An MP unit performing a hostage rescue operation during an All-Out Mobilization drill, March 2017
After Al-Qaeda attacked New York and Washington D.C. on September 11th, 2001, the U.S. readjusted its global strategies to combat the growing terrorist threats. It focused on strengthening bilateral and multilateral cooperation with its allies and international organizations, like the United Nations, to prevent terrorist organizations from launching security threats against the international community. Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution No. 373, which called for immediate cooperation between all nations to prevent and deter terrorist activities. Taiwan, which considers itself a member of the international community, decided to join the international counter-terrorism effort. During the Sanzhi Meeting on September 8th, 2002, former president Chen Shui-bien firmly pledged to support anti-terrorist activities; he was determined not only to follow but also establish the nation’s own counter-terrorism mechanism. Through firm actions, Taiwan has formed cooperative relationships with other countries on counter-terrorism grounds. The progress marked the beginning for the establishment of the Executive Yuan’s “Homeland Security Policy Committee.”
After the Sanzhi Meeting, the Executive Yuan developed the “Provisions for the Establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Policy Team” and established the Counter-Terrorism Policy Team, with the Premier serving as the convener. The team, composed of members from 12 ministries, have implemented several comprehensive counter-terrorism measures. One of the most important measures drafted was the “Organizational Structure and Operational Mechanism for Counter-Terrorism Work” – a three-stage approach that consists of “crisis prevention,” “crisis management,” and “recovery and cleanup.” This framework called for closer integration and efficient task divisions between the national security system and the administrative system; as a result, the chain of command and duties are clearly defined during “peacetime” and “time of crisis”. Furthermore, the processes for initiating the mechanism and policy-making are stipulated to lay the important ground work for our nation’s future counter-terrorism tasks.
The “Counter-Terrorism Activities Act” was drafted during this stage. It reviewed all criminal penalties and administrative regulations, strengthened counter-terrorism activities, formed a specific responding team equipped with necessary authority, integrated all national intelligence and execution agencies, and assumed responsibility for all active international cooperation. The draft included 20 articles, but the Legislative Yuan did not pass it due to human rights concerns.
On November 16, 2004, the “Counter-Terrorism Policy Team” convened a meeting and approved the “Organizational Structure and Operational Mechanism for Counter-Terrorism Activities.” Furthermore, a resolution changed the full name of the policy team to the “The Executive Yuan Counter-Terrorism Policy Task Force” and established an ad hoc unit called the “Counter-Terrorism Activities Control Office” under the Executive Yuan. In its early days, the office acted as the task force’s supporting staff unit and completed its interim mission.
Once the Executive Yuan drafted and passed the “Provisions for the Establishment of the Executive Yuan Counter-Terrorism Policy Task Force,” the Counter-Terrorism Activities Control Office (CTACO) became operational. This office was tasked with conducting regular training sessions, reviewing response plans submitted by all contingency teams, and host large-scale cross-departmental counter-terrorism drills. These drills, officially titled the “Jin-hua Drill” series since 2007, were designed to put the nation’s joint counter-terrorism and disaster response capability to test. The outcome of each drill underwent a comprehensive evaluation by CTACO, which formed the basis to further revise the “Organizational Structure and Operational Mechanism for Counter-Terrorism Activities.” As a result, the organizational structure for contingency response and early warning intelligence operations were optimized over time. The office compiled opinions from various ministries and agencies to revise the “Counter-Terrorism Activities Act," with its final draft sent to the Legislative Yuan for deliberation on March 23, 2007. Once again, the Act failed to gain broad support.
Within its first two years, the CTACO quickly expanded its knowledge base through its campaign to solidify a national counter-terrorism strategy. It produced the “Report on National Contingency Response System Combination and Function Planning” on June 30, 2006, which outlined the strengths and weaknesses of its implementations up to that point. There were two key mechanisms analyzed in this report, namely the Citizen All-out Defense Mobilization (hereinafter referred to as “All-out Mobilization”) and the Disaster Prevention and Response Mechanisms (hereinafter referred to simply as disaster prevention). Short, medium, and long-term recommendation plans were proposed to form a unified contingency response system – a system that was designed to strengthen horizontal coordination and cross-mechanism communications. CTACO suggested that the Premier convene three additional task force committees for counter-terrorism activities, All-out Mobilization, and disaster prevention. A joint meeting between the committees would occur annually with the long-term goal of establishing the “Homeland Security Policy Committee” to accompany the overall organizational restructuring scheme. The Homeland Security Policy Committee was envisioned as the sole policy supervisory unit over the three response mechanisms.
After reviewing the proposed plans from the report by all related parties and researching feasible plans for an integrated mechanism, former Vice-Premier Chiou I-jen authorized the establishment of the Joint Homeland Security Policy Committee (on disaster prevention, All-out Mobilization, and counter-terrorism) on July 6, 2007. This committee would focus on “meeting model integration,” “topics integration,” “contingency response framework integration,” and building “comprehensive supporting staff.” Meanwhile, the CTACO began its transition to what is now the “Office of Homeland Security” and revised the “Provisions for the Establishment of Executive Yuan Counter Terrorism Policy Task Force.”
On August 16, 2007, the Executive Yuan convened the “Executive Yuan Homeland Security Joint Policy Committee” and passed a resolution to change the name of CTACO to “Office of Homeland Security” (OHS). The OHS was further tasked with coordinating the National Security Council, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, and the National Science Council to lay out foundational work for the nation’s critical infrastructure protection.
On December 21, 2007, the Executive Yuan revised the “Provisions for the Establishment of Executive Yuan Counter Terrorism Policy Task Force” into the “Provisions for the Establishment of Executive Yuan Homeland Security Policy Committee.” Following this revision, the OHS would serve as the committee supporting staff office, with its primary goal of building the “Homeland Security Response Network” – a highly disciplined umbrella network that coordinates efforts in domestic counter-terrorism, disaster prevention and rescue, All-out Defense Mobilization, nuclear incidents, infectious diseases, toxic chemical disaster response, border control, and information and communication security.
In terms of protecting vital national infrastructure, the “Guidelines for National Critical Infrastructure Protection” (CIP) were approved in March 2012. These guidelines initiated the procedures to inventory, categorize, and classify critical infrastructures. On November 6, 2013, the Homeland Security Policy Committee passed a resolution to officially begin protection efforts on national critical infrastructures. The OHS has been responsible for inviting experts, scholars, and representatives from relevant institutions to establish an infrastructure protection project team and perform risk assessments; such effort has been vital for managing annual plans, hosting trainings and drills, building disaster resilience, and ensuring continuous government operation.
To further improve response mechanisms, the “Guidelines for Contingency Response Plans and Operations of Homeland Security” were approved on November 7, 2014. These guidelines defined the scope of terrorist attacks, major man-made hazards, and security breach incidents that are possible in Taiwan; they stipulate the contingency response initiation processes for all contingency response teams, as well as the missions of 17 functional response branches within the teams. Furthermore, the “Provisions for the Establishment of the Homeland Security Policy Committee” was revised into the “Provisions for the Establishment and Operations of the Homeland Security Policy Committee,” with the vice premier succeeding the premier as the convener of the committee. The OHS, now responsible for reviewing all proposed contingency response plans, would also evaluate various types of response mechanisms during CIP, disaster prevention, Jin-hua, and Wan-an drills. The addition of the “Lian-an Project” during this phase enabled further resource-sharing between all counter-terrorism special forces. It became an invaluable cross-learning platform for drill exercises, coordinated warfare simulations, and establishing familiarity for command control and communication systems.
Since its inception, the working principles of the Homeland Security Policy Committee have remained the same– “handling issues seriously,” “responding to incidents quickly and discreetly,” and “being well-prepared for any contingency.” We focused our efforts on inter-ministry integration to better coordinate national resources to effectively prevent enemy sabotage, terrorism, and disaster emergencies. On the other hand, we aim to further bolster our national infrastructure protection and disaster resilience. Our goal is to achieve best possible disaster control, post-disaster rescue, and shorten recovery time while maintaining continuous operations during times of crisis.
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