Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 1, 2008

2008 Wishlist. Part I.

Filed under: Strategy — by Jonah Czerwinski on January 1, 2008

Happy New Year. What follows is not exactly my list of resolutions for 2008, but rather four consolidated priorities I’d like to see accomplished in order to improve our security at home. Since this blog embraces a broad definition of those factors that contribute to (or further denude) our homeland security, the topics are similarly beyond the normal scope of the homeland security debate (state grants, first responder interoperability, etc.)

Preempt the Terrorists’ Pursuit of WMD
We know that terrorists want them. We know that they are hard to detect when smuggled and to respond to when detonated or released. There’s a lot that can be done in the way of eliminating terrorist access to WMD, but it’ll take a sizeable commitment. While Russia’s military maintains more than 1,000 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and at least 150 tons of weapons-grade plutonium, even more HEU remains in research reactors in dozens of nations around the world, many with security inadequate to prevent theft. The “loose geeks” problem is as relevant as the loose nukes threat. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, thousands of weapons scientists (presumably in Russia) are still without a steady paycheck.

In 2008, let’s ramp up Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) efforts to role back this twin threat and keep WMD out of terrorists hands to begin with. Start with a plus-up for the CTR budget that amounts to a mere 10% of the budget we annually spend on, say, missile defense. That would be $1 billion for CTR, which is quite a jump from the paltry $342 million presently budgeted.

Finish the Job in Afghanistan to Prevent Further Terrorist Support
Focus on al Qaeda and Basic Stability
Our mission there is on a collision course with itself. What once was the frontline in fighting terrorism is on the backburner while our security gains there erode. We need a “surge” in Afghanistan to create the kind of political and security environment to enable our (albeit imperfect) reconstruction teams, more effectively distribute aid, provide the running room that nascent government needs in order to assert itself and gain the legitimacy it so sorely lacks in many parts of the country. That the Taliban and al Qaeda are still operating there after the early successes of 2001 and 2002 is utterly regrettable.

Recommit to NATO
Start with Afghanistan and follow up at Bucharest
Rebalancing America’s troop commitments in Afghanistan consistent with our national security goals is only part of the solution there. It is a NATO operation and our national interests are served by NATO’s success. Our Alliance is more than a sunk cost from the Cold War. NATO brings together 26 nations – largely under U.S. leadership – on a strategic security agenda that reflects U.S. national interests in 2008 and far into the future. Coalitions of the willing may actually have their place, but nothing is more valuable than the potential legitimacy generated by almost 50 countries (including NATO Partners).

We’ve known since 9/11 that our national security interests are in the common interest among our allies. It was confirmed when NATO invoked the mutual defense clause for the first time in its history in support of the U.S. on September 12, 2001. Let’s make the next NATO Summit, which is scheduled for the Spring and to be held in Bucharest, the “back-to-the-basics” Summit. There is great potential for NATO’s evolution as a global security forum with teeth, but it is already an asset for our national security efforts that remains largely untapped as a political arrow in our quiver for rallying reluctant allies and creating partners in parts of the world where we need them most . As they say, “Animus In Conulendo Liber.”

Win the war on terrorism on the moral front, in addition to the military one.
Rationalize Our Stance on Torture
America cannot sanction torture. While situations may arise wherein we have in our custody a person with knowledge of impending attacks, the United States cannot as a matter of policy advocate for a legal loophole or a moral exception that makes torture a standard operating procedure. Doing so diminishes U.S. credibility, endangers our soldiers overseas, runs contrary to the moral imperative our Fore Fathers set forth, and according to too many who’ve used or witnessed torture, it doesn’t work well enough to justify it as a practice.

Close Guantanamo Bay and Restore Habeas
Straightening out our nation’s position on torture will support our route to the moral high ground in rallying others to our cause against extremist terrorists, but so also will the closing of Guantanamo and the restoring of habeas corpus to prisoners we capture. This would be a basic measure to restore America’s conscience and make her once again consistent with our own Constitution. If those who we apprehend as suspects in supporting or perpetrating terrorism actually are guilty, they should be tried (military courts are fine) and punished. Let’s use the evidence that convinced us to apprehend them in the first place. Running prisons that lock people away without ever charging them is simply un-American.

UPDATE 1/14/08: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, also says its time for Gitmo to go. Reuters reported that Admiral Mullen would “like to see it shut down.” “I believe that from the standpoint of how [the prison at Guantanamo Bay] reflects on us that it’s been pretty damaging.”

UPDATE 1/21/08: Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge objects to torture, too. In an interview with AP’s Eileen Sullivan and in remarks before the American Bar Association at a homeland security conference, he stated plainly that “There’s just no doubt in my mind – under any set of rules – waterboarding is torture.” He also reinforces the point made in this post that “One of America’s greatest strengths is the soft power of our value system and how we treat prisoners of war, and we don’t torture.”

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Pingback by Bookmarks Tagged Reluctant

January 1, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

[…] bookmarks tagged reluctant 2008 Wishlist. Part I. saved by 1 others     nathendricks bookmarked on 01/01/08 | […]

Comment by Christopher Tingus

January 2, 2008 @ 9:31 am

Most will concur with your 2008 wish list for Homeland Security, however as you know, we are at war and those who seek our demise are monetarily resourceful and well organized which most Americans and especially Europeans seem to fail in grasping the significance of what confronts humanity in 2008 and thereafter….

Yes, confidence in some of the practices of Homeland Security and FEMA in the past have not been what the good people of America expect. It is important to reiterate that Americans as a people contribute more donations globally on an individual basis as no other people.

It is also worthy to note that as a nation are so fortunate to have so many dedicated DHS and FEMA employees as well as NSA and other agencies involved 24/7 ambitiously seeking to identify threats and protect us the populace who for the most part goes along daily without much concern….

Unfortunately, we are at war. We are at war. We are at war. The Middle East must be resolved, however apparently far too many truly do not care about the Palestinian and the Hebrew who as families often work together and are tired of those who use them as pawns rather than responsibly addressing concerns and making compromises to allow children to be hopeful and be innovative, happy and successful!

Where are the IT/software development technical schools in Palestine where many of the youth who seek education can aspire to compete in the world in 2008 rather than walk the streets feeling so helpless….What are we doing as a global people who for the majority seek peace and can respect another individualism and religious and other preference.

From my perspective and my 2008 wish list, the European leaders who have been entrusted to thwart individuals who seek to dismantle democracy throughout the globe must do more to help the United States or they will be dealing with further strife in their neighborhoods and in their cities. The EU’s interest in pushing America away will be their failure and ultimately have a significant affect on our way of Life here in America.

This year promises ever evolving challenges to our society and whether American or European, again we are being challenged by those who hold none of our values.

The western world has afforded a great many advantages to the majority in science, medicine, housing and throughout society while unfortunately numerous individuals have not participated and are seriously challenged daily which is the responsibility of these more successful countries to address.

We as a nation should be very proud of the diligence and commitment by our armed forces, the local and state police, fire, EMT’s, individuals who have chosen to contribute their intelligence, their experience, their personal commitment to assuring that the cyber efforts and the plans to cause harm to innocents will not be successful! We owe so much to all these people.

In 2008, my wish list is for more and more people to become enlightened that we must clasp hands to address our economy and demand more accountability to all entrusted to make our economy continue to evolve and to understand that we are at war. Well funded individuals and groups seek the demise of the west for their own agenda. The killing of innocents is cowardly, certainly nothing to be proud of and lessens the integrity of their purpose.

All must be vigilant 24/7 if we are to contnue to use our intellectual and compassion for others to strive to improve the conditions for still so many who are deprived of opportunity to evolve as contributing indivduals to a world of hope for all that choose the graciousness and compassion that we are capable of portraying when addressing our fellow brethren. There is no need for the pain and suffering that so many must confront in 2008!

God Bless all that believe in the Lord! We must all repent and ask for forgiveness and pray that Life will continue as we have all seen the greatness of birth and the hope that fills Life!

Happy New Year!

Christopher Tingus
Harwich, MA

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 3, 2008 @ 10:12 am

Excellent wish list. Unfortunately unlikely to come true under current budget priorities. It is beginning to look as though a deep understanding of the challenges facing the US is really present in the Congress and the Executive Branch and American people at large. The 2008 Campaign has so far failed to educate Americans as to the real issues and long-term prospects. Let’s hope for improvement when the major party candidates are selected, have time and money on their hands and may be challenged by third part candidates. So far, it looks like only Clinton and Huckabee are committed to removing FEMA from DHS. Without an honest analysis existing of how, why, when, where, FEMA went down the drain in DHS it is hard to know exactly what should be done. Certainly Congressional oversight has not been conducted on this issue nor has Homeland Security undergone the comprehensive surveying of the Executive Branch and oversight by the Joint Committee on Defense Production in 1975-77 that led with the NGA Emergency Management Project that led to the formation of FEMA. Elimination of the Advisor to the President for Homeland Security will facilitate integrated National Security/Homeland Security planning. Also time to take DEA away from the Department of Justice so that they and the FBI can regain focus on terrorism, which as we now know is largely law enforcement, not Homeland Security, which is border defense and control, crisis management, disaster mitigation, response, and recovery. Immigration issues should be separated from DHS since it has now definite that the long history of DOJ mismanagement and underfunding of INS while in DOJ led to the disasterous perfomance of those programs, functions, and activities in DHS. The clean bill of health given by GAO to DOJ’s underfunding and staffing of that function as transferred to DHS did not help. Time for the end of amateur night in DHS generally. The number of political appointees, including PAS, non-career SES, and schedule C’s should be reduced to 150 to 200 by Congress by legislation in the next DHS budget.

Comment by J.

January 4, 2008 @ 10:07 am

I would suggest that a much more reasonable first wish would be “Secure CBRN hazards against non-state actors.” We’re never going to stop terrorists from seeking out new ways to panic people and score political points. There will always be terrorists out there, and interdicting them is difficult without massive resources dedicated to intel gathering and analysis. Would suggest that spending that money to secure hazards would be a much better solution from a cost/benefit analysis.

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Where the Candidates Stand on HLS

February 12, 2008 @ 11:56 am

[…] All good things, even if it reads as though it was written a year ago. Each of these priorities should be top of the list for any incoming administration, e.g. allocate funds based on risk, revise the response plans and critical infrastructure plans, revise PATRIOT Act and FISA laws to protect civil liberties. And I must admit that it is a welcome sight to have nuclear stewardship articulated as part of this position. Obama’s Spent Nuclear Fuel Tracking and Accountability Act could be a real asset in this regard. And finally, he includes the right decision about restoring habeus corpus. More on that issue available in this post. […]

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » 2008 » March » 11

March 11, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

[…] homeland. Readers will recognize some as similar to those included in the previous post entitled 2008 Wish List: Part I. Congressman Harman identifies enhanced intelligence, better stewardship of hazardous materials, […]

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