How today’s generation is working on national security, 17 years after 9/11

National News

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Though Kelsey Ritchie was only in kindergarten when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place, she still remembers the nation’s immediate response to the tragedy. 

“It’s a very vivid memory,” the second-year graduate student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs student said. “Just seeing the way that different community members and government leaders were kind of able to rally and support their issues and their initiatives after really awful things have happened.” 

Fast forward 17 years later and Ritchie is pursuing a masters in Global Policy Studies with a focus on national security and religion.  

“I remember watching a lot of President [George W.] Bush’s speeches when I was young, the way he was calling on the United States to come together and to make it a unified fight against a common enemy,” she said. “I think that perspective has really carried over in the way I view my work as a future policymaker – being able to identify something that can rally the entire country behind a goal and behind an objective.” 

William Inboden, executive director at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin, says the main thing needed in national security right now is continued vigilance. 

“It’s a great surprise to so many of us who were in Washington or New York on that day that we haven’t been hit again by a large-scale mass casualty attack,” Inboden said. 

Inboden credits the nation’s military, intelligence department, and law enforcement agencies. 

“One thing we’ve learned since 9/11 is that local and state officials are absolutely indispensable,” he said. “In a lot of ways, they really are the first line of defense.” 

With a growing problem of homegrown radicalization and terrorists being produced within the nation’s borders, Inboden says interagency communication and building cyber security solutions is critical. That’s where young professionals can step in. 

“A lot of them can be on the front lines developing better cyber strategy and cyber security techniques for us,” he said. “This can be everything from responding to and addressing online radicalization since the terrorists are very good about using social media. It can be gathering intelligence from social media and sharing that with law enforcement and national security professionals.”  

The Texas Police Association is hosting its annual counter-terrorism conference in Austin that begins every year on Sept. 11 and interim director Erwin Ballarta says participants are learning about the importance of unity, as well as analyzing cases from over the last year. Participants are also covering international terrorism, domestic terrorism, narco-terrorism, human trafficking, and cyber issues. 

“We’re going to be doing a case study of the Las Vegas shooting,” Ballarta said. “We’re already doing case studies in relation to the Austin bombings. What worked and what didn’t work?” 

Ballarta worked with President Bush over the years and recalls his mission was to unify the country. He hopes the Sept. 11 attacks are a reminder about how the nation does have the ability to stand united.  

“It was a sad day but at the same time, the country came together for a common cause for safeguarding the United States,” he said. 

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