By Bob Kolasky, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Infrastructure Protection
Too often, we see news about attacks on ordinary people who are simply going about their everyday lives around the world, and even here at home. While we remain vigilant about preventing terrorist attacks on traditional targets and high profile events, it’s equally important that we focus on securing soft targets. These are places where people gather freely, like music festivals, houses of worship, or shopping centers, which are easily accessible and often have minimal security, potentially making it easier and cheaper to carry out an attack.
Given recent trends, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has redoubled its efforts, including publicly releasing the DHS Soft Target and Crowded Places Security Plan Overview. The overview describes how the Department is working to enhance and organize its efforts around the security and resilience of soft targets and crowded places across the United States.
We have been working for many years to address security and preparedness around soft targets and crowded places, through four overarching lines of effort: directing security operations and support; facilitating awareness, intelligence and information sharing; building partner capability and capacity; and conducting research and development.
Looking ahead, the plan outlines several DHS initiatives that will leverage capabilities from across the Department to build the foundation for future success. These efforts include:
- Enhancing a culture of awareness through a major education and awareness campaign;
- Engaging with key international partners to share best practices and lessons learned;
- Increasing awareness of and access to resources;
- Focusing and incentivizing investments in soft target and crowded places security; and
- Focusing research and development on soft target-crowded places security.
In conjunction with the plan, the Department’s National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) has also developed the Security of Soft Targets and Crowded Places Resource Security Guide. The guide is a catalog of soft target resources, many of which were created in collaboration with our partners to ensure they are useful and reflective of the dynamic environment we live in. This guide is being further expanded to include resources from across the Department.
The bottom line is that the U.S. government has no greater responsibility than protecting the American people, but all levels of government, the private sector and even individual citizens play important roles in protecting communities and preventing attacks. I encourage you to get involved, visit www.dhs.gov/hometownsecurity, and review the Plan, Resources Guide, and other key information.