“The Challenges of Developing a Homeland Security Discipline to Meet Future Threats to the Homeland”
This week Homeland Security Watch will focus on homeland security as a professional and academic discipline.
As noted a few days ago, we will start with Linda Kiltz’s recent Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management paper called “The Challenges of Developing a Homeland Security Discipline to Meet Future Threats to the Homeland.”
I will summarize the main points of the Dr. Kiltz’s article today. Our regular writers will contribute their thoughts during the rest of the week. Readers are encouraged to contribute to the conversation.
My summary consists primarily of excerpts taken from the paper, occasionally rearranged, and lightly edited to synthesize portions of the argument for this post. I have not included the citations.
Interested readers are encouraged to read the complete paper for a detailed explication of the argument summarized here.
The paper makes three central claims:
1. Homeland security education must continually adapt to future risks, threats and vulnerabilities. To do this, it will be necessary to consider homeland security thinking and practice from multiple perspectives and disciplines. Looking at the homeland security enterprise through a variety of perspectives can deepen understanding and shed additional light on the scope of the field or discipline.
2. Existing and future educational programs in homeland security should include the theories, practices and research methods of emergency management, despite the current cultural differences between emergency management and homeland security.
3. Homeland security education programs have to confront three challenges:
- the development and implementation of a standardized curriculum with core functions and competencies that are inclusive of emergency management,
- the evolution into a new academic discipline;
- the adoption of multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning.
Need for Collaboration Between Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Our ability to plan, respond to and recover from a broad range of disasters in the future will be determined in large part by the quality of our local, state and national emergency management systems and homeland security policies and programs.
There can no longer be stove pipes and divisions between emergency management and homeland security practitioners and scholars as we educate and train professionals in these fields in the years ahead. The success of the homeland security enterprise depends on our ability in higher education to work collaboratively across disciplines to design, develop and teach a curriculum that prepares professionals across the entire domain of homeland security (including emergency management), and to conduct research that serves to enhance our understanding of the complexity of the homeland security enterprise.
Vision and Missions of Homeland Security
In order to build educational programs for the homeland security enterprise it is important to have a clear understanding of how the Department of Homeland Security and the Obama administration envision homeland security.
The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report (QHSR) sets forth a shared vision of homeland security in order to achieve a unity of purpose. This vision of homeland security assumes the functions needed to achieve that unity will include both emergency management and homeland security, and will be seen under one overarching concept of the homeland security enterprise that recognizes the need for joint actions and efforts across previously discrete elements of government and society.
The traditional view of homeland security focused on terrorism. The current view encompasses an all-hazards approach that recognizes the value of emergency preparedness structures and processes.
The homeland security missions include: preventing terrorism and enhancing security, securing and managing our borders, enforcing and administering our immigration laws, safeguarding and securing cyberspace, and ensuring resilience to disasters through hazard mitigation, and effective emergency preparedness, response and recovery efforts. Accomplishing these missions is the responsibility not only of DHS, but also of the hundreds of thousands of people across all levels of government, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations.
To be successful in accomplishing these missions, homeland security professionals in the public and private sector must have a clear sense of what it takes to achieve this overarching vision, as well as the knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve national, state and local homeland security goals. Our challenge as homeland security scholars is developing and implementing undergraduate and graduate curriculum that is grounded in a set of core competencies, and continually adapts to future threats, hazards, risks and vulnerabilities.
Current and Future Threats
It will be necessary to provide homeland security professionals with the knowledge and skills to perceive, analyze and respond to disasters and crises from multiple perspectives and paradigms. This will be challenging and critical given the on-going threats and hazards we face now and in the future.
The scope and magnitude of the disasters in 2010 provide us with a warning signal of increasingly catastrophic disasters to come. These 2010 disasters include:
- 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti
- 8.8. magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile
- Twenty earthquakes at a magnitude of 7.0 or higher before the end of the year
- Record heat and drought in Russia,
- Typhoons in the Philippines and China, and
- Mass flooding in Pakistan.
Climate change is expected to have a number of adverse socio-economic impacts within the global environment, including:
- Shortfalls in water for drinking and irrigation, with concomitant risks of thirst and famine;
- Changes and possible declines in agricultural productivity stemming from altered temperature, rainfall, or pest patterns;
- Spikes in the rates and extended geographic scope of malaria and other diseases;
- Associated shifts in economic output and trade patterns;
- Changes and possibly large shifts in human migration patterns; and
- Larger economic and human losses attributable to extreme weather events such as hurricanes.
Coastal populations in North America will be increasingly vulnerable to climate change—and nearly 50 percent of Americans live within fifty miles of the coast. Impacts of climate change in the U.S. include:
- An increased likelihood of flooding throughout the nation,
- More intense hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico,
- An increase in the number and duration of urban wildfires,
- More severe and longer heat waves, cyclones and winter storms.
It is clear that a homeland security curriculum focused on all hazards, disaster research and the practice of emergency management should be a major part of future undergraduate or graduate programs in this field.
Given the link between climate change and natural hazards, future curriculum in emergency management and homeland security should include topics related to the adverse physical, social, and security impacts of climate change on the United States. Future emergency managers and homeland security professionals will need to evaluate and better understand how climate change could affect the identification and selection of disaster mitigation strategies, the types of preparedness activities that jurisdictions undertake, the execution of response operations, and the implementation of long-term recovery strategies.
In addition to preparing for more frequent and devastating natural disasters, professionals should also be prepared for unpredictable man-made and technical disasters such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
The threat of terrorism persists. Another low-probability, high cost terrorist event appears to be inevitable given the on-going threat of terrorism, particularly by “homegrown” jihadists. Developing and implementing antiterrorism and counter terrorism strategies to this rapidly changing enemy will require homeland security management professionals to have an advanced understanding of terrorist organizations and terrorism.
Challenges in Developing Homeland Security Programs
To provide well-educated professionals for the homeland security threats described above, it is critical that academic programs in homeland security:
- Develop and implement a standardized curriculum with core functions and competencies that are inclusive of emergency management,
- Evolve into new academic disciplines or stay grounded in a traditional academic discipline, and
- Utilize multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning.
Homeland Security degree programs were initially established with no standardized or consistent core curriculum. This is due, in part, to the lack of agreement about the definition of homeland security. Additionally few professional associations or government organizations provide program level student learning outcomes or guidance on model curriculum.
Emergency management has become more professionalized over the past three decades because of the increase in emergency management higher education programs. Numerous workshop sessions at the FEMA Higher Education Conferences and scholarly articles have produced several lists for individual emergency management practitioners about competencies, and knowledge, skills and abilities for each level of education in emergency management and homeland security. For example, here is a list of graduate competencies generated in 2004.
The Homeland Security and Defense Education Consortium has attempted to propose standardized educational outcomes at all degree levels in homeland security education. In 2010 a work group recommended core content areas to be included in homeland security graduate programs:
- Current and emerging threats;
- Context and organizations;
- Policies, strategies and legal issues;
- Processes and management; and
- Practical applications.
The author synthesized a draft list of core functions and competencies for graduate programs in homeland security based on a review of her own research and related studies.
Comparing the list above with core competencies in emergency management suggest there are a number of areas of overlap that could be integrated into a comprehensive multi-disciplinary degree program. This will be difficult to do while there is no clearly defined set of standardized educational outcomes that is publicly available to guide program development in homeland security education across degree programs. If any level of integration is to be achieved between homeland security and emergency management programs, then the culture clashes between homeland security and emergency management scholars must be minimized.
To overcome some of these conflicts between these two fields, scholars in the fields of emergency management and/or homeland security would need to expand their vision and adjust their paradigms to be more inclusive of the concepts, theories, practices and methodologies used by the different disciplines in these fields. This can be very difficult because it requires conceptual competence-the ability to identify, interpret and apply appropriate tools from participating disciplines relevant to the problem at hand.
Another challenge in developing a homeland security program is identifying the academic discipline and department in which it should be situated within the university. This is necessary because homeland security is currently not an academic discipline. We need to ask ourselves a number of questions: Should homeland security be a subfield of public administration, political science, criminal justice, national security, or something else, or should it be developed into a new academic discipline?
For homeland security to become a discipline there must be consensus on the following topics commonly found within disciplines and reflecting core issues often found in accreditation:
- Naming the field
- Defining the field
- Concepts: What are the key concepts and definitions? What is the core curriculum and does it serve both student and employer needs
- History: What is the history of the field?
- Theory: What are the theories, paradigms, and philosophies of the
- Methods: Which research methods should be taught to students?
- Practice: What are the roles and relationships between educators and practitioners?
- Student Outcomes Assessment: What are the demographic backgrounds of students? What types of recruitment and retention work best? What do graduates do with their new education? What are employer views of graduates?
- Faculty Roles: What are the roles of faculty? How can faculty be evaluated?
To date, there is no agreed upon definition of homeland security, no grand theory explaining the phenomenon of homeland security, no standardized curriculum, little discussion of the history, paradigms and philosophies of the field, and ill defined faculty roles. Without these components of a discipline, it would be very difficult to create an interdisciplinary program despite the claims of some programs to have done this very thing.
An interdisciplinary program is one in which two or more disciplines are brought together preferably so that the disciplines interact with one another and have some effect on one another’s perspectives. Despite the benefits of interdisciplinary education, such an approach to homeland security is unrealistic at this time because the conditions necessary for such programs to succeed are too difficult to meet.
Homeland security education programs that are multidisciplinary are more realistic and easier to implement. Multidisciplinary is defined as “research, problem solving or teaching that mingles disciplines but maintains their distinctiveness.” It also refers to the involvement of several different professional areas, though not necessarily in an integrated manner. The advantages of multidisciplinary approaches are that they not only are much easier to develop, implement and evaluate, but also they still allow faculty and students to look at homeland security thinking and practice from multiple perspectives and disciplines.
Given even the challenges of implementing a multidisciplinary approach to homeland security education and its lack of disciplinary status, the best option may be to define homeland security as a subfield within a traditional discipline in the short term, while continuing moving toward becoming a discipline. In the meantime, there must be an on-going dialogue among homeland security scholars on whether homeland security is a discipline, a multidisciplinary endeavor, or a truly interdisciplinary field integrated into something greater than the sum of its parts.
Despite these challenges in developing homeland security education, homeland security has the potential to become an academic discipline if the academic community associated with it makes a concerted effort to develop a standardized curriculum with core functions and competencies, to shape the discipline in the future, and to construct the missing disciplinary components in partnership with scholars and practitioners in the field of emergency management. By working together we may some day be better able to answer the question, “What is homeland security?”