Meeting the Homeland Security Challenge:
A Principled Strategy for a Balanced and Practical Response
Admiral James M. Loy and Captain Robert G. Ross
U.S. Coast Guard
The following article was written before the events of 11 September. As devastating as that day was, we have chosen not to revise the article. Rather, we believe that the very nature of those attacks only reinforces our basic arguments. The events of 11 September were not, despite the militaristic tones used by numerous commentators, recognizably military. To the contrary, these attacks were almost certainly carried out by a non-state actor and used unarguably non-military means. We do not question the potential for state sponsorship or complicity in the events of 11 September, nor do we dispute the potential necessity and appropriateness of a forceful military response against any state found to have knowingly harbored or actively aided those responsible. However, the fact remains that these attacks exploited security weaknesses in a key component of our national economy, the air travel system. Moreover, other critical components of the national transportation system and economic infrastructure are equally vulnerable. Accordingly, an effective homeland security regime will necessarily involve significantly improved domestic security provisions implemented by government and the private sector. Those provisions must be built on a solid legal foundation and must be implemented so as to be effective for the economy and acceptable to society. As Thomas Friedman put it in his New York Times column on 13 September. "We have to fight in a way that is effective without destroying the very open society we are trying to protect. We have to fight as if there were no rules and preserve our open society as if there were no terrorists. It won't be easy. It will require our best strategists, our most creative diplomats and our bravest soldiers." In that spirit, we offer our thoughts. Semper paratus.
Commandant of the Coast Guard since May 1998, Admiral James M. Loy has focused his leadership on restoring Coast Guard readiness and shaping the future of the Coast Guard. Although both themes involve many initiatives, the most visible expressions of restoring readiness have been rebuilding the workforce to authorized levels, improving retention, and managing operational tempo; the most important element of shaping the future has been overseeing the Integrated Deepwater System acquisition project, which will modernize the ships, aircraft, and sensors that the Coast Guard uses to perform its many open-ocean missions. Admiral Loy graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1964 and holds master's degrees from Wesleyan University and the University of Rhode Island. He also attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and interned at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He has received the Department of Transportation Distinguished Service Medal, four Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medals, the Defense Superior Service Medal, two Legion of Merit awards, the Bronze Star with Combat V, the Meritorious Service Medal, five Coast Guard Commendation Medals, the Coast Guard Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, and other unit and campaign awards.
Captain Robert G. Ross serves as Chief, Office of Strategic Analysis, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters. Prior to his duties at the Office of Strategic Analysis, Captain Ross served as Chief, Office of Vessel Traffic Management, where he was responsible for U.S. Navigation Safety regulations, the "Rules of the Road," Vessel Traffic Services, and related traffic control measures. For the past three years, he led U.S. delegations to the International Maritime Organization's Safety of Navigation Subcommittee. He has also served as an engineer on salvage systems and numerous types of oil and chemical spill cleanup equipment and served as Federal On-Scene Coordinator for several major incidents, including the Morris J. Berman oil spill, the largest U.S. coastal oil spill and cleanup since the Exxon Valdez. Captain Ross graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1973 with a bachelor of science degree in ocean engineering and holds a master of science degree in systems management from Florida Institute of Technology. Captain Ross has been awarded the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Coast Guard Commendation Medal (three awards), the Navy Commendation Medal, the Coast Guard Achievement Medal (three awards) and the Army Achievement Medal, along with numerous unit and other service awards.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. The breakup
of the Soviet Union and the global failure of expansionist Communism were supposed
to usher in the Pax Americana, a time when Americans would reap the benefits of
having successfully waged the Cold War. We were supposed to have been able to
enjoy a greater sense of security as our reward. Instead, judging by the numerous
reports, papers, and articles flowing out of various official blue-ribbon commissions
and Washington think tanks, responsible officials and national security experts
are arguing that the United States is less secure against catastrophic attacks
directed at the homeland than at any time in its history. "Homeland security"
appears poised to be the next growth industry in national security. What happened?
How did it get this way? More important: What are the threats? What can the United
States reasonably do about them?
Complete answers to these questions are beyond the scope of this article. Some aspects of homeland security are so complex that entire volumes would be necessary to explore the narrow issues in depth. Rather than succumb to the temptation to jump right into details on areas of particular concern to the Coast Guard, we have chosen to step back, to look at homeland security in a more comprehensive, holistic manner to see if there aren't some higher-order principles to guide the nation.
Our analysis reveals an existing but discounted national security "lever of power"-civil authority-that must be used creatively if America is to successfully meet the homeland security challenge. We also identify four principles essential to crafting an effective and affordable response to this multifaceted problem. Among these are adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law, as well as the use of risk-management concepts.
The Potential Threats - Who the Players Are
The current situation is not the result of a single event or trend. Rather, it is the result of interactions among a number of discrete threads of history. First, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its empire of captive states has loosened the controls on several potentially negative forces. Former Soviet client states now feel free to pursue their own agendas without having to worry about the interests of their vanished sponsor. Concerns have been expressed by some security authorities that former Soviet scientists, desperate for work and the money to feed their families, may become mercenaries in the employ of aspiring nuclear powers and others seeking weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Serious concerns have also been expressed over the ability of the resource-strapped Russian military to maintain security over former Soviet nuclear devices, fissile materials, and advanced weapons systems now under Russian control. If the Russian economic situation deteriorates further, these concerns will only grow.
In this era of globalization, the world reach of America's economy and culture is creating powerful resentments in some sectors. Even without regional conflicts providing motivation, it is highly likely that Usama bin Laden or a similarly reactionary guardian of traditional ways would have arisen in reaction to the dominance of modern America's economic power and culture, some aspects of which are admittedly negative. Those with a dislike for the effects of globalization, as well as those who merely feel threatened or left out by an economy and technology they do not understand, have strong motives for lashing out at the most highly visible source of their discontent: the United States.
In many parts of the world, ethnic and nationalistic grievances have fueled the anger now directed at the United States. One of the burdens of being the sole remaining superpower is that Americans are frequently the target, rightly or wrongly, of grievances around the world. There are large ethnic blocks in this country that could provide either unwitting cover for ill-intentioned aliens or a source of ready recruits for a foreign terrorist organization. There are also those Americans who think themselves at war with something in their own society-government, industry, development, taxes, or what-have-you.
There is also the continuing threat of state-sponsored or state-on-state violence in support of identified national objectives. It is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which a foreign government threatens to attack the United States with a weapon of mass destruction to dissuade the United States from opposing aggression on a neighbor. It is also not difficult to imagine an endangered despotic regime striking out at the United States to improve its domestic survival prospects. That such measures almost always fail does not stop the desperate from trying.
Common to all of the aforementioned is the use of asymmetric attacks on the United States by a state or non-state actor that is either unwilling or unable to confront the United States directly. That it is almost invariably a militarily inferior adversary who would employ such means does not lessen the potential impact. To the contrary, the potential inability to properly attribute such attacks to the correct perpetrator makes it all the more difficult to deter, defend against, or respond to such attacks using traditional military means.
Finally, the nation faces serious transborder threats that fall outside the narrow bounds of "national security threat" as that term has sometimes been interpreted. Included among them are international crime (such as smuggling of drugs, illegal migrants, and weapons), the potential for accidental introduction of human or agricultural disease agents (such as hoof-and-mouth disease), and threats against natural resources or the environment (such as environmental terrorism or fisheries poaching).
Potential Means of Attack
If the number of actors who could conceivably threaten the U.S. homeland is daunting, the number and range of potential tools at their disposal is far more so. The number of means of attack is one of the principal difficulties in addressing the threat to homeland security. At one extreme is the nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). At the other are small arms of types readily available in many legitimate retail outlets, as well as powerful truck bombs and other devices made from readily available household and industrial chemicals.
One of the ironies in globalization is that, besides being a potential motivation for attacking America, growing global trade may also provide the delivery mechanism for a devastating attack on the United States. It is similarly ironic that the spread of technology, accelerated by the Internet, gives those opposed to economic or technical change far greater access to information with which to craft attacks on the critical information, energy, and transportation infrastructure that underpins the global economy.
While the range of potential threats is large, the greatest concerns have been expressed over WMD and threats against critical infrastructure. Excellent descriptions of the various threats and means of attack are available from numerous sources (see the suggested reading list). Rather than repeat those descriptions, we have chosen to emphasize selected aspects of the WMD threat that help point to effective countermeasures.
Some of the most widely discussed asymmetric threats are nuclear, chemical, and biological WMD. There is some dispute over the degree to which these kinds of devices are likely to be developed or obtained by non-state actors, but the Aum Shinrikyo gas attack in the Tokyo subway showed that certain WMD are well within the reach of terrorist organizations. This incident also revealed another aspect of WMD. The Tokyo attack was initially thought to be an industrial or transportation accident. So was an earlier Aum Shinrikyo gas attack. Potential similarity between an attack and an accident or natural event is not limited to chemical incidents. For example, a biological attack might well be mistaken for the outbreak of a natural disease. The consequences of many potential WMD incidents will be similar to those of a variety of accidents or natural disasters for which response mechanisms are already in place. Further, it may not be until much later that investigation reveals that an event was an attack rather than due to some less malign cause. This has significance when selecting WMD attack response and consequence management capabilities. Requirements should be driven by the nature of the event, not by the identity or intent of the perpetrators, if any.
Means of delivery is another aspect of WMD attack that is significant when deciding how to address the problem. Much has been made of the potential for a rogue state to threaten or attack the United States using an ICBM armed with a WMD warhead. Other potential delivery means are also available, some of which offer decided tactical advantages over the ICBM. Among these are cruise missiles and smuggling, either via legitimate trade or clandestine trade across our porous borders. There are some 70,000 cruise missiles in arsenals around the world and, unlike ICBMs, the technology is both affordable and widely available. Many existing cruise missile designs could be launched, with relatively little risk of detection, from hundreds of miles at sea by small fishing or freight vessels. Further, more than 20 million containers enter this country each year, and the number is growing. Only a small percentage of these are inspected, whether for WMD or for more mundane purposes. As with cruise missiles, the potential for attribution is small. Because attribution risks and entry costs are small, some analysts have concluded that these non-ICBM delivery means represent significantly greater risks than do rogue-state ICBMs. In the early 1940s, in a letter to President Roosevelt, Albert Einstein noted that "a single [nuclear] bomb ... carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory."
The only significant difference between then and now might be the ease with which even a less developed nation is able to acquire nuclear weapons.
These arguments, along with projected costs, have been used against national missile defense. Rather than argue against national missile defense, however, we believe that the "half a fence is no fence" argument cuts both ways. The United States needs to improve its capabilities to intercept incoming foreign "warheads," whether delivered by ICBM, by other traditional military delivery platforms, or hidden in a shipment of running shoes. As Michael O'Hanlon, a Senior Fellow and defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, put it, the United States should "broaden the homeland defense agenda beyond the narrow scope of missile defense, and indeed beyond the purview of the Department of Defense alone."
That the non-missile portion of the fence will cost far less than national missile defense does not make it sufficient by itself. It does suggest, however, that we should build the first half of our fence while research and development and deployment planning continue on the other. (For a discussion on how the United States might choose to deal with the threat of WMD delivered via maritime means, see the description of the Coast Guard's Maritime Domain Awareness concept later in this article.)
The Homeland Security Dialogue to Date
Much has been written on the homeland security issue over the past few years by various commissions, public policy think tanks, and individuals presenting either personal or agency perspectives. Regrettably, almost every study, report, and article to date has concentrated on only a narrow aspect of the larger problem. While many very good ideas have been presented, the dialogue has lacked a more comprehensive context within which the pieces would fit and make sense. This has limited our discussion of homeland security. The terminology initially used when talking about the homeland security challenge was "homeland defense." There are several problems with this term, but chief among them is that it initially focused the debate on the Department of Defense (DoD) as the primary source for solutions. DoD, in turn, tended to focus almost exclusively on national missile defense and consequence management. This DoD view is simply too restrictive. This is not to suggest that DoD does not have a role in homeland security. To the contrary, DoD and the DoD military components are essential to a comprehensive solution. They are not, however, adequate by themselves.
The primary exception to the tendency to concentrate on only a narrow slice of the larger homeland security question has been the Commission on National Security Strategy/21st Century, also known as the Hart-Rudman Commission. This commission did look at homeland security broadly. However, Hart-Rudman looked at so much more (DoD acquisition reform, State Department restructuring, science and technology education, etc.) that its homeland security message may have been diluted. The controversy surrounding Secretary Rumsfeld's efforts to seriously scrutinize America's national military strategy and the difficulties inherent in the shift to a new Administration will also undoubtedly deflect attention from the Hart-Rudman Commission's conclusions and recommendations.
Despite the lack of reaction to the Hart-Rudman and other Similar reports, the following comments remain disturbingly on target:
The United states will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on the American homeland, and U.S. military superiority will not entirely protect us・・・attacks against American citizens on American soil, possibly causing heavy casualties, are likely over the next quarter century・・・America's openness and freedoms make it more vulnerable・・・[U.S government] structures and strategies are fragmented and inadequate. 
This is Why the Hart-Rudman Commission concluded:
The security of the American homeland from the threats of the new century should be the primary national security mission of the U.S. government. 
The President should develop a comprehensive strategy to heighten America's ability to prevent and protect against all forms of attacks on the homeland, and to respond to such attacks if prevention and protection fail. 
American's National Security 'Levers of Power'
Conventional thinking in this country's national security strategy has been based on exploiting three levers of power, or means to our desired ends, as shown in Figure 1. This approach has been acceptable for much of our history: we were protected from most foreign threats by two extremely wide oceans, and we have enjoyed generally peaceful relations with our North American neighbors, especially since early in the last century. The major Cold War exception was the Soviet nuclear force, but our countervailing nuclear force and the doctrine of mutual assured destruction kept that threat at bay. So long as the threats remained "over there" and/or were primarily military threats posed by identifiable state actors susceptible to military counter-threats, this three-pronged approach was successful.
Now, however, these traditional means are proving inadequate to the task. Many current and projected threats involve non-state actors, some not even foreign, who are not susceptible to diplomatic influence or economic power. Traditional applications of military power may also be entirely ineffective against such amorphous threats. If the traditional Cold War tools are inadequate, the only remaining recourse is to add some new capability to the national security tool kit. As shown in Figure 2, the most readily identifiable "new" tool is civil authority. As also shown in Figure 2, sharing and transparency of information across all four levers of power is an essential requirement if we are to be able to exploit the most effective means for achieving a desired outcome. The idea of information sharing between the military and foreign-focused national security intelligence communities and the domestic law enforcement community will undoubtedly raise civil liberties concerns. The more prudent course, however, would be to adopt strict guidelines and rigorous oversight on such information sharing rather than banning it outright, as is largely the case today,
There is nothing really new about applying civil authority to national security or in mixing some components of the military and law enforcement. The Coast Guard and FBI intercepted and arrested Nazi saboteurs on Long Island during World War II, and the FBI has a long-standing domestic counterespionage role with obvious national security implications. What is new is the growing importance of civil authority in meeting emerging threats. As the Hart-Rudman Commission observed in its Phase I report:
U.S. national security policy in the 20th Century has been something that mainly happened "there," in Europe, or Asia or the Near East. Domestic security was something that happened "here," and it was the domain of law enforcement and the courts. Rarely did the two mix. The distinction between national security policy and domestic security is already beginning to blur, and in the next quarter century it could altogether disappear. 
Rather than previously hard lines becoming blurred, the new reality is more a case of civil authority simply being given a more prominent role as another legitimate means of providing for the safety and security of the American people.
The necessity of exploiting civil authority in homeland security is made clear by two examples of its applicability. First, "terrorism" has consistently been defined by essentially every nation as a criminal act. Despite the fact that military means have occasionally been used in response to terrorist attacks when the perpetrators were beyond the reach of prosecutors, counterterrorism actions are considered by definition to be law enforcement actions, not military actions. In the United States, law enforcement and criminal prosecution are expressions of civil authority. Similarly, inspecting cargo shipments for contraband at the border is an expression of civil authority whether that contraband is counterfeit designer jeans, drugs, or WMD. This is not to deny the possibility of using military forces for such a civil function. Rather, the distinction is between a military function, subject to the law of war and the rules of sovereign-to-sovereign relations, and the domestic exercise of a sovereign nation's inherent right to protect itself from nonmilitary trans-border threats.
A Principled Response
Developing a comprehensive response to the homeland security threat has been hampered by the complexity of the problem and the multiplicity of measures required for effective risk mitigation. Compounding the difficulty has been the number of different agencies and different levels of government acknowledging some degree of responsibility to act. Given these difficulties, it is no wonder that so many of the ideas that have come forth, as good as many of them are, have been presented in isolation and without connection to a fully articulated strategic and policy construct. The following suggests guiding principles and steps to take in building that larger, more comprehensive national response to the homeland security challenge.