Editorial: Training Failure

The federal government’s commitment to protecting the public’s safety came into question in a bizarre way last week.

If you find plastic explosives under the hood of a public school bus, you would hope taxpayers’ money wasn’t used to put it there.

Everyone’s been assured something like this won’t happen again. What we don’t know is whether something like this has happened before. If there wasn’t a reporter with a camera on the scene last week, we seriously doubt anyone would have ever heard about it.

Even while fessing up to the gaffe, government officials sought to put the error in an oddly positive light, placing an emphasis on the extreme unlikelihood of harm coming to anyone. That’s a bit rosy. What if the explosives weren’t found by trustworthy workers in the county garage, but by someone with nefarious intentions? Or if the material simply fell out on the side of a road?

More fundamentally, the question is why does the Central Intelligence Agency, or any federal government department, need to conduct its training in suburban schoolyards? Surely, the agency has ample resources to test its performance in more controlled settings. Law enforcement training in empty schools has its place, particularly where first responders from multiple agencies can practice working together to deal with a call they hope they never get.

That doesn’t seem to be the case in this instance. Instead, they were the cause of such a call. And it was not a drill.

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