memory retention of six months or less, and in an effort to increase this, military and other scientists were beginning to learn more about how people learn. This knowledge could be used to develop more efficient and effective training for the military and response communities. “We’ve managed to wire all our schools,” said the discussant, “but we have almost no educational content transmitted through those wires—much less sophisticated content that truly enhances the learning process.” He said that the Federation of American Scientists was working with NORTHCOM and the National Guard, among others, to develop sophisticated training content that would take advantage of new learning techniques from the behavioral sciences.
Mr. Flynn said he had been asking himself how much security is truly needed. He said that no matter how much we invest in a safer homeland, there would inevitably be “incidents,” because the United States is an open society and “we’re in a dangerous world, and there are people out there who are intent on causing harm.” But should there be an incident, he said, an essential task is to determine whether it was a result of a correctible breach in security or of an absence of security. “If people view it as a breach in security,” he said, “there will be a strategic pause, and then we’ll get back to life as we sort it out. If they view it as the absence of security, they’ll want to shut down the system until security can be put in place.”
He said that the “military value” of catastrophic terrorism comes not from “killing people atop a landmark” but from the “profound disruption created by the incidents themselves.” With an appropriate level of security, there is a low risk of mass disruption, he said, because people are willing to go through the “strategic pause” instead of “shutting down the system” until security is put in place. With this kind of behavior, he said, “you have deterrence.” A terrorist would say, “Why would I bother to commit terrorism if it would simply accomplish a mass murder or vandalism with no tangible impact on U.S. power?” “This is something that our adversaries would consider before they commit these horrific acts,” he said.
He called this “as much the guts of a counter-terrorism strategy as going to the source of al Queda.” The key, he said, is that security is like safety; it is not an end in itself. Security is found in sustainable systems, such as global networks of trade, finance, labor, information, and transportation—that continue to function even in a world that contains people with malicious intent who want to disrupt those systems. The objective is to build enough safeguards and resiliency into the system to sustain it even during or after attack.
A second part of that objective, he said, is to think of safeguards and resiliency throughout the international extent of such systems. “If we keep this narrowly focused on the homeland,” he said, “it’s a bit like hiring a network security manager who says I’m just going to protect the server next to my desk; the others are too far away.” Even though maintaining systems in an international context is far more complex, he said, it must be done.