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A teachable moment about homeland security policy

In the months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the federal government created the Department of Homeland Security to counter possible future terrorist attacks on American soil.

The traditional “all-hazards” of natural, technological, and terrorist threats that are the sine qua non of the homeland security .
Courtesy of wikimedia

Under the leadership of President George W. Bush, all federal, state, and local government entities across the United States adopted the National Incident Management System or NIMS to prepare for all future disasters, including terrorism. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5, February 28, 2003, states:

"To prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies, the United States Government shall establish a single, comprehensive approach to domestic incident management."

FEMA describes NIMS as a systematic, proactive approach to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work together seamlessly and manage incidents involving threats and hazards—regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity—in order to reduce loss of life, property and harm to the environment.

The all hazards "generic" approach to disaster management, bureaucrats argued best achieved the goals of the U.S. government to find the most efficient and effective way or simply put – the most bang for the American taxpayer buck.

In recent days, much news attention has focused on the spread of the deadly Ebola virus and efforts to contain the virus for which there is no cure. The news media are also closely following the terrorist group ISIS gruesome tactics, including the beheading of an American journalist in Syria and a direct threat made by Islamic State leaders to replace the American Flag at the White House with the terrorist group's flag.

U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey said in the short term, the U.S. should concentrate on building allies in the region to oppose ISIS militants and "contain" ISIS, much like containing the Ebola epidemic from spreading to the United States. There are known terror cells in the United States, therefore containment is not an option.

President Obama and his national security team has been weighing options for how best to proceed to address the global threat posed by ISIS. On Thursday, President Barack Obama admitted there is no plan in place yet.

“We don’t have a strategy yet,” Mr. Obama said of his plans for defeating the Islamic State in Syria. “We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans. As our strategy develops, we will consult with Congress.”

In the nearly thirteen years since 9/11, dozens of reports have acknowledged the escalating threat of homegrown terrorism. In 2010, then U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified at a senate hearing on the evolving threat:

"a new and changing facet of the terrorist threat comes from homegrown terrorists, by which I mean US persons who are radicalized here and receive terrorist training either here or elsewhere."

Napolitano said the homegrown threat was " evolving in several ways that make it more difficult for law enforcement or the intelligence community to detect and disrupt plots." At the end of the hearing, when lawmakers asked Napolitano about a strategy to counter the homegrown threat, Secretary Napolitano and a team of experts admitted that no agency was in charge of the effort - they had no plan.

This week's news reports of two Americans killed while fighting for ISIS, both residents of Minnesota is no surprise either. In October, 2011, the FBI confirmed that Abdisalan Hussein Ali, a 22-year-old American turned terrorist was one of two suicide bombers disguised as soldiers involved in a attack in the Somali capital. Ali was the third known suicide bomber from the state of Minnesota and one of an estimated 30 Americans who have joined the Al-Shabab, at least 20 of whom came from the Somali community in Minneapolis.

U.S. State Department officials estimate as many as one hundred Americans are believed to be fighting in Syria and Iraq for the terrorist group, ISIS.

After the hundreds of billions of dollars allocated to fund America's war on terror, the American citizens should be outraged, but not surprised.

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