Thursday, November 30, 2017

Is "Enablement" a Word?

Silent Rex likes to keep you guessing. Tomorrow he'll resign - Breaking! Sources say! For real this time, not like the last ten times! - but yesterday he delivered some pretty extended remarks on his Department redesign planning during the Q&A after an address at the Wilson Center.

Here they are:
MS HARMAN: Mindful of your time, I just want to get in a few questions about other topics, including questions from the audience. But I would note that an interesting point you made in your talk was about Turkey, that Turkey now has a choice: It can become more connected to Europe, which is a huge advantage, and to us, or not. And I heard that loud and clear.

I want to turn to the question of State Department funding and organization, something that many people are interested in. Every organization needs renewal. The Wilson Center needs renewal. And surely, everyone here, including long-serving Foreign Service officers, think the State Department needs renewal. However, questions have arisen about the steep cuts in your budget proposed by the Office of Management and Budget – that doesn’t mean that’s what Congress will enact – and what some claim is a hollowing out of your department. Most recently today, two valued friends of the Wilson Center, Nick Burns and Ryan Crocker, both of them enormously experienced Foreign Service officers and ambassadors, wrote a piece in The New York Times with a lot of information about who’s leaving and what its implications are.

My understanding is there is another side to this story. And so I would like to ask you to tell your side of this story and give us your vision for what the State Department should become.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, let me start quickly with the budget, because it’s – I think it’s the easier – actually easier question to address. The budget that the State Department was given in 2016 was a record-high budget – almost $55 billion. This was above what traditionally has been a budget that runs kind of the mid-30 billion level. And this was ramping up over the last few years, in many respects for some good reasons. But as we look at that spending level, quite frankly, it’s just not sustainable. It is very difficult to execute a $55 billion budget and execute it well. That’s a lot of spending and deployment of resources, and I take our stewardship of those dollars very seriously, and I take the congressional oversight obligations on us very seriously and am not going to brush them aside light handedly. So part of this was just a reality check: Can we really keep this up? And the truth of the matter is, it’d be very difficult to keep it up and do it well.

And secondly though, part of this bringing the budget numbers back down is reflective of an expectation that we’re going to have success in some of these conflict areas of getting these conflicts resolved and moving to a different place in terms of the kind of support that we have to give them. So it’s a combination of things – that sustainability, a recognition that those numbers are really the outliers. The numbers we’re moving to are not the outliers; they’re more historic in terms of the levels of spending.

As to the State Department redesign – and I use the word “redesign” because it would have been really easy to come in on day one and do a reorg. A “reorg,” when I use that word, is moving the boxes around on the org chart. When I showed up in the State Department, I was stunned when I got the organization chart out and I had 82 direct reports to the Office of the Secretary, to me – 82. Now, almost 70 of those are special envoys, special ambassadors, positions that have been created. So we immediately undertook an examination of just what’s a reasonable way to run the place, and that isn’t it. Having run a large global organization – and I have been through three major reorganizations in my history and actually enjoy doing it – it’s always focused on how do we help the people be more effective, how do we get the obstacles out of their way.

So we undertook a different approach, and since I don’t know the department and didn’t know its culture, we had a massive listening exercise. We had 35,000 people respond and we had over 300 face-to-face interviews, and we continue an active dialogue with people today about what is it – if I could do one thing for you that would make you more effective and make you – make your work more satisfying, what would that be. And we got hundreds of ideas. We’ve actually selected about 170 of those ideas that we are now perfecting.

The reason we call it a redesign is most of these have to do with work processes internally and work processes with inter-agencies that we should be able to improve the way people get their work done. Some of it is tools and enablement, so things like – we have a really antiquated IT system. I was shocked when I went down to spend an afternoon with the A Bureau, and I said, “What’s the one thing I could do?” And they said, “Get us into the cloud.” And I looked at them. I said, “What do you mean? We’re not in the cloud?” And they said, “No, no. We’re still on all these servers.” Well, that’s a big cyber risk, first. But it really made it very cumbersome for people, and when I started using my own computer I started realizing just how cumbersome it was.

So a lot of the projects that have been identified out of the redesign are process redesigns and some enablement for people, and it’s all directed at allowing the people of the State Department to get their work done more effectively, more efficiently, and have a much more satisfying career. We have a lot of processes in the HR function that have not been updated in decades, and they need to be updated. How we put people out on assignment – we invest enormous amounts of money in people that we deploy to missions overseas, and I was stunned to find out in a lot of the missions these are one-year assignments. So we invested all this money; we send them out to the mission. They’re there for one year, and about the time they’re starting to figure it out and have an impact, we take them out and we move them somewhere else. Well, a lot of people have said to me, “I would really like to stay another year and start contributing.” So it’s a lot of things like that that came out of the listening exercise.

So the – so we have five large teams. They’re all employee-led. I’ve brought in some consultants to help us facilitate, but the redesign is all led by the employees in the State Department.

The issue of the hollowing out – I think all of you appreciate that every time you have a change of government you have a lot of senior Foreign Service officers and others who decide they want to move on and do other things. We’ve had a – our numbers of retirements are almost exactly what they were in 2016 at this point. We have the exact same number of Foreign Service officers today – we’re off by 10 – that we had at this time in 2016. There is a hiring freeze that I’ve kept in place, because as we redesign the organization we’re probably going to have people that need to be redeployed to other assignments. I don’t want to have a layoff; I don’t want to have to fire a bunch of people. So I said, “Let’s manage some of our staffing targets with just normal attrition.”

Having said that, I have signed over 2,300 hiring exceptions, because I’ve told every post if you have a critical position and you really need that filled, just send it in. And I think I have out of 2,300 requests I think I’ve denied eight positions that I decided we really didn’t need. So we’re keeping the organization fully staffed. We’ve had over – we’re still running our Foreign Service officer school; we’ve hired over 300 this year. So there is no hollowing out. These numbers that people are throwing around are just false; they’re wrong.

There was a story about a 60 percent reduction in career diplomats. The post career diplomat was created by the Congress in 1955 to recognize an elite few. The number of career diplomats in the State Department have ranged from as low as one at any given time to as many as seven. When I took over the State Department we had six. Four of those people have retired. These are your most senior – they were – they reached 65, they retired, they moved on. We have a review process – we’re very selective in replacing those, but we actually have a review process underway and we’re evaluating a handful of people who might be worthy of that designation. But we still have two. But we went from six to two; it was a 60 percent reduction. It sounded like the sky was falling.

The other comment I would make is while the confirmation process has been excruciatingly slow for many of our nominees, I have been so proud of the acting assistant secretaries and people who’ve stepped into acting under secretary roles. And when the – I read these articles that there’s this hollowing out, I take offense to that on their behalf because the people that are serving in those roles are doing extraordinary work, and they know they’re not going to get the job permanently. They already know we have a nominee, but they come in every day, they work hard, they travel with me around the world, and that’s – it’s that group of people that have helped me put in place and helped the President put in place the North Korean strategy with the international sanctions; a Syrian approach to the peace process that we think we’re about to get on the right track; an approach to negotiating with the Russians on Ukraine; an approach to the Defeat ISIS campaign; the Iran policy, the South Asia policy in Afghanistan, our new posture towards Pakistan; the open – free and open Indo – all of that’s been done with the people that are working there today, and I’m very proud. I’m very proud of what they’ve done. They’re working hard and I’m offended on their behalf. I’m offended on their behalf when people say somehow we don’t have a State Department that functions.

But I can tell you it’s functioning very well from my perspective. Have we got more we want to do? Yes, we got more we want to do. And my only objective in the organization redesign is to help these people who are – who have chosen this as a career – because I’ll come and go, and there will be other politicals that will come and go – what can I do to help them? Because they’ve decided they want to spend their life doing this and they should be allowed to do it as effectively and efficiently and without a lot of grief and obstacles. And if I can remove some of that for them, that’s what I want to do.

After delivering those remarks SecState Tillerson went home and packed his bags. If you put any credence in today's media feeding frenzy.

Hiring Rollercoasters and Waning Enthusiasm, Back in 1990

Amid all the complaints about hollowed-out work forces and drastic budget cuts, let's think back to a previous reordering of the State Department under SecState James Baker, when he brought in management guru Ivan Selin.

Selin dispensed with the listening and the word clouds and the employee-managed whatnot of today's prolonged redesign effort, and went straight to the cutting. And that was before the Clinton administration eliminated 2,000 employees and closed 26 posts.

Here's an excerpt from Selin's 1991 interview with the oral history project of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training:
Q: Did you run into much resistance from the Foreign Service to your concept of linking policy and resources?

SELIN: No. My view is, at least at the conceptual level, the Foreign Service was just waiting for someone to come in to manage the resources, including the personnel system of the Foreign Service itself. The enormous uncertainties, the roller coaster with the many lean years, the continuing indecision which moved personnel policies back and forth, made the Service very discontented. Having said that, I must admit that a lot of the habits of the Foreign Service are inimical to the kind of management that I viewed as required. When faced with the costs of this kind of management, maybe some of its enthusiasm may have waned.

As Selin noted elsewhere in the interview, the Foreign Service in his day consisted of 4,900 generalists and 3,300 specialists, Compare that to 8,000-some generalists and 5,800 specialists in 2017. Which was hollower?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Merkelstein Monday: Hot Mulled Wine and Gift-Wrapped Security

So Germany’s Christmas Markets have opened, one year after a truck ramming attack on Berlin’s largest such market. You can read about the history and culture of the markets here. “All of these markets offer Glühwein (hot mulled wine) and other warming drinks, gingerbread hearts, decorative craftworks.” Well, this year, the decorative craftworks include perimeter anti-ram barriers installed around the sites.

Berlin's Breitscheidplatz market, the scene of last year's attack, opened this week. What the city authorities did for perimeter security was underwhelming, to say the least.

They put up nothing but precast concrete highway dividers, and didn't even connect them together or attach them to the street or sidewalk surface to make them more resistant to the impact of a truck or car.

I'm astonished that Berlin would use such weak barriers, especially after recent testing carried out by news media in Germany showed how they are nearly useless against the kind of attack that happened last year.
“Researchers drove a 10-tonne truck into the barriers at 30mph and found the 2.5 tonne concrete blocks were simply pushed aside by the power of the vehicle, which only came to a halt when it hit a wall.”
Very strange.

Well, if they won’t use more effective barriers, can’t they at least make them decorative? On that score the city of Bochum outclassed everyone with its gift-wrapped car barricades.
Bochum authorities placed a string of 1.2 ton pellet bags in the downtown area to avert potential terror attacks ahead of the seasonal opening of the local Christmas market.

On Thursday morning, however, the bags took on a holiday look, with the city's official marketing service turning them into novelty Christmas presents.

"For us it was very important to fit in those ugly barriers into the beautiful overall atmosphere," said the head of Bochum Marketing Mario Schiefelbein.

The move surprised both local residents and the police, as the service reportedly giftwrapped up all of the 20 bags overnight without forewarning.

Bochum is not the only city to put a bow on new security measures. In the Bavarian city of Augsburg, for example, authorities will use decorated trucks belonging to Christmas market stall owners as car barriers. Munich officials plan to block the streets with planters containing season-appropriate evergreen plants.

Visitors to Bochum's market who were interviewed last Friday seemed to like gift-wrapped security. Typical comments: “We think it’s a pity that it must be done across the entire [Christmas market] area, but it is good that it is done” and the barriers convey "a feeling of safety, and if there are some [barriers] packed like presents, [when] there is no police presence, then that seems good to me.”

The city authorities must be pleased with that reaction. However, of course, we can't see what kind of barricade they have inside the wrapping so it could be as weak as Berlin's, for all we know.

Not all German cities are as interested as Bochum in the aesthetics of security. Dresden used extremely non-decorative concrete blocks.

Those concrete blocks are just flat-out ugly, while also being as weak as Berlin's highway dividers.

Essen also used plain grey raw concrete blocks, only ones a bit larger than Dresden's.

In Essen's case the city leased the barriers for 30 days, so I guess they didn't want to pay more to put lipstick on those pigs.

Vienna went with gift-wrapped barricades.

Those are nice like Bochum's Christmas presents. But guess what we see if we peek under the wrapping?

The exact same grey raw concrete blocks that Essen used! In fact, it seems to be a double stack of them, based on the height of the wrapped packages.

Hey, Essen, see what you could have had with just a little bit of DIY?

Next Monday we'll look at Christmas market security in the United Kingdom.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Merkelstein Mondays

Those are, without a doubt, the most decorative anti-ram bollards or planters I've ever seen. Put up in a German Christmas market (news article here), they form an über-aesthetic terrorsperren that ought to preclude a truck ramming attack this holiday season like the one that happened last year in Berlin, when an ISIS-influenced failed asylum seeker from Tunis killed 12 persons and injured 56.

Since such security measures in public gathering places have evidently become a new holiday tradition in Europe, I plan to feature them in a series of posts this December which I'll call "Merkelstein Mondays," after a new hashtag I saw today in German Twitter. Merkelstein = Merkel stones.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas (Markets),
Ev'rywhere you go;
Take a look in the Merkelstein, saying to terror “Nein!”
High-visibility stripes aglow.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas (Markets),
Police in ev'ry street,
But the prettiest sight to see is the bollard that will be
On your own front door.
Christmas markets are pretty much exclusively a European thing, I believe, with some exceptions for a couple of Canadian cities and maybe the American upper mid-west. But Merkelsteins of one sort or another are being introduced to high-traffic public venues of all kinds today. Pay attention when you go to large gatherings and special events and you'll see them.

Bollards aren't just for government buildings or U.S.-interest targets anymore. Bit by bit, one vehicle attack after another, everyplace is starting to look like the Blast-Proof City of Washington DC.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Morale and the Trust Deficit

It's been almost exactly two months since the last public announcement about the Department's redesign planning.

The Secretary’s Message on the Redesign went out on September 13 ("I am writing to update you on the progress of the redesign. This ongoing effort to transform the State Department and USAID to be more effective and efficient would not be possible without you") along with four charts on the redesign team composition. On September 29 the Deputy Secretary briefed Congress ("the Redesign provides a new foundation for our diplomacy and development professionals to define America’s leadership in the world for generations to come"). There's been nothing further from them since then.

Of course, every day there has been another news story blaming Silent Rex for the evisceration of the State Department and the purported rock-bottom morale of its employees. Yesterday it was CNN: “Tillerson under fire for turmoil at State: ”
As the battle over staffing unfolds, multiple sources tell CNN morale inside the State Department is at the lowest level in years, largely because of the perceived talent flight and an insular and distrustful approach from Tillerson and his team that's being interpreted by longtime employees as not valuing their input.

The rebukes [that is, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker's complaints] mark the latest headache for Tillerson, whose rocky first year in office has been marked by disagreements with President Donald Trump and an inability -- or unwillingness -- to connect with career staff at the State Department, which has led to plummeting morale.

Insular, distrustful, and unable or unwilling to connect with the staff, whose morale then goes plummeting? Pardon my insensitivity, but that sounds like Tillerson is accused of not doing enough hand-holding with Generation Snowflake.

And then, there is the downsizing of the State Department. But we’ve been there before. Back in the Bill Clinton administration the State Department cut more than 2,000 employees and closed consulates in 26 foreign cities. The Agency for International Development (AID) closed 23 missions overseas. Staffing has been both higher and lower in the recent past than it is right now.
The Office and Management and Budget has ordered the State Department to slash 8% of its full-time employees [which cannot be met by normal attrition alone, hence the hiring freeze and the possibility of buyouts].

Still, State Department officials are pushing back on assessments that Foggy Bottom is hemorrhaging talented employees. They argue there are more senior diplomats on hand today than at the beginning of the Obama administration.

There are currently 983 senior foreign service officers, with 63 more waiting for Congress to approve their promotion to senior tiers, according to State Department figures. This is more than the 931 when President Barack Obama took office in 2009. (There were more than 1,000 senior foreign service officers on hand at the height of the Obama years.)

CNN also states that "Tillerson has approved 2,300 exemptions from the hiring freeze as of last month, according to the State Department. That includes more than 300 foreign service officers and 150 civil service staff employees."

Assuming those numbers are correct, in what way are the current budget and staffing situations either unprecedented or a hollowing-out of the State Department?

Then there was this:
Trump's assertion earlier this month that "I am the only one that matters" in formulating foreign policy has also contributed to widespread unease that career expertise is not valued.

Characteristically blunt language, but is Trump not simply doing a Trumpian take on Obama’s observation that elections have consequences? [“Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won. So I think on that one I trump you.” – President Obama to House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, January 23, 2009.]

Who can deny it? The President is, in fact, the one who really matters in regards to national policy.
"The State Department has a history of frank discussion before policy decisions are made," McEldowney [Nancy McEldowney, who last June resigned as director of the Foreign Service Institute] said. "But we were told early on there is a 'trust deficit' and if you want to rebuild that trust, get in line and follow the policy.' But internal debate does not equal disloyalty or disobedience. Quite the contrary."

And yet, after the frank discussion and internal debate, elections do have consequences. There can be no effective difference between the President and his Executive branch on policy matters.
Said one career officer of the foreign service: "We have always been a grumpy group" … "This is not just about how the place is managed. It is about the politics, policy and a whole approach to diplomacy. We are a country in the midst of serious political change that will have a profound impact on how we do our foreign policy and people are having to come to terms with that."

That anonymous career officer hit the nail on the head. The political pendulum swings both ways, and if you intend to have a government career of any length at all, you will sooner or later have to come to terms with serious political changes with which you disagree.

Are you genuinely distressed by ideas that run contrary to your worldview? Then get over it. Just remember that the most meaningful difference between any President of the United States and you is that he or she got elected and you did not. Until the pendulum swings back your way, you will simply have to endure the politics and policies of others.

Human Hair Threatens to Take Down DC's Metro

I let it fly in the breeze
And get caught in the trees
Give a home for the fleas in my hair
A home for fleas
A hive for the buzzin' bees
A nest for birds
There ain't no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder Of my...


But not so wonderful when it gums up the electrical system of the Washington DC Metro, though.

According to NBC News, 'Beyond Vulgar': Human Hair Buildup in Metro System Poses Fire Threat :

Hair and other human fibers are accumulating in Washington D.C. Metro tunnels in such large quantities that the gunk poses a threat of electrical sparks and fire, a transit consultant tells News4.

So much hair and skin cells built up on insulators that support the electrified third rails that the mess looks like a thick layer of felt, said a safety specialist from Amalgamated Transit Union, the largest labor union representing transit employees in North America.

"I was flabbergasted -- flabbergasted -- at the amount of hair that's in the Metro," Brian Sherlock said.

It's not just hair and fibers -- dust and debris also are gathering, according to Sherlock.

He said the issue can become especially dangerous when debris gathers near the high-voltage third rail.

"The amount of debris is just beyond vulgar to think of," Sherlock said.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld acknowledged the issue.

"Hair literally comes off of people and off of clothing and gets sucked up," he said.

This hair issue is not one that Metro has independently studied, but Metro has made efforts to increase the regularity of trackbed cleaning since 2016, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

I don't ride the DC Metro much anymore, but it looks like a ride at Disney World compared to the New York City subway and most other old underground rail systems. How much skin and hair buildup must those have???

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

"Detroit Officers Posing As Drug Dealers Get Into Brawl With Detroit Officers Posing As Drug Buyers" - and Fox New 2 Detroit

Sources say guns were drawn and punches were thrown while the homeowner stood and watched ...  "You've gotta have to have more communication, I guess," said the resident. "I don't understand what happened about that - communicate."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Now, There's a Trust Deficit

A tragedy happened in New York City yesterday after an Australian diplomat at the UN had too much to drink, took too big a risk on a high rooftop, and placed entirely too much trust in the wrong person.

The New York Post reports, UN diplomat falls to his death from balcony after ‘trust game’ goes wrong:
A game of “trust” took a deadly turn for an Australian diplomat, who plunged to his death from his Manhattan balcony early Wednesday during a night of boozing with friends and his wife, police sources said.

- snip -

While on the roof, the diplomat, who serves as the second secretary to the UN for Australia, then climbed to a higher roof landing where he began swinging a female friend around, sources said.

Once he put her down, everyone decided to go back inside.

While inside, the 24-year-old man, who is the husband of the woman Simpson had been swinging, confronted Simpson over the gesture, sources said.

The two men then stepped out onto Simpson’s balcony, where Simpson told the husband that he meant no harm, according to sources.

To prove to the husband that he could trust him, Simpson suggested playing the “trust game” — in which Simpson would lean back on the ledge and trust the man to catch him before he would fall.

Simpson jumped up onto the balcony railing and sat on it facing the apartment before he fell backward, sources said.

The man told investigators that he put his arm out to catch him, but Simpson slipped and fell to his death, according to sources.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Waiting For Those Buyouts and Bonuses

That New York Times article the other day about State Department to Offer Buyouts in Effort to Cut Staff certainly is getting a lot of attention, especially for one based entirely on what anonymous officials confirmed. So far as I can tell, no one has actually been offered a buyout yet, and those typically are offered early in October, so as to maximize the salary savings to the agency doing the buyout.

And check out the story's last paragraph. Those anonymous officials also confirmed that some classes of State employees will not be urged to retire early, but may be offered incentive bonuses to stay longer.
Some State employees will not be eligible for the buyouts, including many members of the security, information technology, medical and building staffs, areas in which the department is trying to hire more people or is offering offering bonuses for them to stay.

I haven't heard of any offers of retention incentive bonuses, either.

Assuming buyouts are actually offered, how much will they be? Office of Personnel Management rules say they can be up to $25,000:
The Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment Authority, also known as buyout authority, allows agencies that are downsizing or restructuring to offer employees lump-sum payments up to $25,000 as an incentive to voluntarily separate.

Last year, Congress boosted the buyout amount for Defense Department employees to $40,000, good through Sept. 30, 2018. The Trump administration’s budget proposal sought to increase the value of State Department buyouts $40,000 as well, but who knows whether that will happen.

It may mean nothing, but I was tipped to expect a public announcement soon, possible on November 17, about the implementation phase of the Department's reorganization plan.

Why No ARB For the Sonic Attacks in Cuba?

Five members of Congress, three of them Florida Republicans — Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Díaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo — plus West Virginia Republican Alex X. Mooney and New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires, have sent a letter to U.S. Comptroller-General Gene Dodaro asking for a report on the sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba. As U.S. Comptroller, Dotaro heads the Government Accountability Office.

Among other things, they asked whether an Accountability Review Board was convened to identify vulnerabilities in the State Department’s security programs, and if not, why not?

Good question. Given that employees were reportedly harmed by the mysterious attacks, an ARB could be warranted.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Most Eyebrow-Raising Headline of the Week

"Pride and prejudice: Gay lions seen in Kenya 'need counselling' and 'must have been influenced by homosexual men behaving badly in national parks' says country's 'moral policeman'" - Daily Mail  

Despite the fact that homosexuality among lions has been observed for decades, Dr Mutua is convinced that the lions would either have spotted gay men having sex in front of them, or been possessed by demons.

Back to Bollards

Photo from Conceptual Site

Here we go again. Another truck ramming attack in a city, this time New York. And again the politicians and the news media talking heads are going around and around about lone wolves, radicalization, human intelligence, and immigration. Good luck to them with getting all of that straightened out.

While they work on those big and complicated issues, the city planners and the architecturally-minded security types have a small and simple solution that would preclude such attacks on the most attractive targets, and thereby make this threat a good deal more manageable.

You know the answer - more bollards! They've already worked to prevent a mass killing in New York when a mentally disturbed person drove through Times Square. Surely this week's attack will convince the city to ramp up deployment of passive anti-ram barriers around high-traffic pedestrian venues. Well, maybe it will.

The attack could have been far worse if it had been executed just a little bit more efficiently. Sayfullo Saipov seems to have been aiming for school children, considering that his route led directly to a High School and he ended his attack by crashing into a school bus.

As a local resident told NPR:
"We have so many schools around this area," she said. "And it was shortly after 3 [p.m.]. It could have been worse if the police hadn't responded as quickly as they did."

Indeed. Or if Sayfullo Saipov, the sad sack Shahid that he was, hadn't lost his bag full of knives when he crashed the truck, leaving him with nothing but a pair of phony pistols in his hands when he jumped out of the truck searching for more victims.

At least one local politician, City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, is calling for the obvious first response to this increasingly-popular form of terrorism:
During Friday's conference, Rodriguez announced that he is planning to introduce legislation to require metal bollards along sidewalks with heavy pedestrian traffic, as well as in front of schools. He also told reporters that he envisions a Times Square entirely free of cars between 42nd and 47th Streets, and would support a DOT study to that effect. "I think we should look at the possibility," he said.

Why not? It wouldn't be the solution to everything but it would greatly reduce the opportunity for more truck ramming attacks on our most vulnerable places and people. Isn't that enough? Put another way, it would be "reasonable protection at a reasonable cost," as this astute security newsletter pointed out:
The real chance to increase public safety in this and in many similar soft-target scenarios, lies with the Security Designer and Civil Engineer: engineering and traffic controls, combined with architectural and security elements will reduce opportunity and increase means requirements. These classic Force Protection principles are neither cost-free nor 100% effective, but are wisely employed in a distributed fashion providing reasonable protection at a reasonable cost. When optimized for each municipality (or town, park, business), they will increase security and safety while limiting cost and potential liability.

Urban planning and public safety concerns are converging; hardening critical infrastructure has left smaller, softer targets (including pedestrian and bicycle paths) as low-hanging fruit for opportunistic perpetrators. Terrorist organizations have actively spread these targeting suggestions to their followers, and the threat will persist for the foreseeable future. This iteration of public security enhancement is in the hands of the planners, designers, architects, engineers, and Law Enforcement liaison personnel. Soft targets need not remain vulnerable, nor do they have to be transformed into unusable, unwelcoming space in order to provide safety.

Back to bollards, ladies and gentlemen.