Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Making Consequence Management Work: Applying the Lesson of the Joint Terrorism Task Force

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Making Consequence Management Work: Applying the Lesson of the Joint Terrorism Task Force

Article excerpt

Rolled Up

At about 9:00 p.m. on May 7, 2007, Dritan and Shain Duka arrived at a home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. 1 They had an important meeting that night--a meeting long in the making. They rang the doorbell and waited. Their appointment was to purchase AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles, the first installment of weapons needed for a terrorist attack against targets in the U.S. The Dukas must have been nervous; Osama bin Laden himself had not successfully attacked the United States at home since September 11th . The Dukas probably did not attribute al Qa'ida and bin Laden's failure to an innovation in U.S. government counter terrorism organization. Perhaps they should have. Members of the South Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) closed in, arresting the Dukas and four other alleged co-conspirators. Work by the JTTF, involving law enforcement personnel from a sweeping range of local, state, and federal agencies, had turned a single tip into six arrests.

That tip, from Circuit City clerk Brian Morgenstern, began an eighteen-month long investigation by the South Jersey JTTF. 2 Over a year and a half, the JTTF tracked the suspects and their activities by drawing on the expertise, contacts, and unique knowledge of individual JTTF members from law enforcement agencies at every jurisdictional level. The team collaborated to build an investigation on thorough and convincing evidence of the suspects' conspiracy to attack the U.S. Army base at Fort Dix, New Jersey, as well as possibly other military bases and public events. On May 7, 2007, the "Fort Dix Six" were arrested and accused of conspiring to commit murder. Since that time, one of the conspirators has pled guilty to weapons charges. The other suspects await trial.

Homeland Security and Innovating Bureaucratic Organization

The Joint Terrorism Task Force is a homeland security success because of the "mission-first" attitude inherent to its organization. The JTTFs, as "cross-functional teams," are composed of officers from nearly every major law enforcement entity in the United States. This organization makes the mission paramount by subordinating traditional institutional and bureaucratic boundaries to the critical counterterrorism tasks at hand. The fact that terrorists have not successfully conducted a domestic terrorist attack against the United States is not an accident and is not for lack of effort on the terrorists' part. Dr. James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation notes at least sixteen major terror plots disrupted by U.S. law enforcement since the World Trade Center attack. 3 The case of the Dukas' conspiracy is just one thread in a tapestry of counterterrorism and homeland security successes by the JTTFs since 9/11.

Consequence management, the ability of the U.S. government to respond to and recover from a devastating terrorist attack or natural disaster, will be the most critical element of homeland security success in the future. Even if we are able to prevent every future terrorist attack, the U.S. government must still be capable of responding to catastrophic natural disasters to save lives and diminish damage to property. As President Bush and others have said, while the U.S. government must be right every time, the terrorists need only be lucky once. Hurricane Katrina painfully demonstrated that when local, state, and federal agencies respond to catastrophes, the whole is far less than the sum of its parts. Though some progress is being made, observations from the most recent National Level Exercises and observations recorded in the 2006 Katrina Lessons Learned Report still reflect that mission success in consequence management takes a backseat to parochialism among departments and agencies. 4

This essay identifies what makes the JTTF successful and applies those lessons to the planning and execution of consequence management operations. The first section of the essay addresses the Department of Justice charter for preventing terrorist attacks and the history of the JTTF as the context for its organizational arrangement and success. …

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