Improvised Explosive Devices: Perceptions and the Domestic Threat

Overview

On Tuesday, April 6, 2010, The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) hosted a Policy & Research Forum examining Americans’ perceptions of the domestic threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The event featured: Corey Gruber, Assistant Deputy Administrator, National Preparedness Directorate, FEMA, Department of Homeland Security; Cathy Lanier, Chief, Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC and HSPI Steering Committee Member; Josh Meyer, Director, Education and Outreach, Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, Northwestern University, and former national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times; Mark Mueller, Acting Deputy Chief, Office for Bombing Prevention, National Protection and Programs Directorate, Department of Homeland Security; Darby Miller Steiger, Principal Consultant and Director of Research for the Gallup Panel; and, Adam Thiel, Chief, Alexandria Fire Department, Alexandria, Virginia and HSPI Steering Committee Member. Daniel Kaniewski, HSPI Deputy Director, opened the event which brought together academics, policymakers, counterterrorism practitioners, as well as law enforcement and emergency response professionals. Frank Cilluffo, HSPI’s Director, moderated the event and roundtable discussion.

Miller Steiger began with a presentation of the Gallup Panel’s polling data regarding IED perceptions. (To download Gallup's slides, click here.) The poll found that a vast majority of Americans believe it is likely the US will suffer an IED attack within the next two years. Few, however, believe an attack will happen in their community. Even in New York City and Washington, DC, only one in five respondents felt such an attack was likely to occur in their city. The Gallup Panel also found that, in the event of an attack, Americans would look first and foremost to emergency response personnel in their community, rather than to federal officials in the Department of Homeland Security or to national journalists.

Gruber stated that Gallup’s findings correlate with FEMA’s Personal Preparedness in America survey. Stating “information is the key,” Gruber noted that both data sets support the idea that information can have a direct and indirect effect on how people react in a crisis. He expanded his point by highlighting two important elements that shape crisis behavior. First, how information is received—how it is communicated to individuals. Second, how it is observed—what others observe the people around them doing with said information.

Mueller echoed the importance of an informed public. According to him, what is needed are mechanisms that would allow officials to build upon the knowledge and awareness that already resides within the public. Mueller also stressed the necessity of providing concrete guidance to the public, and the role citizens play in providing key intelligence. He argued that “quite often it is the alert clerk, it’s the off-duty police officer, it’s the neighbor” that notices key indicators that enable law enforcement and national level assets to intercede before a threat comes to fruition.

Building on this theme, Lanier stressed that we must recalibrate our thinking on who is actually responsible for preparing for and preventing attacks. She contends that citizens, not the government, have the primary responsibility. However the challenge is that, “there’s no picture in the public mind of how to get in touch with Homeland Security.” She also noted that business and industry partners play a critical role in picking up on the subtle activity that gives government the ability to prevent attacks. Thus, Lanier argued, it becomes vital that citizens and the private sector be plugged into local authorities, and that these partners be given the tools and guidance regarding what to do when they observe something suspicious.

Thiel told the audience that he had confidence in the protocols for responding to recognized IED threats, such as a pipe bomb or suspicious backpack. However, he was concerned about having the resources needed to be prepared for future threats. Thiel referenced changes in the use and nature of IEDs that are being witnessed overseas. He noted that “the basic resource capability for dealing with any type of emergency incident . . . is in local government. It is primarily funded and resourced by local government. And we all know that right now, local governments are strapped . . . frankly, IED detection, response, and training is not typically considered a core service.” As a result, Thiel continued, there are few resources available for addressing this threat.

Responding to the Gallup data, Meyer argued that the lack of trust in media has negative implications for law enforcement, intelligence, and the public at large. He observed that during a crisis, “the information that is pushed out by the federal government is really spotty and what [journalists] have to do is go to [their] sources and get the information piecemeal.” Thus, reports are often contradictory, which Meyer suggested might undermine confidence in the media. He contended that the government needs to do more to develop a mechanism for providing vetted information to the public.

Cilluffo highlighted the importance of pushing information out to the public and at the same time pulling in intelligence from local resources. He stressed the value, in both cases, of knowing, and trusting, the individuals with whom one is dealing. Cilluffo also noted that an informed public makes a powerful ally: “one of the best ways to take the terror out of terrorism is to arm our population with knowledge.”


Featured Speakers:

Corey Gruber, Assistant Deputy Administrator, National Preparedness Directorate, FEMA, Department of Homeland Security

Cathy Lanier, Chief, Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC and HSPI Steering Committee Member

Josh Meyer, Director, Education and Outreach, Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, Northwestern University, and former national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times

Mark Mueller, Acting Deputy Chief, Office for Bombing Prevention, National Protection and Programs Directorate, Department of Homeland Security

Darby Miller Steiger, Principal Consultant and Director of Research for the Gallup Panel

Adam Thiel, Chief, Alexandria Fire Department, Alexandria, Virginia and HSPI Steering Committee Member


Speaker Biographies

Corey Gruber, Assistant Deputy Administrator, National Preparedness Directorate, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Deptartment of Homeland Security

Corey Gruber serves as the Assistant Deputy Administrator, National Preparedness Directorate (NPD), in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Directorate has a $500M budget, six business units, and over 300 personnel charged with providing guidance, programs, activities and services to prepare the Nation to prevent, protect from, respond to and recover from all hazards. He previously served as Acting Deputy Administrator of the newly formed Directorate and led its April 2007 integration into the Agency. Prior to that he served as Acting Assistant Secretary of Grants and Training (G&T) in the Department’s former Preparedness Directorate, overseeing the administration of $3B in grant programs. His other assignments within the Department include serving as the Executive Director, National Preparedness Task Force, and leading the implementation of Homeland Security Presidential Directive-8 (National Preparedness).

Before joining the U.S. Federal government in 2001, Mr. Gruber served as Deputy Director, Emergency Management Division, Research Planning, Inc., where he supported planning, training, exercise and continuity needs for public and private sector clientele. He managed the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness Exercise Program, overseeing conduct of over 250 exercises involving response to terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction for 120 major metropolitan areas across the Nation. Mr. Gruber’s other assignments included serving as Chief of Plans in the Department of Defense’s Director of Military Support, where he was responsible for Military Support to Civil Authorities, including planning and response to more than 50 major disasters and emergencies, and management of classified continuity of operations programs. He is a retired U.S. Army officer. Mr. Gruber is a recipient of the 2006 Secretary’s Meritorious Service Award – Silver Medal. Mr. Gruber received his bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University, and his master’s degree from Chapman University. He was certified as an Emergency Medical Technician in the State of Georgia in 1980. He is married and has two children, including a son who is currently serving in the U.S. Army Special Forces.



Cathy Lanier, Chief, Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC and Steering Committee Member, Homeland Security Policy Institute

Lanier was named Chief of Metropolitan Police Department by DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. She officially assumed the leadership position on January 2, 2007. On April 3, 2007, members of DC Council approved confirmation. Chief Lanier has spent her entire law enforcement career with the Metropolitan Police Department, beginning in 1990. Most of her career has been in uniformed patrol, where she served as Commander of the Fourth District, one of the largest and most diverse residential patrol districts in the city. She also served as the Commanding Officer of the Department's Major Narcotics Branch and Vehicular Homicide Units. More recently, Chief Lanier served as Commander of the Special Operations Division (SOD) for four years, where she managed the Emergency Response Team, Aviation and Harbor Units, Horse Mounted and Canine Units, Special Events/Dignitary Protection Branch, and Civil Disturbance Units. During her tenure as SOD Commander, she established the agency’s first Homeland Security/Counter-Terrorism Branch and created an agency-wide chemical, biological, radiological response unit known as the Special Threat Action Team. In 2006, the MPDC's Office of Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism (OHSCT) was created, and Chief Lanier was tapped to be its first Commanding Officer. A highly respected professional in the areas of homeland security and community policing, she took the lead role in developing and implementing coordinated counter-terrorism strategies for all units within the MPDC and launched Operation TIPP (Terrorist Incident Prevention Program).





Josh Meyer, Director, Education and Outreach, Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, Northwestern University

Meyer spent twenty years with the Los Angeles Times before joining Medill’s new initiative in January. Meyer was an investigative reporter and national security writer, covering a wide range of issues, including government, politics and law enforcement. Since 2000, he focused on terrorism and related intelligence, law enforcement and national security issues while traveling extensively to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Persian Gulf. Most recently, Meyer has written extensively about the Obama Justice Department, global organized crime, WMDs and trafficking in drugs and humans and contributed to the Times’ prize-winning “Mexico Under Siege’’ series on Mexican drug cartels and the government response to them. During his two decades at the Times he shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. He also was recognized four times by the Southern California Press Association for his investigative reporting. He also was one of several L.A. Time reporters to win more than a dozen awards for a 2002 series entitled “Inside Al Qaeda,” including the Overseas Press Club’s Hal Boyle international reporting award.







Mark Mueller, Acting Deputy Chief, Office for Bombing Prevention, National Protection and Programs Directorate, Department of Homeland Security

Mr. Mueller transferred to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from the US Department of Defense (DoD) in August 2009. He leads a team responsible for developing detailed technical requirements for deterring, preventing, detecting, protecting against, and responding to explosive, energetic, and incendiary threats to the Homeland. His section also provides science and engineering subject matter expertise on explosives to DHS and the Intelligence Community. His combination of over 20 years operational experience as a military Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer, academic and research background as a mechanical engineer, and analytic expertise provides a unique asset to the Office for Bombing Prevention (OBP). While assigned to the DoD, Mr. Mueller led development of future Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) defense equipment and technology requirements for the Joint Staff. He managed applied and advanced scientific research into CBRN technologies with a cumulative annual budget exceeding $20 million, and helped redefine the technology development process for the $2 billion per annum DoD Chemical and Biological Defense Program. During a previous assignment to the DHS, Mr. Mueller led critical analytic efforts for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS). He published detailed, technical all-source analyses of explosives, energetics, and incendiary threats. He was responsible for examination of emerging CBRN and Explosive (CBRNE) adversary threats and development of countermeasures and risk mitigation techniques. He conceived, planned, and executed Operations Research projects designed to optimize the FAMS mission assignment process using resultant quantitative risk management tools.



Darby Miller Steiger, Principal Consultant and Director of Research for the Gallup Panel

Steiger’s role is to provide leadership and guidance on questionnaire design and qualitative research for clients and Gallup associates, and to lead quantitative and qualitative research studies for specific clients. She also leads all research aspects of running and maintaining the Gallup Panel, which is a probability-based, multi-mode panel of U.S. households recruited through random-digit-dial and cell phone sampling. Steiger has more than eighteen years experience in survey and project management, and has worked with a wide set of federal government agencies, including multiple branches of the military. She has extensive experience and education in all aspects of quantitative research, including questionnaire design, sample development, obtaining IRB/OMB approval, sample management, data collection, achieving high response rates, data processing, datafile construction, report writing, and executive presentations. Steiger has conducted hundreds of focus groups, cognitive interviews, copy testing, and other forms of qualitative research. She is Gallup’s senior advisor on qualitative research, leading regular training sessions for both internal associates and external clients on moderating focus groups. She is the author of “The Gallup Approach to Designing and Conducting Focus Groups.”



Adam Thiel, Chief, Alexandria Fire Department, Alexandria, Virginia and Steering Committee Member, Homeland Security Policy Institute

With nearly two decades in the field, Adam K. Thiel is a recognized thought leader across the fire and emergency services industry. Chief Thiel provides overall leadership and strategic direction for the city’s fire/injury prevention, all-hazards emergency response, emergency medical services, building/fire code administration, and disaster/emergency management functions. Thiel’s operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states (MD, NC, VA, and AZ) as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland fire fighter, and rescue SCUBA diver. Chief Thiel directly participated in response/recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 tragedy, Hurricane Gustav, and Hurricane Isabel. In 2002, Thiel was appointed by then-Governor Mark Warner to lead the Virginia Department of Fire Programs (VDFP) through a critical post-9/11 transition and state fiscal crisis. Executive Director Thiel transformed VDFP—modernizing systems, adding capacity, and enhancing capabilities—by engaging employees and stakeholders statewide in charting the agency’s course. During his tenure in state government, Thiel was a member of the Commonwealth Preparedness Working Group, Virginia Emergency Response Council, State Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Advisory Committee, Critical Infrastructure Working Group, and Child Day-Care Council.


Resources

HSPI recommends the following sources for additional information:

Bergreen, Jason. (2010) “Police shine spotlight on dangers of homemade bombs.” The Salt Lake Tribune

Bluestein, Greg. (2010) "FBI giving cops critical info: How to spot an IED." The Associated Press

Fisher, Janon. (2010) "Zazi: My subway terror mission." The New York Post

Householder, Mike. (2010) "9 Tied to Militia Are Arrested in Plot." The Associated Press

Hsu, Spencer and Mary Beth Sheridan. (2007) "IEDs Seen As Rising Threat in the U.S." The Washington Post

Kress, John and Steven Grogger. (2007) "The Domestic IED Threat." Joint Forces Quarterly

Miller Steiger, Darby. (2010) Improvised Explosive Devices: Perceptions and the Domestic Threat. Slide Presentation. Gallup Panel

Napolitano, Janet. (2009) Excerpt of Statements from Counter-IED Symposium. Department of Homeland Security

Shanker, Thom. (2009) “Makeshift Bombs Spread Beyond Afghanistan, Iraq.” The New York Times

Sulzberger, A.G. and William K. Rashbaum. (2010) "Guilty Plea Made in Plot to Bomb New York Subway." The New York Times


About HSPI's Policy & Research Forum Series

HSPI's Policy & Research Forum Series spotlights cutting-edge security policy solutions and innovative research. The Series is designed to provide thought leaders in the United States and abroad with a uniquely constructive venue in which to discuss current and future security issues and challenges.