Threats facing the homeland

The 8th Annual Homeland Security and Defense Education Summit took place on Oct. 9 and 10. Scholars, educators and practitioners gathered to discuss a variety of subjects, with a focused theme of “Rethinking Infrastructure Protection: Innovative Approaches for Education and Research.” The high point of the first day for this participant was the keynote address by Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, Commander of NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and NORTHCOM (United States Northern Command).

Jacoby discussed a wide variety of topics, all of which were of interest, but, as is to be expected, some of the points he made stood out among the others.

{mosads}First, he described NORTHCOM and the Department of Homeland Security as having a “perfect relationship.” The missions complement one another, and there is a good working relationship between these two components of securing the homeland. He added that whether issue is safety (aiding in the wake of a hurricane or tornado, perhaps), security (cyber protections or battling transnational criminal organizations) or defense (against ballistic missiles, for example), NORTHCOM and Department of Defense (DOD) assistance is primarily through support of other agencies. Thus, relationships and trust across agencies and departments is imperative in defending and securing the nation. One of the key roles of the DOD is to support civilian agencies, and on occasions this can be the most important role of the department. There are threats and disasters that move beyond impact of a locality or state. In those instances, the DOD must act. Using Hurricane Sandy as an example, the impact, while centered in the New York City region, could have had national and international impacts, due to the financial sector being centered in New York.

On threats due to Arctic melts, Jacoby “doesn’t care why it’s melting. It’s melting.” As a result of this melt, there are emerging threats, including from Russia, whose navy is more active in the area than it has been in the past 50 years.

Cyber-security was a key portion of Jacoby’s talk. His position was that U.S. “key strokers are good,” but that the current state of law and policy tie his hands, and limit other agencies charged with cyber-security. It is important for the security of the nation that laws be updated ensure that cyber-security can be successful, that definitions can be clear and that expectations can be met. This is particularly important due to the shifting nature of the threat, including a lack of identifying attackers, and the complexities of the threat technologically. Finally, the fact that threats stem from state and non-state actors further complicates effective protection under current law. One example of this is that there is not a clear demarcation between illicit cyber activity and a cyber attack.

In addition to the keynote address, a featured panel discussed “Critical Infrastructures: Understanding the Limits of Physical Security” and another provided a “Threat Update” to those in attendance.

The summit was hosted by the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), NORTHCOM and the National Homeland Defense Foundation.

Gibson is an associate professor of political science at Westminster College in Missouri.

Tags Charles Jacoby Department of Homeland Security NORAD North American Aerospace Defense Command NORTHCOM United States Northern Command
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