Council on Foreign Relations
Washington , DC
STEPHEN FLYNN: I could relate to you at some point here. But this is a great place to be for a very important and sobering conversation we have. There's almost a surreal quality to this. Actually, I do some of these in things like DPW garages, so this is really a step up because most of the folks who really do this stuff for a living don't have all the trimmings, because most of us who work on issues like we do at the Council don't pay much attention to this sort of thing. In fact, I had sort of a flashback.
One of my most vivid memories of 9/11 is being at a first council even six days after 9/11 where we convened a town meeting. We had a standing-room-only crowd at the Pratt House up in New York to basically figure out what had just happened. We had a, of course, very distinguished group of panelists, and they threw this then still commander in the Coast Guard at the end of the panel, and for the next hour and 15 minutes we spent time talking about the Middle East and Pakistan and U.S.-South Asian relations and the story of Islam and so forth here. And in the very last ten minutes the presider turned to me and said, "Oh, yeah, Steve. We have Commander Steve Flynn here to talk about the homeland security. Steve, we're running a little tight -- got about ten more minutes to go, so we can kind of truncate this."
And for me, it was almost a sort of surreal thing, because I said in fact to the audience that day, I suspect why suddenly you all showed up here en masse -- our best-attended event here at the council in quite some time -- is that you didn't have the sudden urge to talk about the Middle East. What you had was probably this very visceral sense that something very dramatic happened not very far from where we're meeting here today, and the sense of bringing a community together to try to deal with that, but those of us in the foreign policy establishment are very comfortable talking about issues and the nuances thereof as it associates with over-there stuff, but as soon as we get to stuff that's here on the terra firma in our own back yard, literally, well, that's the kind of things that often we're a little more disoriented on.
And so the council happily has continued to try to shift the balance a little bit, because 9/11 -- if there's no place where the intersection between global and local hit than was on 9/11, because all the management of that event happened at the local level. There were virtually no feds in sight at least in the New York context -- we had obviously federal targets here -- but no feds in sight to manage that event initially. So the linkage between the kinds of things we're used to talking about -- terrorists, who they are, and the sort of causal factors and so forth, and the reality of when terrorism rears its head on U.S. soil screams for the kind of conversation we're having here today. And it's always gratifying for me to see an audience of this size turn out to do that. And I'm particularly thrilled because we could pull two extremely busy people together to come here and talk to us about it.
And we're very fortunate to have on my right here Mr. Tom Lockwood, who is the director of the Office of National Capital Region Coordination at the Department of Homeland Security. He, like me, has maritime roots. He was a graduate of the Maine Maritime Academy up in Castine, Maine -- a superb school. Spent some time supporting the Navy for a while I understand, submarine force work, engineering and so forth. Also, private sector experience in issues like the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, industries of critical infrastructure that we often (impose ?) on. And before coming to his current job, he was the point man on homeland security for the state of Maryland.
And to my left is Ed Reiskin, who has focused his career on working truly the local realm here in urban government and urban affairs. He has degrees from Harvard, MIT, and the Stern School at New York University. He first did a West Coast gig out in Oakland, and then that wasn't too messed up for him so he decided to come here to the cradle of politics where all jurisdictions meet and fight, and that's in the city of New York -- sorry, city of Washington, D.C. (Laughter.) I could have applied that, right, both places here. Washington, D.C., where he's a deputy mayor for public safety and justice where, among many other things, he has to essentially herd the cats as it relates to this issue here today.
As our topic is, we're talking about what the threat is and what are sort of capabilities are to respond to the threat, and so I'd like to begin with that question. In fact, some of you may know, it wasn't perhaps the most newsworthy event because these things are becoming routine, but on Friday the State Department released its annual country report on terrorism. It makes for rather dry reading, but it also makes for very sobering reading because what the report clearly highlights is that this terrorism issue is not going away. If anything, it's metastasizing. We're moving from what was al Qaeda as an organization to a global movement.
We see a growth of self-starters, particularly in the European area. The net has provided this extraordinary forum for expanding the skill set. Iraq has become a bit of an essentially proving ground for how to attack critical infrastructure, how to take down refineries, how to take down pipelines, how to take down the electrical grid, how to take down water mains and so forth, and this knowledge is being shared and the fruits of this experience. Sabotage is not an easy thing to do. Many of this sort of -- (inaudible) -- around laymen at this look at things like bridges and so forth and say, gee, somebody could blow this up. It turns out most of them have been over-engineered. It's not so easy as you think. But everything has critical nodes, and once you learn the art form, it can get very worrisome. And the fact is, we have folks out there both acquiring the skills and clearly have the motivation.
But we also have gone five years since we've had -- almost five years since we had a 9/11 event. So where are we? Maybe it's all hype. Maybe we're overdone here, and we should get back to business as usual. There's some of that tension going on in current debates as well.
I don't think these two gentlemen probably share that latter perspective, but I'd like to get your assessment of what you think, bringing this again somewhat local, what's the biggest threat that keeps you awake at night when you think about the realms of possibilities here to confront this region here? Maybe start with you first here.
EDWARD REISKIN: Okay. Thank you and good morning. It's a pleasure to be here. In terms of threat, I guess a few thoughts before the specifics. One is that there's a lot of information out there about what the threats are. There's things like the State Department report. There's a constant stream of information from a lot of different sources that purport to assess what the threats are. We have our own various plans and threat assessments. But I would say that I don't have a whole lot of confidence that we have a really good handle on what the threats are. Before London, they didn't expect that bombing to happen. They had no intelligence on it. Obviously, we didn't do so good at expecting 9/11 to happen. So we don't really orient ourselves towards trying to identify a few threats and plan around them. Rather, we try to build capabilities that would enable us to prepare for, respond to a wide variety of threats, though obviously we plan less for earthquakes than I might have back in Oakland.
But that said, the things that concern me the most or that I think would challenge us the most, I think multiple simultaneous attacks, and although that's something that we've exercised and are fairly well comfortable in, I think that's something that we've seen happen elsewhere, and I think that would be a strain on resources. I think any kind of attack that had a broad-based chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear component to it, because of the complexities surrounding decontamination and some of the panic that might be associated, I think that's a worrisome scenario. Pandemic flu or equivalent kind of infectious disease where you have a very widespread debilitation of your resource base, we wouldn't have access to mutual aid because our neighbors would be in the same situation that we are. Huge chunks of the workforce potentially unavailable, including our critical first responders, the folks who are maintaining the utilities and other essential services.
And then I guess my biggest worry is whatever that thing or things are out there that I can't even conceptualize. I think if you had asked me on September 10th of 2001, I wouldn't have had airplanes flying into buildings on my list. So there may be things that the evil minds out there are thinking about that we haven't planned for or haven't contemplated. But that kind of gets back to our kind of philosophy of trying to build capabilities that we need so that whatever happens, whether we've thought of it or not, we have the basic capabilities in place to respond.
FLYNN: Tom, you have the job of coordinating across Maryland, Virginia and D.C. lines -- a very harmonious group of actors I know. (Laughter.) What is the thing that keeps you worried -- up at night potentially here on the threat side?
THOMAS LOCKWOOD: In the sidebar conversation preparing for a discussion, one of the questions is out of all these scenarios which is one. Our approach all along really hasn't been what is the one, but what are the common characteristics? What are the kinds of threats we'll see. Cyber? Will you see a biological, a chemical event, a nuclear event? But when you boil these down, there's some core pieces that start coming out. What are you doing day to day, will it be there in the event of an emergency? It starts driving questions of who's in charge? How do we get information? Okay, do we have the capability? Do we have skill sets, okay? So whether it's something that is a likely threat or whether it is something that we were confronted with, how do we make sure that those capabilities are there -- those capabilities of detection, prevention, but also response and recovery? So that broad number -- it's a broad number of 15 that we deal with, and that's everything from a biological event through.
In speaking -- I very much agree and support the position that Ed laid out. Our strategy has always been an all-hazards approach because we don't know if it's going to be a major hurricane that comes through our area or a biological event. So the work that has been done for the last several years, and when we look at this pandemic and the pandemic planning that's coming out right now, it emphasizes a lot of the work that we've been doing.
FLYNN: Okay, great. Clearly the challenges matching resources and capability with many of these very complex scenarios, some of which even are unimagined, as you laid out here, Ed, as you look ahead -- we could spend the morning here sort of citing all the things that we've done already and we could feel good about -- but as you look ahead, what are the things that most need to be done from your perspective to make you more comfortable than you are today perhaps, to deal with some of these scarier scenarios, bigger scenarios?
REISKIN: Okay. I'll quickly run through a list that I came up with that are I think my top. Obviously there's a lot that has been done; there's a lot to do. I think the first one has to deal with something that you referenced, was that there are a lot of folks who maybe think this is all a waste of time, something we don't need to worry about. I think the culture of preparedness that I think DHS is trying to bring to our society is the most critical thing at the individual level, the business level, the government level, particularly elected officials.
I think a lot of folks don't understand our integrating preparedness into what they do day to day, and I think that's probably our biggest challenge and probably our most difficult one. There's specific things in terms of community preparedness, such as dealing with special needs populations, such as the outfall we saw some of which in New Orleans recently, that's high on the list. Sharing of data, information, intelligence, both on the prevention side -- the connect-the-dots issue is still not really resolved. And then on the response side, to have real-time information so that all the various responders, both public sector, private sector, have awareness of what the situation is so that we can best manage our resources.
Here in the District, one of our challenges that it's Tom's unfortunate task to try to help us with is coordination of detection and protective measures capabilities, a lot of which has to do with the federal government. A lot of the detection capability in the District and the region are federally-managed. A lot of federal agencies kind of take it on their own to implement protective measures that impact our ability to respond. That's an unsolved problem.
Integrating public health into the emergency preparedness and homeland security field, even at the federal level, I see a little disconnect between Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, and that disconnect kind of carries down to the state and local level. And then associated with that, our ability to surge our capability to deal with mass casualties, mass care, mass fatalities. We've been building a lot of capacity, but I think a catastrophic event would still challenge us.
Better understanding of critical infrastructure. You made some reference to that. And I say better understanding instead of just protection because I think it's not as simple as building walls around the power plants or adding a whole bunch more transmission lines. I think there's a lot of complexity there and I don't think we've done a good job at getting our arms around that.
Risk assessment, which kind of relates to critical infrastructure. There's really no standardized risk assessment methodology to help us prioritize and focus. And then finally, I think we need to exercise more and have better exercises that include the broader community. We need to do more community exercises. We need to do more with the private sector. We need to do more cross-jurisdictional kind of exercising because there's no better way to plan than to actually play out scenarios in a realistic way. So that's kind of my top list of things that I think that are big challenges ahead.
LOCKWOOD: To expand on a couple pieces of what Ed had laid out, with community preparedness, trying to make sure that we have a culture of preparedness in the region where people really know to go for information. The pre-event preparation, coordination, information -- that piece is a piece that through discussions like today, through communications with the media, through communications with civic groups, we're looking to change, okay. That is a core piece.
Another core piece going back to the information sharing. Where do you go for trusted information? How do we coordinate this information between public and private? Okay. Where does the private sector go for good information? Okay. We know that in the event of an emergency that the communities will look into their community as they've defined their community for information. They're going to look to their local officials for information. They're going to look for their local business sector, their local communities for information. So how quickly can we get that information out? How do we really frame information in response or coordination between op centers to op centers so we have the correct tool sets to coordinate that information through correct notification, correct protocols? There is much work to be done.
I want to emphasize that each day this region gets better and stronger. We do a lot of exercises. I'll differ with Ed a little bit on the exercises. I think we do in some cases too many exercises that with all the different stake-holders sometimes they're not real coordinated. So one of the core questions is, when we do an exercise, how do you roll back your observations, your findings, back into work, back into ether policy or into execution? Okay. Maybe we need less exercises but greater participation and greater focus on rolling back those lessons learned into execution, okay.
FLYNN: We're in great shape. No. (Laughs.) Clearly this is a very complex enterprise, and one of the dimensions of which, it's going to take time no matter what. You don't just throw a switch and develop the kind of capability, because it truly must have expertise and capability resting at the local level. It has to be coordinated across these multiple jurisdictions. Unique here to the federal area, as you've highlighted, is we have a lot of go-it alone stuff with various agencies who have core requirements to protect themselves and what they do, and making all that have sense is an enormous challenge of coordination, one that requires a lot of public relations I suspect.
And clearly, one of the things that we see all the time with most events that come our way here is the media news cycle being so compressed as it is, the need when a story breaks for everybody to be saying something, whether they have facts or not. The notion, and it's almost a quaint notion it seems, of the whole emergency broadcast system of a little tweet going off and then we all gather around or TV sets to hear what's going on here. There is, I think, two dimensions of this. There's a pre-stage. How do we talk candidly to our publics without spooking them or giving bad guys ideas, all the usual kinds of things here, about things they should be worried about and things they need to do. And then how do we make sure that the place where people turn to get communications they get information out of that? To what extent are those issues on your mind and how have you been working them?
Maybe we'll start with you, Tom, first.
LOCKWOOD: One of the things that this region did first in the nation was in looking at our media partners in this region, bringing the media in and really having an exercise where instead of exercising the public section, where you run through an exercise and get a better understanding of what's the media doing, what are they looking for, what are the outlets. If we went through these scenarios -- and in fact we did that, and it opened up the eyes for a number of public officials saying that if they're not readily providing information the media will go and look for information sources. So how do you develop the relationship with the media before the event so that they can make an assessment of where we're at, how we're doing, our strengths, our weaknesses, for open society? They can contribute just by saying what do they think the holes are as well.
But in the event of an emergency, who are some very knowledgeable people that they can reach out to? How have we cultivated those relationships with our not-for-profit communities so that we don't misdirect people unintentionally? Where you have informed people with regard to the threats, the response, the medical issues, that we can -- that we know that that's in our community. We have one of the strongest areas in the nation for expertise. The question is, have we really leveraged that expertise, and is the media aware of these people, are we aware of the people to direct it when media inquiries happen?
It's critical. Once that was done here in the national capital region, these similar exercises were played in other major areas of the United States. I think that there were two that were done here. And clearly there is a concern, and there always will be a separation of the autonomy of press and the efforts that we do, so we recognize that divide.
FLYNN: There's a lot of churning in the media business here.
FLYNN: People move around up in various jobs, moved into outlets and so forth here. How are they -- from your perspective, how are they maintaining these lists? Do they have a list? Is there an ongoing process, or out of the exercises, yeah, that's a good idea, but people go back to reporting the story of the moment? Is there capability there?
LOCKWOOD: Well, one of the things, and it will always a challenge, is how do you tell your story? How do we get out and say, strategically, strategic communication, here is what the public sector is doing, federal, state and local? And one of the conversations that we've talked about recently between Maryland, Virginia, the District and myself, is how we can do a better job of that more frequently, because if we don't do that, there could be changes in personnel and people might not understand how complicated this is and they could look at one snapshot of one event, possibly in or out of context, and how it becomes a news story for a cycle when really there was no there there. So is it the media or is it our inability to tell our story -- our not getting out there? We could be so busy doing the job that we're not communicating the job that we're doing, so that's one of the things we see we need to get better on.
FLYNN: And I expect that's a struggle for you -- doing the job and finding extra time to deal with this public education thing. How are you doing it in the city of Washington, and what might you do to improve the process?
REISKIN: Well, I'd say on the good side we go out a lot into communities, to community meetings, and try to push out the message of preparedness, but even at that you get a somewhat self-selected group of that small portion of the population that's generally engaged and civically engaged and might be more receptive to this kind of stuff.
In terms of notifying folks when something happens, we put a number of systems in place both in the District and across the region to send alerts via telephone, via cell phone, via e-mail, the old kind of emergency broadcast system, so I think we're okay there.
To me, the real challenge is that most people out and about are not like the folks in this room who are thinking about this, who have an interest in it, who care about it. For most folks it's not even on the radar screen. And I think part of the problem is in trying to convey the level of threat because you can ask ten different experts and get 12 different evaluations of what the threat is. And then in terms of if you look from the individual's perspective of their day-to-day life and what they're thinking about, an emergency kit for a potential terrorist attack or hurricane is just so far down on people's lists. And I don't really have the answer as to how to better communicate.
As Tom mentioned, we've been kind of developing a strategic communication plan so that we can be a little bit more proactive in working with media, working with really anyone who will listen to help understand kind of this issue, both from the threat side, from the kind of what your government is doing to prepare side, and then from what you need to do to prepare. But as I said, I mean this was number one on list of challenges, the community preparedness. And we need to better use the media. We need to better use whatever grassroots outlets we can. But that's a difficult one.
FLYNN: A particular example I know you struggled through here in the region with the anthrax was the classic worried well problem. You have limited capacity as it is, but everybody suddenly feels like a sniffle might be -- this might be it, and want to receive medical attention, again elevating the need to get really precise information out as quickly as possible. So on a post-event when something goes wrong, where are you at with the relations with the media to try to get expert information out to try deal with the public's anxieties on these things?
REISKIN: Well, one thing that we've learned, and I've talked to a lot of the folks both on the local and national level who cover these issues, is that when something happens they need to put out a story. And if they don't hear from us, they're going to go to whoever, the guy on the street, or the pundit in New York or wherever. So that lesson is that we need to push out information as incomplete and imperfect -- just here's what we know. So we've begun to develop kind of standardized templates of information based on different scenarios so that we'll be in a position to push out information really quickly whenever any kind of event happens. And one of the reasons why I said a chemical, biological -- any kind of threat like that would be additionally worrisome is exactly this issue: the worried well.
And particularly for pandemic flu, I think there's a lot of folks when the first bird drops from the sky are going to rush the emergency rooms and maybe one out of a hundred are going to have a legitimate need, but they're nevertheless going to overwhelm the capabilities. So that will -- I think that with pan flu particularly, but for all this generally, it's the communications, and particularly the public communications, that's one of the most significant things that we need to get on top of.
I think if we get good, clear messages to the media, I don't think there's any issue of them helping to get the word out, but it's one thing to think about and plan about and script out; it's another thing when that bird falls from the sky.
LOCKWOOD: Yeah. Let me just put a little bit more on what Ed had said. In our region we have multiple languages spoken on any given day, so one of the questions is, how is that information presented? Whether that is a linguistics barrier, whether there are cultural issues, how do you get the information out in a form that people understand, receive, trust?
This campaign earlier this year, this regional campaign, it really was a first in the nation where this region took an integrated approach to get a common message. We're across multiple media spots. We might hear conflicting messages based on local jurisdictions or different perception amongst jurisdictions. This region put together a regional campaign with support of the private sector, the not-for-profits, really to drive this out to the grassroots.
The other piece is during the event you're going to have broadcast issues, but you also have narrow cast. How do you get information through various practitioner communities along the lines that they trust? That health alert network notification that goes to the practitioner communities and to the hospitals, okay. That notification that if it happens where you're at, is it going to get in the media form that you listen to? Because if our goal is many voices, same message, how do we create those multiple mechanisms to push that information out?
FLYNN: Just really turning to the final issue before I open this up for the general audience which is the heart of your job, I know, Tom, but certainly -- (inaudible) -- with just with the comments here that you just made, Ed, which is coordinating these activities across the region, and with so many players here within the jurisdiction. Where are we at on, again, putting sustained structures in place for ongoing coordinator at local, district/state, and federal level? Where are we at? Maybe I'll start here with you, Tom. It's your primary job. And get, Ed, your reaction to where we're at perhaps.
LOCKWOOD: Well, we walk through these issues all the time of governance and coordination. We have 230-plus federal departments and agencies in this region. We have multiple governments. We have six forms of constitutional government we have to deal with in any given day, okay, a commonwealth, a state, the district, okay, the executive, legislative and judicial. This is one of the few areas in the United States where you have federal law enforcement, fire, health workers, okay. How do we coordinate through practitioner communities, okay?
Council of Governments has been a great partner, working through the committee structure at Council of Governments that already exists that we can leverage and bring the debate, the focus, back over to the practitioner communities to work, with the CAOs who are essential partners in what we do, working through whether that's the fire or police chiefs committees, the public health, the transportation communities, to start integrating those in. We have multiple federal committees. The challenge is, how do we integrate those groups together? As late as last night we were still working through issues of how do you create those regional coordinating bodies that look at the requirements over time so that in your jurisdiction you can look at what you're doing in the context of what your neighbors are doing, but it doesn't undermine your jurisdictional or organizational autonomy.
FLYNN: Ed, what's your perspective on how we're doing on the coordinating thing? What things might be done to improve the process even further?
REISKIN: I think given the complexity of the region, we're probably doing very well, and some of the feedback that we get from folks from the outside is we're probably pretty far advanced relative to a lot of other regions. That said, I think horizontally cross the local governments and across the state governments is where we do very well. There are different perspectives and different constituencies, but I think that's where we're strongest. Going vertically from locals to states, an issue that we fortunately don't have here in D.C. but that Maryland and Virginia have, that gets a little bit more difficult. And then local, state to federal, in part because you have 233 federal agencies, that gets more challenging as well. But we do have -- Tom referenced some of these structures that we have in place, local government level, state government level. We also have a structure that includes some of the folks from outside the government, and that's probably where we're weakest. We do a lot of intra-governmental coordination, but the partnering with the private sector and nonprofit sector is often more in a kind of tactical or ad-hoc level as opposed to a strategic level, so that's probably where we have the most work to do.
But I think folks would be surprised at the extent to which, and for someone like me in my day-to-day work, that I'm working folks from Maryland, Virginia, federal government, local governments. That's pretty well developed in this region.
LOCKWOOD: Yeah, and let me put one other partner we haven't really talked about. It's the not-for-profit community. The not-for-profit community in the national capital region is strong, it's vibrant. They're critical players. The community, through the not-for-profit roundtable, American Red Cross, all the other stakeholders, they really benchmark about what happened in New York and the role of the not-for-profits. They looked at Oklahoma City. And between these three areas, they really looked at how do we want to be organized to be prepared for the next major event.
And you could see the fruits of that when Katrina, while it happened in a faraway place, this region supported what, 5,000 people, in this region coming here. While technically it might say, well, there was 400 that officially came in, there were a lot of people that came to stay with an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a roommate, but after a couple weeks they wanted help. And those not-for-profits are critical -- absolutely critical in providing some of those services.
FLYNN: I have to put in a plug for my own report here, just out today, which was called "Neglected Defense: Mobilizing the Private Sector to Support Homeland Security," just to speak to the point. This was a group made -- that we held at the council for over a year made up entirely of private sector senior executives in some brand-name companies talking about basically how do they engage in the public sector.
And I guess I think one of the things I most drew from this here is the capability clearly is there. In a larger sense, there's a lot of willingness there, but the consistent problem we hear from the private players is how difficult it is often to interact with government. And given -- again, your days are pretty full -- the challenge of trying to coordinate at the governmental level, the people who have this as a core responsibility versus the private sector players, but we constantly -- we have the refrain about the private sector owning and operating the vast majority of the infrastructure. All of us, if any event happens during the workday, are likely going to be turning to our employers for information or -- (inaudible) -- here, so maybe I'll get you just to comment on this issue of private sector engagement from your perspective. What maybe can be done further within this community on that? Tom, you want to take that on?
LOCKWOOD: I agree with Ed that one of the challenges -- and we've been talking even in our local or regional strategic plan here. We need to increase the participation of the private sector, both profit and not-for-profit. Now, the question is, how do we do this in respect to some of the oversight mechanism that are in place, and how do we address some priorities when if you're a business, you're going to get a message from a local government, a state government and a federal government? So how do we coordinate some of those priorities or those conflicting messages that you're going to receive, whether that be regulation or whether that be general communication?
One of the near-term pieces just in this area is to say if you have a facility, okay, and after a major event, how can I get into my facility just to do an assessment, just to see if everything is okay. So just basic issues like access control so people can get through restricted lines. Issues of where do I get information from? Who do I need to go to to get some quick answers? Those are the challenges we've been working from at a national level. Now the next level of challenge is how do you drive it at a local level or a regional level?
FLYNN: Ed, how are you doing on that one?
REISKIN: I'd give us mixed grades. As I said, on a tactical and ad-hoc level what we do I think in terms of response, our first responders work very closely with some of those critical folks, with Pepco and Verizon, the hospitals, and we have pretty strong relationships there. They've got seats in our emergency operations center. So in terms of response and planning for some of those critical infrastructure elements in the District, I think we do okay.
I think, as I said, though, in terms of being strategic about it, often when we do our planning -- our operating at that level, we'll have a roomful of 50 government people and one seat for the private sector, and often it's a gentleman sitting here in the front row who's got the daunting task of trying to be the face of the private sector, which, you know, just like you can't -- I've learned you can't treat the federal government as one monolithic entity that moves in a coordinated way, the private sector is a whole lot of sectors really. And I don't think that we've been a strategic as we can in partnership ahead of time before something happens.
We do do business preparedness, support. We do some things like that. But again, it's not very much at a strategic level. And what makes it hard is that if you count up the number of different stakeholders just within the government we already have at the table, one of the things is it's hard to get probably all the right representative groups of the private sector, both for-profit and nonprofit, at the table.
There's always the difficulties we have of kind of doing -- the inclination to do everything on a kind of competitive basis, which makes strategic partnership difficult, I think, from the government perspective. But I think that's a lot of what we have to do. And I think different -- there are different models out there of how folks have done it. I know Maryland has developed a kind of private sector initiative and are beginning a more structured way of engaging the private sector, and I think that's the way really a lot of governments probably need to go.
FLYNN: Very good. I'm sure there's a lot of questions here. You know you've been around the council too long when you mess up on your basic responsibility of saying that the rules of engagement -- this turns out to be an on-the-record thing. You both I guess knew that from the start, but I want to make sure you know that in terms of asking questions. The idea is they need to be questions and directed to our guests, and we will do this for about the next -- to 9:30, and then we'll be wrapping up at that point here. So let me take this one right here. Wait for the microphone as well.
QUESTIONER: Alan Platt. I'd like to get you to address what I perceive to be the continuing inadequate training of professionals. A lot of my information about this comes from my wife, who is a long-term emergency room nurse at a hospital in northwest Washington. And she's described to me the occasional one or two-hour preparatory session in the event of a biological or chemical incident. Suffice it to say, I come away from these discussions not reassured about where we are. Her particular hospital was overrun at the time of the anthrax incident. That's now a few years ago. I have the sense that if we were to have a major incident we don't have the plan and the professionals in place to handle it adequately. What could be done? I mean, you've referred to the lack of general urgency. I assume at some level it's a matter of funding. But how can we upgrade our preparation?
REISKIN: That's a very good question. And I'd say the preparedness and capabilities of different hospitals is very uneven. The hospitals -- there is some focus on it. The D.C. Hospital Association does have a subcommittee on preparedness. There are some very strong preparedness entities within some of the hospitals in the regions, and then others it's not as strong. We have with our funding supported some training and development of materials for training.
I think one of the challenges with that particular community is that they're kind of the opposite of the military, which is very regimented and structured. Doctors and a lot of folks in that community tend to be very autonomous. And some of the discussions I've had with some of the healthcare professionals is even if you develop this, if you try to make it available by distance learning and various means, it's hard to get doctors and nurses to fall in line because a lot of them see themselves as independent actors. And I don't blame them. They've obviously, and particularly folks in the ERs, have a lot on their plate. But the need to identify all of the critical responders in the community and get them trained is one of the things at the top of our list. And I'd say we've had mixed results in the hospitals, because the hospitals themselves, and then the doctors and nurses themselves, have to be willing players.
And then, as you mentioned, funding is always a constraint. As I said, we've provided some funding to support that -- probably not as much as would be needed to train the entire healthcare profession as they really need to be.
LOCKWOOD: The surge planning in the region, it's a challenge to say -- the initial question, what's the threat? Is it a biological threat, is it chemical, is it nuclear? Each one of those threats might require different skill sets, capabilities, facilities. How do we plan that in a surge and integrate it into practitioners? I can work with small groups of people, but if that message isn't getting out to the rank and file, that's one of our challenges.
We had the pandemic summit this Friday in D.C. We went through the -- again, it's the core issues that we've been trying to work: alert, notification, multiple skill sets. How do we work if you were to lose large numbers of people within your value chain? Okay. The challenge right now clearly on Friday was to say, how do we want to do this as a community? Yesterday up on the Hill the local hospitals were presenting ER one, okay, trying to bring recognition, trying to bring attention to the world-class efforts in this region with regard to emergency response at a hospital, okay. I'm not sure, but it also then goes to the question, is the partnership with the media. How does the media bring attention to some of the issues, the core issues of practitioners as well?
QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. Esther Brimmer, Center for Transatlantic at Johns Hopkins University, hence, part of the Washington presence of Hopkins, which of course is the largest employer in the state of Maryland. And so I have two questions. First, the outreach to employers, in particular the federal government as the employer, for example, Office of Personnel Management. Most of our institutions are actually guided by what the federal government does. Liberal leave in the federal government, and the rest of the institutions follow. So I'm wondering how that component is handled -- the federal government -- not just substantively, but as the largest employer in our region.
And the second is the link to educational institutions. Most of us are parents as well as professionals. And so, as we know from the snow day, that if schools are closed but workplaces are open or there's a different message between local educational constitutions, professional institutions are sometimes a disjuncture. How is outreach to schools handled as well?
LOCKWOOD: Okay. Let me take the federal piece, and if you'd take the local piece. On the federal piece and working back over with OPM, right now the security chief for OPM is working on detail in my office. We're looking at in revising the overall guidance for government closure, all the way from shelter-in-place to the same model for a snow day.
What we found out was if you use the same protocols and procedures that you use routinely, they will be there in the event of an emergency. So as we look at the all-hazards approach and modifying those procedures, so again, you have full stake-holdership participation in the development of the protocols themselves, so that D.C. is an active participant, Maryland, Virginia, just like those snow calls that happen 3:30, 4:00 in the morning that we're all on line to understand -- those protocols, those procedures, the people that you deal with, if that was event during a workday, how does that call take place, how is the decision made, how does OPM provide that guidance? We're actively updating that piece of it right now.
On the school side, Ed can talk a little bit more on that because it really is inherently local, but clearly the CAOs have taken this on as a challenge.
REISKIN: The CAOs, that's the chief administrative officers, which are kind of the local government leadership that we work with. Just to add to the -- whenever we're talking about closures or anything that's going to affect kind of the workforce, some of the key people who are on the same phone call, we always have OPM, we always have the schools, we always have the metro system because we always want to coordinate. We don't want metro shutting down and everything is open. We don't want the whole federal government shutting down. I mean, sometimes you don't want everything to happen at once, but we always try to coordinate. Sometimes we actually stagger our closures during the day of federal versus local so that the metro system doesn't get overwhelmed. But as I mentioned in my list of challenges, the federal government doesn't act as a monolith at the direction of OPM, and a lot of different agencies will do their own thing, so that's a challenge that we have here.
In terms of the schools, we have, and I think this is similar across the other state and local jurisdictions, the schools -- both the K-12 schools as well as the universities have a seat at the table as part of our Emergency Preparedness Council and our other efforts, so at that more kind of strategic level they are there. We do education in the schools, because just like most people learn how to recycle from their kids, part of building this cultural preparedness we try to do through our kids. There's a great Red Cross program called "Masters of Disaster," that we've funded and try -- we've pushed that through in schools throughout the region.
But the challenge with schools, like the challenge with hospitals, like the challenge even for most of us in government is to not have this whole preparedness concept be that kind of add-on thing on the side. It's like here's my main work, and then, oh yeah, I've got to do this preparedness stuff. The real challenge, and ER one is maybe an example of where it's becoming integrated into the general business operations of a particular hospital, is to get that integrated so that preparedness isn't a once-a-year assembly at a school, but it's a little bit more of a regular thing. And that's the same thing with hospitals. It's the same thing with most of the government agencies who don't focus on this day to day.
FLYNN: I'm going to put in my editorial comment on one of the challenges here. There's a bit of a supply-and-demand problem. The folks who really do this every day who often get beat up the most for not doing enough don't get in advance demand of politicians, elected leaders and so forth, that these folks have the capability to provide these responses. So as long as we all sit kind of rather mute on all these things, they're going to do the best they can, but employers need to demand that they have answers to these questions. And parents need to demand they have these questions of their elected officials for the capability I think to follow and obviously for the resources to be committed.
There are so many questions over here. Let me get back up here up -- (inaudible) -- people out of order here, but we're going to run out of time, I know, but we'll try to do the best we can.
QUESTIONER: Rob Quartel with Freight Desk Technologies. And Tom, you and I have talked about this in the context of tracking chemical isotaners and gasoline trucks around the region and the near impossibility of getting funding from one place. The real question it seems to me is, who's in charge, not just in advance. And I would say both of you seem to be doing a good job within the context of what your responsibility lies. But almost any major event, like a nuclear weapon, would be multi-jurisdictional. So if it happens, who's in charge? Does it become federalized immediately, which I think is the implication of Katrina is what should have happen. And I'd be interested in both of your descriptions of what you think happens 30 seconds after a nuclear weapon detonates in Washington.
LOCKWOOD: Okay. One of the questions that we get a lot is who's in charge? Where do we get information? And tell us about evacuation, okay. Who's in charge? In the event of an emergency, local government is always in charge. Let's get away the myth of a single person in charge. We have a constitution, we have separations, constitutional separations, within the federal government and between federal government and states, and states and commonwealths, they have their own constitutional structures. So in respect to the Constitution, each local jurisdiction is in charge. The national response plan, the national incident management system is very clear.
In a region, whether it's a single jurisdiction or multiple jurisdictions, as an event occurs that jurisdiction is going to try to respond. If it's overwhelmed it's going to reach out to its neighbors, okay. This goes into have you put the mutual aid agreements in place? Have you got commonality in training? Are you sharing information across command and control structures? Have they trained as a team so they work together as a team?
The next level. As that's going beyond the jurisdictions, how do the states work -- the state, the commonwealth, the District, integrate across and with each other. That operations-to-operations center coordination, the relationship between the governor and mayor and their senior leadership teams. Are they getting together once a quarter, which they are doing. Are the senior leadership teams getting together almost on a daily basis? Are the chiefs of police, fire, transportation, health people across the jurisdiction meeting each other, working with each other, solving those common issues day to day?
When a governor is overwhelmed, will he be reaching out through EMAC (sp) to the other governors for specific capabilities? Will the requests come in to the federal government to respond? When you have an event, then the federal government -- what is the coordination within and across the federal government itself? That's going to happen in this area in a very, very short time frame.
The other complicating factor is you're going to have (coop and cog ?) occurring for the federal government if there is a major event. So the key piece is incident management command system where the federal government is going to be supporting state and local government in their response.
FLYNN: Jim Moody here in the front. We need to get a microphone.
QUESTIONER: Well, Ed --
FLYNN: (Inaudible) -- got a lot of questions.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Jim Moody. Most of the talk so far has been about the mechanics if something happens, and that's extremely important, but just to shift the focus for a moment, going upstream the most valuable thing might be to -- or maybe someone is doing this -- let me know who is, or if it's done -- thinking what are the assessing -- assigning different probabilities to different events.
Now, we're probably not going to have another airplane flying into a building because we know how -- at least we think we know how to stop that this time. We now know what signals to look for. Someone parking a truck of dynamite in front of a high-value target, that can be looked at. That's very -- individual item. And it's the high-value targets like the White House, the Capitol and so forth, those are now protected. Someone parking in front of a building, in front of any old building and blowing it up, we probably can never prevent that totally. Seems to me, what is the likelihood of that, what are the probabilities we're working on, or are we, on something much more serious like a area-wide.
And it seems to me the real dangers would be some things you mentioned that affect everyone; not a pinpoint explosion but something that affects everything. You put yourself in mind of a terrorist as probably the way they would want to think, because that was where you cause the most havoc and damage.
I would agree with this gentleman that the emergency rooms and hospitals are totally unprepared. Any of who have been to an emergency room for any reason know how long it is on a given day to get attention, even in a relatively serious event. So if things are overwhelming it would be -- so if we allocate our resources, are we thinking upstream as to what is most likely, what are the different probabilities of different things happening, and where do we put the resources to focus on that? I'm just asking if that thinking about -- upstream thinking, if you're a terrorist, where would you want to go and what would you want to do, that would most likely "succeed."
REISKIN: Okay. One of the things that I had mentioned before was that we don't have a standardized methodology for risk assessment, and the elements of risk being the threats that are most likely, the vulnerability of the region and the systems to those threats, and the consequences of the threats. And I think that would be very important. It would be helpful to have a kind of standardized way to look at that. We have various threat assessments at different levels. I think there's a -- where Steve started today was kind of the intersection of global and local. I don't think most of us at the state and local level have a really good picture of the global picture in order to inform that kind of threat analysis.
But also, the cautionary side of that is I don't think there is a right answer. And I thin that we could have -- take the 15 scenarios. What's the likelihood of each? Assign a probability to each. You could assign that task to five different universities and five different think tanks and you'd get ten different answers. So while I think that there's -- we need --
QUESTIONER: (Off mike) -- convergence of answers.
REISKIN: Right. You may get convergence. And I think a risk-based approach generally is very important, because we can't plan for everything. And do you spend a billion dollars to fix a dike that may not see an event of that magnitude for every 200 years, versus do you provide training to all of your first responders in the region. Any kind of risk assessment that would help us prioritize would be helpful, but I think any kind of risk assessment is going to be imperfect, and we have to understand that.
LOCKWOOD: There's another piece in the risk that we didn't raise, and that's the intelligence. That risk is dynamic, okay. On Friday we talked and reached out to the health community to say, there is a challenge and a threat against a pandemic, okay. We've gone and -- and Secretary Leavitt has gone to Maryland, Virginia and the District to say as this event unfolds this will be a local issue. Don't wait for the federal government to come riding in on the white horse. How are we planning to do that? That message was provided in the Capitol, to the governor, governor, mayor.
Going back to the question how is the practitioner community responding back to that message that they're receiving, or at they not really receiving that message. Okay. How will their shop, their individual shop, operate during a pandemic? Are they going to shut the doors or not? Clearly there's an information flow where the federal government is communicating that to state and local governments now. Risk is dynamic. One of the key pieces to risk is what is the information flow. Maryland has stood up a fusion center. Virginia has stood up a fusion center. So not only do they want to receive the global information, but what's the local information? What are the patterns that are starting to arrive for that, and how does that influence then the capabilities and the investments that you make?
FLYNN: There's so many questions, so we'll try to see what we can do here. Let me get right back here. Maybe I'm going to do a back-to-back to try get -- yeah, so the gentleman right behind him, too. We'll get the two folks in back.
QUESTIONER: I'll be brief. I'd like to ask about individual preparedness, I think something we all struggle with. And I'm struck by a conversation I had with the former deputy national security advisor, and I asked, I said, what's your secret plan in the event of a mass terrorist attack? And he said, there is no secret plan. It's a binary decision. You either decide that that risk is worth absorbing and you enjoy your life in Washington or you think that risk is too high and you move somewhere else. So I'd like you to comment on that.
FLYNN: Great. And again, right behind, we'll get -- over here is a -- (inaudible).
QUESTIONER: Massimo Calabresi, Time Magazine. Two well-covered problems in response that I'd like to get your assessment of how the capital region has responded to. First, the transportation of chemicals by rail through the capital region, has that been adequately addressed as far as you're concerned? And second, first responder communication, is that up to the task of an event at this point?
FLYNN: Okay. So we have a capability here to deal with it, and then the individual level. And let me -- as a final one on the plate, what is it that you can ask this audience to do to help you do your job? And then we'll be able to (wrap up the program ?) that point. So let me turn to you.
REISKIN: Okay. I think in terms of individual preparedness, I'd say that that's a -- the former deputy national security advisor is taking a very ill-advised and cavalier approach. (Laughter.) I mean, clearly, if the most catastrophic thing you can imagine hits and everybody within ten miles is dead, then, yeah, there's not a whole lot you can do. But there are a lot of scenarios where having some basic things in place such as knowing where you're going to meet up with your kids and your spouse and your family, having some basic supplies in your house so that if there's not water, there's not heat, there's not electricity, you have ability to sustain yourself for a while. It's not complicated stuff. Very simple stuff. Having those things in place, in a lot of different scenarios, from a snowstorm to a terrorist attack, will be helpful, so I think that's critical.
I'll try to quickly hit the other two. And you'll hear very different answers probably in terms of the rail transport issue. From the perspective of the District of Columbia, we feel that the federal government has failed to really address the issue of hazardous materials traveling by rail going through major metropolitan areas, let alone this particular major metropolitan area, which is unlike every other one. And so we feel the matter is very much unresolved. We tried to resolve it ourselves through local law, which admittedly is -- this really requires a federal solution, but lacking one, we went forward, and that's hung up in the courts. It's very much unresolved from our perspective.
In terms of first responder communications, and there's some sitting next to you, you can ask them -- I encourage you to ask them your opinion -- I think we're in excellent shape in terms of basic voice communication ability between first responders from different jurisdictions, different levels of government, different disciplines being able to talk with each other. We're moving a lot further forward to continue to improve. We're looking at getting that same level of interoperability for data communications, not just voice. But I think we're probably in better shape, particularly given our complexity, than just about anywhere in the country in terms of our first responders being able to talk to each other.
LOCKWOOD: Okay. To go back to the preparedness, what I tell people is regardless of what was said today, I'm going to ask you to think, do you have a personal plan? In the event of an emergency, have you talked to your loved ones to say how you're going to communicate with them? We all know the switch network. It's very difficult sometimes to make a local-to-local call in the event of an emergency and you're going to need to call some other place. Who have you spoken to, to say here's somebody out of the region that I'm going to call, so your loved ones aren't worried out of their mind, okay. We saw that for anybody who had any loved one that was down South. So what is that -- who is that person? Who have you talked to your loved ones about? Who have you talked to your colleagues at work about to say in the event of an emergency where are we going to go, where are we going to rally? Okay. If I can't make it -- if I can't make it home, where are we going to go, where are we going to meet up? If I can't go home along the route that I travel every day, how am I going to get home? Sometimes you might have to go north to go south, or to go north you might have to go east or west to go north, okay. Have you thought through those? That's the personal plan. For those people that think about that, that will be less people that emergency support people that we're going to -- that the resources are going to be devoted to help those people that haven't done that preparation.
With regard to the communications, I agree with Ed. The only other point that I would put on is the transportation community has also been very much engaged in communication. To be able to leverage the efforts both by (Cap Win ?), the leverage -- the efforts that -- just through local coordination of shortfalls -- underground shortfalls. To say if you need to communicate by making a response back in metro, are we starting to make those investments? And the answer is yes, okay. So that we're interoperable both above and below ground, okay. So that's another key piece I just want to add on.
Chemical. We're taking what is a national problem -- a national challenge of interstate commerce, hazards and risks, and now let's localize that and say, how do we want to manage on that? And here in this region one of the things that they've done is they've assessed what is all the actual goods that are transported through here. There was discussions on hardening and operations on how to change your operations, okay, for the carriers. There were discussions on hardening. There's discussions on training. There's investments right now that are taking place, okay. This is part of the national debate on national commerce, national exchange, and risk management.
FLYNN: Well, I want to thank our guests very much here for taking time out of the busy day to speak with us here. I want to particularly recognize our folks in uniform who are back here who do this on a day-to-day basis here for coming here today and share this, and I hope you ask questions of them as well. I think we can come away with this reassured that we have extraordinary professionals who are professional worriers who get up each day and work through incredibly complex problems.
I think we should be less reassured as (extensive ?) community that we have -- that we the people have made this the priority it deserves, have committed the resources it desperately needs, and made our voices heard to our elected officials that this is part of the war on terror that's been, I think, too much neglected.
With that editorial comment, I want to thank you very much for coming here today. (Applause.)
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