The images from Hurricane Sandy are jaw dropping. From flooded subway stations, waterfalls into the Ground Zero area, destroyed piers, boardwalks and homes, Hurricane Sandy – “The Frankenstorm” – was a big one that Mid-Atlantic States, New Jersey and NYC have long feared. Right now, we don’t know the full costs in lost lives or destroyed infrastructure and homes, but we do know this – it’s going to take some time to get things back to any sense of normal in the affected regions.
On the day before the Labor Day weekend, the White House released the President’s latest “National Preparedness Month” Proclamation. Like last year’s, the proclamation employs the term “resilience.” Yet, the White House remains unwilling to act to establish resilience as the nation’s preparedness objective and daily operating condition. Rhetoric is not results.
In a recent op-ed, Christine Todd Whitman, the former head of the EPA, proposed greater regulation of the U.S. chemical sector because the current regulations aren’t working. Gov. Whitman is right on one thing: the current system isn’t working, but it is not because of a lack of regulation. Chemical companies have tried, but DHS isn’t keeping up
Yesterday, the New York Times ran an editorial by Christine Todd Whitman, titled “The Chemical Threat to America.” In the op-ed, the author calls on the Administration to expand and implement chemical security regulations in the water sector as a means to protect America. She advocates that the federal government should be able to mandate chemical processes and force water systems to use so-called Inherently Safer Technologies. Ms. Whitman is smart and capable, but on this issue she is wrong, wrong, wrong.
With the recent heat waves and storms that have impacted millions of people throughout the United States, much is being written about the nation’s inability to prevent and recover quickly from destructive events. I am not yet ready to start placing blame – there are lots of things I should have done to be prepared. Individual responsibility leads to community preparedness. Here are some thoughts the disruptions bring to mind.
A week ago, with a heat wave bearing down on the eastern United States, heavy storms left millions of homes without power, mine being one of them. Homeland security has morphed from being just about protecting the homeland from madmen to something more like civil defense, which includes protecting critical infrastructure. While we seem to be doing OK against the most egregious threats, our vulnerability to infrastructure disruption remains a problem. We need no more excuses about how bad the thunderstorms were; we have a problem that makes us vulnerable.
Once again, America is officially under attack. According to multiple reports, including an “incident response” report from the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), U.S. natural gas pipeline companies are at the center of a major cyber attack campaign. While I’m certain that some in Congress will use this latest cyber attack campaign as fodder to further their cyber security legislation, I do not believe we can legislate our way out of this problem.
It is always difficult to fully absorb the lessons from wide-scale crises in the wake of the catastrophe. Information is often incomplete or contradictory, or still evolving. Learning these lessons, however, provides an opportunity to address the shortfalls of catastrophic disaster response.
The EPA was set to disregard the counsel of the Department of Justice, water system owners/operators and security experts by posting the non-Off-site Consequence Analysis (non-OCA) sections of the water sector’s RMPs this summer. Amid industry outcry, the EPA changed course and decided to postpone re-establishing public Internet access for certain highly security sensitive categories of information collected by its Risk Management Plan (RMP) Program. Irwin Fletcher said, “It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. I am NOT a big man.” Such is the case with the EPA.
Ten years from now, global water shortages are likely to threaten U.S. security interests. Ask the Director of National Intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency or someone from the Central Intelligence Agency; better yet, read the most recent National Intelligence Estimate. According to a senior U.S. intelligence official who briefed reporters on this issue (on condition of anonymity), there is an increasing likelihood that water will be “potentially used as a weapon, where one state denies access to another.”