Prevention - of terrorist attacks and/or other mass-casualty incidents - is and must be the first priority in homeland security. But when, not if, prevention fails, as it sometimes will, recovery and resilience move to center stage. The problem is that much has been accomplished in those areas, but much more is still required, and time is running short.
Science is wonderful! Except when it is not. One of the almost inevitable problems facing researchers in the biological sciences is how to ensure that their discoveries are used to benefit mankind. Unfortunately, achieving that enviable goal may be a true Mission Impossible.
It started with extremely low-tech audio communications, and in recent years telemedicine technology has spawned a spectrum of much more advanced systems and devices that are of literally life-or-death importance to many citizens in distress. But the paperwork - specifically including development and performance standards - has not kept up.
The critical infrastructure of the United States is now better protected than it was before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The same cannot be said for the parking lots next to government buildings, power plants, and other possible targets - most of which can be entered through 22 million "access points" (aka manhole covers).
Who goes there? And what are his/her skills, professional qualifications, and other capabilities? The only sure way to answer these and other questions posed in times of crisis is through a national credentialing system that takes into account a long list of practical requirements and possible pitfalls.
The cost, and the challenge, of providing security at the Super Bowl and other major sports events has escalated exponentially in the almost eight years since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. And there are absolutely no fumbles allowed.
The most perfectly planned and carefully implemented security plan can easily go awry. All it takes is one suicidal terrorist or deranged assassin to make a major special event much more exciting, and dangerous - for participants and spectators alike - than originally anticipated.
The federal government has told the nation's states and cities to build up their homeland-security capabilities - a difficult and costly task at any time, but even more so during a recession. Here is one way to solve the "unfunded mandates" dilemma.
The greatest challenge facing UK and London officials will not be the staging of a worthy successor to China's sterling 2008 Games, but maintaining tight security in an open society where the cuisine may be less varied but freedom and diversity are much more highly valued.
It would be much more complicated than "a two-step smoke-alarm process," but the nations of the world now have the technology needed to develop and build a truly global international, and interoperable, sensor system capable of almost instantaneous detection of imminent disasters. So why don't they?