The 9/10/11 Project: Are We Ready for the Day Before Tomorrow? An Overview of the Past Decade, Post-9/11

The Homeland Security & Defense Business Council, which was created after DHS was established, started a year-long project to assess subsequent events and established measures throughout the decade, post- 9/11. With more than 90 percent of our nation's infrastructure being provided by the private sector, it is imperative to evaluate homeland security solutions and how the providers collaborate with government entities to provide the best and most up-to-date technologies available for intelligence-gathering and preventative measures for terrorist attacks.

In an effort to stay “ahead of the game” so-to-speak, “The 9/10/11 Project: Are We Ready for the Day Before Tomorrow?”  began in the fall of 2010 and will run until September of 2011. The council releases a monograph on the 10th of each month and covers a myriad of topics; some explore the historical context where others assess future threats and other homeland security concerns. What’s more is the inclusion of an interactive timeline of events and responses that correlate with the current month’s topic.

Focus topics include areas that have impacted America’s approach to national security with the first one being aviation security.  This monograph covered the initial steps taken by the feds in reaction to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Former President Bush initiated immediate responses to the catastrophic event.  Some of the major developments included the signing of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act late in 2001, which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) housed under the Department of Transportation (DOT), as well as the creation of “watch “ and “no-fly” lists preventing high-risk people from flying.

The second release focused on cybersecurity, which stemmed originally from former President Clinton’s realization that America’s dependency on networking, whether it be banking and finance, intelligence or water supply, was all connected by computers and computer networks. Remember Y2K?  The public fear was proliferated by America’s increased dependence on this technology in the new digital age.

Being so interconnected created major vulnerabilities and security gaps so the feds stepped in and created two command centers; Joint Task Force-Computer Network Warfare in 1998 and Joint Functional Component Command-Network Warfare in 2005. Many subsequent command centers have been created since to manage the massive levels of digital communications our country has developed and continues to rely upon. The third release focused on Information Sharing

The events that transpired on 9/11 revealed our nation’s weaknesses and it became painstakingly pertinent that our government improved their procedures and methods for obtaining strategic information in order to prevent a repeat attack. Under President Bush the Patriot Act was signed into law, which provided law enforcement with more flexibility to acquire information through gathering, sharing and surveillance. Foreign searches were also amended due to this new legislation. 

Another important measure was the passage of the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which facilitated the dissemination of counterterrorism intelligence to private and public sectors. Lastly, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)  was created. The fourth installment was directed toward biosecurity and how far we have come in deterring biological threats.

We have all seen it in Hollywood films; population’s unknowingly contracting infectious diseases and spreading it throughout their communities. The threat of bioterrorism is heightened due to the fact that it can be done covertly and its’ effects can be seen before anyone realizes it may be a biological agent. During the course of the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States where 22 victims suffered, five of which lost their lives, it took months and billions of dollars to cleanup and decontaminate high-risk facilities. Although this was a relatively small-scale attack, provisions were put in place to prevent the proliferation of bioterrorism.

Major efforts included the passage of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, which provides assistance to governments during a bioterrorism attack. Also, DHS created the BioWatch Program to deploy a rapid response team for bioattacks and lastly, the Project BioShield Act, which appropriated funds for advanced R&D efforts for biological weapons. Furthermore, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act was created in 2006, which provides more opportunity to procure vaccines, drugs, therapies and tools for public health emergencies. Private sector groups have also been heavily involved in developing tools to prevent and respond to bioterrorism. General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman have been working on biodetection technology solutions, among many others.

Even though threats will continue to emerge from abroad and within our homeland I am convinced that our government and private-sector companies will remain vigilant in staying one step ahead in developing policy and products to make aviation security, cybersecurity, information sharing and biosecurity worthwhile in preventing future terrorist attacks from occurring. Keep in mind that these are just the first four topics covered in the project. Look for the second quarter topics next month. Read more on transportation security issues at UGPTI’s Transportation Security Blog,  posting daily on the topics that really matter. NeTia Richards is a research technician at the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, North Dakota State University.

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