Sunday, August 4, 2013

New Terror Threat: Are We Protecting America’s Weakest Link?

The threats against U.S. Embassies have been described as the “most significant in over a decade.”  Are we prepared for this threat?

Maybe not.  Something happened recently that concerns me about our national security overseas, particularly in our embassies.  I own a company that sells the same security film that was installed on all federal buildings in Washington DC after 9/11 – from Congress to the Smithsonian to the Pentagon.  Yet recently we were contacted about a bid to “armor the glass” of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.

The problem? The specifications called for a film half as thick as we normally sell for Level 2 explosion protection. We recently put our 8 Mil Solar Security film on a Drug Enforcement building in Houston. The specs included a special structural sealant to “bond” the film to the window frames – to keep it from blowing off in the event of an explosion. Yet the Tripoli bid did not require that frame bonding. It called for a 4 mil film.

That means if there is a blast, the windows could blow out of the frames, even with the film on it. They also wanted a “Clear” film – not a tinted version that would block views into the building during the day – and cut the heat and energy consumption inside the building. When I questioned the specifications, the company asking for the quote (which is based in Turkey) said “they are what they are.” I could tell that they were not pleased with my questions.

I served as a TV terrorism analyst during 9/11 and for a couple years after that. That is what led to setting up my company, Armor Glass. The technology has proved invaluable in preventing break-ins on houses where we have installed it. It prevents window blow-outs during hurricanes that lead to roof loss and structural failure. It is explosion-rated film – but if you don’t use the proper thickness of film and use a frame bonding agent like Dow 995, it won’t work.

Needless to say my company did not get the Tripoli job. I really didn’t want to do something that wasn’t going to work properly. I hope that the “chatter” about a pending attack against U.S. interests does not become a reality, but sooner or later it will. If we learned anything from Benghazi, it is that we need better security for our embassies.  Just before the Benghazi attack, Congress CUT security funding for embassies. I am wondering if that is why the specifications for the Tripoli Embassy were inadequate. Is it because of the lack of Congress funding and sequestration?

Congress has to do better in protecting American interests and the Administration should also insure that corners are not being cut. If you wonder what could happen, look at the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing by Al Qaida in Africa – or the 1995 truck bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City by Tim McVeigh’s truck bomb.

We face threats from a more hostile climate, bigger storms like the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, the West, Texas explosions that blew away houses for blocks, not to mention hurricanes and terrorists. Armoring our weakest link – the glass –is not a luxury but a necessity to protect the occupants and buildings from 21st century threats.

Michael Fjetland
Global American Series
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