Guest writer Stephanie Chenault has been a frequent contributor to several Syrian Refugee Councils and routinely participates in DC-based political and religious think tank meetings and discussions on security, persecution, and global terrorism.


She joined Empowerment WORKS (EW) Board of Directors this fall.  One of her main areas of expertise and focus is on national security.


Here are her thoughts on the state of human security, the biggest threats and where they are coming from and, finally, what are we doing to mitigate them:

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EW: According to PEW Research the US government spends over $16B on counter terrorism (CT), annually. What’s that doing for us? What does it buy us?


That’s a great question. Basic analysis of our spending suggest where it is going and there aren’t really many surprises. The surprise factor is the sticker shock when you think in comparative terms about what tangible assets $16B provides.

The US is still fighting a distributed global war on terror, there are massive governmental organizations like DHS and the Intelligence Community that have huge operating budgets, and a lot of different “colors of money” that are getting poured into areas which support, albeit indirectly and possible not immediately recognizable to the counter-terrorism effort, like aid and military assistance / training programs meant to bring stability and security to US interests and allies abroad.

So what is all this spending doing for us? I would suggest not much. We would have to measure the effectiveness of this spending – which seems to the average taxable wage-earner as fairly excessive – and also look at the return. What are we getting in terms of tangible protection and at what cost?


EW: Where could the money better be spent, what measures work and what doesn’t?

There are several big ticket items which both sides of the aisle could probably agree are not working or at least could run more leanly. Let’s look at the Syrian Equip and Train program – disastrous by any metric – which cost us hundreds of millions and netted a handful of anti ISIS fighters. I would also level criticism and DHS and TSA who have in the past been relatively unable to demonstrate, even under congressional inquiry, what they are bringing to the CT fight and raise legitimate concerns on what US citizens get out of the investment.


EW: Do you have any concerns about immigration from Syria and Iraq?

Effectively none in terms of US security and I will explain why: As we heard Robert Young Pelton discuss the human characteristics of migrations, and the causes of those conditions, we know that many people have no choice but to leave their war-torn countries in search of economic opportunities. This is basic human nature and self-preservation.


This isn’t to say there isn’t a legitimate law and order issue for countries, particularly those in Northern Europe (Sweden comes to mind) with high rates of criminality among migrant populations but, at least in my opinion, that is more of a law and order issue that governments need to be stringent on combating.There’s a narrative that pitches large, uncontrollable numbers of radical, Islamic infiltrators are pouring into Europe disguised as immigrants. That is simply not the case.


Talk to the immigrants, go to these meetings, support these human rights and human watch programs… what you will find is that the bigger concerns in the camps and in transit are things like theft, religious persecution, and a very vulnerable population of women and children who are easily and ruthlessly being exploited.


So, the odds of radical Islamic jihadis marching over the proverbial “The Bridge At Andau” are so statistically insignificant I would call them decimal dust. The bigger threat to US interests is the misuse of social media platforms by jihadis by which they seek to influence, misinform and recruit new ideological devotees and then treat them as expendables. This can happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone over any number of “stateless” microphones.


That’s what scares me. And it’s a real risk I’ve yet to see anyone mitigate by throwing money at…


For more vital perspective in video interviews with author & war journalist, Robert Young Pelton and Californian born Palestinian, mother, wife, and social change leader, Leena Barakat, check out Empowerment WORKS’ Pulse of the Movement Monthly Webcast series for January 2017, Exploring Human Security: Immigration, Radical Islam, & Civil Rights at Empowerment WORKS’ YouTube Channel or

More About Stephanie Chenault


Stephanie is an internationally recognized communications, cyber and intelligence expert, entrepreneur, inventor and military strategist.


With a background in aerospace engineering and astrophysics, Stephanie’s career has spanned both the private and public sectors.


Author of many humanitarian assistance and disaster recovery planning scenarios, articles for online journals, strategy blogs and security think tanks, service to her country as a DoD civilian took her to Iraq at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003 – 2005 where she built several command and control systems designed to document events, individuals, and significant activities.


Based in Washington DC, but active in dozens of countries, Stephanie’s commitment to supporting early education, technology exposure, local economic growth and child development began in 2005. Since then she has raised awareness and resources to support relief initiatives for the Earthquakes in the Philippines and Haiti, Typhoon Haiyan, and other humanitarian assistance programs. By leveraging her extensive in-country networks she is able to quickly get aid and equipment into the hands of those most in need.



Her focus is on leveraging technology to help imperiled, impoverished, and marginalized communities throughout the globe. She has recently joined the Board of Directors at Empowerment WORKS and is an independent consultant / technology advisor / cyber strategist.  LinkedIn…