Following up on my last post, picking up where I left off…
Border security is about more than just physical borders. In an era in which many enterprises are transnational and essentially stateless, physical borders are just one checkpoint in a broader series of systems that move people, products, money, data, and information around the planet—systems that function as the arteries for the global economy. We need to work with our international partners and the private sector to secure our nation, while also facilitating the efficient flow of legitimate travel and commerce into America and throughout the world.
Nothing terribly surprising here. Given the global economy, it stands to reason that we’ll have to engage other countries in order to have any chance at successfully monitoring international terrorism.
It’s also past time to rethink aviation security and to stop frisking toddlers and grandmothers trying to get onto planes.
This plays well with frustrated travelers, but it’s a somewhat dangerous idea, as it can lead to decreased levels of queue security. We already have a number of problems with having three sets of airport security: normal folks, people whose names match someone on the terrorist watch list, and people on the no-fly list. Yes, our security processes at airports are egregiously stupid (I could link about a thousand additional links, but just search Bruce’s blog if you’re interested or start here). Creating a fourth category of “people we assume to be not dangerous because of their age” might lead you to decide that they ought to pass through without the same basic security checks as everyone else. This assumes that someone won’t slip bombs into their bags (this has been done, by the way). If our basic level of security screening is messed up, the right way to fix this problem is to fix the basic level of security screening. Yes, interrogating five year olds and threatening their parents is the height of stupidity. On the other hand, failing to adequately scan toddlers and grandmothers just means that terrorists will try to smuggle bombs on planes by planting them on toddlers and grandmothers or other seemingly “less likely to be terrorist” carriers – in 1986, a pregnant Irish woman boarding an El-Al flight was found to have a bomb planted in her luggage by her boyfriend.
Instead, good intelligence, behavior analysis, biometrics, and trusted traveler programs can help speed legitimate travelers through airports. For example, I don’t think that the Transportation Security Administration needs to spend much time searching Senator Ted Kennedy before he boards a plane—which is what the TSA did in August 2004 because a person on a watch list had a similar name.
This is a collection of good ideas and bad ones jumbled together. Good intelligence I agree with. Behavior analysis is one of the best ways to spot potential security threats, but requires a very high level of training, which is a significant problem given the number of airports and the amount of security personnel who need to be properly trained (quite simply, it takes a long time to train someone properly in behavior analysis and they justifiably want to be paid much more than what we pay basic screeners now). Biometrics have no place in this discussion whatsoever; face recognition technology works great when you have an existing, finite database of faces “known to be good” that you’re checking against, but the false positive problem makes the converse problem impossible. There are about 700 million airline passengers in the US every year. Even if your suspect database was good enough to be 99.9% accurate, that would mean that you’d have about 700,000 false alarms a year. The Trusted Traveler program is just a horrible idea altogether for a number of reasons (again, too many references to link here), but just to toss out a couple of prominent ones: terrorists could apply for the Trusted Traveler program, and if rejected they know they’re on some sort of danger list which leaves them warned at no risk to themselves and ready to plan something else; terrorists could find people in the Trusted Traveler program and use them to smuggle bombs onto planes. Oh, and if I have to wait in a 1 hour security line to travel, Ted Kennedy can wait too. I’m no more or less of a threat than he is, letting him breeze through security while making me wait means my elected officials have a completely skewed view of how bad our airline security processes are.
The federal Terrorist Watch List, which still has incomplete and inaccurate information, needs a serious cleanup.
I’ll agree with this one wholeheartedly, but I want to hear specific plans as to what Mr. Giuliani has in mind. How do you plan on cleaning it up? How do you plan on letting people contest the fact that their names are on the list? Are you thinking about creating yet another list of people who have names that are on the Terrorist Watch List but can be treated like normal people if they have some special pass? What is your proposal?
Preparedness, the second core homeland security principle, is the key to getting America ready to withstand the terrorist strikes that may occur and the natural disasters that will occur.
Now we’re starting to get to the part where I imagine I’ll be agreeing with Mr. Giuliani more often (again, with the caveat that this should be Principle One, not two).
One reason New York City was able to withstand the 9/11 attack was that we were prepared to meet twenty-first-century security threats. As mayor of New York, in the spring of 1996, I established the Office of Emergency Management. We drilled and planned for various threats—anthrax, chemical weapons, hurricanes, and airplane crashes. And while we didn’t anticipate the specific scenario of 9/11, the constant practice, and the relentless follow-up from actual emergencies, certainly helped in its aftermath.
Whoops, spoke too soon. New York City didn’t “withstand” the 9/11 attack, it took the 9/11 attack directly on the chin. I’ll give all the credit in the world to New Yorkers for how quickly they got up off the mat and shook it off, but make no bones about it, the city was knocked flat. Mr. Giuliani deserves significant credit for relentless work in the immediate aftermath, I will give him full kudos for active and well thought out leadership in the days following the attack. I will also say that I admire the tenacity and commitment of the emergency workers who gave utterly of themselves even to the point of their lives and in some cases their ongoing heath. But I will not outright give Mr. Giuliani any credit for his Office of Emergency Management without knowing exactly how well the training provided by that office actually assisted the emergency responders above and beyond their normal training. His response after the attack? Exemplary. His forethought and planning prior to the attack? I would want to see much more information. If he’s willing to spend billions of dollars stockpiling anthrax vaccine as part of his current plans for national security, that’s a pretty serious red flag that his Office of Emergency Management may have spent quite a chunk of change irresponsibly (if anyone out there has a link to an audit of the O.E.M., I’d like to read it).
We need to ensure that similar offices of emergency management are a standard element in local disaster preparation, and make certain that all first responders are trained to use the Incident Command System (ICS), a standardized emergency protocol that reduces potential miscommunication during the initial phases of incident response. The immediate response to a disaster or an attack determines how many people live and how many die. Fire departments nationwide have been out front in using the ICS; the rest of the public-safety community can learn from their example.
Our nation must also move forward in creating an effective emergency management communications network—a standard, expanded bandwidth for localities around the nation to share information and work in concert, even if a catastrophic disaster wipes out normal communications systems.
I agree with this as well. The opening of the 700MHz band and the reservation of a substantial chunk of it for public safety purposes is an excellent opportunity for a nationwide, standard wireless communication network dedicated to public safety and emergency response which can be developed and deployed without impacting existing emergency communication systems. This in and of itself is an incredibly complex task, however, and requires lots of really smart people to spend lots of time developing something that is appropriately scalable, flexible, and robust. Hey, this might be something that would produce much more effective results on a per-dollar basis than a big fence!
Effective preparedness requires the expansion of both international and domestic syndromic surveillance systems monitoring such things as hospital emergency-room admissions for upticks in specific symptoms, pharmacy sales of antibiotics and other drugs, and other tools of epidemiological surveillance. We need to make these systems a major national priority because they are critical to identifying and giving early warning of pandemics and stealth biochemical attacks that could kill thousands.
If this is the reasoning, this is a waste of money (this isn’t me talking, this is the American Medical Association). It would be a good tool for drug enforcement agents looking for prescription drug abusers, I suppose. I doubt you could build such a system that would clear the security and privacy conditions of HIPAA. Whether or not this is a good idea would depend entirely upon how much it cost, how much additional warning time we would have (how much more quickly we could identify the event as a pandemic or stealth biochemical attack), whether or not that warning time could be translated into effective action (i.e., if “officials know earlier” can’t translate into “public action can be taken earlier” and “public action will reduce the threat”, then we get no benefit), and what risks you have created by building such an information gathering tool.
And before medical disasters do strike, we should strengthen and better coordinate the federal National Disaster Medical System, so that we can more effectively deploy doctors and medical staff to disaster areas without getting them snarled in red tape. After Hurricane Katrina, some volunteer health professionals who came from other states were stopped because local authorities could not determine whether they had licenses to practice. Desperately needed medical volunteers found themselves turned away or thrown into hopeless bureaucratic mazes—ultimately prevented from helping those in need.
Cogent, well thought out disaster response plans are definitely a great idea. Creating another federal system in this particular case is probably not a step in the right direction. The Katrina example is bad; this shows more that local authorities were poor at risk assessment than anything else. Training local authorities how to respond in the event of an emergency would have eliminated this problem; they didn’t need a way to check health professional credentials, they needed the training to know that the existing procedure (verify credentials before allowing practice) was poorly adapted to emergency response. I can think of any number of methods of verifying (within reasonable risk) that someone is a competent medical professional (like, say, letting the doctors you have available interview them for 2 minutes or so) that don’t require building another federal system. Poor decisions by the authorities in the middle is best solved by training the authorities in the middle how to lead better.
We also need to expand teams of disaster-response specialists, such as the Urban Search and Rescue teams—groups made up of fire, law enforcement, medical, and other public-safety personnel, which conduct search, rescue, and medical operations during disasters and can deploy whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
I absolutely agree with this one. Of course, it’s expensive, so you have to be willing to come up with the money to pay for it somehow. Is this worth raising taxes? If it’s not, what are you going to cut to pay for it?
The failure to respond effectively in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath demonstrated to all Americans that their government wasn’t prepared in every part of the country to respond to disaster.
Katrina and the aftermath have actually demonstrated exactly three things to me.
The first is that spending in this country is badly skewed due to the fact that politicians are elected for short terms, and disaster planning is a long term investment. It was known for quite some time that the levees were in bad shape, just like it is well known that bridges in this country are inadequately maintained, and the levees in California need to be repaired, and our highways are falling apart, and our health care system is closing emergency rooms at a prodigious rate. Again, if we want these incredibly important problems addressed, we have two options: raise taxes, or cut something else. It’s nice that you agree with me that it needs to be done, tell me how you plan to do it.
The second is that we are currently woefully bad, nationally, at long term recovery plans. Hurricane Katrina happened in August of 2005. It’s now 2008, and New Orleans is still in need of major work. We seem to have better luck here in California, where it took 66 days to rebuild the freeways after the Northridge earthquake.
The third (and actually most telling) is that Katrina and the aftermath were a failure of leadership, at every level. When a disaster such as this occurs, leaders are the ones who get things done in spite of red tape (here again, I’ll give Mr. Giuliani credit for his work in the aftermath of 9/11). Many, many of the problems that occurred in the aftermath of Katrina simply wouldn’t have had the impact that they did if the right people made the right phone calls. There is no excuse for this, period. Katrina represents a blistering indictment of everyone involved in a leadership position, from the President on down.
Fixing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and working to ensure that all levels of government are ready to respond to catastrophic disasters are not simply a matter of throwing more money at the problem or increasing the size of Washington bureaucracies. These goals require building on our federal system—continuing to rely on state and local communities to prepare for catastrophic disasters, while at the same time strengthening the federal government’s vital role in coordinating disaster-relief efforts and helping local communities to access the federal resources available to them.
I essentially agree with this except for the fact that the first line discounts the fact that “throwing more money at the problem” is actually desperately, desperately needed at this point, as I pointed out above. You can’t keep emergency rooms open without money. You can’t fix bridges and levees without money. You can’t train USR teams without money. We need more money in these systems, and we need it now. I want to know where the money is going to come from. Reworking the bureaucracies is a good idea, but good leadership from the top can bull through a bad bureaucracy. Retooling FEMA is important, but retooling FEMA without fixing our infrastructure is going to result in lots of people standing around during the next emergency saying, “Well, we know what to do this time, but we don’t have the resources to do it.”
This requires getting the Department of Homeland Security out of its Washington Beltway mind-set and strengthening its leadership capabilities throughout the country. FEMA is currently organized around ten regions. DHS should build on these underused regional structures, working with relevant state, local, and private-sector entities to identify potential vulnerabilities; highlight critical infrastructure in need of additional protection or upgrade; and, in general, coordinate the federal role in helping state and local governments respond. DHS regional directors should play a key role in determining where federal resources—including grant dollars—can best improve preparedness, and they can assess state and local capabilities and preparedness levels.
This isn’t a terribly bad paragraph, but I find myself annoyed by “out of its Washington Beltway mind-set and…”. The rest of the paragraph makes sense, but inclusion of this bit seems like pandering. That is, unless Mr. Giuliani is going to defend this characterization.
DHS regional directors should also be at the center of a broad program of training exercises and disaster planning for all military, federal, state, local, and private-sector leaders—the men and women who will be called upon when the stakes are high and time is short. When disaster strikes, regional directors, local government officials, and crucial private-sector actors should not be handing out business cards for the first time.
This is a great idea. Of course, getting all these people together and having them interact takes money. Keeping these relationships active means just throwing them together once isn’t enough; they need to meet with some sort of regularity. They need to share information. They need to communicate.
We should also better marshal the resources of the private sector—before disaster strikes, so that we’re not left flat-footed when companies such as Wal-Mart or UPS offer to help, as after Katrina. An enhanced regional preparedness network is vital to our ability to weather the inevitable shocks and catastrophes that will come our way.
I think it is a good idea to have an existing method for dealing with private-sector offers for help, certainly. We need to be careful with planning “before disaster strikes”, however. Knowing how to incorporate offers of help is great. Planning ahead of time that Wal-Mart will do something specific isn’t great; we don’t want to rely on something that Wal-Mart may be unable to provide in the future when something actually occurs.
We need, further, to bring a higher degree of predictability to the funding formulas for homeland security, ending anonymous earmarks and pork-barrel politics. We can’t afford to build a Bridge to Nowhere while real bridges collapse in Minnesota.
This means that the Department of Transportation needs to have standards, and a mandate to meet those standards, and funds provided to match that mandate. This means that funding for DoT, which needs to include long term planning, can’t be decided upon on a yearly basis. This means that DoT needs to be politically independent, where transportation projects are funded based upon agreed priorities, established by transportation experts instead of political animals. This also means that there needs to be a classification for critical infrastructure upgrades which cannot be cut out of DoT’s budget; you’re accepting here that you’re going to commit money, which means you’re either raising taxes or cutting something else.
A Compstat-like system can help us here, too. Federal officials need a new “Readystat” system to measure localities’ preparedness against risks and prioritize federal funding accordingly. Readystat would conduct annual assessments to determine the needs of each locality based on geography, population, and the unique threats that each community faces. These data would then be used as an objective guide to funding and grant decisions. Armed with the data, DHS regional directors would also work with state and local leaders to ensure preparedness. Readystat could have pointed out New Orleans’s pre-Katrina vulnerabilities and given us the chance to correct them.
Readystat would also help the regional directors work with state and local officials to fill capability gaps, such as persistent vulnerabilities in our infrastructure, much of which was built between the 1930s and the 1960s. As an expert from the Urban Land Institute recently pointed out, “We have an impending crisis with infrastructure, but it is easy to ignore until you have a catastrophe.”
America can’t afford to wait for a catastrophe. We need to address the impending crisis beforehand by strengthening the nation’s physical infrastructure. This cannot and should not be entirely a federal responsibility; in most areas, local officials who know their communities and are more accountable to citizens should take the lead.
As previously mentioned, it was well known that the New Orleans’s pre-Katrina vulnerabilities existed. We don’t need another “-stat” system to tell us this, we need the political will to fund these repairs instead of putting them off in the name of keeping some other program funded or preventing tax increases. [ed. note. – I’ll say “Lockbox” again]. Tell me that you’ll raise taxes before you’ll postpone these critical repairs, Mr. Giuliani. Tell me that you’re making your economic stimulus package include injecting money into the economy through construction projects. Tell me that you’ll cut education or social security or whatever it is that you want to cut to fund these projects. *This* would constitute an actual plan.
But in some circumstances, it makes sense for the federal government to play an important role—for instance, securing vulnerable infrastructure that could kill thousands if attacked by terrorists, such as nuclear power plants, chemical plants using dangerous compounds, or rail systems moving toxic materials. And the security of mass transit systems is the responsibility of both local authorities and the federal government.
There are about 15,000 chemical plants in the U.S. If it cost $500,000 to secure a chemical plant it would take $7,500,000,000 to secure them all (The actual cost would be much higher, given the size of a chemical plant, the types of equipment that would have to be installed, the background checks you’d have to perform on the employees, etc.) There are 140,490 miles of railway in the United States. If it cost $2.9 million per mile to build a fence, it’s not unreasonable to say it would cost at least that much to secure a mile of railway, that puts the price tag for “securing our rail system” at a bare bones minimum of $407,421,000,000 (that’s almost a half a trillion dollars, in case you’re miscounting the zeros). In the immortal words of Rod Tidwell, “Show me the money!”
This brings us to the third core principle: resilience. A resilient society depends on active, engaged citizens. The way for Washington to encourage resilience is not to throw more money at problems or to place new burdens on business. Government should harness the inherent strength of the American people and the private sector in order to build a society that may bend—but not break—if catastrophe does strike.
I agree that harnessing the power of the people is a good goal. Building community networks is a good idea. Enabling the citizens as contributing members of your disaster plans is great. Characterizing this as something that is more effective than dealing with the actual outstanding gigantic fiscal problem by implying that money isn’t desperately needed is garbage.
The American people are ready, willing, and able to take a more active role in our civil defense. As the White House’s own Lessons Learned report on the federal response to Hurricane Katrina notes, faith-based organizations and community groups successfully provided support to the victims of the hurricane “in spite of, not because of, the government.” Within 72 hours of Katrina’s hitting the Gulf Coast, for instance, a faith-based nonprofit organization—Helping Americans Needing Disaster Support (Hands)— formed to speed delivery of supplies to victims. Just a week after being created, Hands was sending 75 truckloads of supplies for every one FEMA truckload.
This should be regarded less as an endorsement of faith-based groups and more as a critique of the leadership of FEMA at the time. Los Angeles didn’t need this level of support from faith-based groups after Northridge. FEMA did a fine job in responding to the southern California wildfires last year. Yes, help from everywhere should be leveraged. Katrina, however, keeps being trucked out as an example of “Big Government being Incompetent”, instead of “Brownie was Incompetent”. Faith-based groups I’m certain would be glad to retain those resources to help needy people on a daily basis, instead of being relied upon as the safety net for when disasters occur.
We can help strengthen citizen resilience, though, particularly through Community Emergency Response Teams—organized groups of trained and equipped citizens that can perform lifesaving activities before public-safety first responders arrive and also support those first responders once they’re on the scene.
Agreed, this is a great idea.
And when people provide assistance in good faith after a disaster, we should shield them from lawsuits. After Katrina, concerns about liability protection prevented hundreds of churches from helping the evacuation effort. The Good Samaritan shouldn’t have to retain a lawyer.
I cannot possibly accept this as true without some sort of supporting evidence. Really? Hundreds of churches failed to help out only because they were worried about liability? The best support I can find for that claim is a church reporting that FEMA discouraged them from taking people in due to liability concerns, and they went ahead and opened the shelter anyway. Sounds like we don’t need a Good Samaritan law, we just needed FEMA to be less boneheaded (which has already been covered). This sounds to me like Mr. Giuliani is trying to whip up support from people by pointing at the Big Bad Bogeyman of trial lawyers. I wonder how the contributors to his political campaign feel about that.
Further, we must set clear standards, based on proven practices, so that local leaders can build resilience across the country, making clear to citizens, businesses, and charitable organizations what their roles will be when disaster strikes.
Since disaster response is going to be largely contextual (floods due to California levees failing will be vastly different from what happened in New Orleans), we need to be careful that clear standards are built with local context in mind.
America should always hope for the best, but we will be safest if we prepare for the worst. A free and open society will never be able to eliminate risk entirely. But we can reduce it and manage it.
And this I believe is the core of how a President should approach FEMA and the DHS, aiming to reduce and manage risk. But in order for this to be done, the consequences and costs of the countermeasures need to be part of the management process. Nothing in Mr. Giuliani’s essay leads me to believe that he is the right person for this task.
We confront real threats in the twenty-first century. Nonetheless, the American future is filled with promise—the global economy and rapid technological advances are delivering prosperity to more and more Americans every day.
The global economy is also taking away manufacturing capability and information technology expertise. It has created a ballooning trade deficit, and done significant damage to the dollar. I’m not a protectionist by any means, I believe that the U.S. needs to be proactive and manage its integration into the global economy appropriately. But this is hard work, made more difficult when people in other countries are willing to work longer hours for less pay to produce the goods that we consume with an appetite that is so voracious it is not sustainable. The global economy is a reality that needs to be addressed by thoughtful analysis, not by rosy statements that it’s just made everything better for everyone.
The opportunities for all young Americans are limited only by their dreams and determination. We remain free, open to the world, open to new legal immigrants, and optimistic about our future.
I’m optimistic about our future, but our freedoms are significantly curtailed due to the Patriot Act Mr. Giuliani supports and the widespread surveillance he champions. We certainly aren’t open to the world when our fingerprinting of anyone from a foreign country has led to leading researchers deciding not to collaborate with their U.S. brethren.
But we cannot be complacent. From the next president of the United States to the citizen of the smallest town, we must work to become a more resilient society. Together, we have seen that the strength of America is far greater than we thought. We need to cultivate that strength as we face the future—declaring our right to live in freedom from fear, and confident that our best days are ahead. America will remain the land of the free, because we are the home of the brave.
“Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.” – J. Thurber