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Big Retail – The Next Critical Infrastructure?

By Gary Warner
This week, President Obama unveiled a set of guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology and a new public-private partnership program. While I join with others in applauding Mr. Obama’s creativity in making progress in protecting our nation’s cyber infrastructure, it is important to note what is and what is not being addressed by these guidelines. Where, for example, does the Target Breach fall?

Border Surveillance is Necessary But at What Price?

There are a host of questions Congress ought to be asking about DHS’ use of Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to provide border surveillance. Congressional staff should know how the Predator’s cost stacks up against other alternative means of surveillance. Perhaps the problem is that decisions on what platform to use for border surveillance are not being made on the basis of risk-reward or cost-benefit.

CBP Ditches Predator in the Pacific Ocean

News reports are trickling out about a decision by a Customs and Border Patrol Predator operator to send a multi-million dollar unmanned aerial vehicle into the Pacific Ocean when it became clear it could not make it back to its home base. This incident demands serious questions from Congress about the future of CBP’s Predator drone use.

Water in West Virginia – An Ounce of Prevention…

Last Thursday, a chemical storage tank leaked about 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River, just one mile upstream from the West Virginia American Water plant. Thankfully, the water plant owner was forward thinking enough to invest in preparedness before an immediate need arose. This undoubtedly helped the plant respond to the chemical leak. Something tells me there’s a lesson there.

Congressional DHS Oversight is Overkill

Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge testified before the House Homeland Security Committee about the many leadership vacancies at DHS and Congress’ overlapping, uncoordinated legislative oversight. His testimony is absolutely right.

A New Year’s Hope for CFIUS

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is an increasingly robust regulator of foreign investments in U.S. businesses, policing these investments for possible harm to national security. But which investments? CFIUS reviews “covered transactions” that might adversely affect national security. If that’s unclear to you, you’re not alone – but you might be at risk.

DHS Nominee Johnson Shy of Expertise in Key Areas

The Honorable Jeh Johnson has been nominated to replace the long departed Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Janet Napolitano. Strangely, President Obama has portrayed Johnson as a highly qualified candidate. The President seems to be the only one who is impressed. There are a couple of major holes in Johnson’s resume.

One Cheer for Customs and Border

Five years ago, I could have written that CBP was the worst agency in the federal government, almost hopeless. It was not responsive to stakeholders, seemed resistant to doing business new ways, and was being starved of resources by Congress. Fortunately, recent leadership at CBP has been much more open to new thinking. Old policies and staffing models remain a frustration, but the attitude has changed for the better.

Risk in Full Disclosure – Chlorine Locations Posted

Last week, the Center for Effective Government (CEG) posted online a comprehensive list of how much chlorine water utilities have onsite and provided the specific coordinates of where they are stored. This information, while already available in the public domain, has never before been put on a single website because it could more easily give bad actors information to use for nefarious purposes. Here are a few questions for the CEG.

Foreign Buyers Beware – Dismissal of CFIUS Challenge

The United States might look less welcoming to foreign investment these days. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has ceased operations temporarily. Foreign investors seeking the “safe harbor” that CFIUS approval confers will have to wait until CFIUS resumes operations in order to close acquisitions of U.S. companies.