Military’s Role Unaffected by Terror Alert Change
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2011 A new federal warning system that abolishes color-coded terror alerts emphasizes a whole-of-government approach that military officials say won’t change their efforts in defending the homeland.
“The Department of Defense will continue to work closely with the Department of Homeland Security and our partner agencies to keep our nation safe from threats,” U.S. Northern Command officials said in a statement released yesterday. “U.S. Northcom’s continuing coordination and information sharing with these partners is key to our continued vigilance as we defend the homeland.”
In announcing the new system here last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said improved security requires more than the oversight of DHS; Northcom, which oversees North American security; and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which oversees North American airspace.
“Real security requires the engagement of our entire society, with government, law enforcement, the private sector and the public all playing their respective roles,” she said.
Under the new system, DHS and other departments and agencies will share in alerting the public to security threats that could affect them, Napolitano said. That means some alerts will go out only to certain groups, such as law enforcement or the hotel industry, she said.
The alerts will provide as much information as possible for people to protect themselves, their families and communities, Napolitano said. The alerts will provide a summary of the potential threat, actions being taken, and recommended steps for individuals and communities to take, as well as a specific end date, she said.
The announcement last week began a 90-day implementation period for the new system, she said.
Napolitano said recent a trip she took to visit troops in Afghanistan was a reminder of how far-reaching the homeland mission is.
“The hard work of securing the U.S. homeland stretches from the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan and other far-off places, all the way back to the main streets of our smallest home towns,” she said.
The new system “is built on the common-sense belief that we’re all in this together and that we all have a role to play,” she added.
The United States is safer than it was 10 years ago just after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Napolitano said, and that has much to do with the sacrifices of service members and their families.
“Our nation’s armed forces may be thousands of miles from our shores, living in forward operating bases far from loved ones or the comforts of home, but they’re every bit on the front lines of our homeland security,” she said. “They’ve helped significantly degrade al-Qaida’s capabilities to mount major attacks here in the United States and elsewhere.”
Still, Napolitano said, the arrests of more than two dozen Americans on terrorism-related charges in the past two years have proven that counterterrorism operations are not just overseas efforts.