General Perna, the military official running Operation Warp Speed, said yesterday that the “last mile” of vaccinating the American public against COVID is going slower than expected.

We are not on the last mile of the race to vaccinate the public. We just passed the first mile marker by developing and approving a vaccine. Our vaccination marathon has 25 more long miles ahead to produce, deliver, prioritize, administer, and track the process of giving two shots to 80% of our citizens.

The first mile, vaccine development, although not easy, was actually fairly straightforward. A small group of companies and dedicated scientists were given near unlimited resources and a clear, singular objective. The government removed any regulatory hurdles and fast tracked the process. Unfortunately, a quick sprint from the starting line doesn’t make the distance any shorter. …

While the events of 2020 have shocked the general public, homeland security experts ‘imagined’ these threats including a global pandemic, mass civil unrest, cyberattacks, active shooters, and increasing severity of natural disasters from global climate change as part of the Homeland Security Advanced Thinking Program (HSx) almost 4 years ago.

As the world continues to change, I have updated this growing list with both new threats that we will likely face, and unknown perils that will challenge our ability to secure the nation.

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The 9/11 Commission Report highlighted the most significant shortfall contributing to the attacks as a “failure of imagination” due to leaders not understanding and perceiving the gravity of the threat. Looking forward to preventing the next 9/11 from occurring, homeland security officials need to step outside of planning for attacks, emergencies, and disasters that are known and likely to think about those that are unknown and unlikely. …

The United States is about three weeks away from distributing hundreds of thousands of doses of the new COVID vaccines. The logistics of the largest and fastest vaccination operation in human history are daunting. Our biggest challenge is that millions of Americans face above average risks from the virus, and there will not be enough doses of the vaccine for all of these people in the first round. The first group of high-risk people who come to mind are frontline healthcare workers who have close contact while caring for patients infected with COVID. The second big group is people with high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes, and obesity have much greater risks of both hospitalization and death if they get it. While they are a small portion of the total population, 45% of all COVID deaths have occurred in nursing homes and other group care settings for the elderly. Additionally, adults over 65 have a generally higher risk that continues to increase with age. …

Two years after launching the K-12 School Shooting Database in September 2018, the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School has completed an overhaul of the database’s public website. The update includes the addition of several new datapoints and an improved user interface allows for more in-depth analysis of school gun violence incidents. The K-12 SSDB uses open-source information to document every instance a gun is brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims, time of day, or day of week. …

Trust is essential to allow a democracy to function. We trust that when we cast a ballot, our vote will be reviewed and counted correctly. The ballot counter trusts that the person who filled out the ballot is a registered voter. We have no way of knowing if our ballot was ever counted. We trust that the system will work and the individuals staffing the polls will be competent and faithful to their duties. At the end of the election process, we trust that the candidate with the most votes will win and hold office.

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President Trump has sowed mistrust that has already undermined the entire democratic election process by eroding this trust. He has said that our election will be rigged, mail-in ballots are fraudulent, and he will not accept the results if he loses. He has stated that the election should be delayed. …

Update: Hawaii is experiencing increasing COVID rates due to poor planning, inconsistent enforcement of rules, lack of testing/monitoring of arriving visitors, and community spread through public gatherings. The number of cases is still low compared to the mainland US and can be controlled with strong leadership and decisive action by local officials.

Aloha NFL Commissioner Goodell and NFL Team Owners,

You have a big problem and I have a solution

Hawaii has become one of the only nearly COVID free places in the world. Since the start, 31 people have died and 3,500 (as of 8/10/2020) cases have been confirmed out of 1.4 million residents. …

We have already paid profound physical, emotional, and economic prices for the stay-at-home orders across the country. Things are only going to get worse as those orders are projected to continue until mid-summer. If the orders are lifted too quickly and social gatherings start to spread the virus again, we’ll undo all of the hard work that has already been done to stop it.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t the only disaster that we need to be thinking about. Atlantic hurricane season is less than two months away, and experts are already forecasting an above-average number of storms.

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Major Hurricane Off the Coast of Florida

Why is a hurricane such a big deal during COVID-19? This is normally how we deal with a…

With public schools closed due to COVID-19, it was a surprisingly busy week for school shooting news. Here’s what happened:

  • 21nd anniversary of the Columbine High School Massacre (4/20)
  • A Russian teen was arrested for plotting a Columbine copycat attack
  • Joe Biden’s viral tweet with erroneous claims about school shootings
  • Release of ‘School Shooter’ by XXXTentacion and Lil Wayne
  • Virtual remembrance of the Virginia Tech shooting without a public gathering
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Newspaper Headlines

Monday marks 21 years since the massacre at Columbine High School unfolded on live TV. It remains one of the most culturally significant acts of violence in American history. While Columbine made school shootings into a prominent issue, there has not been meaningful legislation or social reform since the attack. School shootings since Columbine at Sandy Hook, Red Lake, Granite Hills, Rancho Tehama, Santana, West Nickle Mines, Fort Gibson, Heritage, Parkland, Marshall, Sante Fe, STEM school, Saugus, and so many others have claimed 391 lives and wounded 809 others. …

First Responder is the broad term used to describe people who answer calls to emergencies. Firefighters, police, sheriffs, paramedics, EMTs, 911 dispatchers, ocean lifeguards are all first responders. The heart of first responders’ public safety duty is interacting with the general public, which makes them one of the highest risk groups for exposure to COVID-19.

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Police, Fire, and EMS

COVID-19 is already taking a toll on first responders across the country. At the epicenter in New York City, 1,400 officers have tested positive, 3 have died, and 6,000 other officers without positive tests have called in sick. This means that almost 20% of the entire NYPD force is unavailable. In neighboring New Jersey counties, 700 officers have tested positive and are in self-quarantine. …

An unforeseen, unimaginable crisis of severe consequence is a black swan event. A global pandemic was both foreseen and completely imaginable. COVID-19 is categorically not a black swan event. The consequences of our own sustained inaction do not magically turn this virus into one. The COVID-19 outbreak was no surprise. A global pandemic is a well known problem that we chose to ignore.

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People love to throw around terms like Black Swan. Mark Cuban said on CNBC “this is the ultimate definition of a black swan event, and whatever we suppose is just a guess.” The theory is that if you have only seen white swans for your entire life, a white swan is the only thing you can imagine. When you see a black swan for the first time, it is something that you never believed or imagined to be possible. …


David Riedman

Homeland Security Researcher at the Naval Postgraduate School and Ph.D. student at University of Hawai’i

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