With Chicago O’Hare’s new enhanced screening efforts targeting the Ebola Virus, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) staff are relegated to a side room, unable to provide effective presence on the front lines for detection of more frequent travelers coming from other airports that may also receive travelers from West Africa without effective screening. Executives from 300 Below, inbound from Russia today, witnessed ineffective screening procedures, lack of equipment for DHS CBP agents, and fear faced by CBP agents who fight an invisible enemy.
CHICAGO, IL — Contrary to prior official statements, Customs and Border Patrol agents are NOT the first to meet passengers potentially carrying Ebola when they arrive in the United States. It is clear upon entry that the United States Government (USG) is allowing private security contractors at the front of these lines to direct traffic, effectively prescreening and separating International Visa Holders from United States Citizens, further separating American travelers who retain Global Entry trusted traveler status. Upon re-entering the United States, no representatives from the CDC stationed prior to the front entry lines to screen passengers from other flights with the intent of recognizing signs or symptoms of passengers carrying the Ebola virus.
Additionally, front line Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are, because of ineffective construction at screening facilities, as well as hindered access to (and likely a lack of proper instruction for) personal protective equipment (PPE), being placed at greater risk. Following our in-person interviews with DHS CBP staff today at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), these agents are operating with elevated levels of fear for their safety as well as the safety of the families they return to. Some CBP agents warned passengers of reporters standing outside the customs clearance facility; one expressed concern about the safety of their own family due to their regular interaction with passengers who are coughing upon approaching screening booths.
One loophole for introducing the Ebola virus into the United States is through Trusted Traveler lanes, which greet U.S. citizens who travel frequently with less screening. These lanes could provide more thorough screening if the kiosks were updated to include sensors inside biometric equipment that check traveler temperature and other vitals. Using technology from Theranos, developers could even incorporate a small pin prick to sample blood at electronic checkpoints, since Theranos has rapid testing results and is already deploying testing capability into Walgreens stores.
After landing today at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, if you review the security footage, I was met with an empty lane whose CBP staff were not even in the booths for the Global Entry lane. There were three CPB agents standing around who casually allowed me to proceed without any additional screening. Global Entry travelers like me are at an even greater risk, statistically speaking, because they travel more frequently than other passengers who are not enrolled in Global Entry, potentially moving between other destinations undeclared on their original itinerary through foreign airlines that do not share traveler information with the United States. We are giving them direct access into the United States without any updated security questions on kiosks that discuss travel to West Africa or potential encounters with passengers who have been in these regions. At Global Entry, the government system recognized that I was coming from Düsseldorf, Germany but not ultimately Russia, which was my point of origin for this trip.
Further inspection of construction at the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) clearance facility inside Chicago O’Hare Airport reveals the lack of effective Personal Protective Equipment and Personal Protective Barriers for its personnel. Unlike countries like Germany, Russia and Malaysia that utilize full window barriers between travelers and customs screeners, the United States has failed at Chicago O’Hare and other international points of entry to create full window barriers between CBP agents and newly returned travelers.
According to a recent news article, CDC admits the virus may be airborne, spread by airborne droplets originating from coughing or mucous, with updated criteria for ebola transmission being within 3 feet. Coughing and sneezing travelers are easily within range of spreading mucous and other airborne droplets of fluid containing the virus to CBP agents acting as screening personnel.
Our border patrol agents on the front lines are inadequately prepared or equipped to handle screening, and their elevated level of fear actually has the opposite effect intended: CBP agents are not being given clearly defined directives as to when they may don PPE, nor did they have access to it today when I was screened in O’Hare. Without access to PPE, CBP agents are now psychologically incentivized to let travelers move more quickly through screening lines when they come face-to-face with a traveler who is coughing or sneezing. According to them, coughing or sneezing alone isn’t enough to get CDC involved. We have some brave men and women on the front lines who are fighting a war with an enemy they cannot see, and right now their only clear choice to protect themselves (and their families at home) is to decrease their own risk by exercising their power to move travelers expeditiously through screening lines. Faster screening might seem like a logical option for agents to protect themselves, but ultimately it results in sloppy work and ineffective screening.
The same problem may cause challenges with interagency collaboration between CDC and DHS. CDC is likely making suggestions which DHS executives are taking time to review through multiple meetings, ultimately forced to struggle with limited resources, fear in their ranks, lack of prior frequent training with PPE for its personnel, lack of clearly communicated donning protocols related to biological agents like Ebola, and limitations for the interaction their own agents must commit to based on current mission demands. CBP agents and other DHS assets were never intended to make decisions requiring qualified medical personnel, yet that is the logic our government leaders are ready to apply.
It is very likely that middle management is avoiding making tough decisions, because no individual wants to get blamed for a specific action that isn’t effective enough, ultimately leading to termination or further public scrutiny. For many government middle managers, these leaders are mostly concerned with their own job security rather than bold action. Unfortunately DHS is not like the Marine Corps: Middle managers in agencies often follow only the guidelines they are issued, failing to interpret and apply ‘Commander’s Intent’ if you will, without additional implementation until they are issued further specific information. One possible result is taking no timely action following senior directives, whether due to inaction or requests for clarification, which ultimately still fails to prevent a mass outbreak of the Ebola virus
Do you think President Obama or Director Frieden will know how best to protect Chicago’s Airport or any other specific facility? Typically a contractor is hired to create the isolation and protection plan for each screening location, identifying specific flaws and recommended corrective actions, but we don’t have time for a government contracting process to tell us what flaws exist and what we need to do to prevent them. CDC must quickly deploy its existing resources and get them to the front lines, ahead of DHS CBP and any of its security contractors. America has failed its first responders in prevention efforts, deployment of PPE, and training, which has yet to be standardized.
OSHA guidelines are clear about providing personal protective equipment to employees serving in a law enforcement capacity. I’ve seen agencies where inept or dysfunctional leaders are reassigned to manage warehouses, resulting in ineffective accountability and delayed movement of critical resources, which prevents front line workers from getting the PPE they need to do their job. We saw this happen today when none of the agents we met had been issued any PPE. They’re told they don’t have an option to show up or not, even facing Ebola, yet OSHA actually mandates that we provide effective PPE for front line workers in a law enforcement capacity. Our government is failing to uphold its own laws, and it’s time DHS, CBP and CDC to get on the same page in equipping agents until our contractors can catch up and give the government another boost of private-sector support and expertise.
The innovation needed to combat challenges with Ebola cannot come fast enough. Our company, 300 Below, is willing to contribute knowledge and technology assets toward collaboration with innovators in biological protection, such as Battelle Memorial Institute, which leads the nation in developing and managing sophisticated comprehensive training programs for the deployment and employment of Personal Protective Equipment. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to issue a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for awards of up to $1 million dollars to advance PPE modification in airport and security screening settings. Americans need more companies to embrace this challenge, especially in the State of Illinois, in order to combat our nation’s urgent need. More companies like 300 Below should contribute resources to ensure an effective national response to the Ebola epidemic and future outbreaks, resulting in strengthened public-private partnerships to solve this epidemic.
# # #
Prescott Paulin is a prior U.S. Marine Corps officer who previously served the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) and Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) as an Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, specifically authoring recommendations to improve training protocol while concurrently training Pentagon Police Officers to properly utilize personal protective equipment (PPE) to serve and protect Americans while confronting the invisible enemies of chemical or biological agents. Paulin was badged to train law enforcement officers at the DHS Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Cheltenham, MD. He currently serves 300 Below, Inc. as its International Research Consultant.
300 Below, Inc. provides metallurgical engineering services as the world’s largest and oldest commercial cryogenic processing company, in business since 1966. Through its liquid nitrogen based services, molecular structures of steel components are rearranged to last 200-300% longer for around 20 percent cost of the component. For 2014, 300 Below has introduced a new line of non-toxic cleaning and lubrication technologies as well as a patented scrub pad. 300 Below’s cryogenic tempering process acts an extension of the heat treatment process used in manufacturing defense and aerospace components, high-performance motorsports applications, 262,000+ gun barrels, sporting goods, and musical instruments. 300 Below has started 156 operations in 36 countries around the world with its technology. Customers include NASA, as well as all branches of the U.S. Military and their contractors.
“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
One little detail awry is often the source of a downward spiral. For our team, we focus on process control. Not unlike many businesses, clients tell us what process they desire, and we control the variables to make sure it happens according to plan. The biggest challenge is asking the right questions up front to get the best info needed to make professional decisions in the absence of client input.
According to my friend, Joey Coleman, customer service is what you do when things go wrong, customer experience is what you do the rest of the time. Regardless of what business you’re in, every transaction is accompanied by expectations, and a relationship is built through consistency in meeting these expectations every single time. Emotions and feelings encircle the time before and between transactions throughout a business relationship. One of the biggest challenges with our business is running custom projects for clients who have multi-million dollar “mission critical” projects.
Learning to deal with uncertainty is a hallmark of the training we received in the Marine Corps. They taught us to rapidly embrace LtCol Boyd’s OODA loop… OBSERVE what happens, ORIENT yourself and your resources, make a DECISION, and take ACTION. The process repeats in perpetuity, and in business or in war, you win when you’re able to go through this loop faster than your competition.
In theory, this is much simpler when you’re in charge, and capable of making Decisions to take Action. Add client input though, and the cycle comes to a screeching halt, delayed by further external evaluation and decision making.
In our case, we have clients who are contractors beholden to a government agency with specific timelines. Our focus shifts to empowering our clients to act within government guidelines, because they are ultimately responsible for the project’s OODA loop, puling the trigger on the decision, and empowering us to take action on their behalf. Our team must remain responsible for relaying our observation and orientation following any action that we take, and the cycle repeats. We are incentivized to provide closer communication, which allows faster analysis, resulting in effective decision making.
Today reminded me how many little details we constantly have to focus on to ensure a successful outcome. We even feel responsible when our client’s equipment (their way to confirm the process we are executing) falls short of accurately validating the additional information requested. We decided that in order to provide good customer service, we should have a similar one on hand, but that comes with further complications of a 16 week wait time to get the same piece of equipment. In today’s rapidly-changing business environment, an additional 4 months of anticipation built into future projects is fraught with its own complexities. Many new hires don’t even last that long!
Every time a mistake is made, or the unexpected happens, we must move beyond Murphy’s Law to create an additional checklist item or in-depth procedure to attempt to prevent future fall out. Little details from the legality of who has access to our facility, to how the parts are handled, to what we wear (or don’t wear) while handling customer items is not all that different from any other business. Yet I find a deeper appreciation for all of the upfront preparation we must continue to think through before the next transaction as we strive to build deeper relationships with each and every customer that chooses to trust us with their resources.
As one studies Mexico’s cartel war, it is not uncommon to hear Mexican politicians — and some people in the United States — claim that Mexico’s problems of violence and corruption stem largely from the country’s proximity to the United States. According to this narrative, the United States is the world’s largest illicit narcotics market, and the inexorable force of economic demand means that the countries supplying the demand, and those that are positioned between the source countries and the huge U.S. market, are trapped in a very bad position. Because of this market and the illicit trade it creates, billions of dollars worth of drugs flow northward through Mexico (or are produced there) and billions of dollars in cash flow back southward into Mexico. The guns that flow southward along with the cash, according to the narrative, are largely responsible for Mexico’s violence. As one looks at other countries lying to the south of Mexico along the smuggling routes from South America to the United States, they too seem to suffer from the same maladies. Continue reading
By Reva Bhalla
Nearly three months have passed since the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, first saw mass demonstrations against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but an exit from the current stalemate is still nowhere in sight. Saleh retains enough support to continue dictating the terms of his eventual political departure to an emboldened yet frustrated opposition. At the same time, the writ of his authority beyond the capital is dwindling, which is increasing the level of chaos and allowing various rebel groups to collect arms, recruit fighters and operate under dangerously few constraints.
The prospect of Saleh’s political struggle providing a boon to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is understandably producing anxiety in Washington, where U.S. officials have spent the past few months trying to envision what a post-Saleh Yemen would mean for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the Arabian Peninsula. Continue reading
There are wars in pursuit of interest. In these wars, nations pursue economic or strategic ends to protect the nation or expand its power. There are also wars of ideology, designed to spread some idea of “the good,” whether this good is religious or secular. The two obviously can be intertwined, such that a war designed to spread an ideology also strengthens the interests of the nation spreading the ideology.
Since World War II, a new class of war has emerged that we might call humanitarian wars — wars in which the combatants claim to be fighting neither for their national interest nor to impose any ideology, but rather to prevent inordinate human suffering. In Kosovo and now in Libya, this has been defined as stopping a government from committing mass murder. But it is not confined to that. In the 1990s, the U.S. intervention in Somalia was intended to alleviate a famine while the invasion of Haiti was designed to remove a corrupt and oppressive regime causing grievous suffering. Continue reading
This is an AMAZING piece by George Friedman! I love the comment on traveling through observation, which is what I seek to do when I travel. I also respect his words when he says, “I should add that I make it a practice to report neither whom I meet with nor what they say. I learn much more this way and can convey a better sense of what is going on. The direct quote can be the most misleading thing in the world.”
I hope you are equally spellbound by the words within.
After my last appendectomy at Fort Belvoir, it looks like I needed another reminder of why the military medical system rocks… I sliced my hand open tonight when a bottle broke while cooking and they got me all stitched up in under an hour! The staff at DeWitt Hospital is absolutely awesome and I’m thankful to have had such great care!
By Scott Stewart and Nate Hughes
Over the past decade there has been an ongoing debate over the threat posed by electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to modern civilization. This debate has been the most heated perhaps in the United States, where the commission appointed by Congress to assess the threat to the United States warned of the dangers posed by EMP in reports released in 2004 and 2008. The commission also called for a national commitment to address the EMP threat by hardening the national infrastructure. Continue reading