Investigators search debris at the site of the Murrah Federal Building bombing by Timothy McVeigh on April 19, 1995. (FBI photo)

Federal Facilities Continue Oklahoma City Lessons of Resilience, Vigilance Amid New Challenges

The Federal Protective Service and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency marked the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing with a memo to federal facility security stakeholders stressing that resiliency and vigilance are the utmost priority even as the nation faces the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter from FPS Director L. Eric Patterson and CISA Assistant Director Brian Harrell, who serves as chair of the Interagency Security Committee established six months after the April 19, 1995, attack, noted that “a quarter century later, we are reminded of Oklahoma City’s resilience following that tragic day—a resilience we as a Nation continue to show as we face new challenges, including the uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Nineteen children were among the 168 dead when a rental truck bearing a powerful bomb exploded outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

“The aftermath of the bombing of the Murrah Building led to sweeping changes in how the U.S. Government approaches preventive security and protection of federal infrastructure,” Patterson and Harrell wrote. “As of 9:03 a.m. on April 19, 1995, business as usual could no longer serve as the status quo.”

FPS moved to “a fundamental shift in its mission: the focus evolved from one of building security and facility management to one of law enforcement and threat mitigation.”

“The modernized, whole-of-government approach to the protection of federal infrastructure enabled a shift from facility management to threat detection and law enforcement-and-technology-driven physical security. In alignment with the ISC standards and guidance, FPS has employed complementary systems that identify vulnerabilities in federal facilities, track the implementation of state-of-the-art countermeasures, share information with partner agencies and ensure that qualified and trained individuals are on guard,” the letter continued. “These tools have helped the FPS identify and mitigate potential security weaknesses and anticipate rather than just react to threats.”

Patterson and Harrell added that “over the years, the resilience of the FPS and the ISC has never wavered—a reflection of the dedication and professionalism in each of our federal facility security stakeholders.”

“An unforgettable day, the bombing—as well as Oklahoma City’s steadfast recovery efforts—provided important lessons that have increased our resiliency. Our determination to ensure the government can continue to provide essential services to our fellow citizens throughout any crisis, even the current pandemic, is stronger than ever,” they added. “As we join in solidarity with those impacted by the tragedy in Oklahoma City on this 25th Anniversary, let’s look toward a secure future marked with steadfast vigilance and professionalism—the foundation for safeguarding each other, the American people and our Homeland.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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