Jennifer Hesterman, Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Retired), discusses her book Soft Target Hardening, which was named the 2015 ASIS Security Book of the Year. Available from ASIS; asisonline.org; Item #2239; 322 pages; $69 (members); $76 (nonmembers).
Q. Why are soft targets increasingly attractive to terrorists?
A. Soft target, civilian-centric places that are not typically fortified—such as schools, churches, hospitals, malls, hotels, restaurants, and recreational venues—have little money to spend on security. Frequently, they must balance security, aesthetics, and a positive experience for customers.
Terrorists select soft targets because there are many, possibly hundreds, of them in small towns and cities; they are vulnerable, so the odds of success are high and the terror effect is amplified among civilians. The story also stays in the news longer—the soft target attack in San Bernardino received far more coverage for almost twice the length of time compared to the Ft. Hood shooting. Military and government workers are generally seen as more legitimate targets than civilians, so soft targets provide more of the outrage, shock, and fear that terrorists crave.
Q. What inspired you to write a book on hardening soft targets?
A. I was living in the Middle East and close to several soft target attacks. I also realized that in the United States after 9-11, we further reinforced hard targets like government buildings and military installations, while soft targets are increasingly in the crosshairs but unprotected. I traveled all over the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and saw how soft targets are protected against attack. I wanted to apply some of these lessons to the civilian sector.
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