w3 response

Category: Government


1. Chemical and biological weapons are among the most appalling weapons ever created. Not only are they incredibly lethal, but they are indiscriminate and can maim and injure people easier than most other types of weapons. The United States is aware of the danger that these weapons pose to civilization and actively advocate for refraining from using these weapons and for the destruction of existing stockpiles of these weapons. Chemical attacks by organizations like the Syrian Government, and Aum Shinrikyo have further solidified the horror that these weapons can inflict if they are not monitored and no defense infrastructure exists to protect people from them. The ease in which Aum Shinrikyo was able to develop Sarin for use in their 1995 subway attack which left 13 people dead and almost 6000 people injured, was cause for alarm (Corcoran, 2011). This attack showed that not only is the creation of a chemical weapon relatively easy, but also the environment that it is deployed in can lead to many more people feeling the effects of the weapon. This has further been reinforced by the attacks that the Assad Regime have used in Syria against rebel factions. Their use of chlorine weapons (as well as other chemical weapons) has drawn the attention and condemnation from the international community for their use on civilians. Another instance that has helped highlight the dangers of chemical weapons was the attack on an ex-spy living in the UK. This chemical weapon, known as Novichok, is significant in that it is a relatively new weapon to be created. What makes this weapon harder to defend against is that it is made up of two non-dangerous chemicals, that are only combined when the weapon is being employed (The Week Staff, 2018). This complicates U.S. efforts to effectively intercept and track chemicals that could be used to make chemical weapons.

2. Like many of us in week 1, I discounted the likelihood of CBRN threat against the US targeted by terrorist groups because of lack of skill sets/training, specialized equipment and difficult to weaponize and deploy them. However, chemical weapons (CW) are different. This week’s lesson addresses several development cases including Japanese terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo and Syria’s CW capabilities that have broadened the rage of CW obtain by the terrorists and had a significant effect on counterterrorism preparedness. Conducting a successful chemical terrorist attack is easier operation, unlike biological, radiological, and nuclear ones. Our government continues to fight the war on terrorism and prepares to face chemical threats in our nation and conflicts of the future. Within the DoD, the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s policy group validates how Syrian Chemical Weapons affected Syria’s relationships with various regional states (Bleek & Karmer, 2016). Our military units are posture to respond across the full spectrum against contingency operations (Bleek & Kramer, 2016). The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) conducts day-to-day focal point to track and prepare respond for any chemical developments (Bleek & Kramer, 2016). The National Defense University’s Center for the Study of WMD serves to help policymakers, military officials, and other decision makers find potential solutions to the policy challenges (Bleek & Kramer, 2016). According to the article “Russia’s deadly nerve agent, explained” indicates that CW may be harder to detect and decentralized. It is unclear how Novichok got to the U.K. and I believe this should impact on chemical weapon preparedness in the U.S. The elimination of Russian’s large-scale development, production, stockpiling, and transfer of chemical weapons was a great achievement (theweek.com, 2018). Yet, many productions of toxic chemicals use with industrial products such as fertilizer or medicines was allowed long as Russia notify the international monitoring body (theweek.com, 2018). According to the 2012 essay “Rossiyskaya Gazeta”, to defend Russia against its enemies, President Vladimir Putin announced Russia should develop genetic and “psychophysical” weapons (theweek.com, 2018). They developed more than two dozen military labs including government research centers with expensive lab equipment (theweek.com, 2018).

3. In this week’s lesson and reading assignments, we examined the intelligence cycle and the associated steps or procedures that take place in the different phases. Traditional intelligence cycles have five phases which are: Planning and Direction, Collection, Processing and Exploitation, Analysis and Production, and Dissemination. This is the standard process of developing raw information into finished intelligence products for policy and decision-makers to use. The intelligence cycle process involves sequenced steps necessary for gathering information in order to develop a better understanding. Intelligence professionals use this cycle or a variation of the intelligence cycle as a regular component or tool of their intelligence discipline. There are several versions from the four-step process to a seven-step process intelligence cycle models that are used within the United States Intelligence Community. The model which I believe is the most applicable is the traditional five-step model. This cycle begins and ends with the decision or policymaker’s specific requirements. The steps/phases are 1) Planning. Understanding the issues that need to be addressed will help guide and determine what information needs to be collected;  2) Collection. Gathering information through technical,  surveillance operations, or human intelligence activities; 3) Processing. Raw data synthesized into usable information; 4) Analysis. Integrating, analyzing, and evaluating all available data distilling it into final products; and 5) Dissemination. Distribution of intelligence products back to policymakers who requested them (USIC, n.d.).  Within the Homeland Security Enterprise, information sharing between departments and agencies is critical for situational awareness. This helps with interagency decision making, reduces uncertainties, and develops a common operational picture. Interagency coordination is the interaction between United States government departments and agencies, including the Department of Defense, and is a subset of interorganizational cooperation. Successful interagency cooperation depends on the ability of directors of the United States Government departments and agencies to personally work together towards a common goal (JCS, 2016).  

4. The intelligence cycle is something that everyone single person in the intelligence field will be taught at some point or another in their career. It is one of those things that we were taught very early on in our training to become an Intelligence Specialist in the Navy, and at the time, to me it just seemed like a silly check in the box sort of thing. I didn’t really think it would apply real-world in my job later on in my career. After a decade of doing this job now, I now understand that even though it may not be apparent that we are following the cycle in our day to day job, we actually are, and it subconsciously drives how you (as an analyst) do business. The cycle that I have known and grown to appreciate is the basic six-step cycle, Planning and Direction, Collection, Processing, Analysis & Production, Dissemination, Evaluation & Feedback (Davydoff, 2017). I believe that this is the most thorough model and is the most effective in a Homeland Security Enterprise application. It all begins with a plan. When using intelligence tactically and operationally, you are not doing it just to do it. There is a specific gap that you are trying to answer and you are utilizing the assets you have available in order to satisfy that gap. Once you’ve satisfied that gap (collection), you must put some analytical effort into it in order for it to make sense to you and anyone else you are trying to give it to. Make it relevant essentially. The two biggest steps are 5 & 6… dissemination and evaluation & feedback. Disseminating your products to the right people is paramount when looking at the Homeland Security Enterprise as it involves so many entities. Subsequently, the customer plays an extremely vital role in all of this as it is their feedback that will drive further collection if they believe the lemon is worth the squeeze and the information is relevant to their mission set. The inter-agency relationship is critical to having a successful Homeland Security Enterprise. Without it, we risk the chance of another major attack on the homeland such as 9/11 when agencies did not share information as freely with one another as they do today. Studies show that inter-agency coordination is one of the four elements needed for an effective counter-terrorism approach, the others being “precise and actionable intelligence; a robust but discriminate use of force; and international cooperation” (Foley, 2016). One of the biggest impacts it brings is the ability to put together multiple pieces of information that certain agencies have justification to collect. By fusing it all together, you can then hope to see the whole picture, or at least more than you would see with only one agency. 

5. While reviewing this lesson, the three threats to the homeland I found the most devastating/detrimental to our sacred homeland are homegrown violent extremists formed in the United States, ISIS/ISIL organizations abroad, and cyberterrorism that can occur at any instant. Although all of these daily threats affect our nation’s security, I believe ISIS and ISIL organizations are at this current time our greatest threat to our always evolving homeland security. In a statement by Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, he speaks of ISIS’s “dynamism” in their tactics and how they are finding different ways of terrorist attacks to inflict against the United States within and outside of our homeland. He states, “the threats posed by foreign fighters, including those recruited from the United States, are extremely dynamic. These threats remain the highest priority and create the most serious challenges for the FBI, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and our foreign, state, and local partners. … In addition, we are confronting a surge in terrorist propaganda and training available via the Internet and social networking media.” The recruitment tactics that ISIS has been able to provide over the last few years has allowed for reconvention and new ideas for ways to operate in the future. This certainly has caught eye of the United States in which US congress has called for federal, state, local and international partnerships to come together and align one another’s tactics to fight against these threats. With all of this being said, I do believe that organizations like ISIS and ISIL are actually not the most likely to be used. ISIS and ISIL organizations have only been around since the new decade; cyberterrorism is a tactic that is used by several countries and domestic terrorist organizations that inflicts national danger and confusion tactics against agencies like the DoD and DoS. 

6. This week’s assignment was to list the top three threats against the United States of America. Without a doubt, cybersecurity, space and counter space and weapons of mass destruction will prove to be coming threats within the next decade. I chose this order and putting physical bombs last because of the potential of the first two listed can prove to be. The potential for surprise in the cyber realm will increase in the next year and beyond as billions more digital devices are connected—with relatively little built-in security—and both nation states and malign actors become more emboldened and better equipped in the use of increasingly widespread cyber toolkits (Coats, 2018). Mr. Coats said it better than I could, in the coming years everything will be done with computers. From the begging of the 20th century technology and the need to keep that technology safe has expanded exponentially. Weapons of mass destruction are even guided by onboard computers. Cyber security will prove to be a winning factor if the United States should ever go to war again. We assess that, if a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against US and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived US military advantage derived from military, civil, or commercial space systems (Coats 2018) Having the advantage of satellites in the sky have enabled the increase of available technology, external foreign relationships and private party investments and opportunities. The future of space is unknown at this time, but every main player nation has chips on the table betting that something big is out there. Just the U.S. alone spends $19.8 billion funding NASA space exploration. Being able to control this space and counterspace can lead to major reconnaissance victories as well as create possible plans for future attacks. This leaves weapons of mass destruction as my third and least important threat. Weapons of mass destruction, as stated above, are controlled by both computers and satellites. Make no confusion that these WMD’s pack a punch, but without the means to deploy or guide these bombs to a target they become paper weights. We need to secure Cyber security as a priority as losing this battle can prove to much worse outcomes.

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