Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 15, 2011

Should Homeland Security Education Sleep With the Fishes?

Filed under: Education — by Arnold Bogis on August 15, 2011

“As dean, I often cited a remark made by the dean of Harvard’s Medical School on the occasion of its hundredth birthday in 1884.  That acting dean was none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes, father of the famous jurist who bore the same name with a “junior.” At the celebration, he commented: if the entire medical establishment (by which he meant the Harvard Medical School and its affiliated hospitals in Boston) were put onto a ship, taken out into Boston Harbor, and sunk, it would be better for the health of the citizens of the Commonwealth—and worse for the fishes.”

“What relevance could this have for schools of public policy? I believe that we should ask Holmes’s question: when, in the treatment of various maladies suffered by the body politic, did the prevailing treatment become therapeutic? Or, when might it do so?”

–Graham Allison, former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, “Emergence of Schools of Public Policy: Reflections by a Founding Dean.”

This was a question Professor Allison considered as he led the founding of what is now Harvard’s public policy school, the Kennedy School of Government.  A question he considered in the late 1970s, almost 100 years following Woodrow Wilson publishing on “The study of administration,” which is considered  by some to mark the beginning of the study of public administration (and later public policy) as a discrete field.

On this blog over the past week there has been much discussion concerning the future of homeland security education.  Yet there has been distressingly little discussion of why “homeland security” deserves to be taught as a discrete field of study.  Or even consideration that the idea did not exist 15 years ago, the concept was considerably less ambitious pre-9/11, and today there is little agreement on the definition or even regarding details of the predominant (perhaps only) organizing theory of resilience.

Is it possible that by rushing into curriculum development, in particular undergraduate curriculum, it could be worse for everyone’s homeland security? How can homeland security education avoid bunking with Luca Brasi?

Just a thought as post-script to an interesting HLS Watch post this weekend provided by a mystery scholar…(perhaps it should have been labeled the “Long Blog” or the “X Post?”)


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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 15, 2011 @ 6:32 am

Enough with the self flagellation! Civil Security (Homeland Security) in a democracy (republic) is as they say about aging–no job for sissys! The USA is not immune from either human nature or the tides of history. In particular with the apparatus of the state’s security being taught such very very skillful lessons by the NAZIS and COMMUNISTS and other authoritarian and represssive regimes in the 20th Century (and many times over previous centuries) the only real change is technology. And like complete innocents as reflected by FLASHMOBS almost no thought goes into the sometimes mixed blessings brought to human kind by the technologists–including the bomb and drone makers.

Few ask what kind of world is wanted or needed if humankind is to survive! Most just ask to get along and go along except that few control their own destiny without at one point or another having the STATE or some other power intervene directly or indirectly in their lives. If the fundamental rationale of the TEA PARTY is “leave US alone” then that no longer is a possibility. What is a possibility is that humankinds best efforts and best relationships are supported by the STATE and not destroyed accidentally or intentionally.

I would argue the militarization of policing is a HOMELAND SECURITY issue! I might start defining HOMELAND SECURITY by identifying what it is NOT!

But yes it needs are extremely complex and special to do correctly or we will let individual freedom and democracy slip away little by little like Carl Sandberg’s FOG on LITTLE CAT FEET.

Comment by John Comiskey

August 15, 2011 @ 8:02 am

If and when asked by a 17-19 year old police/fire officer aspirant; I want to be a policemen or firemen what should I be doing?

I raise this question because I have been asked that question by at least 6 young men all of which are the sons of close family friends and 1 of which is my 18 year old son. All of the police/fire aspirants live in NYC and are focusing on the NYPD/FDNY.

IMHO, I am uniquely qualified to answer this question as I am recently retired from NYPD, have well placed family and friends on both NYPD and FDNY and teach HLS and Criminal Justice in NY and NJ.

The above discloses my law-enforcement centric HLS perspective. That said, I favor the idea of an all-hazard HLS perspective and believe that EMT, EM, others including the private sector HLS stakeholders aspiring to entry-level HLS positions would benefit from like recommendations.


1. Stay out of trouble. Walk away from trouble. Don’t associate with trouble makers or people who associate with trouble makers. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t speed. Don’t use drugs. I have received too many phone calls from friends and friends of friends with stories of their son or daughter who was allegedly sitting on a park bench when a friend or friend of a friend who allegedly lit up a marijuana cigarette. The police arrived and issued criminal court summonses or arrested all the bench sitters and that’s not fair. Those not sitting on the bench would have been better off if they had walked away from trouble when they had the opportunity.

2. Stay healthy. Get a full medical now and address any issues prior to an applicant examination.

3. Enroll in an undergraduate program of your choosing with two goals:
a. Earn 64 college credits
b. Establish a foundation for a BA or BS.

The above are practical and not necessarily ideal recommendations.

1. All good and especially adolescent citizens would be well served by the primary #1 recommendation.

2. Medical and increasingly psychological (e.g. I took ridlin when I was in grammar school) are self explanatory and beyond the scope of this blog.

3. The 64-college credit is an NYPD prerequisite. Military veterans are exempted. In addition, NYPD requires 64 credits to promote to Sergeant, 96 for Lieutenant, and a BA or BS for Captain. While all HLS aspirants would be well served by the primary recommendation #2; the presumption (assumption?) is that the college credentialed applicant will have acquired sufficient critical thinking skills, analytic reasoning abilities, and writing skills.

3a. It is noted that I did not recommend that either the police or fire aspirant focus on criminal justice or fire science. I recommended that they focus on something that interested them for four reasons:

i. Neither the NYPD nor FDNY’s college requirements specify a particular course of study.

ii. People tend to perform better at tasks that interest them.

iii. Plan B: the police/fire aspirant may find that they have changed their minds about their career or their minds were changed for them (e.g. medical/psychological disqualification). The non-police/fire college credential will afford other opportunities. Again, a practical recommendation.

iv. Change in organizations. At least two of my 6 police/fire advice seekers have also mentioned the FBI. Currently, the FBI is looking for candidates with accounting, engineering, and law, and language degrees (skills too). Alternately, a candidate with any degree and 5 years law enforcement can apply.

What then does my practical advice have to do with HLS education and especially undergraduate HLS education?

HLS’ all-hazard –multi-agency –multijurisdictional perspective undergraduate education would afford HLS aspirants career insights and opportunities that they might not have been aware of and are better suited for.

Finally, an undergraduate degree in HLS might effectively promote and facilitate the central requirement of effective HLS –strategic collaboration amongst all stake holders to secure the homeland.

Were a HLS program available, I would encourge those same 6 advice seekers to consider a HLS undergraduate education program.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 15, 2011 @ 8:24 am

John a great great post and wonderful advice but are you sure your real name was not O’Comiskey? I that a certain national origin was a prerequisite for NYPD?

And question does not NYPD enjoy the highest ratio of badged officers to citizens of any city in the world?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 15, 2011 @ 8:37 am

John, Regarding your encouragement to enroll in an undergraduate HLS degree: I also hear — read between the lines — the right kind of HLS degree. John Henry Newman said something like (can’t find it right now): Any course of study can be approached liberally or illiberally. By this he meant any academic activity can encourage free and responsible reasoning or consist of rote and meaningless instruction. Some poetry classes are nothing more than the professor’s tiny fascist state. There are motorcycle maintenance courses that are great examples of liberal learning. I think I read you saying that HLS strategic collaboration (and more) requires much more attention to free and responsible than rote and meaningless.

Comment by John Comiskey

August 15, 2011 @ 8:56 am


NYPD’s Irishness a thing of the past see:

Largest Class in Five Years. Recruits Were Born in 55 Different countries.


One thing to consider, NYC’s 8 million + citizens are complemented by another 7-8 million commuters on any given day. NYC is a global city.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 15, 2011 @ 9:01 am

Hurrah for diversity! I thought the GAELIC speaking people had perhaps declined in NYC!

Comment by Michael Brady

August 15, 2011 @ 10:56 am

Seems to me on or about the 12th of September 2001 cops starting toting M4s and wearing their armor on the outside, firefighters started worrying about anthrax and RDDs, county and state emergency management organizations added the term homeland security to their logos, and manufacturers of safety equipment changed the color of portable direct reading instruments from yellow or orange to olive drab or tactical black. Here we are a decade down the road and who is responsible for real world emergency services at the municipal, county, and state level? The fire services and emergency management. Want to serve your community? Get your AA to become a cop or firefighter. Continue your education with a BS and MS in public administration and emergency services. Apply for some grant money to study at FEMA. The NIMS all hazards plan works regardless whether casualties are caused by a tornado or a lone wolf al qaeda wannabe. You still get to protect your city from transnational terrorist organizations (if they ever show up again) and in the mean time you can help your community prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters that actually happen with some regularity. $0.02

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 15, 2011 @ 11:55 am

Just noting for the record about 880K police at States and their local governments. About the same for Professional Fire Service with another 1.2 million volunteers. Both almost totally unprotected for CBRNE!

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