Sunday, September 11, 2011
Editorial: Remembering who we are
America still has work to do on preparedness and full recovery. Let's roll.
From the RoundTable blog
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Ten years after coming under concerted terrorist attack, the nation is safer by the standards set by the 9/11 Commission Report, but needs improvement.
A National Security Preparedness Group Report Card issued at the approach of the anniversary would give the U.S. an "F," in fact (had it given letter grades), for failing to reassert privacy and civil liberties protections that the nation compromised in response to continuing threats. Shameful.
Failure to activate a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in the executive branch was the low among the report's marks. But Congress also takes licks for clinging to a committee system that fragments oversight for intelligence and counterterrorism operations, rendering that critical function "dysfunctional."
That august body also is criticized for letting partisan differences stall efforts to create the nationwide interoperable broadband network that first responders might need to communicate across agencies and jurisdictions during major disasters.
As the report card points out, a wireless public safety network is just one advance needed to reach a goal of real-time interoperable communications. Every corner of every state needs to have the technology and standard operating procedures in place for a coordinated response to catastrophes.
Virginians should need no convincing; the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon showed the need in a horrific way.
"It's not an academic process for us to fix the problems we experienced," Chris McIntosh, statewide interoperability coordinator, noted in a phone interview last week. And Virginia, he said, is "leading the pack" as states work toward a July 2015 deadline for establishing interoperability across disciplines, localities and levels of government.
The governance structure is modeled across the country, he said. It brings representatives of localities and state agencies together on seven regional preparedness advisory committees; the regional chairs meet periodically with the state coordinator to talk about regional and local communications needs.
"We're doing well," he said, not just in funneling grant money into communications equipment upgrades across the state, but on the soft side as well: developing the policies, procedures and plans to knit the many first-responder parts into a whole.
Virginia can feel better prepared for a future attack.
The commonwealth and the nation would much prefer that another not occur on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001.
The 9/11 Commission gave a full account of the circumstances surrounding that fateful day, and made recommendations both for guarding against future attacks and mitigating damage done. On this day of remembrance, let's remember the work left to do.