Scratching the surface on the subject of security

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- We've all come up against the desire to scream at somebody for the inconveniences that security causes us. Inconveniences that take the form of delays at gates, administrative gyrations no one likes, or dozens of other annoyances. You know there are reasons we must do this stuff and you know what some of those reasons are.

Most people only understand the linkage between the need for security and the functioning of the immediate mission, however. After all, we can't educate students here at Goodfellow if we have a smoking crater where one of the training buildings is currently located. That is the obvious, immediate reason we need security, but today in the era of global terror there is a deeper reason for security.

Even many security professionals don't understand the most important reasons and in the cases when they do, they often can't articulate it adequately to the public. The fact is, the hassle we suffer with security is more necessary today than ever and it's not strictly because of the increased likelihood of attack.

Our enemies in the Global War on Terror have brought some interesting challenges to the security profession.

Our enemies in the Global War on Terror don't need to attack our combat power asymmetrically or defeat it in the field to win.

They don't have to successfully engage one single piece of our combat capability or our military might to win. They can do it simply by employing principles of stretching a confrontation out and hitting us where we are soft in order to defeat the will of the American people.

Our enemies have appropriately noted that our center of gravity is the will of the nation and our factionalized nature has played well into their hands and indeed encouraged our enemies.

Americans and indeed democracies in general don't tolerate long conflicts well and Americans in particular don't tolerate limited and unconventional warfare. Vietnam and Somalia give excellent testimony to that assertion.

As I have stated, our enemies have done their homework and realize if they can influence the American public, they can essentially dictate our engagement against their purposes or at least mitigate our effectiveness. How does the enemy then influence the American public? They hit us where we are soft and demonstrate our weakness to others of their mindset. They strike at times and places of their choosing and kill people who are innocent and unprotected.

We can't engage massive fielded forces in retaliation and eventually the price appears too high without any visibly equitable response to be perceived by the American public. The American public then gets more and more frustrated and eventually loses the will to win. This is already occurring with a significant percentage of the American populace in relation to the deaths happening to our fielded and engaged military forces.

Now imagine the enemy's next step would be to hit our rear area forces and the effect it would have on the national will. How big an attack would it take? How many? I can tell you that any rear area attacks happening on stateside bases would have grossly magnified effects on the will of the American people.

It is hard to say how the public would react to sustained attacks here at home, but one thing is certain. Attacking Americans is a strategic objective of our enemies in the war on terror and they will seek a stage for a media victory and not a decisive military battle. They don't have to have spectacular mass casualty events either. An event as simple as multiple simultaneous snipers in random areas across the country would be very effective in gaining the world stage and we have little defense. That is only one possible scenario among thousands.

Basically, security must protect everyone all the time to be 100 percent successful. It can't be done and accomplish the mission at the same time, because security is restrictive and by forcing excessive measures the enemy may achieve some objectives by decreasing efficiency/effectiveness.

Careful balances must be achieved so the mission can go forward and the personnel and resources are secure. We must deny the enemy its strategic objectives and its ability to influence our public which is a center of gravity for us. This is done by having the optimum number of detectors and security forces available. I am not talking about formally trained security forces but about the total number of warriors who can be engaged in defeating the enemy. Students, medics, civilians, you name it we need your help. It is extremely rare when formal security forces detect a terrorist operation in pre-operational phase but when they have been detected and defeated it is almost always the efforts of someone, not part of the security infrastructure, who was tuned in and aware of the constant vigilance required to defeat our enemies.

Where am I taking this? Security is of strategic value even when the attack is local. Security forces can greatly improve the level of security, but only at the expense of the mission through excessive measures...we need force multipliers (that's you) to achieve similar levels of security. Our enemy is not focused only on the big stuff, but is focused on any opportunity even individuals. We must remember we are at war and fight complacency, our own and others.

Finally, be patient and understand that some security measures will have a purpose you may not understand, but is necessary. We'll try to minimize hassles but we can't eliminate them.