Nation-State Threats – Preparing at All Levels

In August 2023, Maui faced its deadliest wildfire in modern history – taking more than 100 lives and destroying thousands of homes and structures. That tragic event drew massive response efforts at the federal, state, and local levels. Two months later, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell spoke to the National Association of Emergency Managers in Memphis, Tennessee. She began by thanking all those who responded to Maui and acknowledging that responding to and recovering from natural hazards has become ingrained in the emergency management playbook.

What is not ingrained, though, is what Administrator Criswell said keeps her up at night, “the looming danger presented by nation-state threats to our homeland.” She went on to describe what a nation-state attack could look like, why everyone should care, and how to balance natural and human-caused threats to ensure readiness. As first responders, emergency managers, health care workers, volunteers, military personnel, and many others respond to catastrophic events, oftentimes, so do foreign actors and others with nefarious intent. Misinformation that spread with the Maui wildfires in just one example.

Nation-state threats could include false information campaigns, cyberthreats, and physical threats, including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive weapons. The millions of cyber-intrusion threats the Port of Los Angeles combats each year demonstrate the importance of protecting critical infrastructure, which has become a desirable target. As emphasized by Criswell, all agencies and organizations should adopt a national security mindset, which begins with an awareness of the threats and capabilities of the nation’s adversaries. Entities should then collaborate with defense and intelligence agencies, build external partnerships, and share information. Finally, individuals at all organizational and governmental levels should think creatively about how threats could manifest and ways to address them.

The authors in the February 2024 edition of the Domestic Preparedness Journal build awareness of some of the nation’s threats and vulnerabilities. They also share protective measures and approaches for combating nation-state threats and strengthening homeland security and national resilience.



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