National Commentary

! System Fail !

The incredible, ongoing breakdown of critical communications, power and water infrastructure around the nation’s most vital political and national security assets – including the Capital, the Pentagon, CIA headquarters and more – resulting from the half-hour weather pummeling last Friday night, constitutes a national security emergency of the highest order.

Four days after the weather incident, 911 breakdowns persist and tens of thousands of homes to the nation’s best and brightest remain powerless, sweltering in 100 degree temperatures, lacking access to the Internet and, sporadically, even to cell phone use.

The implications are startling from a national security point of view. After all the resources poured into a so-called Homeland Security mobilization following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the nation’s “Belly of the Beast” is demonstrated to be as vulnerable as it ever was to something that could be replicated by a hostile military attack.

This colossal “fail” should unnerve us all. While certain military nerve centers may be hardened against this, it is the millions who live in Washington, D.C. and its perimeter who constitute the total response capability of the nation to an attack and it is those millions who were effectively cut off by the storm and rendered helpless from numerous standpoints.

This needs to be treated as yet one more lesson that something is fundamentally wrong with the way the nation goes about its business, and either this gets fixed, or the next time we might find ourselves invaded and taken over by some banana republic with a bomb.

The problem remains one of failure to integrate capabilities, the same problem that was identified immediately after 9/11.

In this case, the lack of integration of vital elements of our regional infrastructure, from the major utilities to the state and federal government and their agencies, is to blame. By this I do not mean more bureaucracies and cell phones, but I mean the deployment of Homeland Security dollars to the task of undergrounding utility lines, for one.

A local news radio station’s poll Tuesday morning asked if listeners favored undergrounding utility lines in the region, and if so, would they be willing to pay for it. Well, the sad reality is that countless billions of taxpayer dollars already flowing into Homeland Security should have been used to do that a long time ago.

But the idea of melding or more fully integrating the function of different public, quasi-public and private entities, of course, is greeted with derision around these parts. In Virginia, where so much of the destruction was done around the Pentagon and CIA, the state is run down in Richmond by right wing Republican brain-dead stupid white male jocks who got banged around too much playing college sports such that they can’t think in any way but a straight line.

This goes for legislators and leaders of power utilities, as well. They’re hardly capable of the kind of creative problem-solving needed to handle issues like this, and think throwing their smarmy-toned white male “I feel your pain” spokesmen onto the air waves as the crisis moves into its fourth day and beyond is sufficient.

One suggestion is that the nation insist its next generation of leaders at all levels eschew contact sports in high school and college, and instead use, rather than abuse, their brains on things like chess and science. I can only assume that would mean the percentage of our leaders with stupid straight white male pedigrees would decline dramatically.

This would accomplish more than actually securing our vital interests around the nation’s capital, of course. It would do a lot to get the nation back into the race for educational excellence, innovation and scientific research and development. It is also the key for ending the persisting global economic stagnation.

In my view, the saddest moment in the current presidential race so far came when one Republican primary candidate calling for a new space program became a national laughing stalk. Have we become so small-minded, instant-gratification-oriented and stupid a people that this has now become indicative of our national character?

Such a question is directly relevant to the challenges we face, those challenges revealed by the epic national security “fail” that the derecho storm last Friday exposed.