Despite the fact that federal and state governments have spent an average of $75 billion a year on security measures since 9/11, many American still feel unsafe.
According to a recent survey, half of Americans feel they are less safe today than they were prior to 9/11. The survey, conducted by Zogby International on behalf of Federal Signal Corporation also found that 34 percent of Americans feel that public safety is not a priority in their community and nearly four out of 10 people believe their city or town is unprepared to handle an emergency event.
As the nation remembers the nearly 3,000 people that died on 9/11, one question inevitably rises to the top of every conversation on national security; are we any safer now than we were then? The answer depends on who you ask.
Dr. Jim Giermanski, chairman of Powers Global Holdings and president of Powers International: We are certainly luckier, but as to safer, I really don’t think so. We have major weaknesses in the global supply chain that DHS and CBP have simply failed to address, such as transshipment threats and RFID usage at our ports, which amount to a very clear and demonstrated vulnerability. Even local city bomb squads have empirically demonstrated the vulnerability, acknowledged but yet unaddressed. I hope we continue to be lucky.
David Shepherd, CEO of Readiness Resource Group: It’s one of those tough questions. You can do 99 things right and then something happens and it looks like you didn’t do anything. There are a lot of things that have been implemented that weren’t there prior to 9/11. As an example, what has happened since 9/11? We never had a Department of Homeland Security before. We never had a TSA before. There never were fusion centers before. There never was a national infrastructure protection plan before. There were never sector specific plans. There really wasn’t a “See Something, Say Something” campaign where people became involved in their own safety. There are a lot of changes that have happened. The information sharing between the private sector and the public sector is huge and that is growing and growing on a daily basis. All of those things can be attributed to changes that happened after 9/11.
On the other side of the coin, there were a lot of things going on well before 9/11. A lot of people had to be concerned with natural disasters, life safety events, terrorism events, health events, and accidents well before 9/11. What are the two biggest words in English language? If only. If only I had of done this or if only I had of done that. You cannot second guess. There are so many website available now for people to go to and learn that sprung out of 9/11. If you’re not taking advantage of it, it’s back on you.
Billie Vincent, president and CEO of Aerospace Services International: Are we safer 10 years after 9/11? The easy answer is an emphatic yes. While some critics would agree with this assessment they would also ask the question: At what price to our independence and privacy? Others might disagree that we are safer pointing to uncertainties in troubled areas such as the areas affected by the so-called Arab Spring and the potential long-term adverse consequences from the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, etc.
To each of these points of view I would note that the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with its multiple agencies dealing with aviation security, our borders, immigration, etc., have resulted in better focus on issues that affect our national safety. Considerable attention has been given by the DHS agencies to the protection of our individual liberties and privacy. We continue to have legitimate concerns about illegal immigration, and the smuggling of drugs and other contraband into the U.S. Our military has done a great job in eliminating terrorist safe havens using our elite forces and our state-of-the-art unmanned and armed air assets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa. This, unfortunately, has been at a horrendous cost in loss of personnel and some long-term damage to our defense system over the past decade. Likewise our law enforcement agencies, along with our state and local law enforcement officers (LEOs), have done a much improved job of detecting and neutralizing domestic terrorism. Our allies’ anti-terrorism assistance has ranged from wholehearted commitment to lack-luster commitment and performance.