Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 24, 2009

New UK Counter Terror Strategy

Filed under: International HLS,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on March 24, 2009

Earlier today the UKs Home Office released a new counterterrorism strategy.  The strategy is detailed and explicit.  The complete report to Parliament and the people is available from the Home Office website.

The CT strategy builds on existing government policy initially developed in 2003.  In particular it continues to highlight 4 P’s (as in mind your Ps and Qs): pursue, prevent, protect, and prepare.  According to the document the British government will undertake and encourage its partners to undertake:

  • a Pursue strategy which uses new resources to investigate and disrupt terrorist networks here and overseas and to prosecute those responsible
  • a Prevent strategy rolled out since last year that reaches more people – nationally, internationally and locally – than ever before, and which reflects our better understanding of the causes of radicalisation
  • a Protect strategy which will further strengthen our borders, consolidate work on our critical national infrastructure and improve the protection of the crowded places where we work, live and play
  • a Prepare strategy that will enable us to respond effectively to new threats, and to recover from any terrorist attack faster than ever before.

The new strategy arguably gives greater attention than before to the risk of CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive) threats perpetrated by relatively small groups of terrorists.

In public comments earlier today the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, gave particular attention to so-called “soft schemes” to prevent terrorism through more effective and positive community engagement.

The CT policy is well-calibrated with the broader British strategy of resilience.   Further, as with last year’s first time release of a national Risk Register, the CT policy attempts to be especially clear in terms of the government’s analysis of the threat and choices being made to counter the terrorist threat.

This is headline news tonight in the UK.  Please see the Telegraph, the Times, and the Guardian for examples.

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7 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 24, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

Another example where a smaller country demographically and geographically and administratively centralized can perform wonders that might fail or not work well in US. Still there are important lessons to be learned from this effort by Great Britain.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

March 24, 2009 @ 8:00 pm

Mr. Cumming: I agree that divergence in size and scope limit the utility of the British model for application to the US as a whole. Do you have any strong sense of the span where we might best focus regional efforts within the US? Is each individual state the appropriate locus on both practical and constitutional grounds? Or are most of our states also too large and diverse? Is there a benefit for multi-state regions — with or without federal involvement — to take on some of the British model?

Comment by Arnold

March 24, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

Though I’ve only skimmed the full report so far, it seems several larger lessons are absolutely applicable to the U.S. environment. (Without getting into the specifics of what could be called the “British” model)

–Be clear about the threat and the government response. See former Senator Bob Graham on the importance of talking about risks clearly and without talking down to the public. Does there exist a comparable document from our government that clearly delineates the threat and the strategy behind the response? I would argue no–previous attempts too often fall into the trap of describing generalities–see the “they hate our freedoms” argument.

–Apply risk/threat analysis throughout the prescribed response. Since 2003, it seems UK analysts have come to the conclusion that CBRN poses a greater risk than it once did (or that they previously thought). In this document at least, that conclusion is then considered through each of their major categories of response. It is not presented separately by different constituencies that have stakes in either prevention, response, or something else. For example,no separation of DNDO priorities from those of FEMA or ASPR.

Those are just my first two major takeaways. Yes the operating environment in the UK is vastly different than the U.S. But that does not excuse past or current policy makers and office holders from failing to articulate perceived threats and responses clearly and without hyperbole and political angling.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 25, 2009 @ 9:25 am

Great Britain is well ahead of US in preventing and defending against Biological threats. Despite the many failures of the MAD COW issue in Britain (and some now think the crisis has yet to show its full face in Britain because of delays in symptons)my understanding is Biological WMD is perceived as the GREATEST THREAT. The British government has also done several things to devolve administrative responsibility to the lowest level, even while working to minimize local authority with respect to emergency preparedness and response. Some one with more knowledge of exactly what has occurred administratively since Margaret Thatcher centralized even more certain governmental functions such as public safety would have to answer Mr. Palin’s question. Appreciate the question however and just unable to answer fully. I do know that outside the US Government, the Potomac Institute housed in Arlington and viewed by itself as a successor to the Congressional Office of Technolgy Assessment successor had some of the the most knowledgeable bioterrorism personnel. Many were British.

Supporting Arnold’s comment I know of no equivalent effort or document in US government or private sector.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 25, 2009 @ 9:35 am

Realize I did not quite answer the question of STATES vis a vis Regional approach. The EMAC (Emergency Management Assistance Compact) is a good example of what States can do. They need to maximize regional compacts and mutual assistance. Since the demise of OMB Circular A-95 under the Reagan Adminstration regional planning and coordination has been actively discouraged by the Governors. Certainly dual sovereignity was not closely resolved by the US Constitutional arrangemenst, leaving the sorting out for another day (that occurred in part during the Civil War) yet it seems that the STATES are very very underprepared to help out in crisis management and its various elements. This came about in part because National Defense/national security was viewed since the onset of WWII as a federal responsibility. Yet incidents and events always are local even if geographically disbursed. Will taken a deeper mind than mine to sort this out for the arena of Homeland Security. A brilliant and energetic analyst has been named and I believe is already working at DHS, Juliette Kayem, JD. Maybe she can help. I do know the current system of not clearly delegating or arranging funding, accountabilitly and authority is a huge problem. Federal, STATE, and local governments and the NGO’s and the private sector generally all seem to want to point fingers and let someone else be responsible. I think the GATES foundation is doing good work but perhaps some of the Microsoft profits might have been better spent on cyber security issues instead of stock buybacks. This example to me is the best one to show how private industry seldom is interested in the public “commons” other than exploitation. Perhaps a software tax for cyber security just like a “bonus” tax.

This probably does not answer Mr. Palin’s question either.

Pingback by New U.K. Government Report Says Threat Of WMD Attack Increasing; Part Of Effort To Educate British Public On Threats, Risk

March 25, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

[...] reports that the risk of a WMD attack on the United Kingdom is rising. HLS Watch has a good summary of how the new report fits into the British government’s overall approach to [...]

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March 31, 2009 @ 3:02 am

[...] two HLSwatch readers had a quick dialogue related to the UKs new counterterrorism strategy.  Their comments are worth further [...]

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