25 May 2004

Grading Progress on Homeland Security: Before and After 9/11

Grading Progress on Homeland Security: Before and After 9/11:

by The Honorable Mitt Romney and Chief Sam Gonzalez

The Honorable Mitt Romney is Governor of Massachusetts.
Sam Gonzales served as Chief of Police in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, from 1991 through 1998.

A former coworker of my father used to say there's nothing more vulnerable than entrenched success. He looked at companies like General Motors and IBM and noted that there tended to be changes which occurred in the environment in which they competed, which, because of their entrenched success and their self-perception of invulnerability, made them in fact vulnerable because they didn't change the way they did business. They didn't respond in a systemic, sea-change manner. Instead, they responded in a normal manner, and, as a result, they were surpassed.

The flow of history suggests the same kind of pattern in countries: broader trends where everywhere, from the Roman Empire on, various nations that seemed to be in a position of invulnerability were found to lose over time that kind of strength and that kind of position."

My role was to talk about the response of government prior to 9/11. I was the chief of police in Oklahoma City from 1991 through 1998, including the time of the bombing, so I'm going to talk about the role of responding in 1995 at the time of the bombing of the Murrah Building.

First, in this day and age, when we're receiving so much money to fight terrorism, I always like to make the point that Oklahoma City was not done by foreign terrorists. Oklahoma City was done by local terrorism. So we have domestic terrorism that we need to remember as well as foreign terrorists.

The second thing is that, although I now work for the FBI, what I'm bringing you today is my lessons learned as a police chief in 1995 and may not reflect everything exactly the way the FBI would want it to be reflected.

I've been asked to talk about the assistance received in Oklahoma City or in events prior to 9/11. State and local mutual aid completely overwhelmed us. We documented 112 different mutual-aid law enforcement agencies that came to Oklahoma City. At one point, I received a teletype from a mayor in California who said, "Chief, you probably don't need the help, but I have three guys that need the experience. They're on the way."

Preparing Localities to Respond
So in my job now with the FBI, as I travel around the country and talk about how locals need to plan for events, I warn them about the fact that state and local law enforcement, firefighter, emergency management, and mutual aid agencies will overrun them unless they have a very comprehensive incident management plan that will help them manage those resources.

We tell people that in all probability, unless they live on the East Coast, they will be on their own for at least six to eight to 12 hours following a large incident. At some point, state and federal help will come, but the initial first response by the local community will be left up to whatever assets they collectively bring to the table to respond to this incident.

The biggest problem that I still see across the United States is the fact that we have not yet built all of the bridges, built all of the relationships, across all of the disciplines we need to in order to be able to have a truly coordinated community response in a geographical area larger than just a city to an incident that may occur.

Chief Gonzales is right on the mark when he says that the local community will
be on their own for hours if not days in the event of a major incident. Corporate America and the owners of critical infrastructures including commercial real estate need to remind themselves of this reality. For more information on how to establish your own Corporate Emergency Response Team (CERT), see 1SecureAudit CERT

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