Military and Public Sector Entities in Response to a Terrorist Attack

Subject: Warfare
Pages: 5
Words: 1448
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: Master


Terrorism is an issue that involves all spheres of society, including economic and political structures, public and private entities, and all world regions. In recent times, the number of terrorist acts has grown, while the means of conducting such attacks have evolved with the introduction of technology and new devices (Arfsten, 2019; Brandt & Sandler, 2010; Boin & Lodge, 2016). Therefore, the process of preparing to respond to terrorism also requires innovation to prevent attacks effectively or minimize the negative consequences. This paper aims to present and discuss the topic of using military and public sector entities in response to terrorist attacks.

Topic Selection

The topic was selected based on the ideas surrounding terrorism preparedness, the history of government responses, personal interest, and existing publications. First, it should be noted that the public sector includes entities that are funded and supported by the government, such as the military, law enforcement, schools, transportation, infrastructure, and public health (Gamboa-Maldonado et al., 2012). In turn, the private sector consists of businesses of different sizes that operate based on their profit (Czinkota et al., 2010). According to Brandt and Sandler (2010), the success of the military and officials in preventing terrorist attacks has been increasing, which led to the potential shift and targeting of private parties.

As a result, many of the later studies consider the necessity of collaboration between private and public entities in planning anti-terrorism responses (Busch & Givens, 2013; Carr, 2016; Kapucu & Demirhan, 2019). Nevertheless, to understand the basis of such a partnership, one has to understand the actions that the public sector takes and has taken to respond to terrorism in the United States and globally. For this reason, the topic was narrowed to the actions of the public sector during attacks, particularly the entities’ preparedness, planning, and development.


As noted above, the public sector is responsible for a major part of the system in which people live. It includes infrastructure, transport, health, and education – the elements of society that are linked to security and quality of life (Asongu, 2019; Boin & Lodge, 2016). Many terrorist attacks happen in places where public entities are the first to react, including schools and healthcare (Han, 2014; Schlegelmilch et al., 2017; De Cauwer et al., 2017). Therefore, it is vital to consider their involvement in preventing and adequately reacting to terrorism.

Moreover, public sector entities can participate in policy creation and enactment, which directly affects society’s view of terrorism and their safety. In the case of healthcare, the preparedness of first-response teams and their education regarding recognizing potential terrorist attacks can lead to a large number of survivors and low stress among the public (De Cauwer et al., 2017; Hodge et al., 2018). In schools, educational policy for preparedness and prevention may result in stopped acts and effective mitigation (Schlegelmilch et al., 2017). Infrastructure, transport, and other areas are also a part of policy creation to lower the risk of terrorism.

Haque (2002) and Boin and Lodge (2016) suggest that the improvement of infrastructure and the overall quality of life is potentially connected to lower rates of terrorism domestically. At the same time, limited military involvement overseas can lead to lower rates of international terrorism linked to negative views of invading countries (Boin and Lodge, 2016; Brandt & Sandler, 2010). These hypotheses and investigations underline why investigating the role of the public sector in preparing a response against terrorism is vital for a better future.

Plans, Programs, Policies, Models

One of the most recent plans that influenced the decision to investigate current public sector use in terrorism is the collaboration between governments founded after the Christchurch Mosque attacks. According to Price (2021), the United States now supports the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorism and Violent Extremist Content Online. This plan generally outlines the present threat of online content that potentially spreads extremist ideology and influences people to participate in terrorist acts (Price, 2021).

As Price (2021) documents, Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism (REMVE) is now one of the top priorities of the government, including the ideology of white supremacy. The combination of such new plans and the evolution of how extremist and violent ideologies spread implies that the public sectors need to implement new ways of responding to terrorist attacks.

The Impact of Attacks

The previously described Christchurch mosque attack of 2019 is one of several recent events that have impacted the discussion of terrorism in connection to online discourse and a need for new public sector policy. One can also include the 2018 Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting, 2019 San Diego Synagogue shooting, and 2019 El Paso shooting into the list of recent attacks allegedly based on the ideas of white supremacy (Bergen et al., 2021; Quek, 2019; Schildkraut & Carr, 2019). These attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 34 people and 35 injured, show a new problem that arises in the field of terrorism preparedness (Bergen et al., 2021) – domestic terrorism that requires new preparedness and planning.

The impact of these attacks can be described from political and psychological viewpoints. Politically, the question of planning and preparedness is connected with the ability of public sector entities to effectively prevent such acts that are not associated with a larger group but rather with specific ideologies that exist primarily in online spaces (Price, 2021; Quek, 2019; Schildkraut & Carr, 2019).

The policy related to these incidents, as shown above, considers the purging of violent content online – this is an issue of establishing which sector is responsible and prepared to act. Psychologically, the impact of these shootings results in increased tension towards the military and other public sector entities as being unable to enact change online (Quek, 2019; Schildkraut & Carr, 2019). As an outcome, the investigation of the use of the public sector in responding to such new terrorism types is vital.

The article by Boin and Lodge (2016) talks about the increasing presence of “mega-disasters” in the world and the role that public sector entities (especially administrative organs) can play in preventing them. The authors argue that scholars need to pay attention to two major trends in terrorist activities and appraise the current effectiveness of public entities in addressing them. The first change is the emergence of new threat agents linked to technological advancement.

Other developments include new political movements and ideologies, power shifts in other countries, and the impact of climate change on societal unrest. The second trend is the increased number of threats that cross political and geographical boundaries. In terms of terrorism, these crises may be related to cyberthreats, which supports the overall increase in the online-based spread of extremist ideology.

In this article, Brandt and Sandler (2010) look at the shift in terrorist targets and the potential risks that people face. Scholars separate targets into four types – “officials, military, business, and private parties” – and compare the number of attacks to reveal a pattern (Brandt & Sandler, 2010, p. 215). They discover that private parties are currently at the highest risk of terrorist attacks, and people have been targeted more than property. This paper points to the fact that, while public entities are gaining control over terrorist responses, they leave the private sector vulnerable, which puts their overall effectiveness into question.

De Cauwer et al. (2017) consider one particular entity type – hospitals – as a direct and indirect target of terrorism. On the one hand, terrorist attacks on hospitals leave the community vulnerable and result in great devastation with long-term political and economic consequences. On the other hand, the authors state that hospitals are insufficiently equipped to respond to terrorist attacks, which can be considered an indirect attack on the infrastructure and weakness in governmental preparedness. Thus, hospitals’ funding and disaster planning have to be considered as a part of overall improvement.

Haque (2002) reviews the government’s response to the attack in September 2001 and the alterations in policy and laws that followed. This article is a necessary addition to the investigation of any terrorist policy in the United States, as this event strongly affected the anti-terrorism ideology in the country and led to the creation of numerous programs. (Haque, 2002) pays specific attention to public administration and the shifting balance between anti-terrorist action and citizen’s rights.

In the analysis, Schlegelmilch et al. (2017) focus on terrorist attacks that happened in schools in the United States. The authors consider the statistics of these incidents and outline some suggestions for preparing schools to respond to terrorist acts. The problem of insufficient resources is stressed in the recommendations – it is difficult to enact change in a public sector that does not have the funding to do that.


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