Terrorism and Domestic Preparedness
Acts of terrorism have led to changes in the United States homeland defense strategy. Groups of extremists who embrace a religion to justify their acts of violence are participating in the political arena. This type of activity has forced a shift in Homeland Security policies. Local law enforcement cooperation within the homeland is essential in satisfying the security requirements of local communities. These professionals must interact regularly to address issues of terrorism related to intelligence, prevention and responses to actual incidents of terrorism. Interagency collaboration must be adequate to be effective. All agency issues blocking smooth coordination and communication must be addressed for the safety of the homeland. When organizational bureaucracy within these emergency management agencies is ineffective, leadership must take immediate and precise actions to align the each agency with Homeland Security requirements. America’s Homeland Security strategies to defend against terrorism will continually require revisions to effectively address the evolution of modern terrorism.
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Terrorism and Domestic Preparedness
Terrorist attacks similar to the one experienced in 2001 have left a number of Americans concerned over the likelihood of future terrorist attacks and their potential impacts, as well. Such attacks have increased the level of uncertainty regarding what may happen, which only serves to heighten anxiety and stress levels. Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), which include chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, have increased the likelihood of incidents of terrorism in America (Friedmann, & Cannon, 2009, p. 9). The possibility of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda employing WMDs against Americans is very real. A WMD may be defined as a weapon that has the capacity to cause grievous harm and/or destruction and death on a grand scale such that the possession of such weapons by hostile groups poses a serious threat. Past events, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, and the use of drones in bombing the Pentagon and the WTC (World Trade Center) in 2001 proved that the United States is not secure against attacks from both international and domestic terrorists. In view of these past incidences and the prospects of future attacks, the country’s domestic preparedness programs must beyond the physically securing high-value or vulnerable target, which has been at the core of traditional counterterrorism modus operandi. Instead, domestic preparedness programs must aim to reduce the susceptibility of the country as a whole by making better operational response capabilities at all levels of government.
A modern pattern of terrorism seems to lean towards loosely organized and self-financed global networks of terrorist groups. Radical Islamic groups such as Al Qaeda, as well as other religious groups using religion as an excuse, have become a threat to the interests of the United States and other friendly regimes. International terrorism has become a key threat to U.S. domestic and foreign security. The timing and selection of target by terrorists has the potential of affecting America’s interests in important areas such as nuclear nonproliferation and the safeguarding of commerce. The increasing political participation of terrorist and extremist parties in foreign countries and the visible growth of cross-national connections among various terrorist organizations have also attracted the attention of the United States. This is because such links usually involve combinations of technology transfer, funding, and military training. The 2001 terrorist attacks served as a catalyst for broad and far-reaching changes in the security efforts of the United States (Friedmann, & Cannon, 2009, p. 16). The attacks led to changes in not only how America would identify and respond to threats, but also its efforts in preventing them, as well. Among the most notable changes was the establishment of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), which was intended to lead broader homeland security endeavors though the integration of the tribal, local, state, and federal governments, as well as the private sector and American citizens into a single cohesive homeland security enterprise.
The domestic policy of the United States towards global terrorism is characterized by a considerable military aspect, which is reflected in its military operations in the Middle East. Because terrorism has become a global trend, a major challenge that policymakers face is how to capitalize on international support and cooperation without disproportionately compromising national security options and interests of the U.S. Other noteworthy policy challenges include the approach that can be taken in minimizing civil and economic liberty costs occasioned by an enhanced security environment, as well as how to best decimate the enticements to terrorism, particularly in cases of countenanced or state-sponsored terrorist activities. The government response to the 2001 terrorist attacks was swift, comprehensive, and decisive (Quay, & Damico, 2010, p. 172). Following the attribution of the attacks to Al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, the United States announced a radical shift in its homeland security policies from a focus on deterrence to preemption. In view of the potentially calamitous consequences of the deployment of WMDs by terrorist groups, policymakers felt that America could not afford to be inactive, sit back, and only act in response to an attack. Preemptive military intervention against foreign terrorist outfits and infrastructure became widely accepted among policymakers. Following the 9/11 attacks, antiterrorism policy took a preemptive attitude and focused principally on preventing attacks from Al Qaeda, frequently by taking the war to the enemy’s territory.
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A corresponding area of policy intervention involves guarding the homeland against terrorist threats and attacks, as well as the aftermath of such attacks through border security, the reduction of vulnerabilities of crucial national infrastructure, and increasing the support and enhancing the resources availed to intelligence and law enforcement. Terrorists may strike at any time, using a variety of weapons, and in any manner, including through chemical and biological weapons, bombs, or even fires. Because it is not possible to protect everything, it is imperative to prioritize the protection of crucial infrastructure, including facilities such as water and electrical utilities, oil refineries and storage facilities, and nuclear power plants, as well as public transportation systems, including airports, railroads, subway systems, and bridges (McEntire, 2009). These are crucial elements in the sustenance of life and economy in America and, therefore, are attractive targets to extremist and terrorist groups. In 2003, the HSARPA (Homeland Security Advanced Research Project Agency) established the SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) program as a way of encouraging small businesses to partake in federal Research and Development programs aimed at creating solutions and technologies that compliment the mission of homeland security (Bullock, 2012, p. 115). Being familiar with the pressing challenge of homeland security, a number of American institutions and companies have joined ongoing research efforts. For instance, Stanford University and the UC Berkeley have joined projects intended to enhance response to computer incidents.
Part of the reason why community-oriented policing is a crucial aspect of homeland security arises out of the fact that it is mostly a grassroots enterprise and local and state agencies are often the first line of defense in matters relating to protecting the homeland. The constitution of the United States establishes a system in which the local and state governments are given the principal role of homeland security. Although this role has undergone significant changes over time, local and state governments today are tasked with the primary role of securing the homeland and protecting the citizenry against any threats of terrorism. Thorough the NRP (National Response Plan) and the 2001 Patriot Act, the federal government has instituted guidelines and standards that inform the preparation for, and response to, potential terrorist activities by law enforcement agencies (Perl, & Library of Congress, 2007, p. 21). It is imperative to examine the significance of intervention by states because they are the first to respond to emergencies, and their efforts and commitment to securing the homeland often constitutes an important component of effectual counterterrorism approaches. Local governments are in a better position to know the grassroots needs. Therefore, homeland security policy assert that information ought to be collected at the local level and disseminated to the state and federal authorities (Kaiser, & Library of Congress, 2011, p. 7). In addition, the duty of protecting the infrastructure and responding to emergencies is usually the primary responsibility of local governments and can be escalated to the state and federal levels only in times of dire crises.
Law enforcement is expected to adjust and align to the goals of the Department of Homeland Security. In ensuring that the homeland is adequately protected, communities, scholars, law enforcement, and public officials have identified a number of measures that, if enforced adequately, will assist in protecting local communities while improving the efficiency and success of homeland security policy. Specifically, local government may be able to meet homeland security expectations through the expansion of intelligence gathering, improvement of the relationship between the community and the police, cooperation with federal, state, and local entities, as well as the expansion of their capability and scope in responding to terrorism incidences (Kaiser, & Library of Congress, 2011, p. 7). In the war on terror, victory is only attainable through efficient intelligence gathering. In this regard, local communities and law enforcement must work together to increase surveillance and put more effort in securing critical infrastructure. At the community level, local law enforcement agencies are usually in constant contact with the residents and, therefore, are capable of gathering useful intelligence concerning threats to domestic security. Because they are usually at the forefront of homeland security, local law enforcement meets the criteria of homeland security policy by coordinating with federal and state agencies. In addition, the ability of law enforcement agencies to share information relating to security is important not only for the three principal levels of government, but for the private and international sectors too.
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The response to terrorist activities by law enforcement is perhaps among the most important requirements with respect to securing the homeland. Above all, municipal governments perform a number of functions that relate to homeland security, such as emergency response, law enforcement, public health readiness, the protection of crucial infrastructure, and informing the public of potential terrorist threats. Although the possibility of a terrorist attack is very low for most local jurisdictions across the United States, lucid and functional response mechanisms and procedures are still important in enhancing the effectiveness of homeland security while also ensuring the security of communities and local governments. Stated in a different way, local law enforcement agencies are trained to make sure that they are able to cope with all acts of terrorism. They are trained on how to determine the presence of acts of terrorism within their communities, as well as how to avoid being distracted by focusing on any group of people. Because law enforcers are usually the first to respond to terrorist threats and activities, they are exposed to enormous challenges and risks. In addition, because the costs involved in dealing with terrorist attacks are usually very high, there is the need ensure that this cost is spread through collaboration between law enforcement and the local community (Ryan, 2012, p. 25). The extent of success or failure of endeavors to secure the homeland directly affects the achievement and success of law enforcement efforts.
Interagency collaboration between the different federal agencies with shared responsibilities and overlapping jurisdictions in not a new concept. In the current bureaucratic environment, team members are usually rewarded for focusing on their survival needs, as well as those of their organizations. Countering terrorism calls for close cooperation between the various local, state, and federal agencies (Ryan, 2012, p. 25). This is because while some terrorists will require the judicial process in ensuring justice, others will need to be dealt with through covert military operations. Important measures have been taken in encouraging close inter-agency collaboration, although organizational bureaucracy has stifled cooperation across federal, state, and local jurisdictions. The poor exchange of information between law enforcement and intelligence services at all the three levels has facilitated terrorist activities. A chronic concern that usually surfaces in reports addressing the activities of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks is the perception that information on the possible terrorist participation of individuals was not availed to law enforcement, border guards, and immigration officials. The sharing of information is still not adequately developed. The existence of interagency teams reveals the limitations that organizations are facing in ensuring the efficient sharing of information and capabilities.
A number of notable efforts have been instituted in the recent past to improve interagency collaboration. These include multilayered assessment, scenario-based planning, operational planning systems, and conflict assessment frameworks (Ryan, 2012, p. 23). Investigating today’s terrorist groups call for interagency collaboration and communication. The bureaucratic response to weaknesses in interagency collaboration may be addressed by adjusting training protocols, instituting job-swapping programs, as well as having leaders making symbolic gestures on the importance of collaboration between agencies. However, it is imperative to note that while these measures are necessary, they are not sufficient. It is also important to inculcate civic values and make agency heads understand that the success of others is the success of all, in service to America and its citizens.
While terrorists groups differ extensively with respect to structural and ideological constitution, their goals have some common aspects, which include the spreading of fear through explicit, criminal techniques to attain some political ends. Terrorist attacks are intended to send messages of hostility, often resulting from utter political power or religious differences. Public debate concerning the responsibility of the government in failing to thwart the 9/11 terrorist attacks have largely dwelled in the failures by law enforcement and intelligence institutions. There is a prevalent view that these institutions were organized in ways that prevented preemptive behavior and flow of information that could have helped in precluding the attacks. The American homeland policy holds the view that intelligence collection, coordination with local, state, and federal agencies, and improved relationship between the police and the local communities at the local level will help in the prevention of, or response to, potential acts of terrorism (Ryan, 2012, p. 25). Homeland security policy emerged following the atrocious terrorist acts against Washington D.C. and New York City and has evolved considerably since then. Terrorist threats post 9/11 has caused citizens to demand enhanced protection from the government.
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Kaiser, F. M., & Library of Congress. (2011). Interagency collaborative arrangements and activities: Types, rationales, considerations. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress.
McEntire, D. (2009). Introduction to Homeland Security. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
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Quay, S. E., & Damico, A. M. (2010). September 11 in popular culture: A guide. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.
Ryan, A. J. (2012). Interagency collaboration by design. Interagency Journal, 3(3), 21-30.