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We Now Have 3 Disasters Made Worse by Ignoring Homeland Security Laws.

By Martin Alperen

America has been preparing for pandemics and cyber hacks for twenty years. We now have three disasters made worse by us ignoring laws already in place that would have helped.

I was a volunteer first responder when 9/11 happened and had the opportunity to attend the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security. I was going to graduate school studying homeland security and reading homeland security laws. It was amazing. I saw the policy the laws helped to create and felt the street level reach of these laws.

Since 9/11/2001, in the name of homeland security, America has drafted laws to protect us. Eighteen of these laws are about pandemics and these laws required “PPE” and “Stockpiles.” Fifteen of these laws are devoted to protecting pipelines. Eleven of these laws are devoted to protecting our agricultural system.

America’s poor pandemic response, the pipeline hack, and then the meat processing plant hack indicate violations of federal law. They are executive branch failures at the highest levels. Perhaps more important, the entire homeland security enterprise failed because somebody was supposed to know there was no PPE, or that the pipeline was so weak. It was also a legislative branch failure because Congress drafted remarkable laws, and then ignored them.

Homeland security laws are a mix of Congressional statutes and executive orders. These laws are intertwined and interrelated with each other. Newer laws do not simply replace earlier ones - newer laws build upon earlier ones. While maybe not laws themselves, some agency policy documents, and military policy documents are prepared because of or pursuant to a law and are an essential part of homeland security law.

Laws are made of words. These words enabled the development and evolution of a rich and robust legal, administrative, and agency framework to protect us. For example, DHS exists because of a law. The securing of cockpit doors happened because of a law. These laws are the foundation of homeland security. Nothing happens without the authority of law, and there is not one law, and not even one agency that defines homeland security. It is all of the laws, and all-of-government effort.

The words I refer to are from the executive and legislative branches of the United States Government and are recorded in the Federal Register. They are laws, written in English, mean what they say, and have power. They are a promise to the American People.

America’s first law devoted to pipeline safety (a part of Critical Infrastructure Protection) was created October 2001. It was an executive order directed at the most senior members of nineteen federal agencies. Written just five weeks after 9/11, it set the baseline for the level of effort and degree of excellence at the highest level. Hacks to pipeline control systems have been a major topic since then.

The most recent law related to pandemics is an executive order entitled 2018 “National Biodefense Strategy.” (Don’t be distracted by the word “bioterrorism.” Bioterrorism causes pandemics. Preparation for one is preparation for the other.) Tragically, the 2018 Strategy was never implemented. Had this law been followed the pandemic would have been much less severe.

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