Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 13, 2012

Perhaps not the best choice…

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on August 13, 2012

…and no, I am not referring to the recent announcement of Paul Ryan as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee.

Instead, I’m describing my reaction to this full page ad for the “Emergency Management & Homeland Security Program” at Florida State University in the college ranking issue of Newsweek.

In case you think I in anyway altered this photo, you can see a similar shot (without the action movie-appropriate words) here from their website:


Obviously, among the many questions that these pictures bring up, is been where and done what exactly? As best as I can tell from the information provided on their website, here are the profiles/resumes of the program’s leaders:

Dr. Audrey Heffron Casserleigh is the Director of the Center for Disaster Risk Policy at Florida State University, and the Director of the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program in the College of Social Sciences at Florida State University. As Center Director Dr. Heffron Casserleigh manages the intersection of academic research and government projects for a variety of agencies including FEMA, Health and Human Sciences, and the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Dr. Heffron Casserleigh has written over 20 articles and appears in the press on MSNBC and the AP. She has served as a lecturer and consultant to the US Department of State, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Korean Secret Service, Chinese Academy of Sciences, American and International Red Cross, Ghanian National Disaster Agency and the Italian National Emergency Management Organization. She currently serves on the Directorate Board for the International Society for Crisis and Emergency Management (ISCEM).

As EMHS Director, Dr. Casserleigh has overseen the tremendous growth of the program in the past five years, and she is currently focused on increasing exchanges between FSU and international programs to the benefit of students and faculty.  Dr. Casserleigh’s areas of dedicated research include man-made disasters and the organizational behavior of terrorist networks.


David F. Merrick (MS) is the Deputy Director for the Center for Disaster Risk Policy and an Adjunct Instructor in the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Academic Program at Florida State University.  As Deputy Director, Mr. Merrick is responsible for managing a $1.4 million research and instructional budget as well as client and project management.  Landmark projects have included a nationwide disaster housing resource program for FEMA, extensive training and exercises for the US Department of Health and Human Services Senior Leadership, development of a groudbreaking Special Needs registration program, and the internationally acclaimed TEST (Tabletop Exercise System Technology) used in the United States, Philippines, Korea, Croatia, and the Czech Republic.

Mr. Merrick is a recognized expert in disaster technology systems and has over fifteen years of experience in software design and development. He has conducted extensive research on exercise design and evaluation, special needs populations during a disaster, and the ideological franchising and expansion of terrorist organizations. Mr. Merrick has been sponsored by the US Department of State to conduct emergency management training in Ghana, and has presented research around the world, including Prague (2008), the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing (2010), the Philippines (2010 and 2011), Romania (2011) and the University of Oxford (2012).  Mr. Merrick is a current member of the International Emergency Managers Association (IAEM) and The International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS).

Courses taught at FSU include Disaster Systems, Introduction to Terrorism: Preparedness and Response, Homeland Security Policy and Practice, and Advanced Topics in Terrorism.  Mr. Merrick has also extensively guest lectured in the Foundations of Emergency Management and Public Health and Emergency Management courses.

His ongoing research is centered around topics such as information and communication technology usage in disaster management, crisis mapping, open source situational awareness, and terrorism.

Okay…so been where doing what exactly again?  And the insights gleaned from these experiences to be passed along to the lucky student include…? There doesn’t seem to be any mention of particular “Mega Disasters” or “Global Security” issues that these individuals have personally dealt with or are able to teach about.

I don’t wish to come off as rude or demeaning. They are operating in a serious educational institution and offering education on a very important subject.  Their students seem to be working on serious topics in important offices. And I would only want to encourage additional students from all areas of study to consider this field.

However, when the very importance, practicality, and perhaps even existence of this subject as a separate academic field is in question, the choice of this type of advertisement doesn’t help. In fact, if the faculty would take their sunglasses off, they might even notice that the legitimacy of their academic venture is in no way secure.  Perhaps it’s time to provide links to those 20 articles Dr. Casserleigh?

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 13, 2012 @ 6:28 am

Welll based on the theory that all can contribute I have no real objection to the advertisement!

But here is a challenge to all of the Higher Ed community involved in HS, HD, EM, and Public Safety! And I believe would make a good campaign issue since no President and no Administration and no Congress has yet addressed it!

ISSUE: First, identify what organizations–public and private–have skills, competencies, and capabilities to be involved in preparedness, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery–and what,when, why, how, and where did they become involved in relevant programs, functions, and activities and was that involvement appropriate now, in the past, or in the future?

With respect to just one element of the paradigm, specifically PREPAREDNESS, the last survey was conducted by the Joint Committee on Defense Production in 1976!

I could mount an argument that FEMA, e.g.,is not authorized legally to conduct a full range of the required programs, functions, and activities to be considered the federal safety net! And research as to why or why not would be of utility!


What single committee on the HILL has oversight of these questions? I again recommend establishment ion the 113th Congress a permanent joint committee on HS and EM!

We (the US) have let a 1000 flowers bloom and they all (or mostly) have withered and died!

Comment by TwShiloh

August 13, 2012 @ 7:07 am

First thing that came to my mind when I saw the advertisement was a word I and my heavy metal compatriots used in the 1980s to refer to those who tried too hard to get the look of the subculture while still spending all their time bopping to disco in their Walkmans.

Poseur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poseur)

They may all be eminently qualified in their fields and offer a bang up program but the ad falls way short of its mark by taking itself way too seriously.

Perhaps this strikes a chord in me as it looks far too much like those Rambo poses you’re likely to see by the fobbits from Iraq and Afghanistan who never went farther than the TCBY queue.

A bit more effort on substance and the style part will usually take care of itself.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 13, 2012 @ 7:11 am

On May 13th, 2003, Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann testifed before the House Rules Committee in favor of a permanent Standing Committee on Homeland Security. That testimony was paralled in the Senate!

Comment by Michael Brady

August 13, 2012 @ 9:14 am


Perhaps it’s time to provide links to those 20 articles Dr. Casserleigh?

Here’s her CV http://cdrp.net/pdf/Heffron-Casserliegh%20vita%203-09c.pdf It seems long enough…

As for silly poses and hyperbolic taglines I suspect they had a great time – and had to suppress their giggles – posing for their “FEMA in the Matrix” team photo. As an adjunct in a program that struggles to achieve critical mass, I am sympathetic to every school’s need to “First, fill the seats.”

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 13, 2012 @ 10:32 am

Arnold, Good catch and, for me, a reasonable concern.

I expect Michael and Shiloh, together, have accurately perceived what’s going on: ironic, self-deprecating humor is almost certainly involved. But so is a self-conscious effort to benefit from images and expectations that are assumed to be floating about the minds of prospective students. It is mildly outrageous (can those two words travel together?).

Irony is convenient in its persistent double-meaning; in this case designed to capture attention and deflect blame. I try do the same thing with poetry and obscure literary allusions. FSU is being more effective. Have you seen the new book on Sincerity by R. Jay Magill, Jr.

At least the FSU ad is being noticed… even talked about… here. Something more serious and sincere — even as a full-page spread — would have remained off-the-radar.

I want to give the FSU faculty the benefit of the doubt. But I share your discomfort. It says something about homeland security that I don’t want to say.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

August 13, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

First off: Bill, welcome back! You don’t provide your insightful comments for a few weeks and people begin to worry.

Michael, thanks for sharing the CV. I admit to only doing a cursory search for such a document, but I think that gets to one of my points that it shouldn’t take more than a quick search to find such information.

To the other comments in general I’d just like to add that I never doubted that these individuals were much more qualified than I to teach emergency management. It’s good to not take oneself too seriously and perhaps have one such picture on your department’s website for fun. As a researcher coming across it I would smile, and as a prospective student it might give me a good impression of the program.

However, not only is it the public face of the program in a national news magazine advert, it is the theme of the entire website with the instructor’s “Matrix” pictures appearing as banners on their bio pages. As a student I would worry about what potential employers might think about my educational background if they checked out the program’s website.

The site where the Director’s CV originates is separate and appears to focus more on the same group’s contracting and research work. The “Matrix” pictures appears there as well, but is not the theme of the entire site. There is also a lot more about the research interests of the people involved–exactly the type of information a potential student might be looking for.

I wouldn’t have posted about it except that we’ve discussed homeland security education previously. I’m just of the opinion that it is not yet an established academic discipline and how it is presented to the public is worth considering.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 14, 2012 @ 1:12 am

Thanks Arnold and yes rough to withdraw from this blog for 6 weeks. I covered parts of 20 states. Distributed a few pitchforks so the peasants will be armed when attacking the Bastille!

Comment by Michael Brady

August 14, 2012 @ 10:29 am

Of their dozen courses only three are directly related to homeland security or terrorism. The rest seem sensibly oriented toward emergency management from a traditional public administration perspective. Given the relative frequency of disasters compared to terrorist attacks that’s still a little high but I suppose you don’t get the grant money or the government surplus tactical gear unless you put “homeland security” in your program title. So, truth be told, the Matrix team should be wearing blue jeans, t-shirts, gumboots, and hardhats instead of black leather and mirror shades, but you will not fill as many seats in your program with the promise of lukewarm coffee and stale Red Cross bologna sandwiches.

Core Courses (Required)

PAD 4391 Foundations in Emergency Management**
PAD 4393 Emergency Management Programs, Planning and Policy

Elective Courses (Choose Two)

PAD 4372 Emergency Management Leadership and Communications
PAD 4374 Intro to Terrorism*
PAD 4375 Advanced Topics in Terrorism* (Prerequisite: Intro to Terrorism*)
PAD 4395 Disaster Systems** (Prerequisite: Foundations in Emergency Management**)
PAD 4833 International Comparative Disaster Management
PAD 4936 Public Health and Emergency Management
PAD 4936 Homeland Security
PAD 4936 Disaster Dollars: The Financing of Emergency Management Recovery
PAD 4936 Emergency Management Studio
PAD 4936 Law and Ethics in Emergency Management


Comment by William R. Cumming

August 14, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

I note that many of the course titles are the same
as those in FEMA’s EMI catelogue and have course outlines on line for those in the Higer ED community wishing to down load course materials as instructors.

During my 20 years in FEMA (1979-1999) I reviewed personally all EMI course materials for legal sufficiency and potential liability issues!

I understand that ended with my departure. During those years FEMA was prohibited for policy reasons from providinginstruction to law enforcement personnel at the request of the FBI and Main Justice.

During the Reagan Era all Directors of FEMA reported to the White House through the AG after ED MEESE became AG! During the REAGAN first term Director Louis
O. Guiffrida reported to the President through ED MEESE as Counselor to the President!

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 14, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

Should I mention a former NYC Mayor that may become Secretary DHS under Romney if he is elected?

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 14, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

Should I mention that John Brennan may wish to become Obama’s next DHS Secretary?

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 14, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

Normally the OMB guidance on the FY 2014 budget submission would get sent out in early September!With formal passbacks from OMB Thanksgiving Weekend!

The required briefing books for the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 as amended are due after Labor

Also the so-called Plum Bookwill be published in early October!

Reports to GAO by each agency and department as to political appointees gaining career status have been due each month this year.

Comment by FSU Student

December 20, 2013 @ 11:57 pm

I recognize this as a somewhat old article, but I have taken classes (some online, others in-class) with the individuals you are discussing – I can vouch for their experience. Much of the coursework is an in-depth critique and analysis of public policy regarding emergency management and homeland security, with a practical component in the required courses. Having taken courses taught by three of the individuals pictured. I can assure you that the promotional imagery is not so much an earnest attempt to appear like Agent Smith/The Men in Black in order for prospective students to say “wow! cool!”, but rather, it is very intentionally tongue-in-cheek.

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