A recent article at Wired comments on the 17-year-old string of missteps taken by the federal government in assessing the risks to federal buildings, at a multi-million-dollar cost to taxpayers. Neither part of that sentence — misunderstanding risk/probability or wasting taxpayer money — is new.
The Wired article reports on the flaws in the “interim software” the Department of Homeland Security has rolled out to assist in risk identification. With oh-so-cute acronyms like MIST and RAMP, what’s still missing in all this software are methods to evaluate the actual size of the risk and to track guard training and certification.
To the first issue — evaluating risk — the Congressional Research Office found that the software systems do not evaluate risk effectively. To calculate risk, you take the probability that a catastrophe might occur multiplied by the severity of the consequences. That allows the logical person to prioritize risks based upon potential impact so that limited resources are appropriately deployed. Once you appropriately prioritize and “size” responses, you train resources to that strategic response plan.
This isn’t exactly rocket science; it’s just common sense: you put your resources where they can do the most good.
The second issue — improperly trained guards — resulted in a bag of explosives being mistakenly placed in Lost and Found in a Detroit federal building.
As a part of DHS, the TSA is at least internally consistent with the overall DHS approach. In an article published in Homeland Security Affairs, security experts John Mueller and Mark Stewart noted that the Congressional Research Office found that the TSA not only didn’t possess the skills of risk assessment, but actually calculated the math improperly.
The TSA also has given a pass on background checks to some airport employees, and it has glossed over, if not totally ignored, TSA screener training.
America: may I humbly inquire as to when we as citizens insist upon, at the very least, competence within the DHS and TSA? Aren’t 11 years of bumbling dress rehearsals enough to try even the most patient among us?
(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Vincent Desjardins)