The Buzz

Where There's Smoke

The 2006 wildfire season is a record setter already. Between the start of the year and June 26, across the United States 55,163 fires charred 3.3 million acres. The same period in 2005 saw just 28,825 that burned 1.3 million acres.

June brought a series of blazes in California and the Southwest. One (pictured above) near Sedona, Ariz., burned thousands of acres and forced evacuations in Oak Creek Canyon. Flames had scorched 70,000 acres in New Mexico by June, including an out-of-control blaze burning 24,300 acres in Gila National Forest in the southwestern part of the state. A wildfire in Los Padres National Forest in Southern California singed 15,000 acres and a car wreck touched off a smaller burn in the Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah.

The Southwest was left a tinderbox by drought due to absent snow and rain last winter-the November-to-March period was the driest since 1892 in New Mexico.

Fire-prone states also are suffering the effects of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Nevada, seven Army National Guard Chinook helicopters used to carry fire retardant or water were sent to Afghanistan in 2005. One was shot down, one was lost to a fire and the rest need significant repairs and won't be available this fire season. In Colorado, 11 of 12 National Guard helicopters used to fight wildfires were sent to Iraq. What's more, only 16 of the 46 heavy air tankers in the national firefighting fleet are serviceable this year.

The national debate about immigration also threatens the wildfire-fighting corps. The Agriculture Department's inspector general reported in March that contract firefighting firms used by the Forest Service regularly hire illegal immigrants. IG investigators' efforts to estimate the number of undocumented workers on Forest Service crews are spurring fears of a crackdown.

Winning Ways

With Iraq unease on the rise, Pentagon leaders might re-examine U.S. military tactics. They could take tips from A Short Guide to Iraq, printed in 1942 for American troops heading to Southwest Asia. Our copy came from a secondhand shop courtesy of Jon Fox of our sister publication, Global Security Newswire. "Most Americans and Europeans who have gone to Iraq didn't like it at first," the handbook notes. "But nearly all . . . changed their minds after a few days or weeks, and largely on account of the Iraqi people ." The best way to prevent "Hitler's agents," or insurgents for that matter, "from getting in their dirty work" was by "getting along with the Iraqis and making them your friends." Here's how:

  • "American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis . . . like American soldiers or not."
  • "Do not touch or handle an Iraqi . . . Do not wrestle with him in fun, and don't slap him on the back."
  • "You will have to get used to relieving yourself outdoors. . . . Get well off the main streets and well away from mosques. . . . You will have to carry your own toilet paper."
  • "Moslems do not let other people see them naked . . . . Don't, under any circumstances, take a sun bath."

Enlisting The Private Sector

Uncle Sam should enable companies to play a bigger role in securing critical infrastructure. That's the thrust of "Neglected Defense: Mobilizing the Private Sector to Support Homeland Security," a cautionary March report from the Council on Foreign Relations. Authors Stephen E. Flynn and Daniel B. Prieto say the Bush administration's hands-off approach isn't working. Trusting market mechanisms to prompt companies to prepare abdicates government's security obligations, they argue.

They note the unevenness in preparation for attack among critical industries. Finance and information technology firms are well prepared for cyberattacks because they face threats of fraud and hacking every day and incursions can hurt their ability to generate profits. Commercial aviation and nuclear power also are making good progress on security, largely because they are heavily regulated by the government.

Chemical facilities, on the other hand, remain underprotected because they have not faced attacks, and improvements such as retrofitting are costly and not required.

Flynn and Prieto say the private sector has a weak and ineffective partner in the Homeland Security Department, which suffers from turnover and inadequate staffing. They propose actions including shoring up DHS, completing the priority list for protecting infrastructure, adding regulation and standards, providing tax incentives and ensuring sufficient post-attack supplies and capabilities.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.