By Mickey McCarter, HS Today

Jul 29, 2009

The color-coded threat alert system may regularly be the butt of jokes but it serves an important purpose that a new task force must refine, one of its members told in an exclusive interview.

Although sometimes appropriately ridiculed, the Homeland Security Advisory System serves a critical function to inform federal agencies, private business, and US citizens of a posture to take in response to threat intelligence, said Randy Beardsworth, former assistant secretary of Homeland Security for Strategic Plans.

“I laugh like everybody else does at folks that make a little bit of fun of the system—that’s fine,” Beardsworth commented. “At the same time, you do have to have some type of system that prepares federal partners.

“I was at the [Homeland Security] Department in the early days when it stood up, and we had to begin to think as to what are the tools at our disposal? What does it mean to be more alert? How do we signal that to our federal partners? If we get intel about some type of threat, then how do we ratchet up and how do we think about that?” he recounted.

While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) settled on some answers to those questions, the United States has continued to mature in the way that it prepares for and responds to terrorist threats, Beardsworth remarked. As such, introducing refinements to the Homeland Security Advisory System makes sense.

“You have to have some system that tells the government to move into a certain direction because of a particular heightened intensity. The more refined that is, the better,” Beardsworth stated.

That said, Beardsworth does not believe that the 15-member task force—plus co-chairs Fran Townsend and William Webster—is operating under any preconceived notions of what the system should look like. He anticipates that all members will consider aspects of the system they never before considered during their 60-day review of it.

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