Defining the Public-Private Partnership on Terror

The war on terrorism has reshaped the relationship between government and the private security industry


One manifestation of how terror affects business can be witnessed within the context of the public-private partnership in the war on terror. The ever-evolving relationship between government and industry is symbiotic: Government supports business and industry aids government. However, there are tensions that may impede further cooperation between the two players.

Government Supports Industry
In waging its war on terrorism, both at home and abroad, government assists industry in a number of ways. The public sector purchases diverse homeland security products and services, including traditional defense equipment; security equipment, technology and services; technology products and services such as telecommunications and software; pharmaceuticals and biotechnology products; germ detection equipment and services; and survivalist gear such as gas masks and bomb shelters.

Government funding is also allocated to assist contractors to develop advanced military hardware, including advanced infantry gear and non-lethal weaponry. The public sector aids industries such as aviation and insurance directly and indirectly, providing funds and guarantee programs in anticipation of and after terror attacks.

The public sector shares intelligence with industry and provides business with guidance on combating terrorist threats. Since 9/11 government officials have alerted various sectors-financial services, energy, aviation, chemical facilities and real estate-of possible impending terror attacks. In May 2002, the government provided guidelines for protecting ventilation systems in buildings from biological, chemical and radiological attacks.

Government also enacts laws that somewhat limit private-sector liability arising from terror attacks. For instance, airlines and others were partially shielded from liability when 9/11 victims' families relinquished rights to potential lawsuits if they participated in the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. Potential insurance industry liability arising from terror attacks perpetrated on behalf of foreign interests was lessened due to post-9/11 legislation. The Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002 potentially limits homeland security companies' liability should a government-certified product or service fail to prevent a terror incident.

The rising trend of privatizing some civilian and military functions enables business to enter into areas previously under the purview of government. For instance, in October 2002, Army Secretary Thomas White announced that the Army might shift additional support jobs to the private sector. Government provides business access to, and assistance from, labor resources instrumental in combating terrorism. For instance, in the case of commercial aviation, the National Guard's presence at airports deterred terrorist attacks. Intelligence and law enforcement data about suspected terrorists is sometimes shared with industry.

The public sector aids industry by offering business-friendly procedures within a homeland security-based context. For instance, companies that follow supply chain standards, procedural safeguards, and employee background investigations and training can benefit by gaining faster transit through customs.

Industry Aiding Government
Industry assists government in combating terrorism through a variety of means, including furnishing homeland security goods and services, safeguarding government assets, providing intelligence, outsourcing government roles and risks, and complementing governmental counterterror efforts.

The private sector makes available to government products and services collectively designated as homeland security wares. The public sector uses diverse bio-chem-radiological detection units in conjunction with metal and bomb detectors worldwide. Border and immigration government employees use biometric devices and video-technologies, among others.

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