An engineering approach

By Lewis Sakwa.

A reflection into the flaws of the security systems of a country

'We are not facing an Engineering Problem. We are facing a Moral Challenge. To secure our lives therefore we must establish the problem first- Problem finding- whether moral or otherwise, we must engineer a solution by simple laws of Mathematics and Physics. We have to force those without skill, yet decadent to abandon their way of trusting no one but the system. We must submit to the system. To do so we have to give the maker of our system the numerical worth of our lives.'

Terrorism has got us on the edge of our seats. While the responsible fellows sit down and meditate on how to curb this terror threat for long enough to have us killed, students are being murdered as institutions become target of the terror cells.

We have indeed a good set up for handling security problem once and for all. But then this scourge has become part of us for the last good number of years and it is an agreeable observation judging from the amount of money being pumped into the military that this nation is panicking. The packaging of our response does not inspire confidence at all.

In the news section of Student Engineer 2014/2015 volume 1, the very issues we captured last year are at hand even a year later. What therefore would make us feel more confident about ourselves? Nothing much I guess till that time we shall be most willing to agree that we are entirely the problem. Probably one would wonder if there are any practical implications of the investments that the government is endearingly trying to make here.

Al Shabaab are a walking terror cell. They masquerade as our very own and in some cases they are our very own educated citizens who take up this task of causing unwarranted anguish to us. Handling this terror group therefore should not require dexterity and the fright that it is taking to do so.

It remains a hope that the government in its wisdom, shall be able to figure out how to handle the threat without despair as we see right now.

A System Engineering Approach Terrorism can be defined as the systematic use of violence to create a climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. Terrorist activities have two characteristics of particular interest; they surprise the people whom the attack is directed to for otherwise the targets would implement preventive measures to avoid becoming victims.

If a terrorist activity does not have any concrete effect, in which case this refers to mass murder or killings, then they are a failure. To therefore achieve their malevolent intentions, terrorist activity must achieve two basic principles of creativity; Novelty and effectiveness. Failure to which then it is hard to carry out their attacks.

It is the understanding of this dark side of creativity that can lead to a clear anti-terror system engineered approach.

Another factor to consider is that terrorists and their activities are wrought out of no moral basis. The societies they work for and against all disown them. It is with the understanding that they are also not constrained and do not concern themselves with the common good and often claim to pursue a higher order common good. are therefore free to implement their course without effective communication to a side of authority. Terrorists do not concern themselves with the common good and often claim to pursue a higher order common good.

To counter this side of creativity, anti-terror groups must think the way terrorists think yet stick in the moral picture, or for the least pay a lip service to it. Novelty of a product refers to the originality and the product in question not being anywhere in the market. Effectiveness would refer to the extent with which the solution designed can yield the desired results The Product must be FUNCTIONAL. A nonfunctional product that is novel but ineffective is best aesthetic. A product that is effective but not novel is routine.

Therefore it is a simple dictate that products being developed must possess these two qualities to be able to curb the morphing threat of terror. A routine product is predictable and with predictability, getting round the system is thus easy. This would imply yet another attack. As the element of surprise is important in the art of terrorism, so is it mandatory that it is employed in the anti-terrorism solution.

Further, the concept of functional creativity goes beyond novelty and effectiveness. The solution must incorporate two principles that can be suitably used to analyze terrorist activities. These are elegance and genesis. An elegant product achieves its effective surprise in a smooth, neat and economic way. A generic product is one that draws attention to previously unnoticed weaknesses, but suggests new ways of solving the old problems.

What governments and other anti-terrorism groups must realize is that functional solutions to terrorism are highly susceptible to the effects of time because as time passes, there is a general decay of novelty and where effectiveness depends on surprise, there would be no more effectiveness as the loss of novelty spells the same loss of that particular element of the solution. Which is key.

Understanding this, terrorists must therefore constantly generate further effective novelty- which is a very important thing for counter terrorist organizations. We can thus judge the effectiveness of the solutions we are having from the creativity of the response teams mandated with this role.

The life cycle of a counter measure is very short and as indicated, it is key that they involve fast, effective, adaptive solutions to deal with the continuously changing conditions. We therefore must, if we have to engineer a solution, be very creative and remain effective as terrorists continuously change methods. Malevolent creativity of terrorists can be regarded as the process of extremely flexible, rapidly changing generation of effective novelty in the face of competition. And if the competitor cannot borrow from the terrorist and bungle him out of options then it is a sad day for all.

However we must appreciate that terrorists do not work under constraints. They have the freedom to roam and plan as they wish. They have no time lines, they have no limitations, neither moral nor otherwise. They stand on a different pedestal. Yet we must form a formidable team to handle them as adaptively and swiftly as possible. Consistently being ahead in one step or two. Furthering the course of justice while understanding that we are limited both authority and morality.

This cannot be easily attained without putting in order a team of creative minds and giving them space to develop a solution that can be used to curb the terror cells.

Counter terrorism should perceive a competitor- a functional creativity. At the same time, create an entity of creativity with only but one intend; to completely neutralize the enemy. This therefore makes it imperative that as a minimum, counter terrorism must generate effective novelty to stay ahead of the competition.

This is not however what has been witnessed over time. The solutions against the terror groups in this country, are to say the least nonfunctional. The response is routine. Which makes us very vulnerable to attacks. There is a dire need to harness a team that would approach this from the point of creativity- functional creativity that would for one be appreciated and shall be able to get ahead of time and develop solutions.

For most Counter terrorist approach, priority is on problem solving. However creativity theory suggests that focus should be given to problem finding. Problem finding enshrouds re-examination of the nature of the problem and asking if the right problem has been solved. This would bring us to two key System Engineering concepts. Verification and Validation. In Verification we inquire of ourselves, are we solving the problem right? In Validation we ask, are we solving the Right Problem?

This check is important as it helps us to come up with functional solutions to the problem at hand. It would be the difference between increasing the number of guards and arming the guards for instance...

In designing the solutions, it should be appreciated that the novelty of any solution is subject to decay. We can therefore develop a policy for just a particular problem. This means that teams that are on the task shall remain on it, improving and creatively finding problems and solving them. It is no longer so much the case that the price of them. It is no longer so much the case that the price of peace is eternal vigilance -rather it is now the case that the price of survival is eternal creativity.

The task of Solution finding cannot be left for a single individual. It cannot be the case that one single person can design a novel complex system that can handle all the issues at hand. This calls for Integrated Product Development Team. The team should work under ambient conditions with the most qualified personnel handling an area of specialization. This eases on time. Since counter terrorism works under a string of laws and rules and a structure, there is need to let go off unnecessary bureaucracy to limit the time expended on explanations. This ensures that the solution developed is in time and timely for the problem cast.

The methodology should henceforth generate rapid and constantly changing solutions. These are called agile solutions in System Engineering. The key aspects of agile System Engineering would include speed and adaptability. Others may include rapid user and stakeholder requirement management including concept selection, architecture development, system integration, verification and validation in a development environment characterized by swift adaptation to changes, nonhierarchical baseline management and most importantly a notable low value bureaucracy.

For as long as any government or institution charged with solution development for terrorist related activity does this, then without doubt, they would systematically annihilate the threat. However, this cannot be the case for a rigid system stuck on an old way of doing things without consolidated base. It is important as earlier indicated that proficiency and professionalism be the key to solving the threat that our country faces. It cannot be done using old methods of responding to the threat after it has executed its will on the people.

This has been said for long, and I would say as long as we stick to the old guard, we do not belong to this dynamic generation. Yet, we so need a solution to an unseen danger, looming in the horizon and as unnoticeable as a shadow in the dark. We need to harness our imaginative aspect and finish the youthful terrorists once and for all.

And if all those employed cannot see the problem, involve engineers, for where there is no problem, they create the right problem and solve it effectively.