Homeland Security Best Practices: A State’s Perspective
Center for National Policy, Washington, DC
March 25, 2009
Congressman Roemer, thank you very, very much and thank you to everyone here with the Center for National Policy for giving me an opportunity to be with all of you over lunch.
I want to thank you for the good work the Center does day in and day out to promote the principles of peace and greater security, not only for our country, but for this entire world. And I think that that is one of the things that defines us as a people. FDR talked about the Four Freedoms, including the freedom from fear. But it was not just in the United States, it was the freedom from fear everywhere in the world.
Today, I want to share just a few thoughts upfront about the challenges that we face in this new era of asymmetrical warfare. This time when warfare is being totally transformed; when the very things that make us a strong economy,… make us a strong country,…make us the sort of place that people from all over the globe want to aspire to reach so that their talents can be used to the fullest in a free and open society, where you can get on a plane, get on a train, go anywhere you like, associate with whomever you like,…
… Those things are also the very things that make it difficult for us to defend ourselves against this new type of asymmetrical warfare. And I think we're going to be a long time, as a country, before we actually catch up with this new reality and start applying -- in Robert Kennedy's words, “the rational application of human effort,” to this very urgent human problem of how we secure our freedoms of association, our freedoms of movement, our freedoms of commerce in our country without destroying them.
I do have the honor right now of being able to serve as one of the two lead Governors for the National Governor's Association on Homeland Security. Prior to that I served for seven years as Mayor of the City of Baltimore.
In the City of Baltimore, we've been dealing with homeland security since 1814. Baltimore City was the birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner. When Washington had been sacked and burned and there was no Federal Government to come to our rescue we came together ourselves, not only at Fort McHenry, but at Patterson Park and at Northpoint. Sixty percent of the defenders of Baltimore in 1814 were immigrants and one out of five of us were black citizens of a still, as yet, very imperfect country.
But I believe that same spirit that animated people to confront what at the time must have been the shock and awe sort of force of its time, the British fleet coming up the Chesapeake Bay. That sort of parochial commitment and loyalty to one another that emanates from every big American city, I think that's an ethic we need to embrace again today when it comes to Homeland Security.
Some cities have done this better than others. Unfortunately, to date, I think too often in our country, especially when mayors get together, you can almost see the continuum of preparedness that almost seems as if terrorism is something that strikes one part of the country, rather than another part, because of the Gulf Stream or ocean current.
I mean, you have here your southern mayors and your Gulf Coast mayors that care very much about hurricanes. You have your West Coast mayors that care very much about earthquakes. And then us East Coast mayors, we tended to care a lot about terrorism and the thought of a second attack.
But when that second attack comes, it is unlikely that it will be restricted just to the East Coast. It is unlikely that it will just be a couple of marquee sort of post card targets. It will probably be something far more disbursed, something far more conventional in terms of the means used to carry it out. And that threat should have all of us on our toes. If we ever rock back off our toes, it's time to get back up on them, especially with the new Administration that we have in Washington.
I think there's a tremendous opportunity with the new Administration, with the new leadership at Homeland Security, to embrace a new kind of future that actually declares goals. And implicit in the declaration of those goals is a shared responsibility to fund the means by which we accomplish and achieve those goals.
For the last eight years, every city, every metro area and virtually every state has been pretty much on its own in terms of its level of preparedness.
None of us want to be numbered among the softer targets when those second attacks come. We want to be one of the harder targets. Hopefully so that we might be spared the attack, but certainly so that we can sleep at night knowing that we've done all that we can to protect the people that are part of our responsibility.
A little gallows humor for you. You're heard the story of the two men in the tent. Middle of the night they hear a big hungry grizzly bear outside the tent. The one guy gets up and he starts frantically tying up his tennis shoes, putting on both of them. And the other guy says, what are you doing? You can't possibly outrun a grizzly bear. And his friend says, I don't have to outrun the grizzly bear, I have to outrun you.
Sadly, that might well describe the so-called national policies on homeland security for the past eight years. But it's really dependant on what your mayor, what your metropolitan area, or your governor -- what sort of level of attention he or she decided to attach to it.
And even today, for all of the talk about interoperable communications, you'd be sore pressed to find any state that's actually done it.
Is it a matter of not having the technology? No, it is not a matter of not having the technology. It's a matter of not adequately funding, because there's not the public will to make this happen.
But I do think that there's an opportunity here in this new administration and I think it will be an opportunity that makes a distinct break with the last eight years in this important respect.
It is my hope and it's my belief that this administration will actually declare goals. That our new Commander in Chief will declare Homeland Security goals. Core capacities, if you will, that every state, every metropolitan area should have or be moving to achieve, as part of a national framework.
Now, I know that defenders of the last eight years will say, oh, we had those, if you just looked in Federal regs. under page 322-A, section B, subsection -- you know, those aren't the sorts of goals I'm talking about.
I'm talking about the sorts of goals where the leader, our President, actually puts his neck on the line, says this is what we need to achieve, this is where we're going, and implicitly we're all responsible -- including our government -- to make it happen.
I wanted to share with you what I see anyway as 12 of those goals. They're the goals that we've been pursuing every day as a city, since the attacks of September 11th, in one way, shape or form. They're the goals that we pursue also as a state. And I don't believe that progress is possible unless you declare goals. And unless you set up systems to measure in an open and transparent way, at least in our Democratic and Republican form of representative form of government.
Set up open and transparent systems for determining whether you're getting there, whether you're further along the road than you were last year, probably a question as old as, you know, human civilization itself. I'm sure Moses was asked many times, what's the goal? Where are we going? And, how do we know when we're getting there?
If you do not declare a goal, nobody can hold you accountable for not getting there.
Conversely, if you declare a goal, not only will people hold you accountable for getting there, but they may even help you get there.
In addition to the importance of declaring goals, I think it's important for us to recognize that improving traditional public safety and improving homeland security are not mutually exclusive. This is not a zero sum game, where if you do one you can't do the other. In fact, I believe if you do one, you will be able to improve the other. And even if you're improving your traditional public safety, you are creating a greater capacity to improve your homeland security.
And maybe I can make that a little clear as I go forward here.
Twelve Core Capacities
The first goal – or core capacity – we’ve named in Maryland is interoperable communications. We've known since September 11th and the sad aftermath of the police ordering their personnel out of the towers, while the fire department was still ordering their personnel up into the towers,… the tragic results of not having interoperable communications so that all of your first responders can speak with each other.
In a big event it becomes even more critically important with mutual aid and the various responders coming from other jurisdictions to join into the area where they are most needed.
We have been talking about homeland security for a good long time in our country. We have yet really to put the dollars towards it. We've been putting more dollars towards it in our State government, we created an Office of Interoperability – and Interoperability Czar, if you will. And I'll be darned, this may surprise you, but sometimes your State Government doesn't coordinate things any better than your Federal Government.
And we found that our National Resources police actually had some money in their six year capital budget that they were planning to use to buy radio equipment. That the people at State Highways had appropriated dollars that they were planning to use in their budget.
But nobody was pulling it together and saying, ladies and gentlemen, what is the goal? What are the standards? What already exists? What are our local partners buying? Are we sure that we're buying the same gauge of railroad track, if you will, so the trains of communication can all be linked and can talk to each other? -- not by plugging them all into one of the AC-1000s, which are nice and sort of a step in the right direction, but to be able at the click of a button to go to the right channel and to be able to manage large events?
So interoperability is one of those goals.
Following that is the intelligence and information sharing. There are still tremendous problems in terms of information sharing between local law enforcement and Federal law enforcement. I think all of us are grateful for the fact that we have not been attacked again since September 11th. I think it would be false for us to assume, though, that because we haven't been attacked that we've gotten a lot better at sharing information. Because the truth of the matter is we have not.
As our recent experience can tell you -- our State the local police couldn't even access Parole and Probation records online of people that were supposedly under the State supervision that were causing problems for local police. We can now do that.
But trying to get the Federal information on Federal parolees or Federal probationers is like pulling teeth. We're told by the head of the Federal Government's Probation and Parole functions that, “well, we don't have the programmers to do it, you'll have to go consult the paper records.”
If we're not doing it where there are far less than top secret concerns of your day-to-day people that create so much carnage in neighborhoods throughout our State, you can be pretty darn sure that we're not doing a much better job with it when it comes to going after Al Queda terror cells.
Number three, the hazmats and bomb squads. Another core capacity, we're much further along than we were several years ago. We still have some gaps. And with the homeland security dollars and grant programs and State dollars, we're working to fill those gaps.
Number four, personal protective equipment for all our first responders. It was a big priority in the City of Baltimore. We reached that goal. Last year we reached that goal for State first responders as well.
Number five, biosurveillance -- the ability of all of our hospitals and our emergency rooms -- our paramedics, who see symptoms -- to be able to report those again on the common gauge of railroad tracks so that we get a 48 hour jump on bad bugs or something else that's happening out there.
Again, it's not an either/or sort of deal. The pandemic flu is one place where that could be just as useful as if someone released some sort of bioterror weapon on a population.
The next one is the vulnerability assessments, especially where critical infrastructure is concerned. Many of us rushed to do this within months after the attacks of September 11th. I'll bet you there's very few of us that dust them off every three months, every six months, every year.
And in the past, to the extent that the Federal Government had an assessment, it was mostly the compiled, stapled together, reports that were received eventually from the State governments, who, themselves, were mostly sending on reports stapled together that they had received from their county governments, without the sort of standard equation, without the objective criteria.
The next is training and exercises. None of us can do this enough. We would never send our armed forces into Iraq and Afghanistan without drilling and training before they go. Sadly, given the constraints that are compounded by this national economy, one of the first things to get pushed to next month or next year is the training and exercise of the first responders.
We are searching for better, more innovative ways -- especially with some of the advances in, you know, gaming technology. And by that I mean, video gaming, not video lottery machines. Video technology to be able to provide more interactive, sort of online ways, more time effective ways, for commanders to meet and get to know each other around sets of exercises, so that they know each other before the event happens.
Next is CCTV. I was walking here on the way earlier this morning when I came into town and looking at all of the now ubiquitous CCTV coverage, the closed circuit television cameras, that cover the common areas all around the Verizon Center.
And that's a new advance. That's an advance that can be far more helpful when it comes to security critical infrastructure and the approaches to that infrastructure -- chemical plants, rail lines.
I think we have a lot more progress to make and I think it's far more effective than deploying police officers to sit in cruisers and watch these sort of static targets.
And given the advances in technology, there are ways that those cameras can be arrayed and alerted and tripped when things out of the ordinary pattern, you know, come into view.
And I think it's an important core capacity also for securing public areas and the same infrastructure that -- or, rather, the same technology that allows you to monitor cameras on critical infrastructure can also be used by local police to monitor and to keep safe those common areas in big American cities.
The next one is the mass casualty and hospital surge capacity. I don't believe that this is something any state can do by itself. I believe, though, that it is something that the Federal Government can help us lead, help us expand, help us advance.
It has to be done on a metropolitan basis, which is kind of hard for our Federal Government. We're accustomed to coloring in 50 shapes on a map, not 80 metropolitan districts.
Next is planning. When we had James Lee Witt come and look at our own emergency management agency, one of the staffers actually made the mistake of saying to him when he was asked or queried about how many people they had working on planning, “Well, we kind of think planning is over-rated.”
Planning is not over-rated. Planning is essential and it's critical and we would not have won the second World War had it not been for generals who took a patriotic zeal and urgency and applied it to planning for D-Day, the planning for the airlift afterwards and everything that goes along with it.
Again, unfortunately, in State budgets the planning function too often becomes a casualty.
Next is back-up power and communication. This is actually an achievable goal. If you have a vulnerability assessment and you look at your communications infrastructure and can determine how you keep the ambulances, the fire trucks, and the police officers deployed, you can pretty much map those and figure out where you sure as heck better have uninterrupted sources of power, where you need to have back-up power generation.
If, in addition to that, you look at your designated shelters and see where people go in order to get some temporary shelter, you sure as heck better be sure that you have some back-up power generation in those places.
And the good news is you can put most of this stuff on wheels. You can make it interoperable, provided you do the planning to make sure it can receive the back-up generator when it heads down within a few hours on a trailer, so you're good and ready with kind of plug-and-go back up generation.
We've made some great strides on that, but we just do not make the sort of contingent planning that we should, especially for keeping our emergency shelters and our emergency communications powered.
And the last and final core capacity is transportation security. It's a big one. It cuts across the port and it cuts across rail lines and everything else. There's no one that can wave a magic wand and get us there overnight.
But over all of our modes of transportation infrastructure we should have plans for hardening of targets, for the closed-circuit television, and we also should have contingencies and redundancies in place so we can keep ports open, so we can keep major rails open, so that we can keep our commerce flowing in the event of a second attack.
So that's our list of core capacities. The important thing, I think, especially at this point as many years as we are now after the attacks of September 11th, is to actually declare the goals and to declare our responsibility to advance towards achievement of these goals.
There was a time a few years ago when if you announced we were putting a billion dollars toward interoperability, that some people would pause and gasp. In the aftermath of the wreck that we've seen made of the stock market and our national economy -- which I do believe is coming back, thanks to our President's courageous leadership— I don't think a billion dollars a year for interoperability is a number that we can't handle as a free people.
In fact, I'll bet you that if we expended $2 billion a year on interoperability we'd actually achieve the goal in a relatively short period of time. At least in our largest metropolitan areas. But as it is on interoperability, so should it be on those other core capacities.
If we have the political wills to set the goals and we have the political will to measure our performance and the achievement of those goals and we have the political will to make the investments, I believe we can make our country a much safer place.
I leave you with this thought. I met after the attacks of September 11th with some really bright people that -- I can't remember whether they were from -- they were from one of those agencies that ends in an A.
And they said they end every meeting reminding themselves that in the meantime, remember, “they're here and they're trying to kill us.”
Well, indeed, they are here and they are trying to kill us. They're trying to wreck our economy. And they are smart enough to bide their time and to wait to attack us when we're at our weakest. It's up to us, though, to make a choice of whether we want to continue to be weak or whether we want to rise to the adversity and rise to the occasion.
And in the meantime, perhaps repel a lot more of the foreign chemical attacks of cocaine and heroin. Perhaps save the thousands of Americans who die disproportionately poor, disproportionately people of color, because of our inability to share information on repeat violent offenders and keep them off the streets.
So, I believe this is a critical issue for us. I believe it's a defining issue. And I really appreciate the opportunity to join with you and talk about it.
Thanks very, very much. (Applause.)