Taking Intelligence Threats Seriously

Knowing about a threat is the first step to avoiding it. Believing correctly about the threat is the second step. In our world in which the ordinary is expected, we sometimes miss extraordinary threats at our door. 

On 7 December 1941, Privates Joseph L. Lockard and George Elliot were at the Opana radar site on Oahu. They detected a large group of aircraft flying in from the north and reported the findings to Private Joseph McDonald at Fort Shafter. Lieutenant Kermit Tyler was the officer in charge and knew that a routine flight of B-17 bombers were expected that morning from San Francisco. He told his subordinates “Don’t worry about it.” Thus, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was unopposed. Tyler had not taken the threat seriously.

The Joint Task Force National Capital Medicine (JTF Cap Med) recently completed medical support for the 57th Presidential Inauguration, involving hundreds of medical professionals providing health care and preventive services to thousands of military and civilian participants and hundreds of thousands of onlookers. Since the president, key members of government, and Washington DC itself are high profile targets, planners developed a careful intelligence estimate for the event. Military personnel in combat service support roles such as quartermaster, finance, chaplain and medical sometimes do not understand the importance of such estimates. In other cases we do not consider the breadth of threats to military operations such as the Inauguration.

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