Often, during the presidential campaign of 2004, President George W. Bush exhorted to the American people that his administration has kept the country safe from future terrorist attacks. Clearly, this was one of the major issues that led to his re-election.
While the U.S. has not been attacked since 9/11, it is extremely difficult to ascertain whether this is attributed to the success of the administration’s intelligence interdiction and prevention efforts or whether terrorist groups are methodically planning another future attack.
Paul McHale, assistant secretary for homeland defense (OSD) addressed this question of safety in his address to IFPA Fletcher conference in Washington, D.C on Oct. 28, 2004, titled, “DOD Planning for and Responding to Threats to the U.S. Homeland.”
McHale argued that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has prevented transnational terrorism groups from attacking the U.S. through a vigorous intelligence analysis and interdiction efforts which were mentioned above. In essence, the secretary said the Bush administration had a “proactive” homeland defense strategy for making America safer from terrorist events.
Despite these proactive countermeasures, recent safety surveys reveal that citizens believe another attack is inevitable and want to know how to prepare for this attack.
Several recent surveys suggest that many Americans certainly do not feel safer, and believe another attack on US soil is inevitable. For example, an April 1, 2004, Washington Post article reported that fewer than 50 percent of Americans feel safer, and more than three-quarters expect another major terrorist attack in the next few months.
One of the major concerns that Americans have is either a nuclear or biological terrorist attack against the U.S. Both of these potential asymmetric threats are quite different in technical production capacity and dissemination methods. However, the consequences of either event may result in thousands of causalities. Therefore, considerably more preparedness and response efforts need to occur to thwart these emerging threats.
National Security Countermeasures
Given the extraordinary national security countermeasures taken after 9/11, it is astonishing the American people believe they are less safe. One would have thought creation of the Department of Homeland Security would improve the general sense of security. Likewise, the US Patriot Act — which expanded arresting authority, wiretapping, and extraordinary detention procedures — should have calmed fears. Not to mention that the increased surveillance of airports from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) should make the U.S. citizens feel safer in traveling in airports.
Although the DHS has dramatically improved its planning and operational response to a future terrorist event, certain gaps in communication networks, emergency management services integration, and interpretation of intelligence still exist. Let’s look at the current state of collaboration between the intelligence and emergency management responder communities.
DHS Intelligence Capabilities
As stated above, much has improved since 9/11. The senior operational national security leadership has had an almost singular focus on remedying systematic intelligence gaps and shortfalls. Great strides have been made in transforming our intelligence institutions — the FBI and CIA and in improving our ability to collect and analyze information in order to deter a future terrorist attack. The Patriot Act eliminated much bureaucracy among the agencies and enhanced the scope of information sharing as well as coordination.
Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) and Homeland Security Operation Center (HSOC)
Two organizations are currently responsible for assessing terrorism-related intelligence both domestically and abroad: the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) and the Homeland Security Operation Center (HSOC). The TTIC was created in May 2003 by DHS with the cooperation of the FBI, CIA, the State Department, and the Department of Defense. The HSOC was established with representatives from the major federal agencies, which either gather intelligence or provide emergency response. Both agencies were established to enhance information sharing and coordination of intelligence information to thwart any future terrorist attack against the US.
The TTIC brings together under one roof 14 separate US government networks, and there are plans to hook up another 10 networks. The center has access to terrorism-related information systems and databases spanning the intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, and diplomatic and military communities. Such information sharing will, it is hoped, effectively disrupt, deter and defend against terrorist attacks.
The HSOC mission is similar – collect and analyze terrorist threats against the US. The major difference is that HSOC is primarily concerned with “operational” intelligence – information that is related to immediate needs of current law enforcement operations. The TTIC, in contrast, has more of the traditional intelligence community long-term view.
DHS Intelligence and Emergency Management Fusion
However, even though we have enhanced our intelligence capabilities, we need to better fuse intelligence with emergency management response. For the typical first responder, the sheer amount of intelligence collection and analysis is overwhelming. The design of a DHS Homeland Security Intelligence State and Local Emergency Preparedness Template, which embodies general emergency guidance to the local and state communities, would standardize and improve the operational response to any future terrorist event.
Currently, for example, the DHS color code is said by many to be confusing to first responders. To the first responder, it seems to give an indication of a nationwide threat that may have nothing to do with the responder’s community. What is needed is a template that is similar to the “President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council Statewide Template Initiative” which was produced in 2003.
DHS Intelligence State and Local Emergency Preparedness Template
This proposed “DHS Intelligence State and Local Emergency Preparedness Template” would be similar in framework to the above template. However, the focus would be to provide intelligence and emergency preparedness integration guidance to the local and State governments in response to a terrorist incident. Examples of the essential elements of information to assist state and local communities in responding more effectively to a terrorist incident to be included in the template would be the following:
• Scope of issues
• Statutory authorities and responsibilities
• Discussion questions would deal with collection and analysis of local, state and federal threat information
• Monitoring and initial intelligence collection and analysis
• Situational assessment of a credible actionable intelligence
• Notification and alert procedures of “all hazard incidents” based on actionable intelligence correlated to the DHS color codes
• Incident command/control procedures to mention a few
• Operational capabilities to meet the emerging threat-local, state and federal- emergency support functions
In essence, this document will provide a needed template for fusion of intelligence and emergency preparedness, which would assist local and state stakeholders in providing a more standardized and consistent framework to follow in the event of a catastrophic event.
Glenn Fiedelholtz, a former senior counter terrorist analyst for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from 1998-2001, is a senior analyst at Analytic Services (ANSER) in Arlington, Va. He participated in the Harvard Kennedy School executive session on domestic preparedness and wrote the Top Officials II scenario. He has written policy papers for the White House National Security Council, the FBI, and other federal departments and agencies involved in preparedness for and response to terrorist incidents. He has extensive experience in exercise planning, development, execution, and controller evaluation. Fiedelholtz has developed planning guidance for local, state, and federal governments concerning weapons of mass destruction, and he has briefed senior FBI and FEMA staff in response to terrorist events.