Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 13, 2011

Homeland Security Education: From pre-school to life long learning

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on August 13, 2011

This was originally posted by Phil Palin on August 12th

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.

“Commentary from Homeland Security educators” about the Kiltz homeland security education article

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on August 13, 2011

This was posted originally by Steve Recca on August 12th

In response to Linda Kiltz’ article, and Chris Bellavita and Mark Chubb’s initial commentary, I am providing the following running commentary from Homeland Security educators. These contributors are part of a larger planning committee associated with the development of The Journal of Homeland Security Education. The JHSE – http://www.JournalHSE.com – will publish its first issue in late January 2012.

On behalf of the contributors, thank you for the opportunity to add to the conversation … around Linda’s timely article.

James Ramsay Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
In his response to Linda Kiltz’ article, Mark Chubb wrote: “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.”
Really? It would be helpful to see an example of how academic HS may undermine existing efforts (whatever those are) by existing disciplines to secure appropriate remedies (which were not identified). It has not been the feedback from either my students or employers or internships (which include the FBI, TSA, the Secret Service, DHS, Lawrence Livermore Labs, several in local law enforcement, the EM community, the US Dept of State, and so on) I are receiving. The feedback from the market (at least to me and my program’s students) has been overwhelmingly positive and constructive.

It seems to me the entire concept of “synergy” has been lost in this argument. HS, at the undergraduate level, leans on and utilizes science and practice from a variety of extant disciplines, and synergizes wonderfully with graduate degrees in a variety of areas (risk management, EM, intelligence studies, law and policy, strategic studies, security management, etc), and thereby is an appropriate part of one’s professional education. Indeed, it seems to be a robust generalist degree for those looking for careers in law enforcement, security management, EM, or for subsequent graduate education.
Linda’s (Kiltz’) article clearly adds to the debate about the ever-growing and emergent discipline we are calling “academic homeland security”. Rather than trying to argue for its non existence, perhaps we may try to clearly articulate what it needs to do to be even more helpful to the enterprise.

Andy Cain DMgt – Homeland Security Board of Advisors Colorado Technical University
The disciplines of Public Health and Medical Services; Law; Fire Science; Emergency Management; Transportation; Communications; Agriculture; Energy; and, the 7 other Emergency Support Functions (ESF’s) are Cultural “Cylinders of Excellence”. And, within each you will find more tightly bound cylinders with the habits of self-licking ice cream cones.
Homeland Security does not “carve out” from those disciplines, Homeland Security does have the potential to bind those Cylinders-of-Excellence together symbiotically to address all-hazards and mitigate disasters. And, Homeland Security Education can be the “glue that binds” those cylinders for greater strength. I call that collaborative resilience.

Stan Supinski Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security
I am currently having one of the best discussions I’ve ever had in one of my classes that’s closely related. One of my students is arguing that the definition of homeland security is essentially multidisciplinary communication – or, as Andy states below, binding of the cylinders of excellence. The discussion came about because of the big child porn case from last week – which had Janet Napolitano standing next to the AG. Is child porn really an HS issue? I think not, but DHS played a role, even though there was no nexus to terrorism (ICE was involved).

It is pretty hard to come up with any public safety issue that doesn’t somehow connect to HS. And, 10 years later, we are no closer to defining it.

Mike Collier Eastern Kentucky University
One question that academia is still wrestling with is “What encompasses a multidisciplinary degree program?” When I was a student in the DIA multidisciplinary MS in Strategic Intelligence program back in the mid-1980s, there was an ongoing discussion about whether Intelligence was a real academic discipline. Proponents argued yes, because it had its own literature, its own professional and/or academic journals, and it had a professional community demanding instruction. I then encountered the same debate as to whether International Relations, also very multidisciplinary, was a real academic discipline when I started my PhD program in the mid-1990s–and this was 50 years after WWII, which most people peg as the start of the IR discipline. When it comes to multidisciplinary emerging disciplines, there will always be the naysayers who are conditioned by their single disciplinary blinders. The traditional single disciplines surely have not cornered the market on creating knowledge and solving society’s problems. The way we approach multidisciplinary Homeland Security at EKU, as was supported by the results of the 2009 CHDS conference on creating a model HS undergraduate curriculum, is that the discipline encompasses all that DHS, other government agencies, and the private sector do to protect the US–whether it is enforcing US laws at the border, protecting the CIP & KR, or responding to “all hazard” disasters. Because HS crosses government and private sector boundaries, I tell our students to think of it as a management degree specializing in security management and disaster preparedness. Eventually our HS instruction should create a core of productive HS professionals who speak the same language, and not a bunch of single discipline specialists who tend to “talk past” each other and get little done.

James Ramsay Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Good thoughts Mike. I’ll toss in a couple more intellectual tidbits: Consider the natural evolution that occurs: jobs=>occupations=>professions. Medicine and law went through this life cycle, as did nursing, engineering, and other professional fields. Today each is considered a bona fide, sovereign profession, not merely an occupation.

To broaden our perspective on whether or not “HS is a real discipline”, we can look at the status of many similar fields (aka occupations) today: security management, intelligence studies, industrial hygiene, occupational safety & health, environmental health, EM, CJ, law enforcement, IR, etc. Each can be considered a bona fide occupation with journals, professional associations, conferences, credentials, and some with accreditation standards. None have title protection or licensure. And each suffers from the challenge of an ill-defined professional boundary. When a field/occupation cannot clearly define who they are and who they are not, it is difficult to mature to a profession. A clearly defined professional boundary and some barriers to entry to that field have tended to be vital to the movement from occupation to profession. Professional boundaries, in turn, are often drawn via accreditation at the program level. Hence without a viable program level accreditation structure operating, it will be more difficult for HS to begin to define itself professionally. (I should note that accreditation is not a panacea and that data are unclear as to whether accreditation actually makes for “better practitioners”; however, accreditation does tend to tightly connect academic programs to best practices and is based in continuous quality improvement precepts).
In addition to an inarticulate professional boundary, I’d note that Dr Bellevita correctly points out that HS needs to define an underlying theoretical framework which describes its practice patterns and helps identify policy, strategy and tactics that work. Further, once developed, the HS field needs to confirm/disconfirm this theory with basic and applied research that’s subjected to peer review. However, while this is not an insurmountable deficiency, it is one that needs to be systematically addressed in the near term by HS and related educators/practitioners.

I once described academic HS as a “meta discipline” to the NY Times when I was asked what it HS “is”. I said this since HS professionals encompassed the need to be true boundary spanners, and to work/communicate with a plethora of other professionals in order to achieve a common objective. As such, its curriculum needs to reflect and bestow those skills to its students. There are disciplines that operate on a small scale (sub specialists in medicine or law; gastroenterology or nanotechnologists) and there are disciplines that operate on a larger scale, which is what HS may end up being more like. Again, at the undergraduate level, academic HS seems to make some sense at this time…. I think the jury is still out as to whether a PhD in HS makes sense…. Of course, those that pursue such a thing may end being the ones who generate and test the theory that needs to undergird the field.

Further, nobody really practices the entirety of the law, instead, they practice in something specific or a couple of things specific, but they all go to law school and they all pass a bar exam before they practice. The same can be said of medicine. Both medicine and law use and lean on the science and practice of a wide variety of extant disciplines in their own curriculum. Take medicine for example, med schools use biology, chemistry, physics, math, biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, risk management, business management, and public/environmental health, among others in their curricula. In many ways, I see the educational structure of HS to be following a similar path. To condemn academic HS for using a similar model to medicine and law is not logical.

At the undergraduate level, HS is a broad field, applied social science that leans on and uses the science from a wide variety of extant disciplines and which provides a functional and appropriate platform for entry level positions or for one to pursue subsequent credentialing (CPP, CEM) or graduate work in related by extant disciplines.

It is fascinating for me to sit on the ASIS Academic Council, and the IAFIE and ASSE Education Standards Committees, and to have worked on HS accreditation standards and the occasional EM debate and see that the professional issues in this respect are identical across each of these occupations. While it’s certainly legitimate for bona fide occupations to mature into sovereign professions, it is important to note that there is a life cycle that tends to describe this growth. Indeed what we may be witnessing with the examples provided, are complex and dynamic occupations that are more than occupations, but not quite yet professions and are in fact stuck in similar places in their life cycles.

Four for Saturday

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on August 13, 2011

I was going to use the Saturday spot to summarize the main points made over the past week in response to Linda Kiltz’s paper.  But given the breadth of the responses, I will forego a summary for now.  Interested readers who have not followed the conversation should start with the Monday, August 8th post, and look particularly at each day’s comments.

I would like to thank the homeland security watch bloggers and those who commented for using their valuable “cognitive surplus” to contribute to the continuing conversation about homeland security education and professionalism.

I would also like to thank Linda for her scholarship.  Linda will post her thoughts about this week’s discussion on Tuesday, August 16th.

I’d like to highlight in the next two posts (immediately above this one): comments from Phil Palin, and from Steve Ricca and his colleagues.

Phil created a pre-kindergarten through life-long-learning homeland security curriculum.

Steve posted some comments from several instructors developing a new journal, called The Journal of Homeland Security Education.

The final post for today summarizes some preliminary findings from an empirical study of homeland security education. The author allowed me to post these findings on homeland security watch, but since the findings and conclusions are still provisional, the author requested not using the author’s name until the study has been finalized.  Once it is, I will provide information about how to obtain the full work.

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.

August 10, 2011

Shouldn’t we at least agree about the ground rules first?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on August 10, 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.


“To date, there is no agreed 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.”
–(Kiltz, p. 13).

Definition of GROUND RULE
1: a sports rule adopted to modify play on a particular field, court, or course
2: a rule of procedure <ground rules for selecting a superintendent — American School Board Journal>s.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary
While in her article Professor Kiltz paints a beguiling image of a “homeland security education,” the current lack of even general consensus around a definition of “homeland security” itself should be sufficient to give pause and raise a host of questions.  Taking a step back to consider the bigger picture, how can a subject be taught if it cannot be defined?  And why should such a subject require a distinct educational identity when the concept of “national security” is lacking such a robust academic foundation (which seems not to bother practitioners)?

The definition issue

This particular blog post is not about coming to any conclusion, or even arguing for, a particular definition of “homeland security.”  For the sake of the argument considered this week, Kiltz offers the most recent version supplied by the Obama Administration:
The QHSR describes homeland security as the “intersection of evolving threats and hazards with traditional governmental and civic responsibilities for civil defense, emergency response, law enforcement, customs, border patrol, and immigration” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2010, vii).
“Homeland security is a widely distributed and diverse—but unmistakable—national enterprise. The term “enterprise” refers to the collective efforts and shared responsibilities of Federal, State, local, tribal, territorial, nongovernmental, and private-sector partners—as well as individuals, families, and communities—to maintain critical homeland security capabilities. The use of the term connotes a broadbased community with a common interest in the public safety and well being of America and American society that is composed of  multiple actors and stakeholders whose roles and responsibilities are distributed and shared (U.S. Department of  Homeland Security, 2010, viii).”

Fantastic stuff…if complicated.  And unclear.  Somewhat confusing, actually, if you get beyond the aspirations and attempt to imagine the practical implementation of including not only business and NGOs, but private citizens as well into what is still an overwhelmingly government enterprise.

Homeland security was a term adopted following 9/11 and expanded (providing greater emphasis on non-terrorist events) after Hurricane Katrina.  The federal department was thrown together by a small cadre of officials with little thought given to considering the state of the final stew that would emerge from all the ingredients put into the pot. Long standing boxes on the organizational charts at the state and local level were soon moved under new homeland security headings.

Useful synergies were created, though the response to Katrina suggested to many that existing capabilities were also degraded.  Will a common educational foundation help blend all the ingredients in the homeland security pot, or could it instead produce weak stew? Is it possible that the different parts of homeland security bring their own unique point-of-view to solving the big problems, and that this edge could be blunted by attempting to meld this into a multi or interdisciplinary program?

“This stuff will make you a national security Tyrannosaurus, just like me.”

(If you don’t recognize the edited movie quote, than you don’t have time to bleed…)

national security(DOD): A collective term encompassing both national defense and foreign relations of the United States. Specifically, the condition provided by: a. a military or defense advantage over any foreign nation or group of nations; b. a favorable foreign relations position; or c. a defense posture capable of successfully resisting hostile or destructive action from within or without, overt or covert. See also security.
DOD Dictionary of Military Terms

The character played by Jesse “The Body” Ventura in “Predator” would have assumed he was working in the field of national security, even if he might have been at a loss to define it or point to a formal educational foundation. In the real world, the same goes for the members of Seal Team 6 that brought Bin Laden to justice, as well as the intelligence analysts who determined his location and the diplomats who had to deal with angry Pakistani counterparts following the operation.  All work in “national security,” but come from different educational backgrounds.

General Petraeus, COIN jedi and the next director of the CIA,  earned a Ph.D. in international relations while Ash Carter, nominated to be the next deputy of defense, has a Ph.D. in physics.  Their personal backgrounds differ, and they lack common educational training, yet both have risen to national security leadership roles.  More importantly for this conversation, despite their profound differences they have come to not only speak compatible languages but contribute to a shared “national security” goal.

A common educational core does not enable someone from the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom, and Langley to work in the same general field and support each others’ efforts while advancing the goals of our national security enterprise. Education is obviously important, as well as common language and joint training and operational opportunities.  Scholars from various fields of study contribute national security-related research–engineers, chemists, sociologists, anthropologists, etc.  The strength of “national security” seems to rest on diversity.

What lessons can be learned for advancing homeland security…whatever that is?

August 9, 2011

Homeland security and emergency management: Stuck in the minor league?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 9, 2011

This is one of 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.


Linda Kiltz argues, “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.”

A story: Perhaps three weeks after the first National Strategy for Homeland Security was released I was seated at a luncheon table with two individuals who identified themselves as leaders in the National Emergency Management Association.  Later I confirmed the self-identification as accurate.

Mostly to make conversation I offered something like, “Well then, you must be thrilled with the new homeland security strategy.”

It was soon clear they had no idea what I was talking about.

They expressed some (polite?) curiosity regarding the Strategy so I offered a few highlights.  It’s been nine years, but I almost certainly gave particular attention to the emergency preparedness and response elements, including:

  • Integrate separate federal response plans into a single all discipline incident management plan.
  • Create a national incident management system.
  • Enable seamless communication among all responders.
  • Prepare for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear decontamination.
  • Plan for military support to civil authorities.
  • Build the Citizen Corps.
  • Build a national training and evaluation system. (Pages 42-45, July 2002, National Strategy for Homeland Security)

I closed with something like, “Sounds like the President just made emergency management one of the hottest careers around.”

Their response was rapid eye blinking and utter silence.

Two Cultures?

Dr. Kiltz describes serious cross-cultural complications that divide emergency management and homeland security.  That may well have been at play here.  My professional origins are not in emergency management.  I was talking to long-time real-world emergency managers.

Dr. Kiltz writes, “Because emergency management and homeland security education have evolved from very different historical contexts and academic disciplines, there will be on-going conflicts between the two that need to be resolved for multidisciplinary programs to be created and sustained in the long term. 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.”

Good idea.  Easier said than done, no doubt.  But still a good idea.  If all three of us had participated in such an education, perhaps our luncheon conversation would have been more productive.  What do you think, was our disconnect caused primarily by divergent academic paradigms?

Another story: In early 2008 this life-long Republican joined the Obama campaign’s homeland security advisory council.  A close friend served a similar role with the McCain campaign (whom I had supported in 2000, talk about burning bridges).  There were several big differences between the two groups.  For example, the Obama bunch was very much all-hazards oriented while the McCain group was mostly counter-terrorism focused.

But in terms of campaign dynamics the two panels shared a significant similarity:  When it came to competing with the National Security, Intelligence, and Foreign Policy campaign teams, Homeland Security mostly forfeited.  The big names and big ideas that mattered to each campaign were not associated with Homeland Security.   The only time I perceive the Obama HS advisory council got some first tier attention inside the campaign was when Hurricane Gustav threatened, and this was a very operational role.

On the Obama team were a wide-array of experienced, competent professionals and academics from emergency management, law enforcement, public health, counter-terrorism, cyber-management, and other disciplines. Several now have roles in the administration.  But none of us — not one — had the political, intellectual, or media power of several who focused on military, foreign policy, and intelligence issues.  We were not peers, not even near-peers.  The McCain Homeland Security squad was also a minor league team.

Linda Kiltz writes, “To provide well-educated professionals for the homeland security enterprise it is critical that academic programs in homeland security: (1) develop and implement a standardized curriculum with core functions and competencies that are inclusive of  emergency management, (2) evolve into new academic disciplines or stay grounded in a traditional academic discipline, and (3) utilize multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning.”

Once again, easier said than done, but this approach would generate benefits. Dr. Kiltz also lists and analyzes core competencies for both Emergency Management and Homeland Security and helpfully considers steps to reconcile the core competencies.

Unfortunately, I do not perceive any of this will produce homeland security near-peers with other national security leaders. Moreover, there is an instrumental and operational bias to the core competencies identified that I worry could undermine our actual competence to engage the toughest homeland security challenges.

Interdisciplinary or Multidisciplinary?

Dr. Kiltz carefully differentiates interdisciplinary from multidisciplinary and identifies several characteristics of an interdisciplinary education, including:

  • it fosters a problem-focused integration of information with more complex knowledge structures;
  • enhances critical thinking, creativity, and thinking and learning skills; and
  • provides a holistic approach in understanding complex problems…

These are precisely the advantages a wide range of national security mavens deploy and too few homeland security professionals can demonstrate. Regularly and robustly applying  these interdisciplinary skills would address a significant deficit in our substantive ability to engage complex homeland security problems.  A critical mass of homeland security leaders with meaningful interdisciplinary educations would also be able to engage other national security leaders as analytical and creative equals.

But Dr. Kiltz concludes, “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.”   The conditions she identifies are, indeed, very difficult to meet.  Besides the supposedly easier shift to multidisciplinary is far from guaranteed.  In my experience after two or three years most multidisciplinary programs descend to the quality of a truck stop’s buffet line… at 2 in the morning.

In any case, is even a good multidisciplinary curriculum good enough?  Are the wicked problems of homeland security susceptible to multidisciplinary ministrations?  Or do we require “a holistic approach in understanding complex problems”?  Is insisting on an interdisciplinary foundation a case of the best becoming an enemy of the good?  Or does the multidisciplinary approach only offer an illusion of progress?

Without a meaningful interdisciplinary core and cadre, I don’t see what added-value homeland security offers emergency management or, for that matter, the nation.  Certainly there are plenty of opportunities to improve around the edges.  But homeland security problems are big problems.  If we are serious about engaging the problems, we need to be more ambitious in how we educate our problem-solvers.

August 8, 2011

“The Challenges of Developing a Homeland Security Discipline to Meet Future Threats to the Homeland”

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on August 8, 2011

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
  • field?
  • 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?”


August 5, 2011

The debt deal and the “security category”

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS — by Philip J. Palin on August 5, 2011

The Budget Control Act of 2011 — aka the debt ceiling deal — formalizes a set of national security relationships seldom identified for common treatment.  According to the Act:

The term ‘security category’ includes discretionary appropriations associated with agency budgets for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the intelligence community management account (95–0401–0–1–054), and all budget accounts in budget function 150 (international affairs).

One other category — non-security — is created by the Act.

The statutory language is not entirely clear to me, in fact it is very obscure to me.  But in conversation with others I understand that by setting certain budget limitations on discretionary spending the debt deal is designed to encourage real horse trading on crafting a more reasonable budget.

For example, the debt deal says that unless other budget targets are achieved, discretionary spending shall be capped as follows:

With respect to fiscal year 2012- ‘‘(A) for the security category, $684,000,000,000 in new budget authority; and (B) for the nonsecurity category, $359,000,000,000 in new budget authority; ‘‘(2) with respect to fiscal year 2013— ‘‘(A) for the security category,  $686,000,000,000 in new budget authority; and  ‘‘(B) for the nonsecurity category, $361,000,000,000 in new budget authority;

These and other limitations on each of the two categories extended over the next ten years are so draconian that partisans of each category will supposedly be motivated to make other smarter and more specific cuts or authorize revenue increases in order to avoid the caps in the debt deal.

Whether or not mutual hostage taking ought be quite so central to crafting the federal budget is a topic for another day and, probably, a different blog.

Appropriate to the purposes of HLSWatch are the implications of Homeland Security sharing the same farrowing shed as defense, intelligence, the National Nuclear Security Administration, foreign affairs, and veterans.

A farrowing shed is where the mother sow gives birth and initially cares for her pig litter (I expose my rural Illinois origins).  In making this analogy I am not trying to say anything about pork-barrel politics.  Rather, I am suggesting a significant shift in the favored place of Homeland Security in the overall appropriations process.

For the last decade even when other appropriations were long-delayed, Homeland Security shared with Defense a place of honor at the top of the funding process.  Instead of a pig litter, in prior years HS might have been compared to a fine mare, named National Security, giving birth to twins. Certainly HS is much smaller than the first-born Pentagon, but HS has been given lots of attention precisely because of its comparative weakness.

Now DHS and its components are just one of many national security piglets, and arguably the runt of the litter.

While homeland security has usually not needed to compete head-to-head over funding with other national security players, it does regularly compete over policy attention, political priorities, and prestige.  It does not often win if the others play hard.

After a decade of war — and casualties — it is difficult to imagine significant cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs and easy to imagine moral and pragmatic cause for increases.  For example, VA benefits are specifically protected in the debt deal.

Just given what is happening with nuclear proliferation — and the comparatively small size of its budget — the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration is unlikely to be seen as a candidate for meaningful budget-cutting.  Like a miniature albino pig, NNSA is more likely to be prized than paupered.

Foreign aid is a perpetual target, but it only totals $30 billion. Eliminate it and the long-term debt will barely twitch. The entire State Department annual operating budget is only a bit more than $14 billion.

Defense is and will remain the big boy of the lot.  The intelligence community is increasingly yoked to Defense.  The full intelligence budget — military and civilian — is mostly classified and tough to track, much less cut.

Within this “security category” the battle over priorities — financial and otherwise — will mostly be between the military, the diplomats, the spies, and the homeland security guys-and-gals.  The other three have more history, stronger political, commercial, and academic networks, more intellectual capital, often dress better — though Coast Guard uniforms are stylish — and are usually much more effective exercising influence.  Consider yesterday’s preemptive strike by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen.

The real budget battle will be over Medicare cuts and revenue increases.  What will the security category need to symbolically and substantively contribute to this fight?  Certainly Defense will give the most.  But whatever is required of the entire litter, the runt is likely to contribute proportionally more.

Preventing Violent Extremism

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 5, 2011

Wednesday afternoon the National Security Staff released, on behalf of the President, a new eight-page policy statement entitled: Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.

This should be read in combination with the National Strategy for Counterterrorism released at the end of June.

I have no substantive problems with the new paper.  It bears considerable resemblance to the America Rising program advocated just two weeks ago here at HLSWatch.  I agree with the principles outlined in the document.

I wonder why the new document’s core was not included in the counterterrorism policy statement or why the two documents were not released at the same time.   Each document is strengthened by the other… so why the five week gap?

I have been an advocate of concisely strategic Presidential directives focused more on principles than tactical implementation.  This is an effective outline of principles.  But in this case, just a few more specifics on implementation might have reinforced achievement of the principles.

August 3, 2011

Useless or Faceless?

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Technology for HLS — by Mark Chubb on August 3, 2011

John Quincy Adams is often quoted as having said, “One useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a Congress.” Another unnamed sage quipped, “Congress is continually appointing fact-finding committees, when what we really need are some fact-facing committees.” This past month’s acrimonious debt debates have done nothing to disprove either theorem despite their success in passing legislation to avert the nation’s first-ever default on its public debt.

It’s easy to see the tortured process of the past month and the polarized politics propelling the participants as a product of a deeply ambivalent body politic. But that would be too convenient and untrue to boot.

As Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation explained in a recent article, surveys indicate that the public at-large is much more reasonable and responsible than its representatives in Congress. Clear majorities of self-identified Republicans supported higher taxes and fewer spending cuts than those adopted yesterday. Likewise, a substantial proportion of self-identified Democrats were more than willing to amend entitlement eligibility criteria and make broader and deeper cuts to prevent default.

Politicians that pay too much attention to the polls are often derided by their rivals, who like to allege that this tendency suggests a lack of leadership ability closely akin to a moral failing. Direct democracy has its proponents, but few of even the most ardent advocates of participatory democracy would argue that it serves as either an efficient or effective way of making complex and critical decisions like those surrounding the federal budget and deficits. But how much messier would it really be than what we have all just witnessed?

The dynamics of group decision-making intrigue me. In his 2005 bestseller The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki, addressed the strengths and weaknesses of group decision-making to three particular kinds of problems:

  • Cognition problems, which require decision makers to infer unknowns from known conditions;
  • Coordination problems, which require decision-makers to achieve efficient outcomes under uncertain, competitive conditions; and
  • Cooperation problems, which involve getting “self-interested, distrustful people to work together, even when narrow self-interest would seem to dictate that no individual should take part.”

I think it’s self-explanatory which type of problem deficit-cutting most closely resembles. Surowiecki argued that effective group decision-making in all of these situations depends on three conditions: 1) diversity, 2) independence, and 3) (a particular kind of) decentralization. Congress fails on all three counts, and the process proposed in the legislation for goading our representatives into action does little if anything to improve this sorry situation.

Surowiecki notes that diversity and independence matter — particularly when solving cognition problems — “because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” Decentralization on the other hand mediates the influence of disagreement and conflict because “Groups benefit from members talking to and learning from each other, but too much communication, paradoxically, can actually make the group as a whole less intelligent.”

Balancing the three decision-making prerequisites is clearly a challenging endeavor, and sometimes more difficult than the problem itself. As a result, some of the best decision-making methods use mechanisms like market-pricing and intelligent voting systems to aggregate individual judgments to produce more accurate representations of the collective mind than would otherwise emerge from direct communication among participants.

These observations may or may not suggest the need for Constitutional or procedural reforms to make Congress function more efficiently and effectively when dealing with such contentious issues. But they should inform our assessment of what it takes to improve the performance of programs and activities affected by the looming budget cuts resulting from yesterday’s Grand and Smelly Compromise.

How might we engage the wisdom of crowds to improve the performance of homeland security and domestic intelligence operations? What applications of these or related concepts are already bearing fruit?

August 2, 2011

The Relevance of Aum Shinrikyo’s 1995 Attack

Filed under: WMD — by Alan Wolfe on August 2, 2011

Last Thursday, Richard Danzig released a study at the Center for a New American Security that provided some additional background on the infamous Aum Shinrikyo attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

The report didn’t change the basic nature of the case. This attack stood out because of the use of sarin nerve agent on an unwitting public, causing 12 immediate deaths and about a thousand injuries associated with the nerve agent exposure. About 5000 people stormed into hospitals demanding attention for phantom symptoms. This incident directly led to the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici legislation in 1996 entitled “Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996” and the formation of what is now the WMD Civil Support Teams.

These facts are easily understood.

Last Tuesday, David Ignatius of the Washington Post offered a different view of the report.  He suggested that the world public should not have been surprised that a right-wing Norwegian extremist would cause 76 deaths in a single day, in what most would agree was a secure and stable nation. Ignatius suggested that all you had to do is consider the Aum Shinrikyo incident, pulled out of its obscurity by Mr. Danzig.

Most important, the next time the weapons of choice may not be a bomb and a semiautomatic rifle, as in the case of the Oslo attacker who killed 76 people. Lunatics and sane plotters alike may have access to chemical and biological weapons that could kill thousands.  …

Danzig and his co-authors make the essential point: In dealing with these extremist groups and cults, the world is playing Russian roulette: “Many chambers in the gun prove to be harmless, but some chambers are loaded.” Another bullet was fired last Friday, and we are surely clicking toward more. The surprise is that we’re still surprised.

Now, if you were to ask me as to how the Norway incident compared to any other past major terrorist incident, I personally would have looked at the “lone wolf” actor and his use of an ammonium nitrate fertilizer bomb and immediately said “Timothy McVeigh, Oklahoma City, 1995.”

The Aum incident was unique in its basis in a religious cult, the availability of millions of dollars and numerous personnel, the mode of attacks and its targets, the ability to develop a production plant and test its nerve agent prior to the Tokyo incident, and the lack of police engagement throughout all this.  The two incidents are absolutely nothing alike, and no one should speculate about the future of CBRN terrorism based on Norway’s tragic incident.

But then I saw this Federation of American Scientists’ report, which suggests that Anders Breivik’s writings within his 1500-page manifesto made him out to be a potential CBRN terrorist, someone deliberately attempting to get the materials and technology required to pull off a significant mass casualty CBRN incident.

He talked about getting hydrogen cyanide or anthrax in quantities sufficient to kill thousands of “traitors,” specifically his Norwegian fellow citizens. He wrote about high-risk commercial radioactive sources and even suggested low-yield nuclear weapons and nuclear EMP attacks. As a result of this madman’s intent, the report suggests that his attempts “to secure, weaponize, and deliver certain CBRN agents” was possibly “directly linked in a campaign of violent revolution,” and that “subsequent violent extremists” will now find this approach valid and applicable to their ends.


One has to consider the elements of “intent” and “capability” in any discussion of WMD terrorism. I recently heard an analyst say that “we believe that nations have WMD capabilities but question their intent; while with terrorists, we question their capabilities but believe their intent.” I believe that it’s actually relatively easy to decipher the intent of nations when they develop and store unconventional weapons. But it does seem that people get very excited over terrorists’ stated intentions to obtain WMD, even when said terrorists have no capability to get these weapons. The fact remains, while Breivik may have had delusions about getting CBRN agents, he didn’t have access to them nor is there any indication that he could get them. He obtained his weapons just like any other terrorist, criminal, or insurgent does, on the open market.

There has not been a chemical terrorist incident on the scale of Aum Shinrikyo over the past 15 years. There has been one biological terrorist incident of note since the 1984 Rajneeshee cult use of salmonella in Oregon, a span of more than 25 years. That’s not just the luck of “playing Russian roulette,” as Mr. Danzig and the Federation of American Scientists would have you believe. That’s an empty gun. The only thing you can derive from McVeigh, Aum Shinrikyo, Ivins, and Breivik is that “black swan” events exist. You should not ignore the possibility of “black swan” events, but you should also not try to plan and budget for emergency response based on “worst case” scenarios. Other routine challenges and threats need to be addressed.

Our analysts and newspaper op-ed writers draw the wrong conclusions about the Aum Shinrikyo and Breivik cases.

Mass casualty events can happen, but constitute less than 0.5 percent of historical terrorist incidents. CBRN incidents can happen, but are so infrequent as to be nearly statistically insignificant. These are characteristics of “black swan” events. The key to coping with a negative “black swan” event is to build robustness, resiliency if you will, into one’s structure so that the impact, if and when it happens, doesn’t leave one so devastated in its wake.

The 9/11 incident did not devastate the United States. Likewise, a terrorist CBRN incident is not an existential threat to the nation. Let’s not use the Breivik incident as a convenient excuse to resurrect unwarranted fears about CBRN terrorism.

Dorothy Thompson, an American journalist and author, once said “There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings.”

The truth is that our government overreacts to the threat of CBRN terrorism by focusing on the most dangerous materials in existence and their potential effects if released in large quantities. And when faced with the fact that they cannot adequately pay for and sustain enough detectors, medical countermeasures, hospital beds, and federal responders for all CBRN threat scenarios, they ignore what can be done – what ought to be done – in terms of resiliency and local response. That’s not the way to develop a sustainable strategy that also has to address the daily challenges of conventional terrorists, criminal organizations, and other non-state actors.


A symposium next week on “Challenges of Developing a Homeland Security Discipline.”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on August 2, 2011

You are invited to participate in a Homeland Security Watch symposium starting Monday, August 8th.  The symposium — which in this instance means an online discussion — will focus on 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.”

Several of our usual contributors to this blog will comment on the article, starting next Monday.  You are invited to comment also.

You can download a copy of the paper here (free, but some registration is required).

Here’s the abstract of the paper:

This paper argues that homeland security education must continually adapt to future risks, threats and vulnerabilities. To do this, it will be necessary to look at the many ways of looking at homeland security thinking and practice from multiple perspectives and disciplines. Looking at the homeland security enterprise through a variety of perspectives, taken together and synthesized, can deepen understanding and shed additional light on the scope of the field or discipline. Next, this paper discusses the need for existing and future educational programs in homeland security that are inclusive of the theories, practices and research methods of emergency management, despite the current cultural differences between these fields. Finally, this paper highlights three challenges in the development of homeland security education programs: (1) the development and implementation of a standardized curriculum with core functions and competencies that are inclusive of emergency management, (2) the evolution into a new academic discipline; (3) and the adoption of multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning.

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