Today, despite the end of the Cold War, there continues to be no shortage of threats to stability and security across the globe. A consensus is forming which defines many aspects of these emerging threats. The most obvious thing about the entire gamut of threats is that many of them are essentially stateless in origin and devolutionary in nature. Many of these current threats are smaller in scale, befitting actions originating at the lower end of the spectrum of conflict championed by stateless actors.

Martin Van Creveld in his seminal work, The Transformation of War, contends we are seeing the end of a monopoly on violence by larger nation-states. This monopoly is being replaced by a panorama of stateless actors responsible for threats to our security.

The stateless actors largely responsible for these threats might represent a relatively wide-spread movement with global reach and significant resources though with no single identifiable nation-state or government to support them. They might be an isolated small group with few resources save the willingness to inflict damage, injury or death in the name of a cause or for criminal gain. Witness the activities of international gangs. Finally, the threat from rogue states is onerous as well.

Central Intelligence Agency Director, John Deutch while recently addressing Congress notes the recent proliferation of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons is accentuated by the growing danger posed by so called rogue states like Iran, Iraq, and Syria. All seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that we shouldn't go overboard on hysteria and fear mongering in the face of all this. The horrors implicit in various emerging threats are, unfortunately, relatively easy to perpetrate and, if attempted, likely to capture the attention of the media. If proof of that statement is needed, observe the surprising number of journalists in the past few months who have taken it upon themselves to 'test' the security of various airports by wandering into off-limits areas unchallenged, secreting fake bombs or smuggling fake weapons into controlled areas or even aboard aircraft. All these escapades have been carried out against a backdrop of terrorism theories surrounding the recent downing of aircraft and bombings both home and abroad.

Let's face it—if someone seriously desired to perpetrate terrorist acts, the newspapers would be full of headlines of such horrors every day. Due care and vigilance is indeed necessary to prevent the most common acts, and alert security personnel and modern equipment and security techniques foil a significant number of would-be terrorists every year.

Even so, we cannot afford to be complacent about existence of emerging threats. Going on a permanent war footing both at home and abroad is hardly a reasonable response. Calm, cool, reasoned evaluation, threat assessment and planning are in order here. Over reliance on technology is not a prudent response either, as reflected by General Krulak's remarks in Defense News (7 Oct). The human factor—supplemented with good planning, training, and useful equipment—is the most likely counter to these emerging threats.

It seems reasonable to assume that if the emerging threats are devolutionary, the only successful responses will be devolutionary in nature as well. The ability to identify, anticipate and cope with emerging threats will have to be moved downward to the level at which initial contact with the threat is likely to present itself. Infrastructures allowing an escalating ability to respond rapidly to isolated incidents of any sort which may be quite serious will have to be developed or refined as necessary.


Many small town fire departments, as well as some Guard and reserve units, with their 'mutual aid' response agreements and compacts, demonstrate a good example of the basic concept. Escalating capabilities should be developed and made accessible in both civil and military areas.

Domestically the areas of civil utility systems (water, power, transportation etc.), financial institutions, population centers and other vulnerable areas require threat assessment and response planning. Law enforcement, fire/rescue, Guard/Reserve as well as other governmental and non-governmental assets must anticipate and prepare to cope with new threats and different responsibilities involving a variety of contingencies perhaps involving biochemical, nuclear, and conventional EOD incidents along with evacuation operations.

Flexible, multi-tiered response plans to a variety of contingencies must be developed, enhanced, coordinated and simulated. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the logical federal lead agency to drive this planning, working down through state government to the level of local governments. Many small town fire departments, with their 'mutual aid' response agreements, demonstrate a good example of the basic concept. Escalating capabilities should be developed and made available.

The capabilities in areas of selected types of domestic emergency responses such as SWAT, hostage rescue, medical rescue disaster and firefighting have received more emphasis in most localities and infrastructure exists which allows escalating levels of response to meet various levels of need for incident response and management. That capability should be expanded and broadened to include emerging threats as well.

Attempting to centralize public safety and RC/Guard capability to respond to threats or attacks will likely result only in extended response times, inadequate response to multiple incidents and the creation of yet another inviting target. Plans for various biochem and emerging domestic contingencies should be developed and domestic contingencies exercised to surface planning shortfalls and familiarize various agencies with unforeseen demands arising from the necessity of working together in major domestic emergencies.

Assuming at face value that in many domestic emergencies "only the military can handle that—it's too big a problem for the civilian sector" is not prudent. If that's the case, we need to train and develop the capability in the civilian sector where it can handle most domestic incidents.

"All of this points out the need for immediate funding of new and different kind training and equipment for local Police/Fire/EMS personnel," comments Clark Staten of the Chicago based Emergency Response & Research Institute (ERRI). "They are the front-line of defense if the unthinkable happens … and some fanatic were to attack our country with these weapons of mass destruction (WMD)," he added. "Bottom-line … we need to develop an totally integrated response against terrorists and terrorism … this must include local emergency agencies, the military, and the medical research community … if we are to be truly prepared for the threat of a chemical or biological attack," Staten concluded.

If effective integrated response and recovery abilities are to be made possible, they will have to be created at the local and state level in a building-block approach. The beginnings of the training infra-structures are already in place with Reserve and Guard units located all across the country. Nevertheless, more work is needed to coordinate and field capabilities that may prove necessary. OSD can play a significant role in the coordination and facilitation of this effort. However, response and execution must remain at the local level.

One of the areas where there needs a great deal of legal and operational thought with respect to identifying emerging threats is the thinning line between police and military activities domestically in combating these threats.

The use of military forces in any continuing capacity within the borders of this country raises questions. If additional civil manpower, training or equipment is needed, means should be found to provide. Paul Anderson, EmergencyNet News (ENN) Associate Editor, in a recent article, suggests expert help that local agencies would need must come from the Center For Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, the U.S Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Ft. Derrick, Maryland, or a new specially trained team of U.S. Marines called the Chemical/Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF). Unfortunately, it might be several hours before these highly trained specialists could arrive on the scene of the incident. In the mean time, local fire, EMS, and law enforcement agencies would be responsible for the management of the emergency.

Nevertheless, if additional manpower, training or equipment is needed for domestic emergencies, means should be found to provide it, to include planning and coordinating with Marine, Reserve Component and Guard forces in appropriate roles. Likewise, the collection and analysis of domestic intelligence to thwart domestic terrorism must be conducted responsibly to avoid abuses of civil liberties and privacy.


Today the threat of domestic terrorism is fueled by the threat of terrorism overseas. Deployed DoD personnel are increasingly inviting targets and must be secured as well. In the wake of the terrorist attack at the air base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon is undertaking initiatives to provide quick and effective response to protect DoD personnel around the globe. New policy avenues must be explored to allow a more adequate range of responses to threats from beyond our shores.

A good deal of work has gone into this area already and some successes have resulted. Cooperation between military assets and civil law enforcement overseas has been heightened in order to better confront the threat. Increased military emphasis on conflict at the lower end of the spectrum is necessary to more ably cope with emerging threats, and has yet to be adequately emphasized. This often means people intensive efforts (HUMINT, patrols, infiltration, psyops, civil affairs, security details) not high technology per se is required to address some of the emerging threats sponsored by stateless actors.

Many difficult policy decisions will have to be made by the OSD leadership before putting military personnel in harm's way again in the future. Factors too numerous to discuss here enter into those decisions. Military personnel thrust into many of the scenarios envisioned by the theoreticians and associated with emerging threats will need different equipment, training and support in addition to that which is currently in place.


The solutions to the problem of protecting ourselves and our society from emerging WMD threats will be complex and demanding. We think that is one of the few certainties in the whole equation of the emerging threat.

A great deal of effort will have to be focused on understanding the origin of these emerging threats and of negating them without violence wherever and whenever possible. Discovering the existence of real threats is necessary but essential privacy and other such civil liberties must not be sacrificed in the attempt. Likewise we cannot afford to run roughshod over other nations abroad.

At some times and in some circumstances happier solutions will not be possible and violence will have to be met with violence. When that is the case it must be applied within the bounds of legitimate use-of-force doctrine, with civil law enforcement officers and military personnel subject to strict accountability.

We understand clearly that this is a very tall order. Yet to fail in the direction of over control and invasiveness will certainly cause larger problems and more surely damage our society as we know it than any possible amount of terrorism.

The causes that brought these emerging threats to the forefront took a long time to develop. They will take an even longer time to solve as well.

(C) EmergencyNet News Service, 1996. Redistribution without permission is prohibited by law.



Emerging, Devolving Threat of Terrorism

By Fred Fuller, USAJFKSWCS, Ft. Bragg, NC
Colonel G.I. Wilson, OSD, USMC

Excerpted from the ENN Daily Report - 11/30/96 - Vol. 2, No. 335