Within minutes of a vehicle slamming into a security barrier at a U.S. Capitol checkpoint on April 2, local and Federal officers arrived on the scene. In rapid fashion, a U.S. Park Police helicopter arrived and landed on the north side of the building – a multi-faceted response that not many had seen before.
The quicker emergency response to the April 2 attack proved that U.S. Capitol Police are working to improve their security and response efforts after law enforcement was overwhelmed during the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. But there’s still a lot of work to be done, security experts say.
Addressing the Vulnerabilities
In the event of an attack, riot, domestic threat, or other critical event involving Federal personnel or premises, can the affected individuals, agencies, and organizations rely on the Federal government to share timely risk intelligence and manage the threat?
That’s a vital question, and the good news is that we are seeing some progress.
In a security review of the U.S. Capitol Police following the January 6 attacks, Capitol Security Review Panel members called for several improvements including: increasing police intelligence gathering capabilities; creating a permanent quick-reaction force; constructing mobile fencing; and overhauling how members of Congress are protected in their home districts. The task force also published a detailed assessment addressing how to fix security and response problems that occurred during the January Capitol attack. The report covers issues ranging from intelligence gathering to emergency response and staffing.
And, as the search for a permanent leader of the police force continues, Congress has received additional security recommendations from review panel member leader, retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré.
But some lawmakers aren’t taking swift enough measures to bolster the Capitol’s defense, Honoré said in a recent interview, adding the seat of American democracy “remained a vulnerable target.” The next step is to act on new security recommendations, and fast. Lawmakers have to “recognize that the Capitol is not just a target sometimes; it’s a target all the time,” he said.
How CEM Drives Improved Response
The government has a high level of exposure, with Federal office buildings in Washington and across the country, Veterans Affairs hospitals, National Parks, customs and border protection locations, and military and other types of secure installations, to name just a few.
Having critical event management (CEM) capabilities – encompassing efficient risk intelligence, incident management, and critical communications systems – in place is absolutely essential to ensuring the safety of Federal facilities and those who work in and visit them.
However, Federal agencies often lack timely, relevant risk intelligence and a robust critical communications platform to notify affected individuals in case of an emergency.
“Risk intelligence is about speed, so it should be powered by artificial intelligence (AI), but it also must be relevant,” said Matt Bradley, vice president, Global Security Solutions at OnSolve. “With thousands of locations, risk intelligence can be overwhelming unless you can configure it around your assets.”
AI-enabled risk intelligence accelerates the CEM process by filtering through massive data sets to give organizations the information they need, when they need it – something that human analysts cannot achieve alone.
OnSolve’s CEM platform has the highest level of security and availability that the Federal government demands, combined with usability that allows agencies to get up and running quickly.
The Capitol provides a unique emergency response situation, with the potential to fall under the jurisdiction of several agencies, including: U.S. Capitol Police, D.C. Metropolitan Police, Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Guard. On January 6, all were involved but none were able to coordinate a response in time – leaving many officers wounded, five individuals killed, and facilities damaged.
Once Federal agencies and police become aware of a potential threat or crisis, they must communicate with their employees to let them know what is happening and what they should do in response, Bradley said.
“Speed, relevance, and usability are the hallmarks of a best-in-class critical event management platform,” he emphasized.
Days before the January attack took place, OnSolve’s AI-enabled risk intelligence warned customers of the potential threats and enabled them to communicate with their staff to avoid the area.
Moving Forward: Recommendations for Federal Agencies
The 15-page Capitol Security Review report also recommends establishing a permanent quick reaction force of the National Guard for a faster response to critical events and other emergencies like the ones seen on April 2 and January 6.
Bradley’s key takeaways from these events? Federal agencies shouldn’t wait to strengthen security and implement a critical event management solution.
“After the year we just experienced, not having a critical event management platform is not an option,” he said. “Agencies should prioritize risk intelligence because if they don’t know about something, they can’t respond.”
One of the common pitfalls organizations experience, Bradley added, is the failure to integrate risk intelligence, incident management, and critical communications. A CEM platform integrates all three capabilities so agencies can move from knowing to assessing to responding in minutes.
“With disconnected systems, agencies lose valuable time transferring knowledge from risk intelligence to communicating the event to others,” he said.