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Book Review: Soft Target Hardening

?CRC Press, Availa�ble from ASIS;; Item #2239; 322 pages; $69 (members); $76 (nonmembers).

Winner of ASIS 2015 Security Book of the Year

It�s rare for a day to pass without learning of a terrorist attack somewhere in the world. Increasingly, it seems that terrorists are avoiding better-protected facilities such as military bases and government facilities in favor of attacks against so-called �soft targets.� In this unique book, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Jennifer Hesterman brings her 30 years of military experience to explain the threats and vulnerabilities inherent in soft targets so those responsible for their security can reduce the risks.

After defining the problem, Hesterman provides an overview of the many and varied groups that have attacked or might want to attack soft targets. This list is lengthy and includes both international and domestic groups such as al Qaeda and its affiliates, Hezbollah, Hamas, militia groups, sovereign citizens, anarchists, special interest groups such as ALF and ELF, Mexican drug trafficking organizations, lone wolves, and homegrown terrorists. After focusing on the actors, Hesterman reviews soft targets and the threats and vulnerabilities unique to each. The specific soft target categories covered include schools, churches, hospitals, shopping malls, sporting events, and recreational venues. Finally, Hesterman�s closing chapters provide recommendations for soft target hardening and risk reduction.

The in-depth research and wide-ranging sources used by Hesterman are impressive. At the end of each chapter is a listing of books, reports, and websites for the reader who would like to study the source material in detail. The appendices include useful reference materials such as security checklists, assessment templates, and a listing of free online training courses. Of particular note is that the author�s time living and working overseas has allowed her to provide details of how soft targets are protected outside of the United States.

Terrorism preparedness can be a difficult subject to discuss, as human nature doesn�t allow people to dwell on the many horrible ways that they could be injured or killed by terrorists. To compound the problem, people are often in denial and think, �It won�t happen to me.� Clearly, ignoring the problem is not a realistic solution. As the first book focused on this subject, Soft Target Hardening has started an important dialogue and will be a thought-provoking resource for security professionals.

Reviewer: Jack Plaxe has been a member of ASIS International for 20 years. He has served as chair of the Chicago Chapter, a member of the Supply Chain and Transportation Security Council, and a member of the Global Terrorism, Political Instability and International Crime Council. He is an independent security consultant.