Editor’s Note: On March 16, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff gave a speech at George Washington University in Washington, DC outlining his plans for the future and providing basic direction for the department. Given the significance of the speech as a foundation for his and the department’s future actions,we provide excerpts here. The entire speech is available at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website athttp://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=4391.Keep Reading
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President, SGI Federal, Senior Vice President of North American Field Operations, Silicon Graphics Inc.
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We have no special access to classified intelligence or inside information. Still, it feels like the moment in an old war movie or western when one guy turns to his buddy and says, “It’s quiet—too quiet.”
It has been quiet, very quiet, on the homeland security front. We had an incident-free election and the special security events of the inauguration and the Super Bowl. The chatter has supposedly died down, at least from what we can learn publicly.
Some developments are encouraging. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in February, James Loy, the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and the heads of the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research all pointed out the defeats suffered by Al Qaeda and the jihadi movement at the hands of America and its allies.
All also warned, though, of Al Qaeda’s desire to deliver a blow directly to the United States, preferably through a weapon of mass effect (WME), like a chemical or radiological bomb. An operation as intricate and elaborate as Sept. 11, 2001, may be beyond the diminished capability of Al Qaeda or its clones at this point. But from a terrorist perspective, a WME event would be a home run, reversing the growing sense of Al Qaeda’s reduced powers and growing weakness.
Against that backdrop, the creation of the new Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) proposed in the 2006 fiscal year budget makes eminent sense, and we hope it can be effectively implemented.
Indeed,we were very encouraged by the entire FY2006 budget, which provided homeland security with the highest-level percentage increase of any function in the federal government.
Change the alert level
All things considered, it may seem contradictory to make this suggestion, but perhaps only at first blush: It may be time to lower the alert level to blue, or guarded, risk.
Back in November, during a press conference, Loy called yellow, or “elevated risk,” “the new normal.”
That’s too bad, because elevated shouldn’t be normal, nor should it become such. On the contrary, guarded risk seems to represent the real state of affairs right now.
Under blue conditions, federal agencies are supposed to check their communications with emergency response or command locations; review and update their emergency response procedures; and provide the public with any information that would strengthen its ability to act appropriately. This seems to be the actual state of affairs as this article is written.
Going down to blue would also lower the cost of security for businesses and state and local government.
Furthermore, as was shown by the targeted orange alerts that were put in place in the fall of 2004, specific areas—for example, New York, Washington and, perhaps, Los Angeles—could remain at yellow, while less likely targets could be reduced.
It’s very dicey for authorities to reduce the alert level; after all, the person who makes the suggestion will take all the blame if an incident occurs. But lowering the alert level is not a call for complacency. Vigilance must be maintained, counterterrorist efforts must be active and the war on terror needs to continue. A blue state is a condition for planning, exercising and preparing.
Nonetheless, ratcheting down a notch seems to be realistic and feasible, and might go some way toward restoring the credibility of the alert system as a whole, which has been battered by cynicism and growing disbelief. We’re faced with “crying wolf” syndrome. If the system remains elevated for too long, no one will pay attention when it really needs to be raised. HSTKeep Reading
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Vice President—General Manager, Homeland Security Programs, Government Communications Division, Harris Corp.
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