Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Ten Years after 9/11: Challenges for the Decade to Come

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Ten Years after 9/11: Challenges for the Decade to Come

Article excerpt

One of the best ways to honor those who perished on 9/11 is to rededicate ourselves to finding, and fixing, the gaps in preparedness that still confront our nation. Over the past decade, the Department of Defense (DoD) has greatly improved its ability to support the federal departments and agencies that lead US preparedness against terrorism and natural hazards. Yet, significant challenges remain in our ability to provide such defense support to civil authorities. Still greater shortfalls are emerging in a little-known but vital realm of preparedness: civil support to defense.

This essay begins by examining two gaps in DoD support to civil authorities. The first is DoD support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for catastrophes more severe than Hurricane Katrina. The second gap is that of defense support to the civilian law enforcement departments and agencies that lead the prevention of terrorism in the United States.

I will then flip the familiar construct of defense support to civil authorities upside down, and explore the crucial roles that civilian agencies - and the private sector - can play to support the Department of Defense. I will argue that DoD is increasingly dependent on domestic infrastructure beyond the department's control, and that this infrastructure may be at growing risk of attack. I will also argue that only through new forms of civil-military cooperation can DoD ensure its ability to execute its core missions, at home and abroad. I hope that the shortfalls highlighted below will become part of the research agenda for graduate students and faculty, and a focus for the community of practice in homeland defense and security that is one of the greatest achievements of the past decade.

Defense Support to Civil Authorities

Complex Catastrophes

The Department of Defense is well prepared to support the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FEMA and other federal departments and agencies in responding to "normal disasters" - that is, hurricanes, wildfires, and other events of typical magnitude, that most often spur governors to request federal assistance or prompt the federal government to position resources in anticipation of need. Of course, there are opportunities to improve our preparedness for normal disasters. Thanks to the leadership of the state governors, we are making progress across a broad range of issues in defense support for disaster response, especially in strengthening unity of effort between state and federal military response forces.1

The National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE 11) highlighted the need to strengthen our preparedness for events worse than normal disasters - disasters even more severe than Hurricane Katrina. NLE 11 was based on a scenario that began with a magnitude 7.7 earthquake along the New Madrid fault. An earthquake of that magnitude occurred in 1812; a similar one could strike at any time. The destructive effects could be far greater than two centuries ago, however. The Mid-America Earthquake Center notes that if such an event were to take place today, "the consequences would be much more significant and damage would be much more severe in terms of injuries and fatalities, structural damage, and economic and social impacts."2 Indeed, the resulting devastation could so exceed the damage in normal disasters that these extraordinary events should be classified separately as "complex catastrophes."

Complex catastrophes differ from normal disasters in two ways. First, the scale of destruction is vastly greater. Katrina resulted in 8,800 casualties, primarily (though not exclusively) in Louisiana and Mississippi. An earthquake like the one described in NLE 11 could inflict up to ten times as many casualties across eight states and four multi-state FEMA regions.3 Localities and states near the New Madrid fault have made remarkable progress in improving preparedness for such an event. …

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