James’s Musings

thoughts, photography, and geeky stuff
from an unrelentingly curious Silicon Valley entrepreneur

It’s Worse Than We Think

by James G. Beldock on February 26, 2007

Earlier this mon­th, I par­tic­i­pat­ed in a sem­i­nar led by Clark Kent Ervin, the for­mer Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, au­thor of the fright­en­ing and eye-open­ing Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable to Attack. The sem­i­nar fo­cused on the cur­rent na­ture of the ter­ror­ist threat again­st our coun­try. We were an eclec­tic bunch: a US Army Major mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence spe­cial­ist in coun­tert­er­ror­ism, two State Department em­ploy­ees, a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist or two, and a few of us who oth­er­wise have some as­so­ci­a­tion our nation’s se­cu­ri­ty in­fra­struc­ture.

Despite our var­i­ous back­grounds, a pal­pa­ble sense de­vel­oped in the room that some­thing re­mains deeply wrong with America’s coun­tert­er­ror­ist strat­e­gy. My friend and col­league, Major General (Retired) Steve Siegfried, who was the Inspector General of the US Army as well as the first Director of Homeland Security for South Carolina, puts it this way: of all of the steps ter­ror­ists take be­fore and dur­ing a ter­ror­ist at­tack, most of them take place be­fore the at­tack: they plan, they re­con­noi­ter, they fund, they re­hearse, they stage, and on­ly then do they ex­e­cute. So that means that most, if not all, of ter­ror­ist pre­ven­tion can (and prob­a­bly should) take place be­fore ex­e­cu­tion. But look close­ly at the struc­ture of DHS: not a sin­gle in­tel­li­gence agen­cy ex­ists with­in DHS. How can the Department pre­vent ter­ror­ism by staunch­ing it in its ear­ly stages, if it doesn’t have a man­date or an in­ter­nal struc­ture to gen­er­ate the in­tel­li­gence nec­es­sary on which to re­act? Think about it dif­fer­ent­ly: you can ei­ther pre­vent or you can re­act. If you can’t gath­er in­tel­li­gence, how can you pre­vent? DHS is fun­da­men­tal­ly struc­tured to be eter­nal­ly re­ac­tive!

We are not the on­ly ones who think there’s a prob­lem. Foreign Policy and The Center for American Progress pub­lished a fascinating–and frightening–study, called “The Terrorism Index.” They asked 100 of the country’s top for­eign pol­i­cy ex­perts some ba­sic ques­tions. The re­sults are shock­ing:

  • 81% of the­se ex­perts be­lieve the world is more dan­ger­ous for America and its in­ter­ests than it was im­me­di­ate­ly af­ter 9/11.
    • 43% of the American pub­lic think we are safer, while on­ly 19% of ex­perts agree.

  • 75% be­lieve the US is los­ing the war on ter­ror. (That’s 93% of lib­er­als, 81% of mod­er­ates, and 50% of con­ser­v­a­tives.)
    • 46% of the American pub­lic think we’re win­ning.
  • 62% be­lieved that US pol­i­cy to­wards North Korea is hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on US na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty, de­spite the fact that 73% of re­spon­dents be­lieved that North Korea ought to be Priority Number 1.

For an ex­cel­lent overview, watch this video:

So at least this blog­ger thinks the sit­u­a­tion is worse than we think. And as a “busi­ness guy,” I know very well that you can’t fix what you can’t mea­sure. So the first step is to get a mea­sure­ment of the problem–start re­al­is­ti­cal­ly mea­sur­ing the threat lev­el (no more yellow/orange/red busi­ness, please!)–and then ex­e­cut­ing to fix the great­est threat. That would be North Korea’s nu­clear am­bi­tions.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: