THE MAGAZINE

State Perspective - Wyoming

By Joseph Straw

Joe Moore has served as director of the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security since his appointment by Gov. Dave Freudenthal March 20, 2003. Prior to his appointment, Moore spent 32 years as a special agent with the FBI. During his FBI tenure Moore was assigned to Tampa and Fort Myers, Florida; Portsmouth and Cincinnati, Ohio; FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and finally Wyoming, where he spent 10 years as special agent in charge of the region before retiring from the FBI in 2000. Moore was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and attended nearby Elizabethtown College and the University of Delaware in Newark. After college, Moore worked for five years as a teacher in Delaware. (His comments have been edited to accommodate space limitations, read the full interview online.)

Q. What are your office’s responsibilities?

A. The state’s Office of Homeland Security office is responsible for just about everything under the homeland security umbrella, including emergency management, grant management, preparedness, and public education. We also are responsible for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive preparedness and response. But our primary purpose is of course to serve as  the liaison between the federal government and local jurisdictions. I really emphasize that—we act as the go-between.

Q. What assets and threats make Wyoming unique?

A. We don’t have criminal intelligence responsibilities, but we work very closely with the federal agencies. I think we face the same threats as any other state when you look at our infrastructure. We have of course wildfires, tornadoes, flooding and heavy snow. If you look at our critical infrastructure relative to the national economy, we’re a major coal producing state, we have two major railroads, the Union Pacific and the BNSF. We have actually major interstate highways, Interstate 80 that crosses the state, Interstate 25 going north-south, and part of Interstate 90. We also have what we believe is a significant agricultural sector, including livestock. So we look at all those things as placing the state at risk for natural and manmade disasters, including terrorism.

Q. How did your background lead you to your current position?

A. I spent 32 years as an FBI agent, with my last 10 here in Wyoming as the supervisory special agent, and I was very humbled when the governor, who is the former U.S. Attorney for the state, asked me to be part of the homeland security program. So I accepted his appointment and I’ve been at this position for coming up on six years.

Q. What is the greatest challenge you face?

A. Well the biggest challenge is the responsibility to ensure that our first responder community has the proper equipment and the proper training, to respond to not only a natural event or accident, but to a domestic or foreign terrorist event. And I think that responsibility is very critical—providing whatever resources we can to the local governments that are responsible for responses, and doing whatever we can to liaise between the local communities and the federal government.

Q. Did moving from federal law enforcement to state government bring any surprises?

A. No. We have very, very competent people, very professional at all levels, and it’s the integration of these professions and our first responders and the federal government, I think, that will make our efforts successful.

Q. How would you characterize your office’s relationship with the federal government? What would you change about it if you could?

A. Our relationship, I would say, is exceptional. We have been very appreciative and respectful of the funding that has come to Wyoming. We believe the funding has been used very effectively and efficiently by our first responder community. The federal government has been extremely responsive. They have listened to our concerns, they’ve given us an opportunity to express our goals and explain what we want to do with grant funding. We have an excellent relationship with Federal Emergency Management Agency Region VIII, again they’re very responsive to our needs. So I consider it a very exceptional relationship. Very appreciative.

Q. Do you consider the nation’s homeland security efforts sustainable in the current economic and fiscal environment?

A. As I said before, we’ve been extremely fortunate thus far. Right now we believe the funding will continue at, or close to its current levels. We have looked down the road and considered whether, if the funding changes, we could sustain programs effectively at the state level or if certain responsibilities would be delegated to local jurisdictions. So I think everyone is knowledgeable and aware that there could be some changes, but I think it’s a little premature to discuss what would happen until we actually see what’s coming down from Washington.

Q. Has your office engaged the private sector to cooperate on its mission?

A. Well, as you’re aware one of the major U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant programs is its Buffer Zone Protection Program, and we are very active with that. We have visited with several of our state’s business partners, and discussed buffer zone protection, especially in the mineral and natural gas sectors. They have been very cooperative. I was very glad to see that these companies have crisis management plans in place, and they’re willing to share some proprietary business information with us as well as the intelligence community. Also, through our state Public Service Commission have met with telecommunications providers to address security concerns there.

So we’ve had a positive relationship and we try to maintain the respect of the private industry. I think if we’re going to address terrorism and natural disasters, it’s going to require a partnership including everyone: the first responders, the business community, and the general public. Everyone’s got to be part of that plan.

Q. Have any recent exercises produced valuable lessons?  Can you share one?

A. There have been numerous exercises conducted at the county level, and there have been numerous exercises conducted by our agency with other state agencies. Also, once a year we do an exercise with the governor’s  participation, with a different theme each time reflecting one of the potential threats that we face.

To us, one of the important parts of exercise is people meeting one another. You don’t want to meet someone for the first time out on the actual response. So these exercises have given us opportunities to meet one another firsthand.

Our exercises have also given us the opportunity to test and evaluate the WyoLink program, which a statewide interoperable radio communications system. And we’ve been able to test that several times, and we hope in the near future to have that fully operational and integrated, so that the first responder community in Wyoming will be able to communicate with each other effectively.

Q. What are your agency’s goals for the year?

A. We want to fully implement the WyoLink system, which is officially the responsibility of the Wyoming Department of Transportation. We’ve also initiated, in conjunction with the state Department of Agriculture an AgriCare program to better prepare ourselves and alert the public in the event of agroterrorism. We want to continue to work on our evacuation programs, which we believe are important. We also are responsible for the state’s counter-improvised explosive device, or IED program.  We have actually five trained explosives detection canines from this office. We want to expand with our bomb teams to have them continue to be better prepared, and we want to expand our radiological preparedness and response.

We to better engage the state’s volunteer organizations, and we’ll be meeting with them formally this year.. I think in a major event, the volunteer organizations are critical for everyone. So we’re going to try to incorporate a common focus on how private volunteer associations can assist local and state agencies in the event of a disaster.


Joseph Straw is an assistant editor at Security Management.

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