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Yellow: The New Blue

A bipartisan push on Capitol Hill to strip the hue from the government’s color-coded terrorist alert system is gaining momentum.

A package of legislation moving through the House eliminates the Department of Homeland Security’s use of colors to change the threat level, and calls for more specific threat information to be shared with the private sector and local governments.

“The color code doesn’t provide any information to people, what it does is foster a climate of anxiety without giving useful information to people,”said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, who worked with Rep. Rob Simmons, Connecticut Republican, on the legislation.

Having helped manage a particular color-coded alert system in the past, I am torn.

On the one hand, color-coded or alpha-numeric alert systems are an easy way to let people know – mostly people who don’t work this stuff full time – what the relative level of concern is for a given problem. Nothing gets attention like a flashing red light, because it is often the only way you can get people to read the more informative narrative that actually communicates meaningful information.

On the other hand the problem with any simplified alert system is that there is usually no way to adjust for relative levels of pain. That we’ve been at “Yellow” for so long diminishes the value of the system, because Yellow is now the new Blue.

We managed to fix this in a different domain, so I know it is possible . . . My rates are very reasonable.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.