report just released by our Preparedness, Response, and Resilience Task Force, we believe that the legacy missions of public health and emergency management must be synchronized for disaster preparedness and response efforts to be effective.
I worry that we are sliding toward a “Guns of August” scenario over Tehran’s nuclear program. I worry that rhetoric and potential policy choices may bring about the very outcome we seek to avoid and unleash unforeseen and uncontrollable forces. Stoking this concern is the fact that despite a lack of intelligence suggesting Iran is moving toward weaponization, the chorus of those calling for direct military strikes to interdict such is sounding off with increasing frequency and volume. With this comes the risk that ex ante policy objectives may be getting ahead of both intelligence and strategy.