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.
By David Trulio
Close partnerships and trust built over time – within the U.S. Government and with foreign partners – were key themes as Admiral William McRaven, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, kicked off this year’s Aspen Security Forum this week here in Aspen, Colorado. Consideration of security matters can often quickly gravitate toward such specifics as personnel, budgets, and weapons systems, but McRaven emphasized what are sometimes overlooked fundamentals to an audience of homeland security and counterterrorism professionals, as well as interested citizens.
Last week, Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, Director Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), testified in a closed session before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security on the threat posed by IEDs in the United States. Lt. Gen. Barbero knows better than anyone how the knowledge and experience of bomb makers in Afghanistan and Iraq can be easily transferred here to conduct attacks in the United States. The trend is clear – we need to take this threat as seriously as we are taking the cyber threat.
People talk. That’s a fact. Whether at the water cooler, the fence post or on Facebook, people talk about almost anything and everything. Eventually though we all reach a point where what we really should do is just shut up. We’ve long crossed that point when it comes to intelligence and national security operations in this country. Lately there have been a truly disturbing number of very public examples that bring these conditions to light.
A panel at the MilBloggers Conference provided a very interesting discussion earlier this month. The main point of the meeting is that the news media covers the military differently. Social media is driving fast reporting online and has created a constant drumbeat for information NOW. The panel was asked if this effect has created a tabloid-type, low quality product today. The reporters agreed blogs add a valuable corrective and much positive context to the media landscape.
I attended the MilBlogger’s Conf in Arlington on May 12. Congressman Randy Forbes was the keynote speaker, who noted most people in Washington are only asking, “How can we cut spending in the military?” They must ask, “What is the effect on the security of these cut?” Forbes reminded everyone present that most Americans (and a lot of legislators) simply do not understand that cuts to the military will actually have consequences.
Should President Obama be taking credit for the removal of Usama bin Laden from this mortal realm? The short answer is “yes,” based on the logic that if the mission that got UBL had failed, Obama would have had to take the blame. That said, it is a distorted view to think that nothing was done until before the present Administration arrived, and no one should be credited except President Obama.
The U.S. Secret Service, the TSA and the U.S. Military have all been involved in recent public relations disasters that exposed poor choices on the part of federal employees and disrupted the public trust in government agencies. Fallout continues over the Secret Service prostitution scandal in Colombia. News reports of TSA agents breaking rules and laws are ongoing. Military personnel have been caught in photos urinating on dead bodies and in other offensive acts. Why did these incidents occur and what can be done to ensure they do not happen again?
An elective course called “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism” was summarily cancelled at the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA by General Marty Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The course apparently had asserted, “Islam is at war with the West.” OK, the Chairman gets high marks for ensuring we don’t offend anyone, but Al Qaeda, its affiliates and ideological progeny have declared war on the West. They did it well before 9/11, and they have never declared even a ceasefire.
One of the great things about the United States is that our forefathers wrote and established a timeless Constitution as a cornerstone to the best nation in the world. It is the basis for the best legal system in the world, where citizens are afforded due process. Sadly, there are more and more instances where the press has self-appointed itself judge, jury and even attorney for both sides. What happened to reporting the facts and not opinions? Indeed, many in the press have tried and convicted the Secret Service agents and officers that were in Colombia recently.