It is human nature to be a hypocrite, but not every human succumbs to this irreverent tendency. However, in the National Security world hypocrisy is a fact. Never more so than in its effort to define or more specifically characterize threats to our national interest.
National Security experts will often find a threat where there is none and deny a threat exists where there is one. This tendency can and does have a drastic effect on the decisions made by policy makers and doctrine writers, national vulnerability assessment and risk management efforts, and those who implement, manage, operate and test security measures related to the effective protection of national assets.
In what should be a linear approach to threat determination (i.e. intelligence collection, then information analysis, then threat definition) the National Security establishment is subject to considerable outside influences, such as political and non-political agendas, budgetary excesses and constraints, or organizational rice bowls (not an official term). Understanding and properly characterizing threats are how we effectively defend ourselves and protect our interests. When a threat is not clearly defined and properly understood, we afford our adversaries an opportunity to not only attack us, but to complete their intended objectives.
Admittedly there is no easy solution to this multifaceted problem because it is part of our National Security culture. Consequently, 11 years after the attacks of 9/11 we are still struggling to properly identify and communicate threats. This has never been better illustrated than in the aftermath of the attacks on the consulate in Libya on September 11, 2012, as we continue to discover an appalling trail of indicators that an attack was eminent.
In the weeks and months following the 9/11 (2001) attacks, the National Security establishment took steps to correct what had been perceived as a mistake in threat assessment and analysis. Most agree now that the National Security establishment did not give Osama Bin-Laden and his network of terrorists enough credit.
The 9/11 Commission pointed out many deficiencies that existed in the federal government, and some specific to the operations within the US Intelligence Community (IC). These same deficiencies are believed to have contributed to Al Qaeda’s mission not being successfully detected prior to execution.
But two of the most poignant improvements suggested by the Commission were first, to create methods to better share intelligence-related information among the IC and within the broader federal government. The second improvement was directed at Threat Analysis and Assessment, or what the Commission sited as a lack of imagination among National Security leaders of the time.
The first suggestion, to improve intelligence related information flow among federal agencies, was followed up by a law being enacted (the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004) as well as dozens of other executive orders, congressional mandates and national directives. Many federal agencies and their contractor counter parts adopted a wide variety Information Sharing policies and process, some more successful than others (the success and failures of Information Sharing is a topic for an entirely different discussion).
On the other hand, the policies and processes needed to unify our efforts to define threats effectively have lagged significantly. Besides the inhibitors mentioned earlier (politics, budgets, and rice bowls), threat definition and characterization continues to be an inherently subjective undertaking.
Some agencies have taken to a mathematical approach to determine what a threat may consist of. However good intentioned the use of a quantitative method may be, there are significant shortcomings with this approach. For example, a numerical system of threat definition cannot account for the asymmetric adversary or even the “black swan” theory. Although the numerical system is less subjective in a few areas, it leaves many threat concerns either unanswered or wide open to uneducated guessing.
By contrast to the quantitative method, many agencies use what I like to call the “three blind mice” concept, which consists of intra-agency Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) developing threat hypothesis based on a limited input of information (usually gathered from within their own agency).
Granted, these two examples may be limited in use (or not) and extreme in their perspective, but it is a reality as to how the organizations within our National Security framework operate. The need for a set of objective, imaginative, unified, and full spectrum threat analysis and assessment policies and processes is long overdue, eleven years overdue at least.
Coming Soon…Part II: Eleven Years Later: Starting Threat Analysis from the Middle Out
Please welcome our newest SOFREP contributing editor, Patrick Rogan. Mr. Rogan is a long-time friend and we’re glad to have him and his expertise as a part of the team. -Brandon, Editor
Patrick Rogan is a retired US Navy SEAL with over 20 years of service. A combat veteran with overseas tours in support of both Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Mr. Rogan enlisted in the Navy in the early 1980s and spent his entire career as a SEAL. He became a proficient combat swimmer and SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) operator as well as spending nearly 14 years of his career as SEAL sniper. Mr. Rogan also became a skilled strategist and tactician, and led several sniper and direct action assault missions. He spent the last 5 years of his time in the Navy involved in the development and establishment of various intelligence-related programs. These same programs would be instrumental in further increasing the SEAL community’s ability to effectively identify targets of interest as well as execute successful missions.
Now retired from the military Mr. Rogan is again working in service of his country in the field of Threat Assessment and Analysis. As a policy advisor, Mr. Rogan is able to affect change in the intelligence, vulnerability and risk assessment, and threat characterization fields. His work revolves around security concerns related to a wide variety of national assets. Mr. Rogan has developed a reputation as a subject matter expert in the areas physical security, pre-detection measures, technical and non-technical surveillance countermeasures, personnel security, and Opposition Force (OPFOR) Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs).
Featured Image: Nigeria Suicide Bombing courtesy of Africanliberty.org