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  • No More Color-Coded Chaos

    Today, the color-coded threat system, officially known as the Homeland Security Advisory System, will be nixed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. She should be applauded for getting rid of a system that has zero credibility and has done little to achieve its goal of informing the public about potential threats.

    The color-coded system has long been the butt of late night talk show jokes since it was created after 9/11. Who could forget Jay Leno teasing that the Department of Homeland Security had “added a plaid [to the color codes] in case we were ever attacked by Scotland.” The fact that it became such easy fodder for humor demonstrated what made it such as disaster. The system would ratchet up terrorism concerns through the nation by raising the color level regardless of whether the nature of the risk actually warranted an increase, and in turn the federal government would respond by spending an estimated $1 billion on increased physical security measures (this doesn’t include the cost to state and local governments, the private sector, or private citizens). As my colleagues emphasized, we never knew whether measures ever even prevented or deterred attacks. The public, for its part, mostly ignored it.

    Heritage proposed abandoning this approach almost immediately after it was created. This viewpoint was shared by a taskforce organized by Napolitano in 2009 to examine whether the system should be abandoned. The taskforce concluded that the system “has suffered from a lack of credibility and clarity leading to an erosion of public confidence such that is should be abandoned.”

    Napolitano plans to replace the current system with something that will hopefully improve its effectiveness. The ideal replacement would be one that is understandable, credible and actionable.

    These reforms could help make the system more than just background noise in the busy lives of Americans. And if appropriately used, a Homeland Security Advisory System can serve the purpose of integrating federal, state, local, and private-sector responses while preventing, deterring, or mitigating the effects of a terrorist attack.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to No More Color-Coded Chaos

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      How much did this cost us? How much more will it cost us to come up with an alternative? Spend -spend – spend!

    2. Lou Alfano, PA says:

      Exactly WHAT will replace the "Italian Ices" menu created by Tom Ridge? The Department of Hopeless Stupidity strikes again! As usual, DHS is purposely vague, and I sincerely doubt that a more useful replacement has even been envisioned yet. It's "get rid of the color codes – they don't work" and replace them with DUHHH!

    3. Jan - Chicago area says:

      Well, I am one of the few who kept track of the threat system, and then looked for information as to why it was at the level it was at. I guess I'm always suspect about anything Napolitano does. On what do you base your statement that this system has "zero credibility"?

      If we measured everything by whether Leno or Letterman made it a butt of jokes, we'd have to abandon a whole lot of things and people.

      So OK, they are looking for a better system. If there is such a thing, more power to it. How expensive will this endeavor be? And will Napolitano nix it somewhere down the line? She has zero credibility to me.

    4. Roy, Denver says:

      Did anyone notice how Janet N. said the new system was meant to tell the people who need to know? People like TSA (perhaps only locally), and law enforcement, and first responders. Oh! And sometimes, she might even tell the general public the threat is imminent.

      Now, I'm comforted. What could go wrong in such a system which has yet to stop one attack in advance, and which only places more restrictions on citizens following its own failure to detect them?

    5. Bobbie says:

      the simplicity of it. Whatever the alternative will just lead to more corruption of costs. Having it color coded makes it discreet but recognized in a way it wouldn't cause a frenzy. Why would the task force authority call it a lack of credibility yet continue to use it for the last 10 years? It seems to have worked regardless and if everyone knew that's paid to know, their part to handle the situation.

    6. Lou Alfano, PA says:

      Went to the DHS alert site and found that there are NO current threats. Does that mean that under the old system we'd be atcode GREEN???

    7. Patone Swatches, Los says:

      It does seem a little ridiculous for the color system to exist which such lapsed descriptions as it had. I think it's a good step they've taken to make it more efficient- and hopefully it will help clean up the airport security. Nothing is worse the the TSA lines!

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