On 16 January 2017, JASON kicked off the new year with an afternoon of informative lectures at the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCSC). This department of the Dutch government, which is linked to the Ministry of Security and Justice, focusses on the main goal of keeping the Netherlands safe and free from terrorist threat. It does so by zooming in on three specific pillars – or, as the NCSC calls them, 'the three C's': Counterterrorism, Cybersecurity and Crisis Management. This three-part foundation of the Dutch counter terrorism system was discussed in four different lectures, which each were delivered by another NCSC expert.
In the introduction the general mission and main tasks of the NCSC were made clear through the following thesis: “[The NCSC] helps keep the Netherlands safe and stable by identifying threats and strengthening the resilience and security of vital interests. Its ultimate purpose is to prevent and minimise social disruption." Throughout the introduction, the speaker presented overviews of the structural arrangements within the Ministry of Security and Justice and the NSCS itself.
Amongst other factors, the importance for the NSCS of having appropriate partners spread out over the entire country – and beyond – to protect the national interests of democratic, social and economic stability was stressed time and time again. Connecting to these partners makes it possible for the NSCS to identify and analyse possible new threats. Together, the partners form a secure structure, through which full cooperation can be achieved.
The lecture on Crisis Management focussed on threat assessment, resilience of national interests and threat reduction. By showing the visitors examples of past events which needed active involvement of the NSCS – such as the Nuclear Security Summit 2014 in The Hague – an insight was given into how the NSCS influences Dutch civilians' daily lives. The speaker also briefly clarified the system according to which the national threat level is determined, the co-called Threat Assessment Terrorism Netherlands (DTN):
The last lecture of the afternoon specifically zoomed in on this Terrorist Threat Assessment and the accompanying Crisis Assessment by clarifying their characteristics and the current situation in the Netherlands. At the moment, the Dutch DTN is set to level 4 on a scale of 5 – which is specified as 'substantial' – with at its centre the main threat of jihadism. The Netherlands are at higher risk than other countries, because they have an explicit international profile and provide foreign fighters. Also, the risk of so-called deviant 'loners' is relatively high due to the alienation of certain social groups. Through Crisis Assessment – one authoritative assessment, which leads to one interpretation of the facts and sets the stage for focussed crisis management – a setting for a qualified and quick response to the current DTN is created.
The National Crisis Centre (NCC) plays an important role in this system. Its focal point is to give out early warnings, alerts and information in case of a (possible) national crisis and to, accordingly, make an appropriate crisis plan. The NCC is the only Dutch all hazard radar and has a unique helicopter view of the current threat situation. Also, it is the national point of contact for the UN, NATO and the EU and the national coordination point for crisis management.
Another lecture examined the field of Cyber Security, which perhaps is as much the most relevant in Dutch current daily life as the most obscure subject discussed during this visit. Even though the general ambition of the Cyber Security unit was quite eagerly and outwardly described as “the Netherlands will be a leading nation in cyber security", its importance for Dutch national security is, in fact, immense. Through the National Cyber Security Strategy II and promoting themes like 'maintaining open standards, content and interoperability of the internet' and 'securing shared values and cooperation at policy level', Cyber Security does everything in its power to keep the enormous amounts of digital systems that both civilians and the government so heavily rely upon safe and secure.
All three pillars of the NCSC are equally important, topical parts of the Dutch government, that offer civilians as much protection as possible. They play a significant role in defending the country's national interests and maintaining stability. Being offered this opportunity to gain insight into their approach was uniquely interesting.
Due to the discrete nature of their occupational activities, the names of the lecturers have been left out of this report.