Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 11, 2011

Security Through Diversity

Filed under: Education,Futures,General Homeland Security — by Mark Chubb on August 11, 2011

This is another in a series of posts considering the analysis and recommendations of Linda Kiltz in a recent edition of the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.


Before reading Dr. Kiltz’s article outlining the challenges in developing a homeland security discipline, I was fiercely ambivalent about the wisdom of engaging in such an endeavor. In the interests of full-disclosure, this is a subject she and I discussed while I was on the faculty of the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government and she was finishing her doctorate there in 2007. Although I admire her scholarship and passion, which I have considered carefully, I am now convinced not only that we do not need a distinct homeland security discipline, but that its successful emergence could prove harmful to the enterprise itself.

Much of my concern arises not from how we might define what is or is not within the homeland security domain, but rather what we decide is and is not within a legitimate and well-defined curriculum to support the preparation of its practitioners. Dr. Kiltz writes:

The homeland security enterprise consists of public organizations at all levels of government, non-profit organizations and businesses. As such, there are hundreds of thousands of employees and volunteers that are involved in this enterprise with a broad range of job descriptions, duties and skills. In order to prepare professionals to serve within the homeland security enterprise, it will be necessary to provide them with the knowledge and skills to perceive, analyze and respond to disaster and crises from multiple perspectives and paradigms (Drabek, 2007; Waugh, 2006; Bellavita, 2008). While this certainly will be challenging, it will be critical given the on-going threats we will 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.

I have significant issues with the two main propositions presented in this paragraph.

First, while accepting the existing diversity within the field as it currently exists, Dr. Kiltz fails to acknowledge what specific contributions each makes to the whole. Is that whole equal to, less than, or greater than the sum of its parts? If the success of the present enterprise is in anyway a product of its diversity, how then will a curriculum that draws only on limited parts of the contributing disciplines foster perspectives that improve the concentration or orientation of expertise rather than promoting its dilution or dissipation?

Second, the future for which Dr. Kiltz argues we must prepare practitioners is not so much a product of the threats we face as the vulnerabilities we have already created by investing too little energy and effort in protecting or leveraging the legacies of previous investments. The byproduct of defining progress in a way that equates it not so much with innovation as with newness and moreness, has been too little attention to or respect for the uncertainties, complexities and interdependencies that arise within and not just across existing disciplines.

This leaves me wondering, “What can a new homeland security discipline do to make other disciplines — those responsible for creating and managing the domains in which catastrophes and crises emerge — more efficient and effective at managing them?” The answer from Dr. Kiltz’s perspective, it seems, relies on the unstated assumption that we cannot rely on those who created our problems to offer us the solutions. When it comes to problems like climate change, as just one example, we have choice but to do just this.

Convincing existing disciplines to invest more energy and effort in mitigating the long-term effects of past decisions and recovering from their inevitable mistakes does not strike me as the province of one discipline. Although we would do well (when it comes to mitigation at least) to develop and encourage the capacity of our existing disciplines to become more constructively self-critical and less patch-protective, when consequences arise we have no choice but to depend upon the deep expertise of several disciplines rather than the broad and superficial expertise of one to resolve the effects and mount a recovery. Creating a new discipline that carves out a niche for homeland security practitioners does little to enhance the application of expertise within disciplines to solving their own problems, and could even undermine the efforts of other disciplines — like law — to secure appropriate remedies when failures in others — like engineering or medicine — produce spillover effects.

The resilience of the homeland security enterprise depends as much on its diversity as any other system. Protecting our communities is not the province of any single group of individuals no matter how well intentioned or trained they may be. Security is a fundamentally collaborative endeavor, the strength and success of which depends less on the concentration found in any one part than the contributions of many.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 11, 2011 @ 4:16 am

Well Mark nice post and Dr. Kiltz great article. But I suggest both article and these posts have a fundamental flaw. Does anyone discipline OWN the problem of HOMELAND SECURITY? My answer would be NO and I think most would agree. So what is the problem of HOMELAND SECURITY? That is where disagreement occurs. I argue and have argued that it is not a cultural defense of the HOMELAND, in this case the USA. But it is simply CIVIL SECURITY so that other institutions, including for example the EDUCATIONAL institutions of the USA can do their thing, hopefully successfully. Or passengers can use existing transportation systems successfully by arriving at their destinations safely. Or that VOTING can take place, without say FLASHMOBS appearing to disrupt that fundamental sinew of democracy.
The problem of course is that DHS has largely been lobotomized from the start with its large and successful contracting community (this is different than an effective and efficient contracting community) often staring across the table at DHS officers and employees asking them what do they want and need, and those officers and employees staring back and asking the contractors what should they need and do. IN this instance you don’t get what you pay for. You get pablum either in the form of problem identification or in the form of technology or other potential solutions.
How much real analysis of Hurricane Katrina and its lessons have been done in DHS and FEMA? Or is it just no longer after 6 years an intellectual problem or series of problems–as in for example what happens when STATES and their local governments fail to do their jobs–or the FEDS fail to do their jobs–and now reduced to simply a funding problem–as in who pays? There are now almost a dozen arbitrations of FEMA grants denial underway for amounts all exceeding $500M confined to Katrina damaged areas. The statute mandates a decision by the Arbitration Board despite the fact that perhaps NO decision by any such board can be wise because the standard is simply who pays not what would benefit the citizenry in the short or long term no matter what level of funding. Large scale centralized hospitals are no longer de riguer (sic) but rather systems of care. Yet in the CHARITY HOSPITAL decision an obsolete concept was reinforce.

And of course in several skillful efforts I am aware of and by this tenth anniversary of 9/11/01 various levels of waste, fraud and abuse in response to that event will be revealed, but perhaps more devastating is that the USA threw money at “problems” without really identifying the underlying problems. This creating a feedback loop, in particular with the contracting community that has left the shelf bare of real solutions.
Still I love this discussion and even more love the fact that the discipline of Public Administration is struggling with the questions created by HOMELAND SECURITY whatever the paradigms.
I would ask one simple question! Have the organizations created post 9/11/01 demonstrated that they are “Learning Organizations” or “High Reliability Organizations”? I think not but look forwards to others telling me how and why they are.

We do know that CONGRESS does no longer seem to be a learning organization or high reliability organization that perhaps that is because the anti-intellectualism in American life has seen its largest demonstration in the elected officialdom of the USA. Perhaps this is because Americans are systematically denied basic information by the MSM or through use of improper classification and government secrecy.
Are we now concerned about protecting the “HOMELAND” or our “democracy” and “Constitution”?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 11, 2011 @ 4:56 am

Mark, What if homeland security is conceived as a discipline in service to the existing professions, but not itself becoming a separate profession?

The HS discipline would focus on the “multi-universe” and “inter-skills”, Arnold articulated yesterday, that bridge local to national, practice to policy, and the paradigms of each profession to those of other professions. (There are certainly echoes of Dr. Kiltz’s multidisciplinary approach here, but situated in a very different professional topography and with a much more interdisciplinary focus.)

Working mostly from within the existing professions and identifying mostly with a particular profession, these homeland security practitioners would serve as brokers of collaboration and more effective communication and shared deliberation among the existing professions.

Helpful? Unhelpful?

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 11, 2011 @ 5:07 am

Does it matter that over 80% of HS curricula and degrees are from the profit making HIGHER ED sector, not non-profit colleges and universities?

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 11, 2011 @ 6:28 am

Given the blame game as played in Washington and the inevitable “which” hunts–what organizations or persons are most likely to be pinpointed should a domestic WMD event occur?

Does the absence of any equivalent to the WTC 1993 and 2001 attacks indicated HS is successfully accomplishing its mission? If so why? If not why not?

Over 1200 now arrested in Britain largely due to CCTV! What are the implications for USA?

Comment by Mark Chubb

August 11, 2011 @ 11:37 am

Phil, in my view, an interdisciplinary discipline assumes we have gaps among the existing disciplines that need filled. I am not so certain that’s the case. If it is, I am not so sure a new field will help resolve it or improve the communication across disciplines. If we asume that many of the vulnerabilities exist within disciplines, again I am not sure an outsider can solve these in the way Dr. Kiltz prescribes.

I think you already agree with the proposition that multidisciplinary approaches tend to dilute rather than integrate. That said, I do believe disciplines can and should learn from one another. I started my career in a technical discipline that employed methods grounded in engineering and science. These days, I spend much more of my time applying the methods of the social and behavioral sciences in my work. Both play a part in helping me make better decisions, but, in my view, do not together constitute a new discipline or an argument for creating one.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 11, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

I thought the whole point of a multidisciplinary approach was to improve knowledge and decision making not to fill gaps between disciplines?

And if disciplines are so compartmented that gaps create is that inherent in that concept of just the way of the world and personal ambitions?

Comment by NYC Web Design

August 11, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

“The answer from Dr. Kiltz’s perspective, it seems, relies on the unstated assumption that we cannot rely on those who created our problems to offer us the solutions.”

I think if they created the problem, they should figure out the solution. It’s only fair.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 11, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

Mark, what if we dispense with lingo related to “homeland security”, “multidisciplinary”, and “interdisciplinary”.

What is your reaction to a curriculum, or a collection of curricula, that would focus on cognitive skills of analysis, synthesis, and creativity contextualized around problems of natural, accidental, and intentional risk? The “target students” would be federal, state, and local public sector employees and a range of non-governmental professionals — and even volunteers — involved in prevention, preparedness, response and recovery to the spectrum of natural, accidental, and intentional risk.

Would bringing these learners together around this problem set with those cognitive skills as a goal be helpful? Or are you saying there is not sufficient real need to justify the effort? Or perhaps you saying this is really already happening, but just in very organic and informally organized ways?

Comment by Mark Chubb

August 11, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

Phil, I agree that dispensing with the terms homeland security, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary would be helpful to our discussion. Even so, I am not convinced we need to build a fence around a body of knowledge that at its core is nothing more than sound critical thinking. No discipline or domain has an exclusive on this just as no discipline or domain can really afford to satisfy itself that it has enough.

Most of the Positivist disciplines incorporate research methods and analysis courses. Risk problems are nothing more than probability problems, albeit complex, contingent probability problems with very big, real and scary consequences.

I guess at some level, I am arguing against the Balkanization of knowledge domains. The more widely I read and study the work of other disciplines, the more I see common threads. This may be confirmation bias at work, but I don’t think so.

In my experience, the target group you define could benefit from education of almost any sort. The more the better. Encouraging individuals to select from a broad palette of options rather than a narrow one strikes me as more fruitful than defining something new for them to study, even if it is little more than a reorganization of what already exists.

At the same time, I would agree that this same target audience would benefit from common training (not education) in leadership, facilitation and communication that would help them work better together — regardless of the disciplines or domains they come from — to get results that none of them can achieve acting alone. Put another way: more phronesis than sophia.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 11, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

Mark, Nicely put and my better angels are inclined to agree. But then I would sigh. The sigh reflects a sense that the process of intellectual Balkanization is so far advanced that the Empire of Common Threads will never be restored. So I am motivated to creative insurgencies; such as offering a critical thinking workshop disguised as Counterterrorism Risk Analysis Training.

Comment by John Comiskey

August 11, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

Our overarching goal is to secure the Nation and especially the homeland. The term homeland is used here in the sense of the physical territory of the USA. I make this distinction to elaborate on the notion that National Security pertains to all US interests regardless of any physical, political, cyberspace, and perhaps extraterrestrial spheres. Notwithstanding, homeland security seem to overlap those spheres as well. The QHSR 2010 makes a similar point, i.e. “ultimately, homeland security is about effectively managing risks to the Nation’s security.”
National Security

Two Friedmans inform my current analysis. The first, Thomas of The World is Flat 3.0 fame has convinced me that the world is flat: the US is hyper dependent on Chinese credit, Middle Eastern oil, and that US power is rapidly denigrating. What’s worse is that the American population has deluded itself that the US will maintain its global supremacy despite our dependencies, laziness, and increasing obesity. The second Friedman, George’s new book The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been …and Where We’re going argues and I agree the USA is an unintended empire and that “the demands and temptations of empire can easily destroy institutions already besieged by a public that has lost both civility and perspective, and by politicians who cannot lead because they are capable of neither the exercise of power nor the pursuit of moral ends.” George concludes and again I agree that four things are needed:

First, a nation that has an unsentimental understanding of the situation it is in.

Second, leaders who are prepared to bear the burden of reconciling that reality with American values.

Third, presidents who understand power and principles and know the place of each.

But above all, what is needed is a mature American public that recognizes what is at stake and how little time there is to develop the culture and institutions needed to manage the republic cast in an imperial role. (p.143)

Education: It seems to me that much of what the Friedmans are talking about should be part of a K-12 curriculum and that can only occur in the homeland …perhaps a modicum could occur in cyberspace.
Civic education is integrated into most secondary education social studies programs but it plays second or third fiddle to high stakes testing. I taught high school for three years and am not categorically opposed to high-stakes testing. I am for real education for the real world.

Notwithstanding the idealistic No Child Left Behind Act, we are and should be leaving children behind to learn the fundamentals. In our quest for innovativeness, creativity, and race-gender-economic-other equality, American culture now dictates social promotion and undergraduate open-enrollment.
Liberal Arts education is essential to the National Security of a democratic USA. An effective liberal arts program requires critical thinking skills predicated on fundamental academic skills that are assumed and largely not taught.

Forty % + of undergrads now take remedial classes. IMHO, a good portion of those students would be better served and would prefer trade schools that are largely not available in part because learning institutions are responding to the everybody can and should go to the college academic-industrial-complex. So a good number of students should not even be in college and therefore would be limited to a K-12 education. Hence the need for K-12 Civic Education

But what about the government’s entry-level homeland security officials –the military, cops, firemen, emts, EM’s too. Most receive some organizational and government training as part of their indoctrination and in-service training and more agencies are now requiring some college.

Graduate schools offer master’s degrees. Inherent in the degree is the presumption that the holder is a master of a designated field. Both HLS and EM are, IMHO, broad fields and as this blog suggest, subject to interpretation. Neither is alone in this regard. A master’s degree in Criminal Justice is arguably as broad a topic and initially faced a dismissive traditional academia when first proposed.

I return to my earliest days of the Police Academy when I was told that cops are doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs responsive to the vicissitudes of circumstance and happenstance and humanity. Coincidentally, I received a similar description in Coast Guard boot camp where I was told that coastguardsmen where the peoples guardians on the seas.

IMHO, EM and HLS are comprehensive endeavors that can and typically do compound a multi-disciplinary effort that endeavors to prevent, mitigate, communicate, respond, and recover from intentional/natural/accidental events.

But, it’s not that simple. Identifying who does what and when is impeded by our humanness. It has been my experience that each organization works their core function and the overlap works itself out: people on the ground level make things happen and things mostly work themselves out, notwithstanding the impediments.
IMHO, the status quo HLS-EM world is predicated on the premise that something has to get done and some central authority should be in charge.

[Full transparency: My professional background includes twenty-four years in two hierarchical-authoritative organizations-the NYPD and US Coast Guard.]

IMHO, EM-types want to coordinate activity and mostly by getting people to agree on who does what and when.

IMHO, HLS-types, are culturally oriented to get things done and refuse to wait around for people to agree on who does what and when. They largely assume that someone should be in charge and it should be them. They will defer to EM types but mostly on certain matters and mostly when it is obvious that EM has the capabilities that HLS do not.

Hence, the preferences for a multidisciplinary approach at least for HLS.

IMHO, the greatest distinction of HLS and EM is that HLS lends itself more to Intelligence then does EM.
Terrorist and criminals keep secrets, natural and accidental (notwithstanding accidents predicated on criminal negligence) events don’t.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 12, 2011 @ 4:11 am

Academically I think a better approach would have been and still should be to develop curricula for each discipline that incorporates fundamentals of the problem, say HS and how that discipline can add to or contribute to the knowledge base and solutions.

In other words let a 1000 flowers bloom.

And as to civic involvement that should be built into k-12 curricula including basic life saving, preparedness and resilience training.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 12, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

I appreciate Dr. Kiltz setting out the issue and offering a comprehensive and coherent framework to engage. I have critiqued some key elements of her framework. But she has done the better work of creating and offering the framework.

I have also appreciated my colleagues’ posts. Mark and I so often agree that we are probably each feeling vindicated to finally disagree with each other. The varied comments — with some sense of conversation — have been encouraging and helpful.

The exchange prompted some thinking. This is far from being sufficiently well-considered for the front page. But as a kind of mental exercise, here’s a strawman academic program for an ideal sort of professional involved in what we sometimes broadly and vaguely call homeland security.

Pre-School and Kindergarten: Develop soft skills of attention, perseverance, curiosity, collaborative problem-solving, negotiating shared space, toys, and other stuff, communication, building trust, and behaving in a trust-worthy way. As our frequent contributor John Comiskey has mentioned, he learned everything he needed to learn in kindergarten. Well, it would be nice to have it start even a bit earlier earlier.

Grades 1-4: Organized and individualized playful engagement with the external world especially the worlds of nature, numbers, words, and the social experience.

Grades 5-7: Organized and individualized engagement in how to conduct explorations and create experiences to share with others through research and design using science, writing, art, drama, math, programming, music, and other media meaningful to the learner and his/her context. Introduce learners to unfamiliar worlds including: foreign languages, different cultures, history, abstract mathematics, etc. , etc.

Grades 8-10: Team based and individualized experiences focused on how an individual productively engages with others — including very different others — to achieve shared objectives: the more tangible the better (including team sports), organized in a way to make explicit principles of individual integrity, personal creativity, the consequences of choice, justice, friendship, social effectiveness, the production of value, and differentiation of value.

Grades 11-13: Personal practica and adventures where the learner engages with others in something complicated — even better, complex — that is passionately important to the learner. With the help of mentors the learner reflects self-critically on the experience, especially using skills of analysis, synthesis, and creativity. Some of these practica and experiences would involve working in public safety, emergency management, firefighting, disaster response, emergency housing, and related concerns. Those emerging from these “adventures” would be the next generation of our professions.

Grades 14-16: Exploring the lessons-learned of others who have had adventures; including learning from literature, philosophy, religion, history, case studies, recreating laboratory experiments, and much, much more. Using their personal adventures as a touch-stones the young men and women (roughly 18-22 years of age) consider the lessons learned by others and what these other lessons may say to them. The skills of analysis, synthesis, and creativity are advanced as much as possible.

Life-long learning: After completing this 16 years of formal education our learners would join specific professions, such as law enforcement, firefighting, public health, and so on where they would receive profession-specific education and work across professions to solve real problems. At least every seven years our learners would have seven months of “refresher” learning in an explicitly interdisciplinary environment.

I pounded out this superficial vision in less than a half-hour. It will not hold up to much specific scrutiny and is beyond any realm of practicality. But, but… boy I think these kids would be some kind of police, firefighters, emergency managers and more.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 12, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

Well Phil your quick and dirty often beats my long and thoughtful. I like this architecture.

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