OPM: Dept. of Homeland Security Should Include Vets
The head of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said that military
veterans, not government bureaucrats, should be given preference
when new jobs are created in the Homeland Security Department.
Veterans possess many of the qualifications required, said Kay
Coles James, OPM’s director. “Our veterans have already
given to their country. Certainly, their service and experience
ought to be recognized in the federal hiring process,” she
The Homeland Security Department bill that recently passed in the
House of Representatives includes veterans’ preference, merit
system principles and whistleblower protections. At press time,
the bill was pending in the Senate.
James noted that preference laws for veterans have a history of
helping qualified veterans get hired. Currently, veterans account
for 25 percent of the executive branch’s 1.8 million employees,
The Department of Homeland Security potentially could bring together
170,000 employees from 22 federal agencies.
James, referring to the current system of general service bureaucrats,
said that “the problems with our current system are not secret.
It is position, not performance, that determines salary and the
passage of time that brings pay raises,” she said.
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Risk Assessments Planned for Dams
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation
will conduct security risk assessments for 10 of the nation’s
largest dams and water treatment facilities. The Bureau of Reclamation
awarded Arlington, Va.-based firm Veridian Corporation a $1.3 million
contract to perform the work. The Bureau of Reclamation owns and
operates most of the large dams and reservoirs in 17 western states.
Ed Jopeck, Veridian’s director of security analysis and risk
management, said “the project began in response to the September
11 events and subsequent warnings that our nation’s critical
water infrastructure was vulnerable to increasing threats from terrorists.”
The company already performs risk assessments and risk management
projects for water supply systems across the country. The risk management
process includes an in-depth assessment of asset values, threats
and vulnerabilities, as well as identifying countermeasures. Veridian’s
Continuous Risk Management (CRM) methodology is an advanced security
analysis tool that is currently used by many organizations in the
federal government that require security programs to protect against
terrorism and other threats. CRM was designed for U.S. government
and industrial security professionals, who are responsible for analyzing
and managing the protection of personnel, operations, computer systems,
information, facilities and equipment.
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9/11 Independent Commission Considered
Congress is being asked to create an independent commission to investigate
how intelligence and law enforcement sources failed to prevent or
anticipate the September 11 attacks.
The White House, opposed to the proposal, instead supports ongoing
actions by the two chambers’ select committees on intelligence.
Senators, however, are still smarting from FBI requests to take
lie detector tests following alleged leaks of sensitive information,
and an influential array of senators are turning toward the idea
of a comprehensive, independent probe. Lead supporters of the independent
investigation are Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and John McCain,
The House has already passed a scaled-back version of the proposal,
but Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House Intelligence
Committee, has stated that he will strike even that limited provision
from the final version of the bill.
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Coast Guard Increasing Protection for Civilian GPS
The U.S. Coast Guard is stepping up its efforts to protect civilian
use of the Global Positioning System, which has become a key element
of the nation’s transportation network, from attack by terrorists
and unintentional disruptions.
A study by the Transportation Department—which currently
includes the Coast Guard—found that GPS is vulnerable to disruption
by intentional and unintentional forces. The nation’s enemies,
in an act of war, could attack U.S. satellites or jam GPS signals,
the study said. Unintentional stoppages, it added, could be caused
by atmospheric distortions, signal blockage from tall buildings,
and interference from television broadcasts, personal pagers and
The problem is likely to grow worse over the next two decades,
when global maritime trade is forecast to double and perhaps triple,
To protect the system, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta
this year announced an action plan, including the following steps:
To improve the robustness and reliability of GPS service, two new
signals are being added for civilian use at a cost of $400 million.
The new signals will be on satellites to be launched in 2003 and
Plans are being developed to require large ships, within the next
few years, to carry Automated Information Systems that will show
not only their locations, but those of all the ships around them,
said Capt. Curt Dubay, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Navigation
Center, in Alexandria, Va. The Coast Guard is responsible for civilian
uses of GPS in all maritime and surface transportation, he said.
AIS will “create a precise picture of what’s going
on in the waterways,” so that vessels can navigate through
them more safely, Dubay said. “In a very real sense, these
systems are electronic lighthouses.”
While such improvements are being made, the Coast Guard will continue
to operate an older service known as the Long-Range Navigation System,
or Loran, he said.
Thus far, Coast Guard officials said that they are unaware of any
terrorist efforts to attack U.S. radio-navigational systems or to
jam their signals. Unintentional factors, however, can cause problems.
Individual transmission stations, for example, “are still
susceptible to the weather,” said Lt. Greg Wood, a branch
chief at the center. “One lightning strike can take a station
out several days.” If that happens, he explained, other nearby
stations temporarily assume the downed station’s responsibilities.
Other signal problems: The ionosphere surrounding the earth can
refract GPS signals. Transmissions from TV stations, pagers and
cell phones also can interfere with GPS performance.
The planned proliferation of GPS signals also will make jamming
“considerably more difficult,” according to the Transportation
Department study. While jamming will be still feasible, it will
become more difficult and costly, the study said.
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Washington D.C. Expands Emergency Preparedness
The Emergency Management Agency for the nation’s capital has
begun an aggressive program to conduct community-based emergency
management planning and to provide emergency management training
to all District of Columbia residents. This involves the creation
of 39 neighborhood-based emergency plans that specifically target
residents’ needs before, during and after natural disasters,
community-based emergencies, technological emergencies, as well
as acts of terrorism.
“By giving emergency awareness and response training to all
residents, we are making it the responsibility of all residents
to help prevent and address emergency incidents in the district,”
said Peter G. LaPorte, director of the DCEMA.
The district will also be designing a comprehensive training curriculum
for citizens, including the provision of emergency preparedness
training to D.C. residents in all 39 community clusters, as well
as a benchmarking study that analyzes similar programs in metropolitan
areas throughout the nation. Work has already begun and the district
expects to complete it within two months.
The city selected New York-based Kroll Inc. to perform the $800,000
contract. Kroll was chosen, “because of their top-quality
team of emergency management specialists with expertise in diverse
crisis disciplines and expertise at all levels of government,”
a statement said.
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Governments’ Collapse Would Pose Global Threat
The collapse of national governments—even in distant, seemingly
strategically-marginal countries—can pose enormous threats
to U.S. security as well as global peace, said experts.
The Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies convened a
working group on understanding non-traditional threats to global
security. Speakers at a recent group presentation were Marina Ottaway,
a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
and Ambassador Richard Haass, of the policy and planning staff office
at the State Department. Haass is State Secretary Colin Powell’s
designated coordinator for Afghanistan.
The working group concluded that al Qaeda gained strength over
time because it found places—Afghanistan, and before that,
Sudan—where it could operate freely in the absence of a traditional
The group warned that the number of unstable states that are unable
to sustain themselves is growing. Countries such as Haiti, Somalia,
Sudan, Liberia and Cambodia are characterized by their governments’
inability to manage problems, control criminal elements, tackle
social problems, deal with economic and environmental challenges,
or resolve conflicts over borders and territory.
By creating havens in which there is no rule of law, these countries,
in a de-facto manner, permit the growth of transnational crime.
As hosts to continuing conflicts over territory and the rights of
religious and ethnic groups, they often become gross violators of
human rights, and generate humanitarian and refugee crises with
regional implications for stability, the working group charged.
States such as Colombia and Pakistan, which are increasingly unable
to manage their own security, are of particular importance to the
United States. The U.S. traditional approach of encouraging good
governance through economic reforms has been too narrow, Haass said.
“Unless you have the safety nets and unless you have the governance
infrastructure there, these societies risked being overwhelmed...
Clearly one needs to introduce a larger political side on that side
Failed states working towards democracy should be supported, and
the best guarantee against instability and conflict is the existence
of a strong state, Ottaway said. But because leading nations today
have limited capacity to encourage the required conditions for stability,
they must make choices between longer-term goals and what is attainable
in the short term, she said.
The danger of “halfway” measures continues to plague
us, Haass noted. “It is a real-world question that we faced
in the Balkans, that we face in Afghanistan, and that we could face
in Iraq. Is your goal to make the situation “good enough,”
or is you goal to make it “good?” And do you have the
luxury of the latter?”