Homeland Security Follies #1

Protection alone won’t work

This is the first of many Homeland security discussions.  It is my hope to get the reader to confront information presented by the media with an eye toward "will it work"

First, let me say "Defense Only" is a poor strategy.  What this means is people sit in a room and imagine how a terrorist might attack the United States.  Then for each scenario they come up with a defense.  A good example is the recent concept of testing basic anti missile defenses on civilian aircraft.

The problem with each of these strategies is that individually each scenario costs a lot of money.  Wars today are no longer fought on front lines, they are fought economically.  Iraq is a good example,  What angers people most is $100 billion a year spent with no perceived benefits.  Not unlike trying to put people on the moon.  Most of us have better ideas for the money being focused on current issues.  So if you are a terrorist, you leak 100 "ideas" and let your "target" spend and spend while you invest nothing.  There will never be a shortage of ideas.  If you doubt me ask any engineering school for a contest of ideas and you will be overwhelmed.

So today we worry about anti aircraft missiles focused on civilian aircraft.  Yesterday it was bombs in shipping containers.  Tomorrow it will be cell phone bombs in shopping malls.  Next week it will be attacking chemical plants, then rogue trucks slamming into oil refineries, destruction of bridges etc.  The list goes on and on.  Contractors will eagerly develop a protection system for only $50-$500 million for each scenario.  You can see how quickly you will run out of money. 

I am not saying we should not try to protect ourselves,  but rather merely challenging you to think about how best to do so in economic terms.  I submit the old adage "the best defense is a good offense" may be the most appropriate.  Like it or not intelligence is far far more efficient in economic terms than defense. In hindsight we know 9/11 could have been prevented, but our intelligence was ineffective.  This should be come our primary focus first, and foremost.  America has $20 trillion in physical assets, imagine how much it might cost to protect it all.

So I submit when someone proposes a defensive strategy, ask what is the hidden agenda.  As an example, when I hear inspect freight containers, I hear unionized jobs.  I mean seriously, does anyone think TSA has been worth the investment?  All it did was convert a poorly run non unionized free trade system, to poorly run unionized bureaucracy at 4x the cost of the old system.  How many hundreds of billions in lost productivity in America has been the result.  We should have implemented a quality assurance program at a 10% increase in price instead.


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