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
WMD, Chemical and Biological
August 31st, 2012 - by Steven Bucci
August 30th, 2012 - by L. Vance Taylor
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.
August 25th, 2011 - by Steven Bucci
The present, predominant view that Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) is confined to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High Yield Explosives (CBRNE) only is now passé. Many people do not even include the “E”. This is far too narrow a view! At least two other categories must be included in the pantheon of WMD. These are cyber weapons and economic warfare.
August 10th, 2011 - by James Carafano
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack – produced by a nuclear weapon detonated at a high altitude or by a geomagnetic storm – has the potential to decimate America’s electrical and technological infrastructure. The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack found that an EMP is a threat to our society and military. Yet, despite broad consensus, Congress has yet to act in a substantive manner. For the most part, U.S. government agencies have not taken planning for their response to an EMP attack out of the theoretical stages.
The Center for a New American Security released an excellent study – “Aum Shinrikyo: Insights Into How Terrorists Develop Biological and Chemical Weapons.” The result is a superb history of a singular event in modern terrorism history – the Sarin nerve gas attack on Tokyo in 1995. The CNAS team shows how a small group of dedicated loyalists can pull off some acts that many “experts” still persist in saying only nation states can do and highlight that sixteen years later, still facing a threat from terrorists, we need to learn more from this incident.
In a recent Washington Examiner column, Gene Healy, a vice president at the Cato Institute, suggests that we worry too much about serious threats to national security. He posits that we are in an era of great peace and stability. To downplay the threat of bioterrorism, Mr. Healy quotes Milton Leitenberg from the University of Maryland: “The idea that four guys in a cave are going to create bioweapons from scratch — that will be never, ever, ever.” The statements of both Mr. Healy and Mr. Leitenberg require rebuttal.
April 7th, 2011 - by Daniel Kaniewski
Please join the GW Homeland Security Policy Institute for a discussion about Presidential Policy Directive – 8: National Preparedness, featuring Brian Kamoie, Senior Director for Preparedness Policy on the White House National Security Staff. President Barack Obama signed a new Presidential Policy Directive on National Preparedness last week and the Directive will be publicly released at this event.
March 24th, 2011 - by Guest Contributor
By Doug Doan
The FDA has decided to start monitoring the radiation levels of Japanse Exports. No doubt the announcement was carefully constructed to make Americans feel better about the food they eat, while simultaneously reminding everyone that the FDA is on the job of food safety. It might just work too. Most Americans, have absolutely no idea how products are screening at our various Ports of Entry before they enter the United States. But for anyone that has been around a bit, the FDA announcement can only be viewed with intense skepticism.
By Peter Probst
Here is an excerpt from an article to be published in the winter edition of the magazine, “Inside Homeland Security.” I recently returned from Israel where I had been invited to speak at the World Wide Counter-Terrorism Summit. An issue that dominated much of the discussions concerned the threat of a nuclear Iran, and how Israel and the US would likely respond to the challenge. Virtually every Israeli I spoke to was adamant that Iran could not be permitted to go nuclear. There was less certainty as to the degree and nature of support Israel could expect from its friends and allies.
As an article by Security Management’s Matthew Harwood reminds us, Homeland Security has not “taken seriously the threat that a high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon could fry the nation’s power grid[.]” Dr. Michael J. Frankel is executive director of the EMP Commission, which was created in 2001 to study the national security threat an EMP attack could pose to the United States. If anything, Frankel underplays the scope of the threat. The catastrophe would not stop at our borders, and the Earth would likely recede into the “new” Dark Ages.
August 17th, 2010 - by Chris Battle
Back in 2006, before George W. Bush’s approval ratings dropped through the basement into somewhere around the fourth circle of hell, it made political sense for the congressional Democrats to attack the Republican administration on cargo security. They were fighting to regain control of Congress and had to show that they, too, were capable of protecting the American people from another terrorist attack. They found themselves an effective–if inaccurate–sound bite in accusing the administration of screening a mere 5 percent of cargo coming into the country. But are they seriously going to continue this bizarre effort? Even President Obama’s Administration thinks this is a terrible idea.
August 6th, 2010 - by Chris Krebs
Late last week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) unanimously approved a bill to extend the DHS Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program for an additional three years. The bill includes several contentious provisions, including “inherently-safer technology (IST)” review, chief among the attention-getters. IST is great idea in theory but looking at IST in the larger scheme of chemical facility issues, IST is really just a component of a more complex trade off assessment, going well beyond merely switching out chemicals.
By Adam Salerno
When Congress passed the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, the law mandated 100 Percent Screening of cargo onboard passenger aircraft “commensurate with checked baggage.” The deadline for that mandate is this weekend, August 1, 2010. The law seeks to ensure that all 20 million lbs. of cargo is screened in advance of flights for explosive detection prior to transport. While a changing world dictates new necessities to secure the supply chain, the need for expedited trade is an important priority that must be maintained. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recognizes this fact, which is why we support a multi-layered risk based approach to security which maximizes effectiveness and minimizes impact on businesses.
Two Senate committees, three chemical security bills and one issue to rule them all – the role of so-called Inherently Safer Technologies (ISTs) in America’s approach to safeguarding communities from acts of terrorism. With DHS’ Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) set to expire in October, lawmakers in the Senate are taking steps to keep it alive. What form the program ultimately takes will depend on whether legislators choose to focus on politics or national security.
As we continue to swelter in the ongoing summer heat wave, it is easy for me to reminisce about my recent visit to Aspen, Colo. Tucked amongst the Rockies with its clean air, fervent green and majestic views, a town known primarily for its skiing with the rich and famous was home to what was, simply put, the best conference program I have ever attended. The first annual Aspen Security Forum put forward a program that I can only describe as pleasant, informational waterboarding. By the time each of the presenters and panelists were done, my hand was dead from writing so much and my head hurt from being given the firehouse treatment of a candor and content overload. Here’s a rundown of some of the sessions.
June 25th, 2010 - by David Olive
Earlier this week, the House Homeland Security Committee marked up the WMD Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2010 in an effort to implement recommendations from the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism (the so-called Graham-Talent WMD Commission). Despite the clearly recognized threat of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, congressional leadership still had not recognized that its failure to defragment congressional oversight of homeland security matters is contributing to our lack of preparedness for when this attack occurs. Shame on them if they don’t pay attention to the warnings from Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Peter King (R-NY) at the time of the WMD bill markup.
As every person knows, words have consequences. They can raise someone up or tear them down. Depending on how they are used, words can change the meaning and significance of events. They can also ruin someone’s career, and the past days and weeks have given us example after example of just that. In each of these instances, prominent people have essentially opened their respective mouths and inserted their feet with such speed that everyone around them is in a collective gasp of shock, saying, “What did you say?” When the wrong words are used in moments of stress and crisis (e.g., Gulf oil spill, Afghanistan conflict), the consequences can be grave.
April 26th, 2010 - by Sam Rosenfeld
The determination to proceed with the Prompt Global Strike (PGS) weapon system by the Obama Administration, as reported by the New York Times, raises interesting questions about the long-term future of nuclear weapons. PGS is effectively a tactical nuclear weapon without the messy nuclear after-effects. The system definitely has its advocates and detractors, its good points and bad. However, in a world the President is determined to make nuclear free, it is a step in the right direction.
Here is what is wrong with the Nuclear Security Summit. It reminds me of the old joke about the drunk looking for his keys under a lamppost when he actually lost them around the corner, but he looked under the lamppost because “the light was better.” If it seems like I am arguing the whole thing was for show…to suggest that the President’s road to zero is going somewhere rather than no where…well yes, that is where I think it is going.
April 7th, 2010 - by Guest Contributor
By Chris Krebs
Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle added some fuel to the smoldering chemical security legislation fire with an article claiming that DHS has inspected only 12 of 6,000 facilities requiring special security measures. But DHS’s chemical security activities take a multilayered approach to protection and resilience that relies on public private partnerships and interagency coordination.