Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 10, 2014

Needing your help: Core readings in homeland security

Filed under: Education — by Philip J. Palin on July 10, 2014

I have been asked to prepare a reading list for a graduate symposium in homeland security.  The purpose of the symposium (as I understand it) is to facilitate a meaningful introduction to the field by those approaching the end of graduate studies in other fields: especially law, international affairs, public administration, business, and public health.

I perceive the founders of the symposium have at least two goals: First, to provide the graduate students with sufficient grounding in homeland security that they can reasonably assess their interest in homeland security-related careers and, if interested, have a head-start in engaging and networking within homeland security.  A second goal may involve offering homeland security some non-traditional, even provocative insights emerging from this interdisciplinary consideration.

Especially given these goals the symposium does not seek to “teach” as much as “stimulate”.  The reading list should helpfully suggest major issues and trends.  It should prompt conversation and critique by soon-to-be PhDs, lawyers, and executives.  It is a foundation more than a framing.

It has not yet been finalized, but the symposium will probably meet once every 90 days for roughly six to seven hours of sustained engagement. Four sessions are anticipated.  There will be the opportunity for additional informal engagement, online and otherwise.

I have decided the reading list should be available free online.  I am inclined to give attention to the unfolding nature of homeland security law, policy, and strategy since 9/11.   I would prefer to have no more than ten core readings.  Right now I have fifteen and am tempted to list even more.

Readings that I most regret leaving off the list include the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, some of the better (and worst) Presidential Policy Directives, the OLC memorandum on “contemplated lethal operations”, Federal District Court decisions in Klayman v. Obama and ACLU v. Clapper, and several of the Federalist Papers at about which point I lose all restraint, the universe of reading expanding quickly into quantum and complexity theory.

What else would you insist be on the list?  What would you remove from my list without a second thought?

Potentially helpful to persuading me — and probably a subtext for the missive below — I am a product and practitioner of Higher Criticism.  The written word is sacred and mysterious, context-sensitive, layered, open to reason, enlightened by analogy, beyond full understanding while richly rewarding affirmatively critical engagement.

Thanks for your help.

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Comment by Arnold Bogis

July 10, 2014 @ 12:55 am

I can add to your list, but unfortunately can’t help trim it.

Two suggestions. First, something about the IOM produced Crisis Standards of Care: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2012/Crisis-Standards-of-Care-A-Systems-Framework-for-Catastrophic-Disaster-Response.aspx

It hits on several homeland security fields (public health, law, emergency management, ethics) and applies to both terrorist attacks and natural disasters. There are tool kits and a stakeholder website if you’re interested/it makes the list.

I would also include something about WMD. Specifically nuclear and bio. I absolutely am biased in this direction, but the threat has played such a huge role in the evolution of homeland security since 9/11 that it should be addressed in this course. Maybe the last WMD Commission report, “World At Risk?”

Comment by Arnold Bogis

July 10, 2014 @ 1:08 am

Also, you might want to consider something contrarian. John Mueller perhaps? To save time, not one of his whole books but an article or two.

While I reject his argument against the risk of nuclear terrorism, I do think it is important to hear voices arguing against the accepted narrative. And he makes a case that generally avoids conspiracy theories.

Comment by Rubin, claire

July 10, 2014 @ 6:13 am

I am wondering why you have the H. Sandy Rebuilding Strategy Report on there?

Comment by Quin

July 10, 2014 @ 6:39 am


That was my first thought too. Why not the National Disaster Recovery Framework instead? And of course the National Response Framework.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 10, 2014 @ 7:00 am

Claire and Quin:

Good question and valuable suggestions. Many of the grad students had a personal encounter with Sandy and the aftermath. The specificity of the HUD report (as well as what I consider its insufficiencies) struck me as conducive to discussion. But the Frameworks are, I agree, of greater value overall. Good catch. Thanks for the redirection.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 10, 2014 @ 7:49 am


Thanks. I will re-read the IOM piece. When it first appeared I was a critic, potentially overly constrained by my own narrative related to catastrophe. I too am sometime trapped in tropes.

Regarding nuclear: This threat is referenced in some of the current documents. I have consciously avoided giving privilege to any particular threat (even my own predisposition toward pandemic). Is it your sense that nuclear is due particular attention for reasons specific to its likelihood or character?

Comment by Wayne Tripp

July 10, 2014 @ 11:08 am

Interesting list of readings. I, personally, would take a bit of a broader historical context. While most recent outputs are of interest to a current practitioner, they are by definition transitory – responsive to the “disaster du jour” and not always a well reasoned strategic (or even tactical) construct.

I would suggest retaining these first 4 as providing both context (historical) and currency:
(1) 9/11 Commission Report
(2) A Persistent Threat: The Evolution of al Qa’ida and Other Salafi Jihadists, (RAND, 2014)
(3) Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds (National Intelligence Council)
(4) Global Risks 2014 (World Economic Forum)

I would suggest that the following would provide a valuable resource to the identified audience:
(5) Civil Defense and Homeland Security: A Short History of National Preparedness Efforts

(6) Defining Homeland Security: Analysis and
Congressional Considerations (January, 2013)

I need to do some additional pondering on the remainder, particularly in the Public Health and International relations context, although I think the IOM on Crisis Standards of Care is valuable.

Comment by Terry Hastings

July 10, 2014 @ 11:10 am

How about the New York State Homeland Security Strategy, as an example of how states are addressing homeland security.

The NYS HS Strategy is available at the link below:

Comment by Christopher Tingus

July 10, 2014 @ 11:13 am

The following reading should be stimulating and enlightening as we are a nation of folly…a nation ignorant in so many ways, our history, our significance and impact on the global landscape….of the dangers of high debt and failure to be transparent and accountable for every dollar and therefore there is a direct relationship to our economic health and our well being when it comes to security and the fact that we are overburdened with corruptness and fewer and fewer federal reserve notes resulting in dollars misspent and politicized and the failure of both the exec WH and its politicizing and a Congress inept in every way, so self-serving: ….

“One wonders whether Abbott and his government really understand what has happened in the US?

Does he realize that since the era of deregulation and liberalization began in the late 1970s, GDP growth has slowed markedly, and that what growth has occurred has primarily benefited those at the top? Does he know that prior to these “reforms,” the US had not had a financial crisis – now a regular occurrence around the world – for a half-century, and that deregulation led to a bloated financial sector that attracted many talented young people who otherwise might have devoted their careers to more productive activities? Their financial innovations made them extremely rich but brought America and the global economy to the brink of ruin.

Australia’s public services are the envy of the world. Its health-care system delivers better outcomes than the US, at a fraction of the cost. It has an income-contingent education-loan program that permits borrowers to spread their repayments over more years if necessary, and in which, if their income turns out to be particularly low (perhaps because they chose important but low-paying jobs, say, in education or religion), the government forgives some of the debt.

The contrast with the US is striking. In the US, student debt, now in excess of $1.2 trillion (more than all credit-card debt), is becoming a burden for graduates and the economy. America’s failed financial model for higher education is one of the reasons that, among the advanced countries, America now has the least equality of opportunity, with the life prospects of a young American more dependent on his or her parents’ income and education than in other advanced countries.

Abbott’s notions about higher education also suggest that he clearly does not understand why America’s best universities succeed. It is not price competition or the drive for profit that has made Harvard, Yale, or Stanford great. None of America’s great universities are for-profit-institutions. They are all not-for-profit institutions, either public or supported by large endowments, contributed largely by alumni and foundations.

There is competition, but of a different sort. They strive for inclusiveness and diversity. They compete for government research grants. America’s under-regulated for-profit universities excel in two dimensions: the ability to exploit young people from poor backgrounds, charging them high fees without delivering anything of value, and the ability to lobby for government money without regulation and to continue their exploitative practices.

Australia should be proud of its successes, from which the rest of the world can learn a great deal. It would be a shame if a misunderstanding of what has happened in the US, combined with a strong dose of ideology, caused its leaders to fix what is not broken.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/joseph-e–stiglitz-wonders-why-australian-prime-minister-tony-abbott-wants-to-emulate-the-us-economic-model#5gSSBtmSd8GVHZUh.99

Comment by Bruce Martin

July 10, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

Your suggestion of selected Federalist papers grabbed me.

Consider your list from a state or local government perspective in addition to a federal or national one. Will the group be interested in opportunities at state or local government, metro city, county or smaller? Even if not, a brief discussion of civics could be instructive and reveal challenges in addressing homeland security problems.

I like O’Leary, R. & Bingham, L., (Eds.). (2009). “The collaborative public manager.” New ideas for the twenty-first century. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Towards the Federalism idea, I found these articles from Public Administration Review engaging:

Caldwell, Lynton K. 1943. Thomas Jefferson and Public Administration. Public Administration Review 3(3): 240-53.

Caldwell, Lynton K. 1944. Alexander Hamilton: Advocate of Executive Leadership. Public Administration Review 4(2): 113-26.

Comment by Andrew J. Phelps

July 10, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

I have always felt that the US Constitution is essential reading for anyone in (or who may be in) the homeland security enterprise.

Comment by Street Cop

July 10, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

If you really want to “stimulate” future leaders in this dynamic field, I would suggest:

It’s your Ship by D. Michael Abrashoff
ISBN 145552302X


The Starfish and Spider by Rod Beckstrom and Ori Brafman
ISBN 1-59184-143-7

These books will help provide a boots on the ground perspective. I concur with Bruce, you need some local reality to go along with the mostly federal level documents you have suggested. Just a view from the trenches….

Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 10, 2014 @ 6:14 pm

All, Many thanks for the great suggestions. I especially appreciate the encouragement to focus more/better on the Constitution, public health, and state/local engagement. Some of the current titles on the list give some priority to each of these, but I hear you pushing to have readings that will further clarify and, perhaps, specify. In any case, I will ask those who asked me to read your comments here.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 10, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

Street Cop: Thanks. Two of my favorites as well.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

July 10, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

Written testimony of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson for a July 10 Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing titled “Review of the President’s Emergency Supplemental Request”

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson reviews the Department’s efforts to address the recent rise of unaccompanied children and adults with children crossing the southwest border in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.

Comment by Matthew Burns

July 11, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

Stephen Flynn’s America the Vulnerable and The Edge of Disaster – relatively “quick” reads for the symposium format but provide an engaging overview of natural and man-made threats.

Comment by JD

July 11, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

Chivers, CJ. (March 2007). “The School.” Esquire Magazine. A great article framing the horror and what HS seeks to prevent in very human terms.

Danzig, R. (2011). Driving in the Dark: Ten Propositions About Prediction and National Security. CNAS. A good monograph on why we cant seem to see anything around the corner, and how to design a NS system given that problem. Meant for the DoD but with great parallels for HS.

Benjamin, D. (2004). The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam’s War Against America. The fundamental text on the origins of the fundamentalists. We have all the clocks, they have all the time. Given the ever-evolving nature of the problem, its good to go back to its roots.

Comment by Erik

July 15, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

At the risk of being both late to the conversation and too ephemeral, I submit the following:

Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte (2001 edition): Much of the information in the fields of HS and EM is rendered unusable due to poor information design or poor reasoning. His critique of PowerPoint alone is worth the price of admission.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 17, 2014 @ 2:42 pm

I would find interesting any discussion focusing on the RIGHTS OF MAN and Professor Lebow’s WHY NATIONS FIGHT and any relatiohsip to HS!

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