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Until today, the horrific events that shook the United States on the September 11th 2001 remain in the memories of many, more so in the discussions of the science and technology experts who have maintained that technology be included as an element to fight the menacing risks of terrorism. As Naftali (2004) observes, there were insignificant investments by the US to develop and implement technology in the protection of its borders prior to the 9/11 terror attacks. Evidence further indicates that technology is a vital source of defense, deterrence and prevention against the agents and acts of terrorism.
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The responses by the US in relation to the 2001 attacks have been robust. Perhaps the most evident response is in relation to the investment in a technologically equipped Homeland Security Department. Today, technology is a key pillar of the fight against terrorism. However, Young (2011) explains that technology is an element that keeps developing with innovations that manifest through better and more sophisticated tools, which poses an eminent threat to the Homeland Security.
In this discussion, the technology challenges faced by the Department of Homeland Security are analyzed with respect to the need to develop alternative policies that would enable this federal security agency to overcome these challenges. This paper examines the topic of technology use Homeland Security in the wake of a renewed resurgence of terror attacks that are assisted by technology. With clear evaluation, the discussion aims at demonstrating how the US can surmount the terror challenges through incorporating technology in its counter terrorism strategies.
In 2003, the United States Department of homeland Security formed the Science and Technology Directorate, which plays the research and development role in national security (Department of Homeland Security, 2018). The primary function of this directorate is to enhance homeland security through interdisciplinary collaboration with the other components of the US Department of Homeland Security. This department was among the main investments that the US made in the inclusion of technology to the homeland security.
The Department of Homeland Security, therefore, has enlisted technology is a critical resource that improves the security efforts. The question as whether the US should stay on its current course for technological investments in homeland security attains its answer from the role that technology has played in averting the security risks within the US. Technology has enhanced homeland security through supporting the acquisition and operations of the security agencies within the country. As George (2010) writes, technology has been essential in the dissemination of information and intelligence data with effectiveness and efficiency.
Besides, the scope of knowledge at the disposal of the homeland security agencies has been heightened with technology, which has enabled these agencies to preserve national security with minimal constraints. Whereas other pundits may argue that the investment in technology has increased the costs incurred when running the operations at the homeland security agencies, Brooks (2012) is quick to point out that technology has substituted the manpower that was previously used in monitoring security. As such, technology has eliminated the pitfalls related to human errors, which were largely blamed for the unfortunate attacks in 2001.
In addition, technology has also promoted the prospects of innovation in the ways through which the security agencies can handle national security threats. With technology, a wide range of options are employed to avert the security risks, including the establishment of disaster resilience units, explosive defense systems and automated border security systems.
As evidenced by Department of Homeland Security (2018), the federal government has played a critical role in facilitating the implementation of the policies that have overseen the incorporation and realization of research and development in the defense of the US national security. However, as stated earlier, the homeland security continues to be exposed to potential vulnerabilities owing to the technology challenges presented by consistent technological innovations and the use of technology by criminals and terrorists to facilitate criminal activities and terrorist attack. The successes realized by the homeland security have largely been linked to technology. Despite these vulnerabilities, Rios and Insua (2011) contend that it would be disastrous for the US to develop an alternative strategy that envisages a complete abandonment of the current successes realized by technology in homeland security.
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Therefore, this paper proposes that the US increases its investment in technology by focusing on strategies to mitigate the specific technological challenges presented by modern day technology innovations. A key pillar to enhancing homeland security would be safeguarding cyber security. The US should invest in the development of infrastructure that enables the security of the information that is stored in most of the modern technologies. As Brooks (2012) explains, the threats to national security are not limited to the risks associated with terror attacks or illegal activities such as human or drug trafficking. Instead, national security is an expansive field that stretches to envisage the security of such elements as the communication networks, financial systems, transportation networks and other critical infrastructure.
The main technology challenge faced by homeland security in light of the aforementioned risks is cyber security. Today, criminals use the internet to facilitate the theft of money from firms as well as infiltration of significant national databases that may include information on the national security plans. In developing a better strategy, cyber security should be prioritized by the Department of Homeland Security.
In the wake of increasing tensions in the US following the military activities in the Middle East, there have been concerns raised about the role that the US plays in combating the threats posed by terror. After the 9/11 terror attacks, the US embarked on military invasions as its major strategy to counter terrorism but as van Ginkel and Westervel (2009) document, studies have indicated that military invasions alone are not effective in mitigating the unforeseen terror attempts that happen in smaller scales, as well the modern forms of terrorism such as cyber terrorism.
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Therefore, the US government has continuously established a range of policies and activities geared towards implementing their counterterrorism agenda (George, 2010). At the top of the revised strategy is communication. Intelligence sharing among the federal security agencies is the main element of the US counter terrorism strategy. Currently, the US employs technology in fusing data from intelligence units and diplomatic reports that contain open-source information. The critical element in promoting the sharing of intelligence is technology. The local police as well as the departments of homeland security have been equipped with advanced technologies that enable them to track, identify and disseminate information regarding any possible terror attacks.
Combating terrorism is not a US affair, as depicted from the recent attacks in France and the United Kingdom. Therefore, the US has included international financial cooperation as a major element of its counter terrorism strategy. Many countries that are signatories to the International Convention for Suppression of the Financing to Terrorism lack the financial leverage that is used in suppressing the terrorist groups. The US has embarked on providing technical, financial and regulatory support to these countries in order to level the ground towards approaching the terrorism menace.
Technology is a core pillar that the US counter terrorism strategy envisages (van Ginkel & Westervelt, 2009). Other than the advancement of communication technology, the US has developed other smart technologies that have proven successful in monitoring and identifying terror activities. The US has invested heavily in the development and innovation of drones, which are unmanned vehicles that are used to carry weapons to attack the terrorist hideouts and installations. Other than saving the US costs related to the army manpower, such technologies have been successful in neutralizing the terrorists without any military presence. These drones have also been used to launch successful raids on the terrorist bases, their training camps and safe havens.
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In this study, the role of technology in averting the terror threats presented to homeland security has been outlined. Even more, the efforts by the US to combat terrorism have been highlighted in the detailed analysis of the US counter terrorism strategy. From the above deliberations, it would be skeptical to argue that the US in itself will win the war against terrorism. This is mainly because terrorism is a global issue that requires the entire world to overcome. With the differences in political ideology and economic priorities, the US can only succeed in protecting its borders, but not ensuring that the entire world is free of the threat and risks of terrorism. In conclusion, the US can surmount the terror challenges through incorporating technology in its counter terrorism strategies.
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- Department of Homeland Security. (2018). About Science and Technology. Department of Homeland Security.
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- van Ginkel, B., & Westervelt, S. (2009). The ethical challenges of implementing counterterrorism measures and the role of the OSCE. Security And Human Rights, 20(2), 123-132.
- Young, S. (2011). Review of Science and Technology of Terrorism and Counterterrorism. Journal Of Homeland Security And Emergency Management, 8(1).