{Saving Us From DC Ground Zero}

dc

One well-placed nuclear suitcase bomb or nuclear ballistic missile strike on DC and say goodbye to virtually the entire hub of the Federal government. 


As of 2014, there are over 4.2 million federal employees (2.7M in the civilian agencies and 1.5M in the military). 


Over 500K are located in the DC, MD, VA tristate area. 


But it’s not just the numbers, it’s that the headquarters of all the major government agencies are located here. 


While, of course, there are backup sites, and emergency doomsday sites like Mount Weather (48 miles from DC), there is no telling how much advance notice, if any we would have, and who would escape and survive a deadly blow to our capital region. 


And it could be a radiological, chemical, biological, or nuclear (RCBN) attack that does us in…whether from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or other diabolical enemy out there. 


The point is that by concentrating all our federal headquarters and senior leadership and key resources here we are in fact, giving the enemy an easy shot to decapitate the entire country?


While others (like Paul Kupiec in the WSJ) have questioned whether some of the federal agencies can be moved out to other needy cities and communities across the country for economic reasons (to bring jobs and investment) especially those agencies that are actively looking to build new HQS buildings already (e.g. FBI and Department of Labor), to me the far more potent question is one of national security. 


The main advantage of having the crux of the federal government in the DC area is surely one of coordination–the President wants his Cabinet near him and the Cabinet Secretaries want their senior staff near them, and so on and so on. 


So, you get this mass concentration of a who’s who of the federal government in and around Washington, DC. 


But what about the advances of technology? 


Surely, through networks and telecommunications and teleworking, we can support a geographically diverse workforce and do no significant harm to our operating as one.


We’re talking a very big cultural change here!


It’s one thing to have nuclear missiles roaming the seas on attack submarines waiting for orders from Washington, DC and it’s quite another to move the actual government intelligentsia and leadership out from the central hub. 


Let’s face it, in a real crisis situation, with the chaos and panic and transportation overflow and perhaps simultaneous cyberattacks, no one is really going to be going anywhere–especially in a surprise attack. 


If Pearl Harbor (of which we just celebrated the 75th anniversary) and 9/11 teach us anything is that when the sh*t hits the fan, it hits hard and sticks solid. 


Working in the Metro DC area, selfishly, I’d like to say keep the investment, jobs, and great opportunities here.


For the good of the nation and our survival against true existential threats, we’d be much smarter to spread the federal wealth as far and wide across this great nation that we can. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

U-Haul Rental Truck Terrorism

u-haul

So true story…

This week I was walking in Downtown, D.C.

I see something strange, not usually there. 

There is a U-Haul van parked in front of the GW University School of Science and Engineering. 

Literally in front of the main doors.

A couple of it’s wheels are actually sloppily on the sidewalk and it is in front of a fire hydrant in front of the very doors to the school.

But that’s not all. 

All around the vehicle are oddly taped on posters as you see above. 

On some of the posters are antagonistic words about DOJ (the Department of Justice) and some even use the word “terrorist.”

Well, after the devastating terror attack in 1995 against the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building with a massive homemade bomb concealed in a rental truck that killed 168 people and wounded almost 700, I decided it’s probably a good idea to call the police. 

In the time that it took them to come, I was able to walk to the market place and to coffee…I know they are busy, but it seemed like forever. 

Finally, two patrol cars pull up…that’s good. 

I go outside to meet them. 

The officer after briefly looking around (and not in) the vehicle looks at me as I walk over to him. 

I said, “I called you about this suspicious vehicle.”

He goes sternly, “Well, what’s suspicious about it?”

I described the obvious…how it was parked with wheels on the sidewalk, at a fire hydrant, right in front of the main doors to the school, and with all those (crazy) posters all around it and uses the word “terrorist”.

Surprisingly to me, the officer responds, “That’s not suspicious!” Then he concedes, “but I will give it a ticket.”

He must’ve seen my face go into this contorted questioning look, but I thought the better of the situation and said with deference to him, “Well Sir, you’re the expert!”

I thank him for coming out and walk away feeling disheartened at this security response just 15 years after 9/11 and when we are still fighting a gruesome war with ISIS and against global terrorism. 

Then just a few days later, look at the article I came across with a homeland security warning:

“ISIS Guide: Rent a U-Haul As A Weapon, Target Thanksgiving Day Parade or Political Rallies.”

In the ISIS instructions, there is a picture of a U-Haul truck with the caption, “An Affordable Weapon” and the statement that “low security” gatherings “are fair game and more devastating to Crusader nations.”

With all due respect for our esteemed law enforcement, perhaps we need to take these terrorist warnings more seriously, and frankly even without the explicit warning, a suspicious U-Haul in downtown DC in front of a major university probably deserves more than just a parking ticket! 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Help Find Missing Children

Missing Children.jpeg

Coming out of the mall into the parking lot, I saw this poster lying on the ground. 


It was a flyer to help find a missing child. 


Every time, I see something like this, I just have to take a big gulp and deep breath, as this seems like one of the scariest things that can happen to a child and their parents.


A child is dependent on it’s parents, and when they go missing G-d forbid, the fear of in whose hands they might fall and what may be done to them is unthinkable. 


The goal is to get the word and pictures out to find the child as quickly as possible. 


From 2002, statistics show about 800,000 children go missing every year (or about 2,000 per day)–that is unbelievable!


Of those, about 204,000 were family abductions, 58,000 were non-family abductions, a 115 were taken by a stranger, and the rest were mostly run-aways.


About 1 in 5 runaways are considered likely victims of child sex trafficking. 


A 1997 study showed only 5% of non-family abductions even get reported to police and entered in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC)–many may not enter a report when a child is gone just a few days or it may get filed under other categories like homicides or sexual assaults. 


In the 1972 and 1981, there were tragic cases of missing children Etan Patz and Adam Walsh, both killed at age 6, with Etan’s remains supposedly thrown in the garbage in Soho (he was never found) and Adam’s located in a drainage canal in Florida. 


Etan was the first missing child whose pictures were put on the back of milk carton. 


In 1983, the anniversary of Etan’s disappearance, May 25, was designated National Missing Children’s Day.


In 1984, the Walshes and other child advocates established the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) “to help find missing children and prevent child victimization”–shockingly before this there was no coordinated federal and state mechanism for search efforts.


– NCMEC tip hotline (1-800-The Lost) has received over 4.3 million calls in the last 32 years and they have facilitated the return of 227,000 missing children.


In 1996, America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) was set up as a a child abduction emergency alert system; it was named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year old abducted and murdered in Texas. 


– AMBER Alerts, between 1997 and 2015, were credited with the safe recovery of 723 children. 


My heart goes out to these children and their families! 


Anything that each of us can do to help with the desperate situation of missing children and their safe recovery is worth not only our attention, but our utmost vigilance and helpful tips. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Bird’s Nest Surveillance

Birds Nest Surveillance.jpeg

I took this photo today of a bird’s nest on top of a surveillance camera. 


I find this fascinating!


The pure irony of a bird finding safety and shelter in a nest atop a surveillance camera looking out for bad things like criminals and terrorism. 


On one hand, safety and security.


And on the other hand, the fear and insecurity of it all. 


A bird may find a peaceful nesting place there.


But for the rest of us, the world continues to be a very dangerous place. 


Often walking the streets of a major urban city, I think to myself the chaos and danger that could so easily ensue if events took a sudden and serious turn for the worse where society as we know it can completely start to unravel, and as they say, “the sh*t hits the fan!”


I believe that many, if not most people are worried about this, hence the incredible popularity of shows and movies far and wide such as:

 (Fear) The Walking Dead

Containment

The 100

The Last Ship

Jericho

Mad Max

Road Warrior

I am Legend

The Book of Eli

The Postman

World War Z 

Waterworld

Children of Men

Outbreak

Armageddon

Oblivion 

The Day After Tomorrow 

and more. 


The camera is surveilling and the bird is watching from their perch. 


We go about our days like the post apocalyptic zombies that wander the Earth.


But not so deep down, in our minds and hearts is the terror of what can happen at any moment and what is likely destined to happen eventually. 


This is not about doom and gloom, but about what the threats are out there, what is being done or not done about them, and who will ultimately survive and would you even want to. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Help Is Coming

Help

So I used to have a boss who said something really funny.


He used to go, “Everybody says they want to help us” and then bemoaningly he would seem to repeat that a few times. 


The next part which he didn’t need to explicitly say was that “But no one does!”


It was the words, but also much the tone–yes, the walls could be caving in, the ship could be sinking, everything going up in flames, and of course, everyone is there looking on, shaking their heads pitifully, and seemingly stretching out their hand in an offer of help. 


For this boss though, the help couldn’t come fast enough or with enough resources to help resolve all the issues going on at the time. 


I suppose first and foremost, we have to help ourselves. 


Secondly, there needs to be a core understanding from the beginning of what is really doable and what is simply fantasy fare. 


Third, if help is on the way–great, but it’s got to be timely enough and come with enough raw horsepower to make a genuine difference. 


Finally, sometimes miracles do happen and everything works out great–the day is saved–but even then so much underlying damage has been done that you need to rebuild from the core foundations again. 


And for the next time, you’ll need to ensure capabilities beyond what was ever imagined before. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Internet Divide And Conquer

Cut Cable

Remember in the old Western’s when the Indians were about to attack the town, and before they rode in with knives and flaming arrows–what would they do?  


The Indians would cut the telegraph lines–no calls for help out, and no communications in–the town and its people were completely cut off.


The very next scene would be the slaughter of everyone in the town including a bunch getting scalped. 


How have things changed in the 21st century?


Not so much so, as the New York Times reports today on the constant threats to our underground Internet lines being cut–with 16 cuts to the lines in the San Francisco Bay area alone in the last year. 


Similarly just a couple of weeks ago, the media was reporting about the U.S. being worried about Russian subs cutting the undersea Internet cables.


But isn’t the Internet built like a spiders’s web (i.e. the World Wide Web) with redundant routes so that it can withstand even a nuclear attack?


Apparently, if you take out key Internet Exchange Points (IXP) or major international cable lines then the Internet can be seriously disrupted. 


Similar to the impact of an EMP weapon that fries our electronic circuits…poof no more communications. 


If you can cut off our core communications ability–then it’s a simple strategy of divide and conquer.  


Divided we are weak and can’t communicate and organize ourselves to either know what’s going on or to effectively respond. 


Like sitting ducks in the Old West surrounded and cut off–it was a slaughter. 


This is why it is so critical that we not only build redundancy in the cable lines, but that we create alternatives like satellite Internet or Google’s Project Loon for balloon Internet access.


It’s not just the military, law enforcement, and emergency management not that needs to be able to communicate–we all do!


With excellent communications, we can unify ourselves and we are strong–but if we are left in the dark, then divided we fall. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Are We Ready For Anything?

Contingency Planning

So contingency planning is a critical part of risk management.


You never know what can happen in life…


So you must have a solid business continuity plan (BCP) and disaster recovery plan (DRP). 


That way in case of natural disaster or terror attack–we are prepared!


So what was really sad-funny this week was when I became aware of an annual contingency planning exercise that was being conducted as a table-top exercise–that’s legit. 


It was well-planned, scripted to really challenge the participants, and I heard it went very well.


But then just that evening as it turned out there was a real contingency.


What happened?


Everyone was working well to address what happened and how to fix it and kudos to some super great people. 


The only problem was no one seemed to really know or was following what to do from a contingency plan perspective.


In the end everything turned out fine, but it was incredible how planning and training can deviate so far from real life. 


It’s like in school, when administrators conduct fire drills for the teachers and students and everyone gets up like good boys and girls and goes out in an orderly fashion, maybe even in a nice buddy system, but then when G-d forbid there is a real fire, everyone starts screaming and running crazed for the exits. 


Perhaps table top exercises should be thrown out the window and testing should be conducted with realistic scenarios and under mandated lifelike circumstances. 


Instead of smoke and mirror planning, we need serious preparation for the day when it isn’t child’s play or cool drawings on the whiteboard only. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Sharyn Morrow)