A recent article in the Washington Post, [“Building security standards for civilian Defense Department workers questioned,” 25 May 2010], posed the question, “Are the lives of Defense Department civilians worth more than the lives of other federal workers?” According to the article by Joe Davidson, that question is “being raised by members of Congress who doubt the need for extraordinary building security standards for Defense workers.”
Well I have two questions for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and any other member of Congress asking similar questions, who will they call to testify before Congress when the next terrorist attack occurs and will Congress want someone to pay with their career if DOD personnel are injured or killed?
When the U.S. Air Force housing at Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia was bombed on June 25, 1996, killing 19 Air Force personnel senior levels of the U.S. government began asking how something like this could happen. In response, Secretary of Defense William J. Perry sent retired U.S. Army Gen. Wayne A. Downing to do a no-holds barred After Action Review to determine if mistakes were made, where they were made, and by whom. The resulting report, known as the Downing Report, outlined the antiterrorism and force protection failures, which contributed to the number of casualties. Additionally, on August 14, 1996 the House National Security Committee, chaired by the late Rep. Floyd D. Spence (D-S.C.), issued a report outlining the failures found by the Congressional committee. In it Rep. Spence stated, “It is my belief that such a review [the Downing Report], combined with the committee’s preliminary work, will form the foundation from which Congress can better determine how this tragedy occurred and, perhaps more importantly, what measures are now appropriate to better prepare for such threats in the future.” Ironically, the security measures Del. Norton and others are complaining about are the results of Gen. Downing’s report, which established the antiterrorism and force protection standards DOD uses today.
Maybe Del. Norton and her colleagues do not remember the bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex, but they should remember the terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11, one of which took place right across the river from Congress. Most members of Congress have never served in the military nor are they versed in antiterrorism or force protection measures, so it is understandable why they would question the inequality in protection standards. But with the continued threat of terrorism, especially with the most recent threats emanating from homegrown terrorists, now is not the time to be discussing lowering or eliminating those standards. If there is to be a discussion about how DOD protects its personnel and how the rest of the federal protects, or doesn’t protect, theirs, it should be about what measures need to be increased or added for the rest of the federal government not what protective measures should be taken away from DOD.
Instead of other federal employees complaining that if they do not have protection then neither should DOD they should probably be demanding better protection from their departments and agencies. DOD is doing it right and setting the standard; the rest of the government needs to follow their lead or stop whining.