Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 29, 2013

ICS implications of Westgate attack

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 29, 2013

On this blog I have been an advocate for more thoughtful and strategic application of the Incident Command System.  I have also argued that ICS is not fully scalable to theater-size operations (hundreds of square miles).

But today let me highlight how ICS is a fundamental component of emergency operations by offering this excerpt from a long-piece in the Sunday Telegraph:

The first rescuers to respond were a small team of Kenyan-Indians from a local plain-clothes unit that acts as a kind of armed neighbourhood watch for the large local Asian community.

With a handful of armed Kenyan police, they helped hundreds of people escape before pushing the terrorists into a corner on the ground floor, near the supermarket.

“They were returning fire, heavily, but they weren’t moving out from where they were,” said one person involved. “We had them contained. Done properly, we could have ended that thing on Saturday.”

Instead, Kenya’s army, which had taken four hours to group and prepare their assault, crashed in through both the ground and top-floor entrances, without understanding that some men wearing holsters and body armour were not attackers.

No radio contacts were set up between the units. No overall command had been appointed, and different commanders squabbled. A senior policeman was shot dead in a friendly-fire incident. Chaotic gunfire streaked across the mall’s open spaces.

Within 30 minutes, late in the afternoon, both the initial responders and the army had pulled out, leaving the mall to the terrorists and hostages.

There have even been rumors that the “friendly-fire incident” referenced above was the result of an argument over command between two military officers.

So for those readers who have felt my attitude toward ICS has been overly dismissive, here’s your dramatic example of how an effective Incident Command System is essential.

Yarnell Fire Investigative Report

Filed under: Disaster,Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on September 29, 2013

On Saturday September 28 the Arizona State Forester released the Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation Report analyzing the circumstances leading to the June 30 entrapment and deaths of 19 firefighters of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew. The report and accompanying documents are available at:

https://sites.google.com/site/yarnellreport/.

September 27, 2013

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 27, 2013

On this date in 1290 an earthquake with an estimated 6.8 magnitude hit northeast of what is now Beijing China.  Approximately 100,000 were killed.

On this date in 1915 a gasoline explosion in Ardmore Oklahoma killed 43 and injured many more. Most of the town was destroyed.

On this date in 1993 separatists and other irregular forces took Sokhumi, the capital of the Georgian province of Abkahzia.  An especially gruesome massacre of Georgian ethnics followed.  The number killed has not been well-established, but prompted significant population displacement.  Abkhazia has since been recognized by Russia and a few other states as an independent nation.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

September 26, 2013

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it he does not become a monster.”

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 26, 2013

Elliot PriorAbove is Elliot Prior, his sister, and an unidentified dead man.  Elliot is the four-year-old referenced below. (Reuters photograph)

–+–

Two stories emerging from Nairobi give concrete context to a range of counter-terrorism theories.  The first as reported by The Daily Mail:

A four-year-old British boy caught up in the Kenya mall massacre showed astonishing bravery by confronting a marauding gunman who ended up begging for his forgiveness, it emerged today.

The child told one of the terrorists that he was a “very bad man” as he protected his mother who had been shot in the leg, and six-year-old sister.

Incredibly, the attacker took pity on the family and bizarrely handed the children Mars bars before telling them: “Please forgive me, we are not monsters.”

The second story I have only heard — and even then it was third-hand — on NPR’s Morning Edition. According to the report a nine year old Kenyan boy was wounded.  The attacker then turned to the boy’s mother and sister challenging them to quote a passage from the Koran.   The family is Muslim.  The mother and sister were each able to comply, but they were still shot and killed.  The boy screamed out asking why. The attacker explained the fifteen-year-old girl and her mother were not wearing the hijab.

I am prepared to believe both stories.

Another story or really speculation: Last week I abandoned a post on the apparent assassination earlier this month of Alabama-born al Shabaab commander Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki or “the American”. He was allegedly ambushed by other al Shabaab elements.

Hammami, some claim, was a fierce advocate for the Somali nationalist narrative within al Shabaab. Those most likely to benefit from Hammami’s death are champions of an internationalist al Qaeda inspired narrative, such as we have seen play out at the Westgate Mall.

The twenty-nine-year-old US citizen was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List.  Was he also an opponent of the Nairobi attack?  Was he a potential ally in containing — domesticating — al Shabaab?  When and how might an adversary become an ally? Can monsters be redeemed?

It is, I’ll readily admit, quite precarious, but the paradox of the first story combined with the utter brutality of the second and the tantalizing possibilities of the third, expose what may be our best bet for effectively engaging the terrorist threat.  Cold-blooded murder of Muslim women — hajib or not — and children is not an effective recruiting strategy.  No matter how disaffected, resentful, or misogynistic a potential terrorist may be, the vast majority are as capable as the four-year-old in recognizing what is “very bad.”

In her groundbreaking text, How Terrorism Ends, Audrey Kurth Cronin, finds that among several end-games is the implosion of the terrorist group.  She writes, “Marginalization from their constituency is the death-knell for modern groups… Loss of support may occur if the driving narrative is overtaken by events, contact with ordinary people is lost, or above all if groups target potential members of their own constituencies and provoke a backlash.” (page 203)

This is almost certainly the current plot line for al Shabaab and especially its al Qaeda faction.  Such marginalization is largely why al Shabaab lost local support in Somalia with over-aggressive enforcement of Salafist codes.   It’s mishandling of the 2011 drought and famine was widely seen inside Somalia as causing the death of tens of thousands. Omar Hammami is said to have decided his more al Qaeda oriented colleagues had “gone crazy” seeking power.

When the world sees the death penalty imposed for dress code violations, even the most conservative are repulsed.

When in the midst of a martyrdom operation the proto-martyr asks forgiveness, we might perceive strategic opportunities worth engaging.

September 25, 2013

Clinton Global Initiative Supports Resilience

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on September 25, 2013

Yesterday, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) announced it’s support of the “100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge” first put forth by the Rockefeller Foundation.  As a reminder:

Rockefeller is inviting cities to apply to be one of these 100 resilient cities – to be named in three rounds over the next three years – by arguing for how they’re working to become “resilient.” Rockefeller wants to then help them create a resilience plan, preemptively sketching out how they would address any number of catastrophes including but beyond climate change.

“We see it as broader than that,” Coleman says. “It’s really about how cities are able to deal with shocks and stresses. Those could be climate-related, or more general weather-related. But they could be other natural disasters like earthquakes. They could also be things like financial shocks and stresses – something we’ve seen a lot of over the last few years. Or health crises. Really anything that is going to test the city and its response.”

The Clinton Global Initiative is supporting this vision:

 ”It is our deep conviction that we should be preparing for disasters before they happen, rather than responding after the fact. This not only saves lives, reduces human suffering and protects property: it also helps to speed up recovery and lessen the impact on public and private budgets, which is the essence of resilience. Frankly this is an exciting moment to be supporting the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge. Our contribution to the commitment will consist of practical risk management insight and tools, including CatNet, a state-of-the-art risk assessment tool, which will be offered to the cities free of charge. We also look forward to bringing our expertise to bear in helping to define the role of the Chief Resilience Officer, and supporting the development of the CRO network,” said Martyn Parker, Chairman Global Partnerships, Swiss Re.

This expansion is supported by a range of organizations beyond the Rockefeller Foundation and Clinton Global Iniative:

 The Commitment to Action, led by The Rockefeller Foundation and shared by Swiss Re, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Architecture for Humanity, and Palantir, will support at least 100 cities to hire a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), create a resilience strategy, and provide access to tools, technical support, and resources for implementation including access to innovative finance for infrastructure development. 100 Resilient Cities will also create a network for CROs to share information and best practice.

This isn’t the first foray into resilience by the CGI:

The Response & Resilience Track provides a space for CGI members to explore a range of topics, including natural disaster preparedness and response, support for humanitarian crises, and post-conflict reconstruction. CGI members in this Track share lessons learned in an effort to identify how corporations, NGOs, governments, and civil society can effectively coordinate efforts to prepare for and reduce the impact of conflict and disaster. While there are some areas of regional focus—such as Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—this Track collaborates closely with the other Tracks to explore cross-cutting issues such as resilient cities and cultural resiliency through the arts

This can be an incredibly influential program.  Participation by the CGI will lend the weight of influential and resource rich individuals and organizations.  Resilience is often discussed in terms of grassroots or bottom-up development, and that will not and should not change.  Yet I get the sense that it’s an area that advances in fits and spurts, often treated less as a unique concept than a term to describe existing efforts in prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery.

Attention from new classes of stakeholders – whether they be politicians or other financial/political elites – can be a good thing.

September 24, 2013

Ten signs the U.S. is overreacting to the Nairobi Mall attack

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Christopher Bellavita on September 24, 2013

I asked a few dozen homeland security colleagues  to describe what they’d have to see before concluding the country was overreacting to the Nairobi mall attack.

In no particular order, here is a summary of what they told me:

1. Hardening of malls and related soft sites (Apple Stores, Best Buy, etc.) This includes — just in time for Christmas — checkpoints at malls, and random bag checks conducted by law enforcement, contract security or Department of Homeland Security personnel.

2. An increase in uniformed on duty and off duty police officers walking around malls with no clear mission, but costing a ton of money.

3. Security personnel carrying military-style weapons in and around malls.

4. Increased use of secured parking lots, including recording who comes into the mall in each vehicle, who leaves in that vehicle, and who doesn’t.

5. More mall video surveillance, increasing opportunities to record people making mistakes.

6. Expanded use of stop and frisk policy, especially directed toward people who (how shall we say) don’t seem to belong in a particular mall.

7. Spike in “see something – say something” phone calls, particularly reports about seeing “Somalian-looking” young black males.

8. Expansion beyond NFL stadiums of the Mandatory Clear Bag Rule.

9. Fewer people shopping in malls. More people using Amazon.

10. In addition to providing hand sanitizer wipes at mall entrances, high end malls will offer a bullet proof vest option — just in case.

————————————————————–

Last week it was the Navy Yard shooting. This week it’s the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

Last week it was a single gunman. This week it’s a terrorist group.

A decade ago William Crowe  warned “the real danger lies not with what the terrorists can do to us, but what we can do to ourselves when we are spooked.”

Is America spooked yet?

Not yet.  But it’s getting there.

Here are some media observations.

  • “The deadly assault on a luxury Nairobi mall Saturday has sent shock waves around the world, raising concerns about security at shopping centers amid fears of copycat violence or other terror attacks, according to industry officials and other experts,”writes Daniel Arkin

 

  • Malachy Kavanagh, a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, said [in the same article] “officials may … increase the police presence at many shopping complexes by enlisting off-duty officers to stand guard and defend against incursions….”

 

  • “The deadly attack on a high-end Nairobi shopping mall on Saturday put the safety of malls around the world into the spotlight and could trigger moves to improve security and make it more visible,” write Ilaina Jonas and Mark Hosenball for Reuters

 

  • It’s hard to imagine a softer target than an enclosed, easy-to-enter space with large numbers of civilians, many of them children or elderly, milling about with no authority clearly in charge, says CNN’s David Simpson.  And the Al-Shabaab terrorist group that carried out this weekend’s mall attack in Kenya is known to have recruited in the United States. If you connect those dots, you get the kind of scenario that “keeps us up at night,” as a federal law enforcement source told CNN…: an attack at a shopping mall in the United States.

Crowe’s Law: “[The] real danger lies not with what the terrorists can do to us, but what we can do to ourselves when we are spooked.”

  • “The worst case scenario is a bunch of these [Al-Shabaab] kids coming back, buying weapons in the United States some place like Minneapolis or Chicago and going after one of our malls here,” … CNN’s national security analyst, said Sunday.  ”They are indefensible especially with a well-trained group. There’s nothing you can do about it. And I guarantee you that the FBI is going to be on it today.”

————————————————————–

Malls have not ignored security in the post 9/11 world.  The Nairobi attack will spur a renewed look at security and training.

But the attack does not automatically mean the militarization of shopping.

An International Council of Shopping Centers spokesman noted “mall proprietors will be careful to take their cues from consumers, who may already be weary from boosted security at airports.” 

A law enforcement analyst for CNN said “For the average American citizen, you go to the grocery store, you go to the gas station, you go to the shopping mall, and you go to a movie theater. You take walks in your neighborhood…. Anyone of those situations could make you vulnerable if other people or another person is out there determined to conduct an attack.”

And from the security director of the Mall of America: “I think that if you’re looking for a hundred percent safety, you should probably wrap yourself in bubble wrap and never leave home.”

————————————————————–

But what if?

What if terrorists — as opposed to a lone gunman — do strike an American mall?

Politics, experts and I-told-you-so’s will fill the information mushroom cloud.

But the Market State will tell its own story, in the case of Nairobi treating the 62 dead and 175 injured as unfortunate but inevitable rounding errors in the eternal quest for resource optimization .

“[The] country is unlikely to see long-term investors pull money out after the deadly attack on a Nairobi shopping mall, analysts say.

“It will hit investor confidence but having said that the areas which are most likely to be impacted are tourism and in the shorter-term consumer goods,” said … a portfolio manager of African equity portfolios at Investec Asset Management in Cape Town.

“People are likely to stay away from the malls for a week or two, but the long-term structural story – the growth, regional integration, political achievements – investors recognize those and an event like this is unlikely to change those views.”….

“Insecurity will remain a key business risk in Kenya. That being said, business will likely get back to normal in a relatively short period as Kenyans have become accustomed to attacks,” risk consultancy Eurasia Group said in a note.

“Some near-term business interruptions and losses are a given, but a sustained economic shock is unlikely. “

————————————————————–

The real danger lies not with what the terrorists can do to us,  Admiral Crowe warned,  but what we can do to ourselves when we are spooked.

 

September 22, 2013

Al Shabaab hits Kenyan soft-target

Filed under: Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 22, 2013

TUESDAY UPDATE: The Kenyan Foreign Minister has claimed (speculated?) that “two or three Americans” were members of the Al Shabaab unit that undertook the attack. (More from the Minneapolis Star Tribune and AP)

–+–

To supplement US-based news coverage you might consider:

The Nation (major Nairobi newspaper)

Kenyan Television Network (livestream of local coverage via The Standard, another Nairobi newspaper, wait for annoying US ad to end)

BBC News live updates

Among those killed in the assault was Kofi Awoonor, the Ghanaian poet.  He wrote:

Death has made war upon our house;
And Kpet’s great household is no more,
Only the broken fence stands;
And those who dared not look in his face
Have come out as men.
How well their pride is with them.
Let those gone before take not
They have treated their offspring badly.
What is the wailing for?
Somebody is dead. Agosu himself
Alas! A snake has bitten me
My right arm is broken,
And the tree on which I lean is fallen
Agosu if you go tell them,
Tell Nyidevu, Kpeti and Kove
That they have done us evil;
Tell them their house is falling
And the trees in the fence
Have been eaten by termites:
That the martels curse them.
Ask them why they idle there
While we suffer, and eat sand,
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences
And strangers walk over our portion.

(From Songs of Sorrow)

September 20, 2013

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 20, 2013

Kamakura buddha

On this date in 1498 an offshore earthquake spawned a tsunami that killed an estimated 25 to 30 thousand Japanese.  Damage included sweeping away the temple that housed the Great Buddha at Kamakura (above).

On this date in 2008 a truck bomb exploded outside the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan killing 54 and injuring more than 250.

On this date in 2010 the Macondo 252 Deepwater Horizon well was declared officially dead, after 153 days and 5 million gallons of raw oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

September 19, 2013

Homeland security: Policy in Context

Filed under: Catastrophes,Preparedness and Response,Resilience,Risk Assessment — by Philip J. Palin on September 19, 2013

Recently I came into near simultaneous possession of two books.  If not for the coincidence of each being in my bag at the same time, the contrast between them would probably not have been noticed.

They are superficially similar.  Each has “Disaster” in the title.  Each measures  5 1/2 x 8 1/2.  One has 193 pages, the other 244 (with an appendix).  Both are particularly intended to inform and influence public administration of disasters.

But substantively they are profoundly different and, it occurs to me, reflect deep differences in homeland security (and probably beyond).

One is written by an individual, the other by a committee.  One draws heavily on history, as far back as Gilgamesh.  The second is aggressively contemporary, including a few statistics from the mid-20th Century but is otherwise very much a product of the last decade.  One is global in scope, the other almost entirely focused on the United States.

Given their public administration purposes it is not surprising that both give significant attention to institutional frameworks.

One book offers four key approaches: 1) enhancing institutional flexibility, 2) building an appreciation of risk, 3) understanding disasters and crises as part of our reality, and 4) identifying means to continually invest in infrastructure.

The other book sets out six more detailed — narrow, actionable, prescriptive, presumptuous, [insert your preference here] — recommendations:

  1. Federal agencies should incorporate national resilience as an organizing principle to inform and guide the mission and actions of the federal government and the programs it supports at all levels.
  2. The public and private sectors in each community should work cooperatively to encourage commitment to and investment in a risk management strategy that includes complementary structural and nonstructural risk-reduction and risk-spreading measures or tools.
  3. A national resource of disaster-related data should be established that documents injuries, loss of life, property loss, and impacts on economic activity.
  4. The Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with other federal agencies, state and local partners, and professional groups, should develop a National Resilience Scorecard.
  5. Federal, state, and local governments should support the creation and maintenance of broad-based community resilience coalitions at the local and regional levels.
  6. All federal agencies should promote and coordinate national resilience in their programs and policies. A resilience policy review and self-assessment within agencies, and the establishment of a strong community among agencies, are keys to achieving this kind of coordination.

The contrasting proposals are good clues to the conceptual origins of each book.

It will not surprise any regular reader that I am more personally predisposed to the historically and globally framed text.  But even when I disagree, I admire the other effort to move from conceiving possibilities to actual action.

These two efforts could have been complementary.  One might have placed our contemporary challenges in context.  Serious engagement with deeper context would likely have produced action recommendations more likely to see action.  The tactical tendencies of the group-effort would have put more meat on the individual’s frame.

But my purpose is not to critique either book.  Each is informative and helpful on its own terms.

It is those terms of self-reference that, perhaps, concern me most.  One is mechanistic — at least Newtonian — in its expectations.  The other is philosophical.  (A colleague recently commented that a publication of mine was “very philosophical”.  He was not being complimentary.)

But whether we love wisdom or just lust after its consequence, we need — especially homeland security needs — to somehow better blend policy levers (mechanisms) with social insight (philosophy).  Yes, it is possible and often helpful to conceive of individuals and neighborhoods and diverse populations as mathematical objects.  But it can also be dangerously reductionist.

I am — perhaps fatally — biased toward the historical and philosophical because of the respect these disciplines have for human failure while (usually) avoiding cynicism regarding human potential.  So much of positivist policy development is either Pollyannish or despairing.  There is a middle way.

A former Speaker of the House once told me Washington DC is the last refuge of Medieval Nominalists; by which he meant it is a city preoccupied with finding precisely the right words to successfully legislate, regulate, adjudicate, and rule. Words matter.  But no set of words, alone, are ever sufficient. Relationships matter more. Working together toward a shared vision even more.

I commend both books to you:

Crisis, Disaster and Risk: Institutional Response and Emergence by Kyle Fambry

Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative by the Committee on Increasing National Resilience to Hazards and Disasters, National Academy of Sciences.

September 17, 2013

“A foolish consistency….”

Filed under: Stray dog attack — by Christopher Bellavita on September 17, 2013
 
RTTUZYWU REUWMCS0000 1551726-UUUU–RUCRNAD. 
ZNR UUUUU
R 041726Z JUN 10FM CNO WASHINGTON DC/N09//
TO NAVADMIN
BT
UNCLASNAVADMIN 196/10
MSGID/GENADMIN/CNO WASHINGTON DC/N09/MAY//
 
SUBJ/PERSONAL FIREARMS//
 
REF/A/DOC/OPNAV/19APR10//
AMPN/OPNAVINST 5530.14E CHAP I, NAVY PHYSICAL SECURITY AND LAW ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM.//
RMKS/

Call them stray dogs, not lone wolves, said a guy I know.  He got the idea from John Brennan who believes we should “take away some of the power associated with the wolf, and [reduce] the image to a small dog with his tail between his legs slinking in the shadows.” (ff)

1.  MISHAPS INVOLVING PERSONAL FIREARMS HAVE RESULTED IN SERIOUS INJURY AND DEATH.  IN FY08, AT LEAST 28 ACTS OF SAILOR MISCONDUCT OR SUICIDE OCCURRED ONBOARD NAVY INSTALLATIONS, AND ANOTHER 111 SUCH INCIDENTS OCCURRED OFF-BASE; 26 RESULTED IN DEATH.  THIS MESSAGE SUMMARIZES RECENT CHANGES IN POLICY INTENDED TO PREVENT THESE TRAGIC MISHAPS.

From the Washington Post (in a story that is still unraveling)

At least 13 people are dead and 14 others were injured after a gunman opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday….

The incident, in which the death toll rose almost hourly, represents the single worst loss of life in the District since an airliner plunged into the Potomac River in 1982, killing 78.

2.  A RECENT REVIEW OF FIREARMS POLICY RESULTED IN UPDATED GUIDANCE FOR THE INTRODUCTION, POSSESSION, AND STORAGE OF PERSONAL WEAPONS ONBOARD NAVY INSTALLATIONS.  REF A ESTABLISHES MINIMUM REGISTRATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY REQUIREMENTS, AND DIRECTS INSTALLATION COMMANDING OFFICERS TO ESTABLISH A PROCESS FOR THE STRICT CONTROL AND ACCOUNTABILITY OF PERSONAL FIREARMS AUTHORIZED ONBOARD NAVY INSTALLATIONS.  AN IMPORTANT CHANGE IN POLICY IS THAT SAILORS MAY NOW STORE PERSONAL WEAPONS IN CERTAIN LOCATIONS ONBOARD NAVY INSTALLATIONS UNDER CAREFULLY CONTROLLED CIRCUMSTANCES AND WITH THE PRIOR WRITTEN APPROVAL OF THE INSTALLATION COMMANDING OFFICER.

From the New York Times:

…[T]he chaos started just after 8 a.m. Civilian employees described a scene of confusion as shots erupted through the hallways of the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters, on the banks of the Anacostia River a few miles from the White House and about a half-mile from the Capitol.

“I heard three gunshots, pow, pow, pow, straight in a row,” said .. a logistics management specialist from Woodbridge, Va., who was in the cafeteria on the first floor when the shooting started. “About three seconds later, there were four more gunshots, and all of the people in the cafeteria were panicking, trying to figure out which way we were going to run out.”

3.   INSTALLATION COMMANDING OFFICERS MAY AUTHORIZE THE STORAGE OF PROPERLY REGISTERED PERSONAL WEAPONS IN ON-BASE MILITARY FAMILY HOUSING AREAS (INCLUDING ON-BASE PUBLIC-PRIVATE VENTURE (PPV) HOUSING) AND IN EXISTING ARMORIES.  PERSONAL FIREARMS STORAGE IN OTHER LOCATIONS ON-BASE, SUCH AS BACHELOR QUARTERS, AUTOMOBILES, AND WORK CENTERS, IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. A.  PERSONAL FIREARMS MUST BE STORED IN EITHER A LOCKED CONTAINER, A LOCKED GUN RACK, OR SECURED WITH AN APPROVED INDIVIDUAL TRIGGER OR CHAMBER-STYLE GUN LOCK THAT PREVENTS LOADING OR FIRING.  AMMUNITION MUST BE STORED IN A SEPARATE LOCKED CONTAINER. B.  INDIVIDUALS STORING PRIVATELY-OWNED FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION IN ON-BASE MILITARY FAMILY HOUSING (INCLUDING ON-BASE PPV HOUSING) WILL ENSURE THEY ARE INACCESSIBLE TO UNAUTHORIZED PERSONS AND MINORS.

From the Washington Times: 

The FBI identified Monday’s shooter at Washington Navy Yard as 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, who was killed inside the facility….

Born in Queens, N.Y., Alexis joined the Navy in May 2007 and completed his recruit training at Great Lakes, Ill. …. [D]uring the time he served, Alexis rose to the rank of Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class and was twice awarded, first with the National Defense Service Medal and then with the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

 He was arrested by police in Seattle in 2004 for using a handgun to shoot out the tires of another man’s vehicle…. Alexis told Seattle police the shooting occurred during “an anger-fueled blackout.” During the investigation, Alexis‘ father told detectives Alexis suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving as an active participant in 9/11 rescue efforts at Ground Zero in New York, Seattle police said.

4.  ALL PERSONAL FIREARMS APPROVED BY THE INSTALLATION COMMANDING OFFICER FOR TRANSPORT ON A NAVY INSTALLATION SHALL BE TRANSPORTED ONLY AFTER INSTALLATION SECURITY HAS BEEN NOTIFIED, THE FIREARMS ARE UNLOADED, AND THEY ARE IN THE TRUNK OF THE VEHICLE.  IF THE VEHICLE HAS NO TRUNK, THE FIREARM MUST BE DISASSEMBLED, OR SECURED WITH A TRIGGER OR CHAMBER-STYLE LOCK, AND STORED IN A LOCKED CONTAINER. AMMUNITION WILL BE TRANSPORTED IN A SEPARATE COMPARTMENT FROM THE ONE IN WHICH THE FIREARM IS STORED.

From CBS News: 

A prominent member of Russia’s parliament has exploited the deadly shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington to ridicule the United States. Alexei Pushkov, who heads the international affairs committee, tweeted Monday that “nobody’s even surprised anymore” by such an attack, which he called “a clear confirmation of American exceptionalism.”

5.  IN ALL CASES, INDIVIDUALS WILL COMPLY WITH ALL FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS CONCERNING FIREARM OWNERSHIP, POSSESSION, REGISTRATION, TRANSPORTATION, AND USE. FURTHERMORE, STATE LICENSE PERMITS TO CARRY CONCEALED HANDGUNS ARE NOT RECOGNIZED OR VALID ON NAVY INSTALLATIONS.

From a Washington Post Blog Entry

Aaron Alexis was a relaxed, helpful person  who loved Thailand … the wife of his former boss at a Thai restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas told the Post. “Aaron was so chill and so laid back,” … “He was so helpful. He was such a nice guy.” A Christian, she said she had good conversations about religion with him. “It’s really hard for us to reconcile.”

But, she added, Alexis was frustrated by his financial situation. “He didn’t have a job, so it was really hard for him to get money” for some months, she said. He often complained that he wasn’t receiving enough money and wasn’t receiving it on time: “He just felt slighted by his benefits.” But, she said, he would not get angry “in any extraordinary way.”

6.  IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT ALL SAILORS WHO OWN WEAPONS TAKE THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES SERIOUSLY AND COMPLY WITH REF A.  VIOLATIONS OF THE REGULATIONS CONTAINED IN REF A BY MILITARY PERSONNEL MAY SUBJECT THEM TO ADMINISTRATIVE AND/OR DISCIPLINARY ACTION UNDER THE UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE.  CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES MAY BE SUBJECT TO DISCIPLINARY ACTION OR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION UNDER APPLICABLE CIVILIAN PERSONNEL INSTRUCTIONS.

From a Washington Times columnist:

Scaring the American public is one of President Obama’s favorite political tactics to get gun control. Just hours after the terrible shooting at the Naval Yard on Monday, Mr. Obama said that even though he didn’t have the facts, “We’re confronting — yet another — mass shooting. And today it happened on a military installation in our nation’s capital.”

Yet another?

The last mass shooting was over nine months ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. While we mourn every one of those children and educators lost that day — and today in Washington, D.C. — these events are not a cause for increased alarm.

7.  FOR FURTHER CLARIFICATION OF NAVY POLICY ON PERSONAL WEAPONS, REFER TO REF A, CHAPTER 0306, PARAGRAPH A-H.  NAVY POINT OF CONTACT FOR THIS POLICY IS [deleted by me], OPNAV N46, AT (202) [deleted by me] OR E-MAIL: [deleted by me]

From a New York Times story: 

“I heard a number of what I thought were like cap-gun shots, based on distance, inside the building,” [one man] said….

[The man] was at the back of the building working to get people out when [another] man came out of a maintenance building and approached him, asking about the shooting. Moments later, the man, a civilian, was shot in the head….

“We had a conversation for about a minute,” he said. “I heard two gunshots, and he went down, and then I ran back here.” ….

Asked how he escaped when the man next to him was shot, he said: “Luck. Grace of God. Whatever you want to call it.”

8.  VICE CHIEF SENDS.//
BT
#0000
NNNN

September 13, 2013

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 13, 2013

Today is a Friday-the-Thirteenth, a source of superstition — especially in the United States — for which no consensus exists as to the source.

On this day in 1988 Hurricane Gilbert came ashore on the Yucatan as a CAT 5.  It was at the time the strongest hurricane recorded in the Western Hemisphere.  It has since been superseded.

On this day in 1987 the theft of a radioactive device from an abandoned hospital in Goiânia, Brazil contaminated at least 249 people.

On this day in 2008 the explosion of five bombs in Delhi, India markets killed 21 and injured 110, during a year featuring at least forty-one additional bombings and the November Mumbai urban-swarm attack.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

September 12, 2013

September 12 thinking twelve years after

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 12, 2013

Fantasia_Sorcerer's Apprentice

At sundown tonight I will take a bag of coins and swing it around my head three times saying: This is my offering of thanks, this is my acknowledgement of separation, this is my hope for atonement. May I become at one with all people and with all that is real.

This is my ersatz practice of kapparot, a tradition some Jews observe on the eve of Yom Kippur. Instead of a bag of coins the swinging originally — and sometimes still — features a chicken. The money or the fowl is then given to the poor.

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are meant for introspection, casting off what separates us from others, and seeking reconciliation.

While I am not Jewish, I am a big fan of action liturgies.  I find such recurring disciplines very helpful in reducing the noise, distraction, and agitation that characterizes so much of life.

The last ten days have been especially noisy.

I celebrated Rosh Hashanah at a conference for which I had high hopes. I was disappointed. A cabinet secretary keynoting a plenary on private-public relationships in disasters was able to speak for 45 minutes as if the private sector does not exist.  He was only the most prominent of many more for whom this is evidently a felt reality.

Tuesday I spent most of a day in discussion with several smart deeply committed individuals who really could not hear anything I said about risks in trying to treat a catastrophe like an emergency.  They were utterly convinced of their ability to control chaos. They clearly had not read Der Zauberlehrling or seen Disney’s Fantasia.  I wondered if they were parents.

Meanwhile Presidents Obama, Putin, and Assad have each been calling on mysterious spirits — Socialist France, the House Republican caucus, Charlie Rose — to work on their behalf. It is not funny, but it is often absurd. At the very least, Mr. Obama seems to understand he can not control whatever “broom” he unleashes on the Syrian regime. Messrs. Putin and Assad seem more confident of their self-satisfied sorcery.

Three months ago I turned away a very interesting homeland security project that I did not feel qualified to undertake.  Tuesday evening I learned the leadership has been given to an even less-qualified individual.  One aspect of our complicated Syrian knot is a reluctance to do what we can because it is less than what we perceive is needed.  Well…

Just before sundown on the eve of Yom Kippur (tomorrow evening) the faithful gather for the Kol Nidrei ceremony.  This is a legal preface to the actual prayer service. Kol Nidrei features two proclamations: First that outcasts will be welcome to join in prayer.  Second, everyone present is released from self-limiting, self-imposed (often separating-from-others) commitments.

This second aspect is worth a few books. But for this blog think of all the private choices you have independently made that — no matter how much trouble these choices have caused — you feel honor-bound to maintain. With the Kol Nidrei these are renounced, relinquished, abandoned in advance.

The cabinet secretary has defined himself around a public sector he can (pretend to?) control.  The experienced professionals see themselves as masters-of-disaster.  Presidents — even of the world’s oldest republic — almost always claim the mantle of being in command.  I too often allow my failures and limitations to define me.

Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement — opens with an invitation to put aside such illusions.

I do not expect or want the cabinet secretary to be in control.  I would prefer he facilitate shared decision-making he cannot control.  I was trying to persuade my emergency management colleagues they were imposing on themselves an impossible goal that no one reasonably expects of them and that increases everyone’s vulnerability.  Mr. Obama is not my Commander-in-Chief (I am not in the US military), he is my President which is something quite different.  I am more than the sum of my weakness.

How have we — will we — box ourselves in?  What sense of pride or position or revenge — or even prior lessons-learned — “requires” our unthinking loyalty?  What impedes our repentance? What delays our reconciliation?  What interferes with acts of love?

Yom Kippur encourages us to put away the stubborn self-definitions that unnecessarily limit our creativity to engage tough realities with new questions and the possibility of entirely new answers.

G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

September 11, 2013

Honoring heroes by training new ones

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on September 11, 2013

On 9/11, people from all types of backgrounds, neighborhoods, religious affiliations, etc. reacted courageously in the face of mortal danger.  In Boston, during the immediate aftermath of the Marathon bombings, bystanders provided vital, life saving care.

This being the anniversary of 9/11, what else might be appropriate to highlight but the ongoing work of psychologist Phil Zimbardo to grow the number of individuals willing to take action in the first place?

Over the past few decades, psychologist Phil Zimbardo has established himself as a kind of emissary to the dark side of human nature. Thousands of college students learn each year about his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, in which he tapped half the participants to play “prisoners” and half to play “guards.” The experiment was to run for two weeks, but after just a few days, the guards started acting so sadistically—ordering the prisoners to strip nude and clean toilets with their hands, among other things—that Zimbardo called the experiment off. The study ultimately became psychological shorthand for what can happen when normal people get social license to behave badly.

This is the “negative” side of Zimbardo’s work history.  How exactly will this help foster a cadre of individuals willing to selfishly sacrifice their safety, security, and comfort in order to help others affected by the event in question?  Well….Professor Zimbardo moved on to a connected, if different, topic:

If the Stanford Prison Experiment reveals how easy it is for people to behave poorly in certain situations, the Heroic Imagination Project asks how we as a society can do better—and aims to supply convincing answers. To that end, Zimbardo and his colleagues, including longtime educator Clint Wilkins, have devised a heroic education curriculum oriented toward helping high schoolers recognize negative situational influences and rise above them. That way, they can behave in ways consistent with their true values.

According to a principle known as the bystander effect, for instance, we’re less apt to help someone in need if there are others standing around; we may not feel as compelled to act if we think another person will step in. The hero project’s curriculum teaches students to use a mental “pause button” so that they can avoid falling prey to automatic assumptions (“Someone else will take care of it”) and choose a more thoughtful response instead. Similarly, instructors warn students how easy it is to slide into conforming with what others are doing—even if it’s something unethical like bullying a fellow student—and emphasize the importance of standing alone when necessary. In addition to learning how to overcome tendencies that may hold them back from helping, heroes-in-training get to flex their selflessness muscles by brainstorming social change strategies (helping fellow students struggling with math, say) and testing them out in the real world.

Preparedness professionals have long argued for placing such education onto school curriculums.  This course represents, at least in terms of what I can identify, a worthwhile experiment in moving in that direction.

 

September 10, 2013

When the 900 pound gorilla comes home

Filed under: Homeland Defense — by Christopher Bellavita on September 10, 2013

(Today’s post was written by Quinton Lucie)

When Johnny comes marching home again
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home. 

By late 2008 it was clear the large scale commitment of U.S. troops to Iraq was coming to an end. With that choice all but made, the U.S. military was coming home to resume its (mostly) garrison posture after finishing its commitments to Afghanistan.

While it is likely U.S. forces will sign a bi-lateral agreement with the Karzai government this year, allowing for an extended U.S. presence, it will be a small one, focused on counter-terror and training. With the exception of those forces engaged in combating the remnants of Al-Qaeda and their budding progeny, training our partners, and providing an expeditionary presence around the globe, the rest will be home (since I wrote this 4 weeks ago, Syria has joined the fray, but long term it is unlikely to see a significant contribution from conventional U.S. forces, if any).

The U.S. military is the nation’s single largest investment in capabilities and these returning capabilities will need to be reintegrated into the Homeland Security Enterprise.

The old church bell will peal with joy
Hurrah! Hurrah!
To welcome home our darling boy,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The village lads and lassies say
With roses they will strew the way,
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.

There is the stuff, all the stuff paid for in the rush to build our capabilities for the Long War against Al-Qaeda, the counter-attack into Afghanistan and the foray into Iraq. For example MRAPs, a nearly $35 billion investment by Congress by 2010, will be left behind by the thousands or find their way into the inventories of local police forces.

There are the people, those soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, many of whom from the first decade of these wars have already returned home, graduated from college or begun their second careers. They will bring their strengths and skills from their service by the thousands and innovation learned from hard learned experiences.

A few, however, will also take that experience and use it for personal gain.

Or worse.

But those cases will be dwarfed by the positive.  When it comes to our returning veterans and service members we need to harness the ideas and capabilities of the next MacGyver not waste the talents of the next Cool Hand Luke.

There will be the return of domestic capabilities to NORTHCOM and local military installations. With these new capabilities will NORTHCOM subsume SOUTHCOM in a new Americas combatant command? Will domestic military forces forge closer ties to Federal and state law enforcement? How much will they integrate into local firefighting efforts and the protection of local critical infrastructure? How much of this capability will be integrated into Federal emergency management efforts?

No matter the answer to these questions, this reorientation of the U.S. military will have a disruptive effect on the Homeland Security Enterprise.

But will the disruption be positive, leading to innovation and new efficiencies or will it be a detriment, like the “old” definition of disruptive? This might depend upon the most important legacy of the return of the military from these wars on the Homeland Security Enterprise, the ideas.

Get ready for the Jubilee,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give the hero three times three,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The laurel wreath is ready now
To place upon his loyal brow
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.

In 2004, one of my friends deployed with a reserve Marine infantry battalion based out of Chicago. By 2005, those reservists had returned home and some began to implement new ideas, techniques and strategies they saw work overseas.

But some now question if all of these ideas have a place in the enterprise.

Unfortunately the effects have yet to be adequately measured. Certainly there are advantages, and like any ideas, disadvantages, but the Enterprise needs to find them now rather than let slow experience over the coming decades give us an answer. It needs to move faster like its medical partners.

The Enterprise also needs to define its role for the military. Will the military be leaders, members, partners or all of the above? When funds and support are perceived to shift to the military for emergency management activities will they be seen as a remora (one of nature’s force multipliers) or a leech? Will their invigorated relations with state and local officials be seen as a useful supplement to existing responsibilities or as an intrusion?

The military also needs to define its role within the Enterprise in the coming decades. Will Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) really become a primary mission or just a way to find more dollars to support national security missions only vaguely related to DSCA? What current training requirements get dropped for new requirements that emerge from new responsibilities? How will the Title 10 forces work with the National Guard, especially when it comes to emergency management? How will responsibility for protecting the emerging cyber commons be distributed among the military, civilian and private sector? Will the broader military industrial complex follow, for instance allowing drone vendors to squeeze out much more efficient (read: cheaper, faster and in many cases as capable) services similar to those provided by the Civil Air Patrol?

A great example of the possibilities, but also the pitfalls, can be found in the recently released Army Doctrinal Reference Publication 3-28 Defense Support of Civil Authorities. At 110 pages, it represents a significant effort (at least in comparison to its civilian counterparts) on the part of the Army. It is a fairly thorough overview of the Army’s expectations for DSCA. But it also has the mistakes that can be attributed to the motivated, but not yet initiated, that range occasionally from bad to worse.

For instance the bad –  mistaking “Federal accelerated assistance” as a separate authority for disaster response (it’s not, it’s just another way of delivering Federal disaster assistance under a Major Disaster or Emergency Declaration) – and the worse, alleging the National Emergencies Act is an authority to “institute martial law” (don’t worry it’s not). Or this well-meaning, motivating, but somewhat farcical, Air Force recruiting commercial from a few years ago.

It is crucial the Homeland Security Enterprise welcome these new sources of capabilities and possibilities. Recognition and acceptance must come from all levels of the Enterprise: the Federal bureaucrat looking to integrate military capabilities into national efforts, to the police officer who handles a traffic stop with a veteran still struggling to reintegrate, to local officials looking for new ways to add resilience to their communities.  It must be a holistic reception.

Let love and friendship on that day,
Hurrah, hurrah!
Their choicest pleasures then display,
Hurrah, hurrah!
And let each one perform some part,
To fill with joy the warrior’s heart,
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home

September 6, 2013

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 6, 2013

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?

September 5, 2013

Shaping the context: Syria and more

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Resilience,Strategy,WMD — by Philip J. Palin on September 5, 2013

Our options in Syria are, as far as I can see, all bad.  Any action or non-action involves chaotic possibilities — probabilities — well beyond confident prediction.

In our increasingly interconnected, interdependent, dynamic — and therefore complex — world this seems to be the one source of consistency on which we can depend:  Outcomes are uncertain.

There may even be a corollary:  The more confident one is of a specific outcome, the more likely the confidence is misplaced.

Even as our tools of observation, analysis and action become more powerful our capacity to accurately anticipate results seems to recede until — not unlike our oldest ancestors — we are left arguing analogies.

Is this Hitler’s Rhineland or Poland or Stalingrad?  1914 Serbia or 1938 Czechoslovakia?  Are we in the midst of a new Thirty Years War or merely the newest wrinkle in a 3000 year-old-struggle?  Is our best model a new Treaty of Westphalia or Ataturk’s solution or some sort of Ottoman consensus or expanded Concert of Europe?  Are we truly latter day Crusaders or closer to Pax Romana administrators (with our share of both Pilate’s and Pliny’s)? The historical comparisons are endless and treacherous.

I will add one more analogy which is less about a specific outcome — ultimate or ephemeral — than how context can be shaped.

A true story: Once upon a time long-ago, but no longer so far away, the Great King-of-Kings was challenged by a minor kinglet from the edge of the civilized world. Despite the overwhelming resources available to the King-of-Kings, prior encounters with the upstart had not ended well, costing the empire considerable lives, treasure and prestige.

When various political and diplomatic efforts failed and the provocations persisted, even increased, the King-of-Kings decided patient persistence required the reinforcement of other techniques.  Accordingly and with careful political deliberation, military planning and battlefield execution the King-of-Kings gathered all he needed at a time and place of his choosing.  Ancient sources disagree on details, yet all concur the balance of forces was at least 2-to-1 and credibly as much as 5-to-1.

But an unexpected oblique upended the established order.  The King-of-Kings was chased from the field of battle, his centuries-old empire imploding, and a whole new cultural reality emerging from this unexpected loss.

What the clearly weaker party could claim as comparative advantage was mobility, flexibility, curiosity, discipline, diversity, unity, speed, innovation, and considerable self-confidence.  These strengths were demonstrated on that battlefield 2344 years ago on October 1.  Even more important, the upstart’s culture demonstrated the same characteristics, long surviving the short life of its victorious king.

I don’t have an answer for what we should do in Syria.  But whatever we do — or don’t — and whatever the outcome here and abroad, I hope our choices will nurture the characteristics of this and many other upstarts across history.  These are the intellectual and spiritual foundations of resilience.

We will be challenged, sometimes horribly.  We will make bad choices, sometimes tragically. But our homeland will enjoy greater security the more we embrace mobility, flexibility, curiosity, discipline, diversity, unity, speed, innovation, and self-confidence.

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