Yesterday I attended the Homeland Security 2020: The Future of Defending the Homeland conference at the Heritage Foundation – which turned out to be very insightful. If you didn’t catch it on C-SPAN you can find a video of the panels here. During the second panel, Dr. Steve Bucci raised an interesting mind puzzle that I think is excellent for the kind of collaborative discussion one can usually finds in blog comments.
The scenario is straight forward – a large container ship still a few hundred miles off the US coast is believed to have a nuclear bomb. It is unclear, but all detection capabilities and intelligence suggests that one of the several hundred containers may have a nuclear bomb. How do you find out for sure? Where do you unload these containers so you can get to the one setting off sensors? Where do you send the ship? Are you going to sink a 70,000 ton bulk carrier because an imperfect detection system is giving you a suspicious reading, and intelligence is giving you a 50% probability that there could be a nuclear weapon on the ship?
Bottom line, nobody has any idea what we are going to do. It is one of many mind puzzles where the details that would constitute a real plan for dealing with deadly scenarios remain elusive.
The conversations at the Heritage event were very informative. The first panel put a great deal of intellectual energy into the global trade system and an examination of policy decisions to date that impact and influence our trade system. I highly suggest listening to Michael Barrett if you are not familiar with him. He is one of those young guys on this subject who has already developed an enormous resume – and will be a voice in this conversation for decades. The second panel was also very good – with Dr. Steve Bucci adding a bit of humor to the discussion.
I also thought VADM Terry Cross provided an interesting assessment of Deepwater.
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