Edited Version of November 28, 2001 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Forum Special Presentation

"Homeland Security in the Heartland"

Ellen M. Gordon
Iowa Homeland Security Advisor
Administrator of Iowa Emergency Management Division

Avagene Moore
Moderator, EIIP Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the November 28, 2001 online Virtual Forum presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Library Archives (http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/livechat.htm). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.

[Opening / Introduction]

Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum!

This is an exciting day for all of us. The EIIP Board of Directors, Amy and I trust you share our feelings - it feels good to be here! You are here and that indicates a great deal about your interest in this form of networking and information sharing. We appreciate your presence today!

Our topic today is "Homeland Security in the Heartland." Our speaker's bio plus links to various Web sites and information related to today's session are available at http://www.emforum.org/vforum/011128.htm .

We will begin today with a formal presentation, followed by an interactive Q&A session. We will provide the protocol for submitting questions when we start that portion of the program.

It is a pleasure to host today's session. Since September 11, 2001, there has been no shortage of public officials, practitioners and experts discussing terrorism and counter-terrorism from all perspectives. For our session today, we felt it would be beneficial to hear from someone in the throes of preparing, planning, and training for the threat of terrorism at the State and Local level.

Our speaker today is very much involved with all of the above. As the Administrator of Iowa Emergency Management, our special guest is also the Homeland Security Advisor for her State as well as a member of the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism.

Please help me welcome Ellen Gordon -- thank you for joining us today, Ellen. Before we begin our interview, perhaps you would like to say hello to our audience. I know they are eager to hear from you.

Ellen Gordon: Thank you, Avagene. Thanks to everyone else for taking the time from your busy schedules to join me. I hope you find it useful. I look forward to the next hour.


Avagene Moore: Ellen, will you please give a little background on your appointment as the Iowa Homeland Security Advisor?

Ellen Gordon: 0n 10/08/01, Governor Vilsack appointed me as the Iowa Homeland Security Advisor; I continue as the State Emergency Management Administrator. Much of the work for Homeland Security is the same as Emergency Management. The new areas for us are detection and protection; however there are many similarities. Public information is one of our challenges. We have a new web site that we hope provides the public with some of the needed information. The site address is http://www.iowahomelandsecurity.org .

Avagene Moore: How is this related to your involvement with the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism?

Ellen Gordon: My involvement with the Advisory Panel is separate from my job in Iowa. However, the work that the panel has done is very beneficial to developing a program in Iowa, as well as other states and communities. It is all related to terrorism preparedness, etc.

Avagene Moore: What are Iowa and the Advisory Panel doing specifically?

Ellen Gordon: In Iowa we are developing a long-term strategic plan for homeland security. It will fold into our existing Domestic Preparedness Strategic Plan. We are also developing a Critical Target Protection Plan. Our goal is to have it done by mid-January. We are also revisiting our training program to ensure that we are in fact training all that need to be trained.

The Panel is preparing the 3rd and final report to Congress. It will be released in mid-December. I believe there are some good recommendations. Several of the panel's recommendations from the first two reports have been implemented by the administration. The panel web site is http://www.rand.org/nsrd/terrpanel/ .

Avagene Moore: Do all States have a similar structure to address terrorism / counter-terrorism issues?

Ellen Gordon: I believe each state is approaching it a little differently. Last week stateline.org did a story on some of the state activities. You might find this interesting. You can find it at http://www.stateline.org . Most if not all states have been involved in terrorism preparedness for 3-5 years.

Avagene Moore: How are the States networking on terrorism concerns?

Ellen Gordon: Many of us rely heavily upon the National Emergency Management Association. NEMA gives us the means to share information/ideas; one/one relationships are important to share information. Also, the National Governors Association (NGA) has been working closely with the states to share information from Director Ridge's office.

The bottom line is until the National Homeland Security Office establishes communication protocols with the states on homeland security issues from the federal government, the states will continue to have to go to each federal agency for information. At least that is the way it is today as we chat.

Avagene Moore: How do Iowa's efforts relate to and interact with the National Homeland Security Office headed up by Tom Ridge?

Ellen Gordon: I believe it is important that the states/locals have a key role in the development of the national strategy to provide a true "national" strategy. Hopefully our current efforts will not be counter-productive to his mission/goals. I am anxious to meet Director Ridge and his staff to learn more about what their goals are.

Avagene Moore: What do you see as the impact of terrorism and related efforts on the emergency management community?

Ellen Gordon: Terrorism has put a tremendous burden on our response agencies as well as emergency management agencies. Without the proper support from the federal government we will not be able to succeed, as we should. Emergency management agencies and response organizations should use this time to communicate what our true needs are rather than our wants. We must be able to produce and demonstrate results with any federal resources that we may receive.

Avagene Moore: Do you predict major changes for the emergency management program in the future?

Ellen Gordon: I believe that terrorism preparedness has and will continue to change our emergency management programs. However, it is very important that we do not lose sight of the "all-hazards" approach to emergency management. There is and will continue to be a greater need than ever before for valid public information. There will be greater demand on first responders AND key decision-makers to know how to do the job. There will be a greater demand on local emergency management agencies to be fully prepared for all contingencies. There needs to be a realization that local emergency management agencies must be funded and staffed accordingly.

Avagene Moore: How will this new emphasis be communicated to local communities?

Ellen Gordon: I firmly believe that local emergency management agencies should be the catalyst in building stronger capability to respond to and recover from terrorist attacks. But for this to be successful, the federal government must provide for a more coordinated effort. The states must have a coordinated effort in providing guidance, etc. to local agencies.

Avagene Moore: Will the training program that was used for the original 120 cities around the country be extended to the rest of the country? If not, what direction will training take?

Ellen Gordon: I do not know the answer to that question. I have not seen any valid reports on whether or not it was effective in the first place. However, I do believe that it is important that we provide a more coordinated approach to training. We should ensure that we are training the same protocols, philosophy, etc. to all disciplines. Again it is important to train from a multi-hazard approach with the specific terrorism courses added. For example, the Incident Command System (ICS) is ICS no matter the hazard. We also need to be more innovative and willing to invest in a wide variety of training mediums, web-based, etc. With all of the potential training funds that MAY be coming our way we need to be prepared to spend the funds wisely.

Avagene Moore: Thank you, Ellen -- we greatly appreciate your candor today. We hope these interview questions and answers trigger other questions from our audience.

[Audience Questions & Answers]


Ken Kobell: At either the state or federal level, do you foresee a changing role for the military or National Guard?

Ellen Gordon: Yes, I do. One of the key issues that the Gilmore Commission has been working on is the role of the military, to include the National Guard. Here in Iowa we have use the National Guard for security missions since 9/11/01. We have had to revisit the authorities, etc. I believe the National Guard can play a vital role in Homeland Defense and Security.


Lori Higginbotham: Ms. Gordon, earlier you mentioned "success" as it relates to emergency management’s approach to terrorism. How would you define success?

Ellen Gordon: I think that we must have a strategic plan to measure against. Each jurisdiction will be different. We have to define what we believe the "end state" is for us and work toward that. Once achieved we should have success. Also, success is measured at time of the response.


Bernard Dubb: How can amateur radio capabilities best serve Homeland Security on the local and state levels?

Ellen Gordon: It is imperative that state and local emergency management agencies work with the amateur radio organizations --- to me it is a vital part of the overall emergency communications capability in our states.


Col. Larry Porter: Has the FEMA Region WMD Coordinator been of any assistance? Note also that the 120 City list is up to 153 cities to ensure getting to all states.

Ellen Gordon: I don't know that the FEMA Region WMD Coordinator has been of any assistance in recent weeks. To be very frank, FEMA has been somewhat silent on homeland security and domestic preparedness since 9/11/01.


Judson Freed: Are there any special considerations being given to the somewhat unique problems (such as population concentration, foreign nationals, nature of business, etc) to security at large research Universities? I am the Emergency Manager for one of the largest Universities and we often find ourselves left out of the State-wide discussion despite active participation in the various organizations.

Ellen Gordon: I can only speak for what we are doing here in Iowa. We have involved the universities and colleges in our planning efforts. College and Universities have a wealth of expertise. I would advise any state and/or local organization to work closely with them. If you have not been approached you should contact them.


Steve Detwiler: What kind of guidance has the Office of Homeland Security given you so far and what things are they currently working on (guides, training, etc)?

Ellen Gordon: We have not received any guidance from the National Homeland Security Office.

Steve Detwiler: Ms. Gordon, do you know what the Homeland Security Office is working on presently?

Ellen Gordon: No, I don't specifically. My best guess at this time is that they are starting the development of the national strategy. I also would guess that they are in the midst of building their organization, which does take time.


John Dymond: What do you feel is the most effective way to communicate with local authorities and communities during a critical event?

Ellen Gordon: It is important to establish the relationships prior to the disaster; I believe most would agree. During the critical incident it is important to have daily briefings if the need is that great; that can be achieved through chat rooms such as this; through conference calls and/or web page announcements.


Christopher Effgen: What actions have been undertaken to involve the public in homeland defense?

Ellen Gordon: As I mentioned earlier, public information has been a tremendous challenge. We are in the midst of developing community-based programs. We hope to have the toolkit ready for distribution prior to the holidays. The number one question we have had is "how can we help?" That is very difficult to answer; thus we have tried to develop a tool kit for the local emergency management directors.


Bob Williams: Ms. Gordon, regarding technology, do you foresee a standardized Incident Management System that local, state, and federal could easily access depending on the size/scope of the event? It seems to me that having one standardized system in place would facilitate better overall response and management. Is there a system in the works?

Ellen Gordon: Yes many times over. I think that it is vital that we have a "national" system. I believe that there are ideas and systems being discussed as we chat.


Ray Pena: Ms. Gordon, thanks for your great work. I've checked out your materials on your Web site (very nice) and wonder - is it all right to use (steal) them, with attribution naturally?

Ellen Gordon: Thank you! You can use whatever you want. Please do.


Lisa Owens: You stated FEMA has played a minimal role since 9-11, what role do you see them playing? This event the Red Cross was the agency clearly dispersing relief money. I think FEMA was silent because they saw they were not needed. Doesn't FEMA clean up after enough disasters? 9-11 was so big that others wanted to respond, don't you think?

Ellen Gordon: I don't think it is a matter of wanting to respond or not. Historically FEMA has had a role in response, recovery, preparedness, and mitigation. I don't believe that preparing for terrorist attacks should be any different. FEMA still has the "coordination" responsibility post disaster. I am not saying they did not fill this role, because I believe they did. What I was referring to is in relationship to the preparedness, detection and protection issues surrounding homeland security. We need them to be involved and provide technical assistance where needed.


Dennis Atwood: Ellen, thanks for all the vital work you are doing and for being in this forum. Two points, please: (1) With fond memories working together to successfully meet the Y2K challenge, I hope its applicability to information infrastructure security is fully appreciated in homeland security initiatives. (2) I am concerned about the balance among (a) law enforcement, (b) firefighters / HazMat / EMS, (c) public health / medical sector, and (d) all hazards emergency management. It seems that law enforcement is dominating now. How can the balance best be maintained?

Ellen Gordon: There definitely must be a balance. Each discipline has a key role. I believe the feeling of law enforcement dominating probably comes from the fact that they "have the information" that the rest of us want, or at least we think they do. This balance can be achieved through the planning, training and exercising process. That is where role identity and responsibilities will balance.


Cam King: Ms. Gordon, as one who is observing the fast moving events in the United States, I wonder what steps are being taken to overcome "turf wars" in relation to the current terrorism activities but, in the greater effort, of total emergency management? We, in Canada, hear (as one example only) that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) doesn't talk to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). We have the same kinds of issues here so would appreciate your thoughts on these "sticky" problems.

Ellen Gordon: One of the key issues the Gilmore Commission worked on was sharing of information, more specifically within the federal family. Two years ago when we started our work we immediately recognized that information sharing was not the norm. There are significant culture issues as well as laws that need to be changed for this to work the way that we would think it should. A little closer to home here in the state, we too have struggled with some of the same issues. Culture and laws seem to be the two roadblocks.

The Gilmore Commission is a Congressional and Presidential Advisory Commission that was established 3 years ago to provide advice on Terrorism Preparedness, etc. I gave the web site earlier in the questions. http://www.rand.org/nsrd/terrpanel/


Leslie Little: Ms. Gordon, what training is being proposed for local jurisdictions to use when working with or developing Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams (NERT), especially in non-native American speaking neighborhoods, and other at-risk communities?

Ellen Gordon: I am not totally familiar with specific training on NERT and non-native American-speaking citizens. I do know that many of my colleagues across the country incorporate the non-American speaking information into their documents.


Chris Mullins: Do you believe there will be a good working relationship between the Office of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, such as the FBI, CIA, FEMA, etc.?

Ellen Gordon: I think that there HAS to be if there is going to be a successfully implementation of a national homeland security strategy. Again, there are culture issues, but I believe that President Bush has indicated that there will be a team effort.


Jeff Hunt: Are you aware of attempts to work with Internet Service Providers to try and reduce the increased hacking and effects of viruses? If this is ever coordinated into a focused attack against an infrastructure, I could see us being very unprepared. I must say in comment to Federal Agencies cooperating, the FBI have been as helpful as possible to our small business.

Ellen Gordon: I am glad to hear that the FBI has been working closely with you, it is very important. There are efforts being taken to address the cyber security issues; many states are addressing it as well as the National Office. I believe Richard Clark is heading up part of that effort.


John Dymond: I also viewed your web site and it is very informative, thank you. Earlier you mentioned FEMA's involvement. You probably already know FEMA uses automated high speed notification technology to get critical information to selected individuals and groups of individuals via telephone, pager, cell, email, fax, etc. that verifies the receipt of that information. Do you see the benefits of the state homeland security offices using this same technology (web-based) to get critical information to those who need it?

Ellen Gordon: Yes. I believe that we must use the technology that we have plus R&D new to help solve the communication issues. Knowledge management is key to our ability to survive in the future. Without excellent technology tools for all forms of communications we could find ourselves far behind.


Roger Fritzel: Regarding the issue of valid public information, have any "lessons learned " emerged from the anthrax situation?

Ellen Gordon: One that I am familiar with is the difficulty in having the "correct" information the first time around. It is difficult to keep going back to the public with "correct" information. Credibility becomes a big issue at that point.


Tim Campbell: Ms. Gordon, are we confusing everyone with the many new acronyms and varying definitions of them by the agencies? It appears to be causing confusion among the press, the public and us. Crisis Consequences WMD are all names for things that have been around for years, including now Homeland Defense.

Ellen Gordon: I agree. I believe that Terrorist Attack is another type of disaster that we must prepare for. The way in which we approach it really does not have any new words attached to it. The Security issue is a little bit new to us in emergency management; that has always been a law enforcement responsibility.


Christopher Effgen: I believe that the Virtual Forum is very important and could have been very helpful had it been operational Sept 11, 2001. Do you agree?

Ellen Gordon: I agree that it could have been used for exchange of information, etc.


Amy Sebring: I understood that a terrorism hazard analysis was being prepared at the state level. If this is correct, where in the process is that, and how will it be used?

Ellen Gordon: FEMA asked the states to conduct a terrorism capability assessment. It was not a thorough capability assessment that we typically conduct. I believe that the purpose was to give them an idea of where we need assistance. Those were submitted several weeks ago. I do not know what the results are.


Avagene Moore: That is all the time we have for now. Thank you for being such an informative guest today, Ellen. We appreciate your time and effort on behalf of the EIIP Virtual Forum.

Ellen Gordon: Everyone --- Thank YOU!

Avagene Moore: Audience, we appreciate your presence and participation today. Ellen, thank you for a great job! Keep up the good work and keep us posted on further developments in Iowa.

We will adjourn the EIIP Virtual Forum at this time. Please feel free to express your personal appreciation to Ellen for her presentation. You are all welcome to hang around for a few minutes to chat and get re-acquainted. We have missed being in the Virtual Forum!