Dealing with the world’s increasing complexity is the primary challenge to keeping the homeland secure, according to Adm. Thad Allen, USCG, (Ret.), executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton and former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. He lists border security, the cyberthreat, information sharing, terrorism, criminal organizations and climate change as elements adding to that complexity.
“We have to start understanding that the root problem we’re trying to deal with is to defeat complexities that inhibit working across boundaries to deliver solutions,” he said while serving as the morning keynote speaker on the first day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., in March.
Adm. Allen set the tone for the conference. Speakers and panelists conveyed that the U.S. government and the private sector have made dramatic progress in keeping the homeland secure since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Information is more easily shared among government agencies and the private sector. Network security is better understood. Technology advances at a dizzying pace. But for all the progress made, many challenges still remain, the experts agreed.
Adm. Allen related terrorism to “political criminality” and declared that transnational criminal organizations constitute the real problem. “I don’t make a distinction between counterterrorism and transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking. They’re all connected,” he stated.
Regarding border security, he said borders no longer are managed in a traditional sense and should not necessarily be equated to a physical border. “The fact of the matter is we have migrated to what I call functional borders,” he offered. A container leaving central Europe, for example, for Omaha, Nebraska, may never be opened and inspected, but it will be fully vetted, and the potential for threat thoroughly assessed.