Fortress Problem   [open html - 135KB]

"Fortresses do not usually fail well. When they rely on robustness or complication, positions of strength are only tolerant of stress up to a defined point or of a certain character. For a fortification that fails to adapt, centralization--even of strength--presents a surprising liability. Fortresses concentrate risk. This paper considers the way in which uncertain and unthinkable events undermine security practices that presume a greater degree of knowledge, uniformity, and control than is available. When facing worst cases and ambiguous threats, current security doctrine, theory, and practice promise more than they can deliver. Threat and catastrophe highlight a mismatch between reality and approach. Threat may be defined as official danger--governmental certification of possibility. Catastrophe implies rupture and exhaustion of capacity. Two problematic tendencies dominate the security response to threat and catastrophe: applying risk management when the information necessary to support such calculation is not available, and boundless precaution. In the first case the homeland security enterprise lives with a false assumption that it controls the risk; in the second it has little measure of success and surrenders decisions to threat politics. This paper suggests that security agencies need to renovate their fortresses, favoring adaptability over robustness in the face of threat and catastrophe."

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Retrieved From:
Homeland Security Affairs Journal: http://www.hsaj.org/
Media Type:
Homeland Security Affairs (May 2016), v.12, article 6
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