Where’s The Civil Defense Build-Up?

Posted: June 11, 2010 in Civil Defense, Civil Preparedness, Michele Flournoy, Weapons of Mass Destruction, WMD, WMDs

BP’s massive oil spill brings to mind a number of different things, but one that must be considered is the ability to respond to a “black swan” type of event.

How frequently do these low-frequency events occur?  It depends how you look at it.  9/11?  Katrina?  Financial meltdown(s)?  Gulf oil spill?

It’s worth considering because Michele Flournoy, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy has said “the thing that keeps me awake at night is a nexus between terrorism and massive destruction.” That makes me wonder why the U.S. doesn’t put more focus on civil preparedness.

Israel, for example, has a robust civil defense program including a populace that knows how to handle guns and gas masks.  Does the United States need such an effort as well?

The old days of “duck and cover” are routinely mocked, but what sort of planning, equipping, and practice is really warranted for what the USD Policy says is the biggest threat our nation faces?

  1. Sean D. McClung says:

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the author / creator of the Black Swan theory, ascribes these attributes to them: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective predictability. If one imagines circumstances that, were they to occur, would ellicit the response: “we should have seen that coming” some potential Black Swans might be revealed. But even if we cannot predict the exact nature of the disasters, we can certainly guess the organizations and agencies that are likely to be tabbed with the response.

    State National Guards, the Department of Homeland Security and USNORTHCOM will predictably have their hands full in the future responding to black swans, or significant events that “no one saw coming.” While much has improved in these organizations’ abilities to respond to disasters, the general population of the US is still woefully unprepared for catastrophes such as a nuclear event, a severe interruption of the nation’s “just-in-time” delivery systems or a lethal pandemic.

    The mindset that “all disasters are local” regognizes that individual and local preparedness are key to reducing cumulative effects. As you eloquently state, the nation’s civil defense program is cornerstone upon which this house should be built. Why is this construction not further along?

  2. […] people in and out of government are so uncomfortable thinking of dealing with such an event that they effectively ignore the most useful way of dealing with the consequences of such an event, that is, through civil […]

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