Homeland security agencies, military mobilize for G8 summit
Multiple agencies within the Homeland Security Department have outlined how they will conduct security and surveillance operations for the G8 Summit at Sea Island, Ga., June 8-10. National Guard Bureau Chief Lt. Gen. Steven Blum also unveiled a new agreement to put one commander at the summit in charge of both active and Guard forces.
The G8 Summit brings together the leaders of the world's major industrial democracies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The stakes for the summit were raised when Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced at a press conference last week that "credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that al Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months." They said events such as the G8 summit, as well as the two national political conventions, are possible targets for attacks.
The press conference, however, ignited controversy over which federal agencies are responsible for issuing homeland security alerts, especially because Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge did not attend and the department has not raised the level of nation's color-coded threat alert system.
In an unusual move, Ridge and Ashcroft issued a joint statement Friday about the threat environment.
"The departments of Homeland Security and Justice, in partnership with the FBI, CIA, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and other agencies, jointly review threat information each and every day," the statement read. "We are working together, and we will take all necessary actions to protect the American people, including raising the threat level or alerting the public to be on the lookout for possible terrorist suspects, whenever warranted by the information we receive."
Security expert Randall Larsen, a retired Air Force colonel, told Government Executive he does not believe federal agencies are structured to effectively handle homeland security. He said it took almost 40 years from the time the Defense Department was created until the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act delineated lines of authority and accountability within the military services.
"We have to understand that it's going to take us a while to get it right. I do not believe we yet have the right organization to do this, and I think it's going to require more changes of a significant nature," said Larsen, who served in the military for 32 years and is founder and chief executive officer of Homeland Security Associates. He has testified before various congressional committees on homeland security, formerly directed the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, and has briefed Ridge and Vice President Dick Cheney on homeland security.
"The biggest issue right now is who is in charge of homeland security," he said. "This is the most significant national security challenge the nation has ever faced … we don't have 40 years to get it right."
A special military command structure is being designed for the summit. National Guard Bureau spokesman Reggie Saville said the Office of the Secretary of Defense recently approved giving a National Guard commander dual authority for both active and Guard forces during the event. Saville did not provide more details about the structure.
DHS issued a fact sheet Friday outlining what actions different agencies will take for the G8 summit.
The Secret Service is the lead federal agency for the summit and the two political conventions. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau will provide the second-largest cadre of federal law enforcement personnel for the summit. ICE operations will include deploying special agents and government vehicles. ICE's Federal Protective Service will deploy K-9 explosive detection teams, uniformed officers, intelligence and undercover agents, bicycle and motorcycle officers, rapid response teams and weapons of mass destruction/hazardous materials technicians.
A mobile command vehicle will operate as a primary or backup radio base station for all levels of law enforcement, as well as monitor video cameras from federal facilities, retrieve other types of closed-circuit video signals, and receive real-time aircraft video feeds.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be in charge of providing emergency management coordination and multiple disaster response teams.
The Coast Guard will lead waterside security. Numerous Coast Guard units will be involved, including boat crews, boarding teams, pilots and crew members, support personnel and helicopters to assist with surveillance, enforcement and any air interdiction efforts.
DHS will also deploy Customs and Border Protection officers and Transportation Security Administration employees to provide physical screening at various sites. Additional surveillance, including random inspections and perimeter security checks, will also take place.
The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which is only minutes from Sea Island, will provide logistical, training and contingency support to numerous federal, state and local agencies.
The DHS Information Analysis and Protection Directorate will mobilize its Homeland Security Operations Center in support of the summit. The center is dispatching three officials to establish a multi-agency command center to provide 24-hour onsite monitoring.
DHS also is implementing an Internet-based counterterrorism communications system for Homeland Security officials, state and local officials and first responders. The Homeland Security Information Network is a secure tool that interacts with the operations center to strengthen the exchange of threat information.