Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 20, 2014

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on June 20, 2014

On this day last year the Canadian province of Alberta experienced the start of a period of sustained flooding that displaced more than 100,000 and caused damage exceeding $5 billion.

On this day, also last year, the Colorado Black Forest Fire was declared 100 percent contained after burning more than 14,000 acres, destroying 486 homes, and resulting in two deaths.

Symantec, the computer security firm, has released a warning related to cyberattacks planned for today.  According to the warning the target will be the global energy industry.

What’s on your mind related to homeland security?


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Comment by John Comiskey

June 20, 2014 @ 4:47 am

Flash: 2014 QHSR released.

Chris B said, notwithstanding a comma, his initial spoonful was hope.

Hope is hidden everywhere including Pandora’s box. Selfishly, I too am hopeful. I have high hopes for my son and daughter 21 and 18. The 21 year old is an NYPD police cadet. They bear my hopes and prayers.

In addition, I have high hopes for my students who also bear my hopes and prayers.

The 2014 QHSR affirms much of the 2010 QHSR and repeats the 5 basics HLS missions.

My first takeaways include:

HLS is an evolving landscape

Terrorism is primary mission

Natural disasters effected by climate change and aging and independent infrastructure

Homeland Security Architecture is maturing.

Intelligence is more adept at identifying and disrupting terrorism.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

June 20, 2014 @ 7:35 am

Another perspective….Friday Free Forum —

Expert view:

Andreas Krieg, a Middle East security analyst at King’s College London in Qatar

With jihadist fighters closing in on Baghdad with such apparent ease, could they really take control of Iraq? And do they even want to?

Here, Andreas Krieg, a Middle East security analyst at King’s College London in Qatar, gives MailOnline his verdict on ISIS’s chances of toppling Baghdad and whether they can achieve their ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic state.
Will ISIS try to take Baghdad?

It is clear that ISIS is moving towards Baghdad so it seems they are trying to take Baghdad.

It would be unrealistic to seize Baghdad considering the concentration of Iraqi military, private armed contractors, Shi’a militias and armed neighborhood watches there.

Also, I think that the U.S. will draw a red line when it comes to Baghdad.
It depends how far ISIS is willing to go into Baghdad before they realise that it might not be worth the costs. One needs to consider as well that ISIS as a jihadist organisation also tries to spread fear and terror.

So what’s the alternative?

For them, it might be sufficient to demonstrate to the population of the city that they are not safe as long as they support Maliki (the Iraqi Prime Minister).
They can do that by drawing Iraqi security forces into fierce urban combats or by using their terrorist wing to plant bombs. These tactics, however, will not bring about control of the city.

They might enter the city and bring about a stalemate, but it seems unlikely at this moment to expect Baghdad to fall.

So what happens then?

In order to achieve their strategic objective of creating an actual caliphate (Islamic state), they do not need Baghdad.
It would be more sensible at this point to consolidate power and control over these areas under its responsibility.

What is a caliphate?

The idea of caliphate in their minds is quite a vague concept. All jihadi as well as many moderate Islamist organisations ultimately seek to establish a caliphate.
ISIS is the one organisation that has come the closest of actually controlling territory.

For Al Qaeda, the concept of the caliphate is a more utopian concept. This is where ISIS breaks with Al Qaeda and its own past.
They have proclaimed Al Baghdadi as the Emir of their caliphate, which now comprises large areas stretching from northern Syria to Iraq.

How will they go about establishing one?

ISIS is mostly regarded as a foreign entity as most of its fighters are not from the Levant. Most of ISIS in Iraq are not from Iraq and most of ISIS in Syria are not from Syria.

So they need to recruit mujahedeen from abroad in order to not just keep on fighting but also hold the territory and establish a governance structure.
So far, they have taken only basic public services such as collecting garbage, collecting taxes (zakat), enforcing Sharia law, replacing Imams in bigger cities with their own Imams etc.

But for the most part administering is done through coercion.
Law and order is enforced by deterrence. They have public show trials where defendants get publicly lashed or executed.

With limited forces available to administer the country, the local population could probably cause major problems if they rose up against ISIS.
ISIS control is very fragile as people only co-operate due to fear not because they want to. Just because they have seized territory from official statutory power, it does not make them a statutory power.

But they are learning and if there are able over the coming months and years to consolidate their power, they might be able to erect a quasi-regime loosely keeping all those territories together

Comment by Christopher Tingus

June 20, 2014 @ 7:40 am

Friday Free Forum – The Trumpet Magazine – Iraq/Iran and the US —

In times of crisis, real warriors come to the surface and demonstrate their leadership.

“And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid” (1?Samuel 17:24). Saul offered a great reward to anyone who would stand up to Goliath. But no one would fight, even for riches. You see the same pathetic spirit of timidity and fear in the United States today.

Why were these men so shamefully fearful?

It was primarily because of Saul’s poor leadership. Young David had a totally different spirit. “And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (verse 26).

David saw these men, not as the armies of Israel, but the armies of the living God! Who would dare defy the armies of the living God? he asked. Not one person in that army looked at it that way, and David was just shocked at their shameful cowardice.

This was a real crisis of Israel’s leadership! It is exactly the state to which America has descended. And young David is a picture of the kind of leadership necessary to empower the nation—even today.

In times of crisis, real warriors come to the surface and demonstrate their leadership.

David wanted to remove the “reproach” this situation was bringing on Israel. That word means scorn, contempt, vile dishonor. That is what the Philistines had brought on the nation! David took that as a personal insult!

Don’t we see the exact same reproachful attitude today toward the United States by nations such as Iran, Russia and China? Nations all over this Earth routinely despise and taunt the United States, regardless of America’s superior strength. There is no respect or fear of the United States.

Where is the David-like leader to stand up and defend the honor of the nation?

Who in America would stand up and fight for the honor of their nation—or even the honor of God? Even America’s valiant soldiers are restrained by disgraceful and incoherent policies from the top. No longer do the nations of Israel fight for their own honor.

Weakness is revealed when a nation does not put down that dishonor. When enemies see that weakness, they become increasingly contemptuous, and grow bolder and more dangerous.

There is a gaping hole in our society today! Our leaders simply will not fight for the honor of God or our nation.

King David’s example is there for all of us to learn from, especially our leaders! ?

Comment by Brian Lozada

June 20, 2014 @ 7:41 am

Despite the U.S. military being out of Iraq since 2011, Special Forces are now being considered to be deployed as a result of the recent ISIS uprising. ISIS continues to add to the number of casualties incurred over the past few weeks, most recently with a car bomb and two road bomb explosions just forty miles outside the nation’s capital, killing three people and injuring fifteen others. In response to these actions, the Pentagon has suggested that President Obama send up to one hundred Special Forces advisors to Iraq to partner with the Iraqi military. In addition, both manned and unmanned reconnaissance flights over Iraq have already begun to gather intelligence on ISIS activity (Carter, Smith-Spark, Fantz, & Labott, 2014).

My concern with sending Special Forces to assist in Iraq’s fight against ISIS is that it will end up resulting in a battalion in the end, causing U.S. ground troops to return to Iraq after being absent for the past three years. The larger issue here is that every time Iraq is in trouble with threats to their own security, they will continue to ask the U.S. for assistance. This ongoing cycle will ultimately produce a country that is unable to defend itself; therefore, we are doing Iraq a disservice should we send troops in response to this radical group’s insurgence.

For more information, see http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/19/politics/iraq-crisis/index.html?hpt=hp_inthenews

Comment by Samantha Wilson

June 20, 2014 @ 9:14 am

Today, I am concerned about the threat to the American advisers that President Obama is sending to Iraq and the future of America’s involvement in Iraq. As I was watching President Obama speak yesterday, I was wondering what exactly these advisers would be doing and who they are, and I am not alone. A retired Marine sergeant believes the term “adviser” is the wrong word to use, citing this language as political. He says, “We are calling them adviser now … instead of combat troops or boots on the ground.” He, along with myself and others, is understandably concerned that these advisers’ roles will subtly morph into combat roles, and the U.S. will once again be involved in Iraqi conflict. Although the ISIS militants are targeting Shiites, I am concerned that by inserting ourselves into the area and into the conflict, the U.S. will make itself a target, as well. ISIS militants, described as being “semi-illiteral (illiterate) thugs driving around in pickup trucks with machine guns” will probably not care that the Americans in Iraq are only there as advisers; if they want to harm Americans, they will, regardless of their reasons for being in Iraq. U.S. involvement, no matter how small the involvement may seem, is threatening to America.

For more information:

Comment by John Comiskey

June 20, 2014 @ 9:25 am

(Continued from 4:47 a.m. post. I experienced technical issues)

Examples continued:

TSA Pre & Global Entry demonstrate efficient risk-based security (note this is a DHS claim)

Most important notes:

1. Risk-awareness and management preeminent
2. Shared governess awareness (strengthening national preparedness and resilience includes “corollary responsibility” to become more efficient across a large and decentralized structure).

Comment by Christopher Tingus

June 20, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

U.S. military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways over the past decade, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons, according to a year-long Washington Post investigation.

Documents obtained by The Post detail scores of previously unreported crashes involving remotely controlled aircraft, challenging the federal government’s assurances that drones will be able to fly safely over populated areas and in the same airspace as passenger planes.

Read more at:

Comment by Darryl Cleveland

June 20, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

I’m new to this site, but was encouraged by a colleague to post a thought on here. I recently attended a couple of homeland security and emergency management higher education symposiums that broadened my horizons of thought and consideration on these subjects.

I received an email with attached video while attending one of these symposiums. The video link is


It has raised a very curious issue for me that I had not before considered… Wildfires as a significant Homeland Security concern. This is an exceptionally well done video highlighting “Mega” fires in the US and Australia over the last few decades. Interestingly, this is a subject that has been a large part of my fire service career over the past 32 years, but more interestingly, thinking about the omissions and commissions that got us here let alone the potential homeland security risk that these “Mega Fires” pose. Let me explain.

Certainly there is nothing we can do about cyclic weather patterns such as drought and wet seasons. I believe they are normal cycles in a very cyclic world (without engaging in the climate change argument albeit I believe there is some merit to it). However, what I have observed is more of a definitive man made phenomena. Nearly simultaneous to our US policy of suppressing all fires, due to urban sprawl and environmental concerns, we also, for environmental reasons, stopped managing forests through responsible logging in many parts of the country. There is no doubt that logging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were very irresponsible and those scars still exist today.

However, what we have adopted as national policy, suppress all fires and logging simultaneous to each other, has led to these now, “Mega” fires we experience today. Forests cannot survive both a lack of vegetative management, too many trees per acre, and no healthy ground fire, in conjunction with prolonged drought conditions such as are experienced regularly and frequently in the western United States and much of Australia. This combination of policies and now cultural norms have added to the high fire severity we see today, where yearly we are witnessing both entire ecosystems being completely destroyed and communities alike.

So what is the homeland security concern? Could fire be used as a weapon of mass destruction and chaos in our rural, suburban and even urban communities?

And, is there a potential solution? Could this situation be better managed by re-introducing responsible, healthy timber harvesting in these much over-grown forests? Would such a proposal add economic viability to these locations by creating jobs while at the same time minimizing a significant disaster and homeland security potential? Or, are we now beyond the tipping point after multiple decades of policy that led to the perfect storm of “Mega Fires” as a significant environmental and homeland security concern?

Comment by Frank Gorman

June 20, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

Today, I had business at Newark Airport near the terminal for private and corporate jets. I am probably not the only person to be concerned about this, but it occurred to me that a 9/11 aviation attack might easily be undertaken by exploiting the lack of security at such facilities. A well-funded terror organization could charter a medium sized jet, and have pilot trained hijackers pose as passengers. There is minimal screening of baggage and passengers at such facilities, so smuggling hand weapons aboard would not pose much of a challenge.
Once airborne, the passengers (hijackers) could seize control of the aircraft and turn it into a missile. Granted, the largest plane available may be a 737, but an extended range model carries a large quantity of fuel. I hope this never happens, but it does seem feasible. Even a small Lear or Falcon jet could destroy a tank farm or energy generation plant if deliberately crashed.
The role of TSA should be expanded to provide further scrutiny of these aviation operations. I am sure there would be considerable resistance from the corporate fliers of the world, but I believe these current arrangements merit another look in the interest of aviation security.
Also on the subject of transportation, it is equally troubling that passenger railroad trains do not require engineers to be locked in the control cab of their rolling stock. The Metro-North derailment in December 2013 at Spuyten Duyvel, Bronx, NY was a tragic accident. Four were killed, and scores injured on an early Sunday morning train, which was comparatively empty, compared to a weekday rush our train. Hijackers could easily re-enact this incident on a packed train, with no explosives, and potentially kill hundreds. Better security measures are needed now on commuter rail – it is only a matter of time before terrorists exploit this easy target, and lax attitudes of traincrews and their supervision.
All forms of public transportation are easy targets, we should not make it easier on our adversaries.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

June 20, 2014 @ 3:05 pm

Breaking News:


When the Executive WH, the AG himself and even the IRS refuse to never mind explain, no apologies accepted, where emails are intentionally lost to cover up wrong doing just as those of our brave died at the “Benghazi Massacre” with no orders to support our men….really….

….and this intentional deception of the American people and breach of faith is allowed to continue by these Congressional and Senate “clowns” leading this disgraceful “Chicago-Hollywood-Washington charade” with Barry Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Billy boy and his no sex and the whole lot failing to honor our American Democracy, our beloved Republic, our Judeo-Christian values and our Constitution and their solemn pledge to – faithfully execute the duties and responsibilities of their office – well folks….

Enough is enough….

Comment by Christopher Tingus

June 20, 2014 @ 3:09 pm

From Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This information has recently been updated, and is now available.

TSA Week in Review – 36 Firearms Discovered This Week (33 Loaded)

06/20/2014 03:44 PM EDT

Comment by Christopher Tingus

June 20, 2014 @ 4:14 pm

Is it 82 days now….

As a senior citizen, sometimes it really does not matter where you parked your car or you have a momentary loss as to the day and/or date, however it does matter when one of our own brave Marines is tied to his Mexican prison bed and neither Barry Obama, Hillary Clinton or the AG has spoken little and one less to make sure that our Marine who served this nation far more proudly than these clowns who make an intentional mockery of our Constitution, our values and our checks and balances in government and very much in parallel with both sides of the Congressional aisle.

Tens of thousands of illegals from Central America are being bused across borders into Mexico and the Mexicans are turning a frown and looking the other way laughing at the gringos feeding kids and adults and there is no question that State and the AG’s office has discussed this matter and been granted an ok to bring illegal immigrants whether 3 months old or teen agers to their parents while our proud American sits another day and another weekend and guess what fellas, Barry Obama, State with our illustrious Uncle Johnny and Ms. Hillary could give a toot about our Marine who made a wrong turn, had licensed guns and all his belongings and given the VA charade and the handling of Iraq and other, if it not clear to you by now, Barry Obama and the AG are seemingly only interested in anything that relates to the pigment of skin and nothing more and how to raise the minimum wage so food prices will soar, yet not as much as the nearly $18 trillion in bankruptcy we have on our books..

On this Friday, the question is why is our Marine in jail while others are allowed to break the law and while this administration knows well how to let terrorists from Gitmo for one soldier who is a traitor and nothing less as portrayed by reports, our Marine sits in jail – go get him fellas – he is one of you!

Bravo! We do not leave anyone behind….

Comment by E. Earhart

June 20, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

Mr. Cleveland,

Welcome aboard, do not be a stranger.

Following a 2012 Inspire magazine article on exactly your point:

“A newly released DHS report states that for more than a decade “international terrorist groups and associated individuals have expressed interest in using fire as a tactic against the Homeland to cause economic loss, fear, resource depletion, and humanitarian hardship.” The report notes that the tactical use of fire as a weapon is “inexpensive and requires limited technical expertise” and “materials needed to use fire as a weapon are common and easily obtainable, making preoperational activities difficult to detect and plot disruption and apprehension challenging for law enforcement.”


see also



Comment by E. Earhart

June 20, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

Mr. Cleveland,

Regarding our fire services and the nature of fire-fighting today, is there a need for restructuring of our fire services?

Please correct me if I am wrong, but fewer and fewer structure fires (a good thing) at the same time, 75% of fire-fighters belong to volunteer fire departments. Do these volunteer FFs also fight wild fires?

Thank you.

Comment by Darryl Cleveland

June 21, 2014 @ 10:59 am

E. Earhart, thanks for your question and your assessment is absolutely correct. Today, our country experiences far fewer structure fires than several decades ago. However, the structure fires we experience today are far more devastating and ferocious due to the changed fuel type in our structures. There is no such thing as Class A “ordinary combustible” fuels in our structures today. About 58 years ago, give or take, we began replacing our common wood, wool and cotton contents with what I call “Solid Hydrocarbon” fuels. Today nearly everything is made of some type of petro chemical and those solid hydrocarbon fuels react just like liquid hydrocarbon fuels under fire. Therefore, the heat release rate and energy release from these SH fuels is more than 10 times higher over the same amount of time when compared with the wood, wool and cotton fuels of yester year.

There is only one way to ensure occupants have time to escape a structure fire today and that is through fire sprinkler systems in commercial and residential structures alike. Fire sprinklers can do what no fire department in the world can do, provide escape time and thus increased survivability of occupants. No fire department in the world can beat a 3 1/2 minute time to “flashover” or subdue the plethora of toxins in smoke.

Also, you are correct that approximaely 75% of FD’s in the country today are still Volunteers. These men and women do an outstanding job of protecting their communities and yes, they also fight wildland fires. As to restructuring our fire services? Yes, I would agree this is needed and coming due to simple and sheer economics. As I alluded to earlier, if not for wild fires in many parts of the country, the US would not have a substantial fire problem today and that could be further reduced by implementing resdential fire sprinklers.

As a retired career firefighter and fire chief, I enjoyed a tremendous career and gleaned much as to the world of fire. I believe today, more than ever, the old adage of “we’re the fire department, we’re the last to change” MUST go away. It is high time for the American fire service to open its eyes and modernize and educate for our current mission and operational efficiences rather than holding to the traditional hallmarks of this great profession. If it does not, it will face certain extinction both from within and without. Dinosaurs always find their way to extinction.

Comment by E. Earhart

June 21, 2014 @ 12:59 pm

Mr. Cleveland,

Specifically, what do you see as some of the needed changes to avoid extinction?


Is extinction a worthy goal both in the fire service or any other hls endeavor? Extinction as a metric of success?

Comment by Christopher Tingus

June 21, 2014 @ 6:43 pm

Median age of residential US dwellings some 40 years now and with just 62% of the American work force paying the bills and more and more law breakers w/no visa are permitted to enter this country adding further burden to an already overwhelmed nearly $18 trillion in fiscal deficit and Barry Obama and this illustrious AG seemingly playing the race card and divisive in every way so focused on the pigment of skin, while I only stood in the snow, cold, rain and all else in New England weather for three long years and winters as merely a concerned citizen in support of both my local first responder as well as fellow neighbor to force the reopening of a closed fire station which was closed only for the polticians’ politicizing….I differ in opinion and with porous borders with 60% of our border agents now forced to babysit illegal entrants no matter age and a US Marine since in a Mexican prison for 83 days w/this administration making closed door agreements with the Mexicans to allow illegals from central American to pass through both its southern and northern borders into the US, but not a word about this detained Marine who I believe should be picked up overnight in a quick raid….

We need well trained firefighters and fire apparatus in every way as many on “Main Street USA” have little confidence in American leadership from top down given all this self-servbing demeanor and all are just waiting for the calamity certain to come to any country when there is no leadership and an intentional weakening of a nation’s power and position as we have seen day and night and leadership who obviously prefers to lie rather than adhere to the pledge in oath to faithfully execute the duties and responsibilities and enforce the laws…

Let’s really tell it the way it is for we can see the handwriting on the wall much like the German people when in one day in 1935, their Rights were taken away and neighbor was pitted against neighbor….

Recall the words of Frederick Douglass:

“Find out just what People will submit to, and You have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress” –

Apparently both political parties are only interested in their own self-serving needs so it is my contention that WE the People here on “Main Street USA” demand that either Barry Obama and Hillary Clinton and this illustrious AG be placed under “house arrest” for suspicion in breach of faith now even further than the breach of faith, treason at the “Benghazi attack” but as well in losing the first monies of the stimulus plan, now the emails from the IRS and on and on to the extent that a reported traitor prompted the US to free proven terrorists and at least from my perception here on “Main Street USA” and in discussing Homeland Security, We folks….are in big trouble and again I offer my Right to Congress to place Barry Obama under citizen arrest as well as Hillary and the AG for suspicion in breach of faith, treason and if government cannot function, I (we) call upon the US military to step forward and for a temporary period of time take over the reigns of governing until this can all be sorted out as Barry Obama’s pledge to Hussain Obama and his kenyan pals to weaken our nation in every way has now be portrayed over and over again….

Enough is enough….

Let’s get the US military onto the southern border of our country and thwart all this charade which has been reported as a charade sponsored by this “Chicago-Washington-Hollywood” ……..

We need more fire fighters and far better trained in terrorist attack on our beloved Republic for which We as citizens, legal and law-abiding citizens are obligated to stand forthright and demand enforcement of our laws and the faithful execution of oath of office….

God Bless America!
Christopher Tingus
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

Comment by Darryl Cleveland

June 22, 2014 @ 5:53 pm

E. Earhart, those are good questions. I will address the first one regarding needed changes in the modern fire service. In 2007 a Swedish fire official was the keynote speaker at the international fire chiefs convention and he started his keynote with this statement, “the American fire service is stupid; its stupid because it places heroism above personal safety.” He was absolutely correct and we continue to do so today. Consider all the recent firefighter deaths you have probably been made aware of by the news media. Why are these firefighters dying??? Because they believe it is noble to die for material property. None of them have died trying to legitimately save lives, there were no lives to be saved. So, the answer is we must become a scalable public entity based upon real mission and threat, rather than the traditional by which we have for so long justified our existence. At this point many people and politicians, are beginning to ask some very serious questions of their fire services and we need to pay attention.

We must look at what the modern mission is, and it is not primarily fire. It is everything else we do. We must look at our modern fire environment and utilize tactics that meet that environment and not the environment of 50, 60 or 100 years ago. Our modern fire service culture is similar to that of the civil war era when it comes to equipment versus tactics. In the civil war, their weaponry had advanced, but the tactics remained as they were during the revolutionary war. Men lined up shoulder to shoulder as they marched toward the enemy firing rifle and cannons. If you were lucky, you weren’t hit. Today’s fire service is no different. We charge into untenable environments that in many cases are already fatal and hope our equipment will protect us. Often, too often, it does not. Why??? Because the equipment has improved, but the mindset and tactics of the firefighter has not.

The fire service can and should avoid extinction by taking a close look at the modern mission, which by the way, is not set by the fire service, but rather by the public that calls 9-1-1. They must take a hard look at this modern mission and re-organize, re-structure and re-brand themselves as All-Hazards emergency responders. It is very possible to do, but only if traditionally oriented organizations are willing to take a hard, realistic look and follow it with appropriate action.

As to extinction as a metric for success in other HLS disciplines??? Well, clearly there are some things in life and the world that should absolutely become extinct as they meet the end of their usefulness in society. However, with HLS disciplines and policy, I believe that this arena must also be more scalable to various levels of government and locale than it is currently. We tend to paint many things with a broad brush in the US. When at the end of the day, all incidents, including disasters of whatever nature are local. Yet, we have no less than 22 federal agencies that all have HLS responsibilities and most certainly amongst those agencies their is duplication of effort and dollars. If we were to take a hard look at the scalable aspects of HLS relative to local governments, true first responders, and appropirately and scalably appropriate monies to this level with a realistic brush instead of the broad brush, we could become more effective, efficient and capable. By doing so, it is likely that some HLS agencies would become extinct and therefore, as a result of greater effectiveness and efficiency, a metric for success.

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