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.