Another Communication Blunder!

Back in May, I wrote a blog article about an unbelievable situation which took place in the sky above New York City. If this incident had occurred in another country half way around the world, we’d have a tendency to call it a practical joke, a television episode of “Punk’d” or a typical example of what may happen in the immature culture of a third world country. However, it happened in New York City … the fifth largest populated city in the world. I still have a problem trying to comprehend what happened that fateful day. The entire world should have learned a valuable lesson on leadership and basic communication as a result. Not everyone did!

Here we are four months later and something equally absurd has happened. It’s bad enough that it once again happened right here in the greatest country on Earth … it happened in the nation’s capital on the eighth anniversary of what many consider to be our greatest tragedy!

Keep in mind that this incident, much like the Air Force One escapade in NYC, is a leadership issue rather than a political issue. Here’s what transpired on September 11 in the nation’s capital.

On the morning of 9-11, President Obama crossed one of the major bridges over the Potomac River to speak in remembrance of the attack that killed 184 people when hijacked American Flight 77 plowed into the building eight years ago. The memorial was one of many taking place on this fateful day all over the country.

Fifteen minutes after the President’s motorcade crossed the bridge, CNN and several other cable channels reported, via live coverage, that four 25-foot Coast Guard gunboats could be seen in the Potomac between the 14th Street and Memorial bridges chasing a boat which had “breached a security zone” on the river near the President’s event at the Pentagon. A Coast Guard helicopter circled above. Warning gunshots were reported to have been fired. Departures from nearby Reagan National Airport were halted, delaying 17 flights until the confusion cleared.

Homeland Security, the FBI, Secret Service, and U.S. Park Police soon arrived on the scene to investigate. They quickly discovered that the entire situation was nothing more than a “low-profile training exercise that goes on every day.”

A morning of remembrance turned into one of flashbacks, fear and media missteps. A chain of errors on television and online raised fears the capital might be under assault eight years to the day—almost the moment—after the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

My question is who, at what leadership level, decided …

  1. it would be a good idea to simulate a confrontation on the Potomac River on a day of raw emotions and high security?
  2. to conduct this exercise so close to the Pentagon knowing of the President’s presence and the scheduled ceremony.
  3. not to inform Reagan National Airport, other military services, local police, the FBI, Homeland Security, the Secret Service, U.S. Park Police, or the media.

I wonder what this “low-profile training exercise” ended up costing taxpayers when you consider the number of agencies which responded and the grounding of so many flights at Reagan?

Military Families United recently issued the following statement: “Absolutely inexcusable, September 11th is a day to remember the loss of 2,973 innocent victims in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon; not a day to create an unnecessary panic near a terrorist’s target.”

Based on the fact that no one was hurt, I’m not as concerned about the lack of communication at high levels as I am that those in charge are responsible for some very high level decisions in defending our country. Remember, something very similar just recently occurred in the sky over New York City. Didn’t we learn anything after that event? What’s next?

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

One thought on “Another Communication Blunder!

  1. After reding this article, my first thought was “I’m not surprized”, “Typical government behavior”. My second thought was remembering your previous report of the NYC fiasco. It is a trend. They don’t learn from previous mistakes. What’s it going to take, cleaning house of both parties and bringing in children to run the country? They couldn’t do much worse! Thanks for keeping us on our toes.

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