1-4 OCTOBER 2009 - VISIT TO NEW YORK AND NEW ORLEANS by the COMMITTEE ON THE CIVIL DIMENSION OF SECURITY (CDS)
Fourteen members of the Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security visited New York, as well as Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Lousiana, on 1-4 October. The delegation, led by Jo Ann Emerson (United States), Chairperson of the Committee, met with local and federal officials, academics and private sector representatives to discuss homeland security, and disaster preparedness and response in the United States.
I. NEW YORK
2. The delegation met with scholars at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation to discuss international stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and, more generally, the security situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. There is currently a widespread sense of pessimism concerning the developments in this region, particularly following the presidential and provincial council elections of 20 August 2009. Jake Sherman, Associate Director for Peacekeeping and Security Sector Reform, put forward six priorities for moving beyond current difficulties; he argued that:
1. A second round of elections is necessary to restore the credibility of the election process, both in the eyes of the Afghan population and of the citizens of those nations contributing to stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
2. Training Afghan security forces should receive greater priority. The new, district-based approach to police training seems to be working, but will require a lot more time and resources. Recent initiatives to set up community militias could also help curb ordinary crime, but so far these militias have had limited appetite for counterinsurgency actions.
3. Afghan authorities and the international community need to engage more determined efforts to disarm irregular, armed groups.
4. ISAF and other international troops’ reliance on private security providers and militias is problematic. Oversight of these groups remains very weak.
5. Negotiating with the insurgency is necessary in order to achieve national reconciliation.
6. More international assistance needs to be channelled through Afghan institutions in order to allow them to build capacity and take credit for reconstruction projects.
3. Mr Sherman stressed that the Taliban should not be considered as a monolithic group. Public support for the Taliban is mixed, but some of the movement’s strengths include its capacity to create fear, to coerce, as well as to provide a relatively predictable justice. While the drugs problem remains a serious concern, Mr Sherman argued that there is no clear evidence that the drugs industry is the main source of revenue for the Taliban. The movement seems to rely comparatively more on financial flows from the Gulf.
4. Arif Jamal, Associate Researcher at the Center, was very critical of the Pakistani army’s ambiguous attitude towards jihadi groups in the region. He argued that while Pakistan’s new civilian government was determined to take on jihadis, Pakistan’s military continued to tolerate those groups, particularly in the Kashmir region, which they consider useful instruments for achieving certain foreign policy goals. In Mr Jamal’s view, resolving the dispute over Kashmir is therefore crucial in order to achieve regional stability. In addition, he argued that western governments need to give Pakistan’s civilian government greater support than has been the case so far, and pursue a clear and consistent policy towards the country.
B. COUNTERTERRORISM AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT IN NEW YORK CITY
6. The delegation met with Joseph Bruno, Commissioner of the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM). The OEM is the main co-ordinating agency for all types of emergencies. Its missions include: planning and preparing for emergencies; co-ordinating emergency response and recovery efforts; educating the public about preparedness; collecting and disseminating critical information; and seeking funding to support preparedness. The OEM receives from the US government a general assessment of threats; based on this, it assesses which threats are relevant for New York City and which capabilities each of these requires.
7. The OEM’s plans include both the provision of general, all-hazards functions – such as evacuation, sheltering, mass care and feeding, management of donations and volunteers, etc. – and preparedness and response for specific hazards – coastal storms and flooding, chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) incidents, transit strikes, etc. The Citywide Incident Management System identifies the lead agency for each type of emergency, and lists the tasks to be performed by each agency under the overall co-ordination of the OEM.
8. Mr Bruno detailed some of the city’s plans in response to the H1N1 influenza. These include, for instance, measures to increase the health care system’s capacity at short notice, vaccination policies, and alternative solutions to ensure the continuity of education should schools have to be shut down. Mr Bruno explained in particular that the city is planning to conduct a voluntary campaign of vaccination for all the 1.4 million schoolchildren in New York City.
9. The OEM maintains a watch command, operational 24/7, which allows it to identify emergencies as soon as they happen and notify relevant agencies. The OEM’s Emergency Operations Center acts as a control room in the event of an emergency; it can host up to 130 different entities, including federal, state and city agencies, private sector representatives, nongovernmental organizations, etc. The military can also be called upon to assist with emergencies, but a request to this effect has to be addressed to the state. Part of the National Guard is dedicated to the protection of New York City.
10. The OEM has developed co-operation mechanisms with its counterparts in neighbouring states (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut), as well as with other major cities in the United States.
11. Raymond Kelly, Commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD), emphasized how the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 had transformed the NYPD’s mission and structure. The NYPD has been the first police department in the United States to create its own counterterrorism bureau. It maintains a joint terrorism task force with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Department has hired first class analysts and has refined its language capabilities to enhance its capacity to deal with the terrorist threat. It has deployed NYPD officers in 11 cities around the world, who act as a first line of defence, gathering information with a view to better protecting New York City. According to Mr Kelly, since 9/11, there is also a much higher degree of co-operation between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
C. AIRPORT SECURITY
13. The delegation visited JFK airport and met with officials from the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA), from the airport’s administration and from the Port Authority New York New Jersey (PANYNJ), to discuss airport security.
14. In 2008, JFK airport received an average of 1,300 flights a day and 48 million passengers in. Besides the eight terminals and other airport facilities, the area also includes an Airtrain system and a Light Rail system, which transport some 35,000 to 40,000 passengers a day.
15. Within six months of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, security at all airports in the United States was federalized and the TSA was created as the main supervisory body. The TSA defines regulatory security requirements for all airports, dealing with such issues as access control, training, emergency plans, etc. Besides TSA requirements, the PANYNJ also implements additional security measures.
16. The TSA’s mandate has been progressively extended since 2001. Aviation security relies on so-called “layers of security”. The TSA has sought to push these layers back further and further in order to identify threats as early as possible. Thus, it has recently encouraged the use of suspicious behaviour detection as a pre-screening method. The Secure Flight Program, which requires airlines to send flight manifests 72 hours in advance, also allows the TSA to check passenger names against federal watch lists and identify possible threats.
17. A second main pillar of the TSA’s action has focused on perfecting screening technologies. Whole-body scanners have not yet been certified by the TSA, as technological issues, as well as civil liberties concerns, remain. TSA and PANYNJ officials stressed, however, that technology is not sufficient in itself, and that enhanced security also requires trained personnel and vigilant travellers.
18. In defining adequate aviation security standards, several challenges need to be taken into account:
19. The main threats to aviation security currently include attacks using small conventional explosives, large conventional explosives and CBRN weapons, and are directed mainly at aircraft, terminals and passengers, as well as, secondarily, at other assets. In response to these potential threats, New York airports have set the following priorities:
- the introduction of biometric identification for employees with ID cards;
D. SAFETY AND SECURITY AT NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
20. The delegation visited the Indian Point Energy Center and met with plant officials to discuss safety and security at US nuclear power plants.
21. Indian Point was the first nuclear power plant to receive a licence to produce electricity in 1962. The first unit was retired in 1974; two other units opened in 1974 and 1976 and they continue to operate today, providing some 20-25% of New York City’s power needs. Both units use pressurized water reactors.
22. The delegation discussed several safety and security concerns:
- contamination risks: plant officials explained that the three water systems on which pressurized water reactors rely are completely separate, and there is therefore no risk that contaminated water could leak into the tertiary loop, which uses water from the Hudson River;
23. The delegation met with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Governor’s Office for Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to discuss disaster preparedness and the lessons learned from the response to hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
24. Emergency management procedures in the United States give precedence to local response. Only if local capacities are insufficient does the state intervene. State authorities in the stricken state can also request assistance from neighbouring states if necessary. In accordance with the 1988 Stafford Act, federal assistance – including from FEMA and USACE – is provided upon request by the state governor and following a presidential declaration of emergency or of a major disaster.
25. Local officials are also generally entitled to order evacuations. This responsibility is passed onto state officials upon declaration of an emergency or disaster by the state. States rely heavily on federal assistance for funding of recovery efforts; the usual ratio is 75% of federal funds and 25% of state funds.
26. The scale of the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina was unprecedented in the United States. The largest share of the damage was caused after the levees gave way. The area affected by Katrina extended over some 90,000 square miles in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, an area the size of Great Britain. Winds reached 127 miles per hour at the hurricane’s landfall in Louisiana. The hurricane left over 1,300 dead, over 300,000 homes destroyed and an economic loss estimated at over 125 billion USD. Over one million people evacuated the area; temporary housing was provided for 92,000 households. Water surged by 28 to 30 feet along the Mississippi coast. Eighty percent of the city of New Orleans was submerged and it took over 40 days to pump out some 224 billion gallons of flood water. 217 square miles of land was lost from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 169 miles of levees and floodwalls were damaged and 62.2 billion litres of debris were left by the hurricane.
27. Federal and state officials pointed to some of the main lessons from the Katrina response:
1. prevention and preparedness are key: the primary responsibility for disaster response is with individuals; awareness campaigns are therefore essential;
28. Post-Katrina recovery efforts nevertheless continue to face a number of challenges:
- a significant share of the local population has not returned (including 41% of the population of St Bernard parish, 29% of Orleans parish and 23% of Plaquemines parish). Additionally, 1,500 households still live in temporary housing;