Immediately above this post I address the role of strategy in homeland security. I approach the issue abstractly (even pedantically). Below are some late Wednesday news reports that situate the need for strategy more concretely.
Homeland security often references “all-hazards.” I prefer shared attention to natural, accidental and intentional risks. The categorical distinctions are, I perceive, helpful in a way the short-hand “all hazards” is not. Yesterday’s headlines help make clear some important strategic overlaps and distinctions between the three categories… with just a bit of integrative thinking.
NATURAL: Wildfire in Boulder and Detroit
FROM THE DENVER POST: One of the largest and most destructive fires in Boulder County history has burned at least 92 structures, from mansions to outhouses, officials’ preliminary survey of the area northwest of Boulder found Tuesday. Officials posted a list of addresses on the Boulder County website Tuesday night, which 3,500 evacuees have eagerly awaited. Officials did not know how many of the lost structures were homes. They said another eight structures were damaged.
FROM THE DETROIT NEWS: An “act of Mother Nature” sparked by high winds and some fires labeled suspicious burned at least 19 other homes on the city’s east side alone — most abandoned, Detroit Fire Chief Gregory Williams said… The flames, within a four-hour period, were fueled by low humidity and wind gusts of up to 50 mph that downed power lines, further fueling the blazes. Power was out for 36,000 customers — most in Wayne County — Tuesday night, down from 50,000 earlier, DTE Energy said.
ACCIDENTAL: BP Analysis
FROM THE FINANCIAL TIMES: The report identified eight critical factors that led to the accident, including weaknesses in the cement, design and testing of the Macondo well; misreading of pressure tests even though the well was not completely sealed; and the failure of the blow-out preventer – the stack of valves on the seabed designed to stop gas and oil escaping – to operate.
The full Deepwater Horizon: Accident Investigation Report (3.64 megabytes) is available here: http://media.ft.com/cms/81c95386-bb39-11df-b3f4-00144feab49a.pdf
INTENTIONAL: Pakistani Police Arrest 3 Connected to Times Square bombing
FROM DAWN: The police on Wednesday claimed to have arrested three accomplices of Faisal Shahzad, the main suspect/accused of Time Square bombing plot in New York. Police said that arrested suspects Akhtar, Shoaib Mughal and Shahid had provided financial help to Shahzad. All the suspects belong to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), police added. Police also claimed to have recovered maps of Time Square, Pakistan parliament building and several other sensitive installations from the vehicle of the suspects.
Last week a TTP leader threatened attacks in the US and Europe “very soon.” Over the last 24 hours there have been four US drone attacks in Pakistan killing several TTP members. (See more from the Associated Press.)
The intersection of catastrophic flooding and growing insurgent terrorism is of particular concern in Pakistan (and should be in the US as well). Natural and accidental almost always travel together. When intentional joins in the boundary between complex and chaotic has certainly been crossed.
Clearly, I could keep going in each category. Our threats are strewn about. Too often, so is our strategy. Are there characteristics of our varied threats that suggest a common approach? Are there aspects of our vulnerability to one or more of the risk categories that suggest more-for-your-buck mitigation? Is there an opportunity for a synergistic strategy?
It is no panacea, but I do perceive a broadbased approach to resilience – honestly pursued — would produce strategic benefits, strengthening our advantages and reducing our vulnerabilities.