Crafting an operational strategy of public warning for terrorism requires both a framework and a focus for the desired ends to be achieved. When should a warning be specifically targeted to a compartmented audience? How can a compartmented warning be expanded—and to what end? When should a general public warning be released? Frameworks or models can assist in answering these questions, if they are fully integrated into the operational planning to defeat terrorist networks. Frameworks are not plans—nor are they strategies, operational templates or roadmaps; rather, they are tools: methods of conceptualizing how best to prioritize an effort, gather assumptions, analyze threats, plan a response, and implement courses of action.
Establishing a national policy to guide a strategy of public warning would not be difficult given the extensive amount of work already accomplished in creating the HSAS, updating the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and in improving information sharing and intelligence fusion functions under the DNI umbrella. Other national crisis management systems such as the Crisis Support Group, the NOAA weather alert system, COOP/COG programs, the Homeland Security Operations Center and White House Situation Room combine to form an operational capability for public warning that is unquestionably the most sophisticated in the world. The foundation for an effective policy of public warning, therefore, already largely exists. A national policy of public warning would incorporate these existing programs and direct a comprehensive inventory of the many disparate technical and procedural systems of warning already in our federal and state inventories, so that those systems can be synchronized wherever practicable.
Creating a National Commission for Public Warning would provide a dedicated group of experts to implement both policy and strategy. The daily function of the Commission would be oversight of all public warning programs, to include counter-terrorism. Their most important role, however, would be synchronizing the many disparate systems that have a public warning role in the U.S. inventory.
A principal tenet of a national policy for public warning would establish terrorism as separate and distinct from all other naturally occurring hazards. If the ultimate goal of public warning is to prevent terrorist attacks and preempt terror networks, this distinction is crucial to the formation of a coherent, effective strategy. Integrating Boyd’s “OODA Loop” Model and Warden’s “Five Rings” Model into the three phases of warning (Preemption, Prevention, and Mitigation) offers the operational mechanisms necessary to inform a national strategy for public warning. Loosely associating each phase to an HSAS protective condition (Severe, High, Elevated, Guarded) provides additional context, tying systems, models and frameworks together for a common strategic purpose.