Rich Cooper

Jan 13, 2010

As the country’s various homeland and intelligence agencies begin to implement the post-Delta Flight 253 changes ordered by the President, it is becoming painfully obvious that we are falling into the same post-9/11 reaction – we are federalizing a national moment.

While the information sharing and dot-connecting changes are absolutely essential for all of our homeland and intelligence parties to complete, there are also essential roles to be played by individuals and the private sector.

The passengers of Flight 253 certainly (and appropriately) took matters into their own hands by subduing Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab before he could successfully detonate the explosives he had on him. As a result, they not only saved their own lives but probably hundreds more on the ground by the plane being able to safely land.  Unfortunately, there has been nary a word from anyone in the Administration about the conduct of the passengers other than the initial commendation for their quick actions after the flight landed.

The same unfortunate silence and lack of engagement can be said when it comes to involving the private sector in providing for the post-Flight 253 response as well. 

Although the private sector develops and provides technologies and systems that can detect prospective terrorist means of attack (e.g. screening technologies, etc.), improve information sharing and enhance the common operating picture, the Administration, Congress and national media have been largely silent on the private sector’s role in the post-Flight 253 environment.

If we are to be a resilient and resourceful nation, the private sector must play a key role in the strategic response and corrective actions following an event such as that on Flight 253. By having private sector input, the President’s directives could be enhanced by advising on available or emerging security technologies; enhancing information sharing; and encouraging data accuracy while providing for personal privacy protections.

While it is appropriate to applaud the Administration’s candor about its failures and earnestly deploying efforts to correct them, strengthening the U.S. intelligence apparatus and the country’s overall homeland security will require more than actions to federal instruments. It should be a national response that involves all of us – not just some of us. 

In watching the actions of the past week and a half, it has become painfully obvious to me that we are falling into the same post-9/11 behavior where the federal branch of government is stepping forward to state, in effect, that “it can and will solve this problem.”  The cold hard truth is that it can’t and it never will.

Responding effectively to actions such as an intended suicide bomber or the aftermath of Mother Nature’s fury means one-sided and one-dimensional solutions must be abandoned.

If given the opportunity, citizens and the private sector can surely contribute to the solutions that can make for a safer nation. 

Flight 93 demonstrated that on 9/11.  Flight 253 showed us that again on 12/25.  There are truly countless examples and numerous wasted opportunities that highlight the enormous chasm of learning and engagement we still have when it comes to learning how to respond to events in this country

If the Obama Administration really wants to get its response to Flight 253 right, it can start by treating its game-changing talent a whole-lot better than leaving them on the sidelines.  No one succeeds when that happens.


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