The United States now knows that it is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. In Countering Terrorism, experts from such disparate fields as medicine, law, public policy, and international security discuss institutional changes the country must make to protect against future attacks. In these essays, they argue that terrorism preparedness is not just a federal concern, but one that requires integrated efforts across federal, state, and local governments.
The authors focus on new threats—biological attacks, "dirty bombs" containing radioactive materials, and "cyberattacks" that would disrupt the computer networks we rely on for communication, banking, and commerce—and argue that US institutions must make fundamental changes to protect against them. They discuss not only the needed reorganization of government agencies but such institutional issues as establishing legal jurisdiction to respond to new threats, preparing health workers for attacks involving mass casualties, and equipping police, fire, and other emergency workers with interoperable communications systems. The final essays examine how Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom have dealt with domestic terrorism, and what the United States can learn from their examples.
Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been preoccupied by the federal role in preparedness against terror attacks, and by ways to provide a quick fix through organizational overhauls. Airport security has been federalized, and Congress has approved a Cabinet-level homeland security agency. By contrast, national discussion of state and local preparedness has been largely absent.
First to Arrive argues that the best way for America to prepare for terrorism is to listen to people in the field; those working on the ground can guide decisions at the top. Many of the contributors are first responders who have long been dedicated to domestic preparedness; others are political scientists and historians who provide a broader context. They analyze critical but often overlooked issues, explain the operational needs of state and local governments, and provide practical solutions to the challenges of local and state domestic preparedness.
These essays grew out of a series of discussions held by the Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Begun before the September 11 attacks and continuing after them, they offer a guide to US domestic security in today's world.