Notes from the Editor (Vol. VIII)

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October 2012

The two articles publishing this month in Homeland Security Affairs look at ways of strengthening the homeland security mission by integrating emerging technologies and partnerships.

In “Public-Private Partnerships in Homeland Security: Opportunities and Challenges,” Nathan E. Busch and Austen D. Givens attempt to fill the gap in homeland security scholarship by identifying the essential role these partnerships play in homeland security. They trace the development of cooperation between government and businesses in responding to disasters, strengthening infrastructure, and securing ports and cyberspace. The benefits and shortcomings of such partnerships are analyzed and ongoing concerns – such as accountability and legal considerations – are discussed. Despite these challenges, public-private partnerships, as Busch and Givens demonstrate, “are now integral to homeland security as a whole.”

Joseph W. Pfeifer examines a different kind of partnership in “Network Fusion: Information and Intelligence Sharing for a Networked World.” Fusion centers have developed as hub-and-spoke systems, often integrating co-located liaisons. The problem with this approach, Pfeifer argues, is “the lack of a robust multichannel system for information and intelligence sharing.” To address this problem, he proposes the use of network fusion in information sharing, a system that pulls and pushes information from multiple sources in real time. This will encourage collaboration across multiple disciplines by leveraging technology to connect the unconnected at classified and unclassified levels. The failure to utilize network fusion, Pfeifer warns, “will leave first responders and fusion centers to combat terrorism with limited information.”

Late August 2012

Homeland security, as an academic discipline, has experienced tremendous growth in the past decade. What has yet to emerge is a theory — or set of theories — that define and provide a foundation for homeland security research.

Where is the theory supporting the academic discipline of homeland security? Does homeland security need a single unifying theory? Does the lack of a “grand” theory mean the discipline lacks conceptual precision? How do instructors in this discipline provide rigorous conceptual foundations for what they teach if there is no underlying theory to support academic research in this field? These are the questions posed by Christopher Bellavita in an imagined four-part conversation titled “Waiting for Homeland Security Theory.” The participants explore the meaning of “theory,” the extent to which homeland security draws on theories from other disciplines, and how having a single theory might (or might not) strengthen the academic discipline. At the heart of this conversation are several important questions that need to be answered: how is “theory’ defined, who develops this theory, and how do the various disciplines involved in this field view the enterprise of homeland security? Finally, is a ‘theory” of homeland security really necessary?

Linda Kiltz and Jim Ramsay take a slightly different approach to identifying an underlying theory of homeland security. In “Perceptual Framing of Homeland Security,” the authors analyze the phenomenon of homeland security through the development of four conceptual lenses. The first three lenses use terrorism as a proxy for the homeland security enterprise to analyze the existing literatures in criminal justice, public administration, organization behavior, risk management, and international relations. The emergent construct of environmental security is explored as an exemplar of the fourth lens, which looks at the overlap between fields. Each conceptual lens consists of theories, practices, values, beliefs and assumptions that serve to shape how homeland security is conceptualized and shed light on how a theoretical foundation for homeland security might be structured.

These articles represent the start of a published discourse on homeland security theory, with more articles anticipated — and welcomed — in the future.

August 2012

Preparedness and deterrence are concepts discussed at all levels of US homeland security, often resulting in more questions than answers. What is the federal government’s role in preparedness? Should preparedness be primarily community based? Are the monies spent worth the result? When – and how – is deterrence effective? To what extent can we deter emerging threats? These are questions asked and addressed in the articles publishing in August in Homeland Security Affairs.

Sharon Caudle reviews a decade of federal preparedness directives and identifies emerging policy concerns in “Homeland Security: Advancing the National Strategic Position.” These include operational preparedness, the capabilities of the “whole of community,” the inclusion of slowly emerging threats, and federal control of other governmental levels in the national interest. “At bottom,” Caudle argues, “these policy concerns have a common root – whether the resources spent on the readiness efforts were worthwhile.” She suggests that federal policymakers, in concert with others responsible for preparedness, should consider refinement in a number of policy areas in line with the principles of clarity, sustainability, integration, balance, and accountability.

The question of preparedness and the effective allocation of resources are particularly relevant to critical infrastructure protection. In “How to Quantify Deterrence and Reduce Critical Infrastructure Risk,” Eric Taquechel and Ted Lewis propose a methodology to explicitly quantify the deterrent effects of critical infrastructure security strategies. The authors leverage historical work on analyzing deterrence, game theory and utility theory to develop a methodology that quantifies deterrence as the extent to which an attacker’s expected utility from an infrastructure attack changes after a defender has invested to deter attacks, as compared to their expected utility absent deterrence. They produce evidence that it is quantifiably more advantageous to overtly deter, rather than conceal security information, under specific conditions.

Emerging threats and the deterrence of sea-based terrorist attacks is the focus of “A Maritime Threat Assessment of Sea Based Criminal Organizations and Terrorist Operations” by Terrance G. Lichtenwald, Mara H. Steinhour, and Frank S. Perri. The authors examine probable strategic warning indicators based on analysis of observed behaviors of drug trafficking organizations and terrorist group coalitions using a modified Ramsey and Borner model. They examine similarities and differences between the drug trafficking and terrorist navies and ask, “To what extent do the similarities and differences indicate shifts in strategic thinking and provide indicators of different types of threats to the United States?”

Finally, Paul Biedrzycki and Raisa Koltun address FEMA’s “whole of community” policy, the role of the federal government, and the integration of community-specific needs in “Integration of Social Determinants of Community Preparedness and Resiliency in 21st Century Emergency Management Planning.” In this essay, the authors argue that communities need to be thought of as unique organisms requiring unique decisions. “Government emergency management agencies must learn to let go of the need to control and micromanage community preparedness activities and instead find ways to incentivize citizen participation to ensure a creative flow of ideas during problem solving as well as enable community ownership of solutions.”

June 2012

As the field of homeland security evolves, measures put in place in years past may also need to evolve. The authors publishing here suggest ways to improve on established systems and procedures.

In “Strengthening the Value of the National Network of Fusion Centers by Leveraging Specialization: Defining ‘Centers of Analytical Excellence’,” authors Justin Lewis Abold, Ray Guidetti, and Doug Keyer report on an ongoing process to more clearly define what, exactly, a center of analytical excellence should be. Based on a study employing the Delphi method, they conclude the title “Center of Analytical Excellence” should refer to a fusion center’s demonstration of excellence in a specific subject area of analytical methodology, as opposed to overall operations. This study provides the springboard for an ongoing project to integrate the Centers of Analytical Excellence concept into the National Fusion Center Network.

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) has established the procedures to be used, across disciplines, in responding to an emergency situation. Cynthia Renaud, an experienced first responder and incident commander, questions the utility of NIMS in the field during the first, initial stage of an emergency. In “The Missing Piece of NIMS: Teaching Incident Commanders How to Function in the Edge of Chaos,” Renaud argues that NIMS — although very effective in the later stages of response — offers limited help to those first-arriving responders who must deal with the initial chaos inherent at the outset of every scene. She recommends additions to NIMS that will better prepare first-responding incident commanders to work their way through that chaos and later apply the NIMS process with purpose.

Also on the theme of preparedness, Al Mauroni looks at policy affecting the government’s response to acts of nuclear terrorism. In “Nuclear Terrorism: Are We Prepared?” he points out that while federal programs support prevention and protection actions and — to some extent — response and recovery — it is difficult to determine the overall effectiveness of these programs because metrics for success have not been determined. Mauroni argues for a public policy approach to evaluating federal and state preparation for responding to a nuclear terrorist event.

The government’s ability to respond to terrorism has, since 9/11, resulted in what David Brannan refers to as “an inevitable landslide of literature on terrorism.” In reviewing editor Paul Shemella’s Fighting Back: What Governments Can Do About Terrorism, Brannan looks at what has, until now, been a “shortage of research-based literature government decision makers … could use to form a coherent strategy to fight back effectively against terrorists.” He concludes that Shemella, in pulling together the collected research presented in this book, offers a research-based work — useful to students of terrorism and policy makers alike — that is “sure to take its place among other important and enduring books” in the field.

February 2012

These first four articles of 2012 address different aspects of response to disaster: the public response, the medical response, and the ways in which the Department of Homeland Security may need to respond to a disaster occurring in a distant country.

In “The All Needs Approach to Emergency Response” Donald A. Donahue and others suggest that rather than “all hazards,” emergency response should look at “all needs” — in particular the perceived needs within the impacted community. Drawing on classic theories of rationality and motivation, the authors present a new planning paradigm that assesses the myriad needs of a disaster-stricken population.

Response to pandemics is the topic of “Dispensing Mass Prophylaxis — The Search for the Perfect Solution,” by Sinan Khan and Anke Richter and “Pandemic Vaccine Policy for the Twenty-first Century,” by Tom Russo. Kahn and Richter examine the benefits and challenges of dispensing mass prophylaxis via points of dispensing (POD) and propose alternate modes of dispensing, particularly in large metropolitan areas with diverse populations. Russo argues that the US government’s investment in domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity may result in ample supplies of needed vaccines but inadequate methods of delivery. To meet this challenge, he proposes a hybrid public/private distribution model to serve as a strategy for pandemic vaccine distribution.

The potential for a nuclear disaster in a developing nation is the focus of “The Next Meltdown?” by James Higgins. He argues that an accident the magnitude of Fukushima or Chernobyl could occur in Bangladesh, India, Jordan, or Vietnam. In the context of US homeland security operations, such an event will involve major challenges revolving around efforts to detect and deter the importation of goods contaminated with radionuclides, and the screening and processing of refugees, immigrants, and travelers from the affected area.

Finally, two letters to the editor debate the December 2011 article “The Power of the ‘Few’.” David Tucker calls into question the notion that small groups of networked individuals may be better able to adapt to disruptive innovations than large organizations. He points out that the US military has proven its ability to adapt by using the centralized authority of the bureaucracy. Author Rodrigo Nieto-Gómez responds that his argument is not based on an either/or proposition (networks versus bureaucracies); at issue is the difference in how the two are empowered by disruptive innovation. “Homeland security,” Nieto-Gómez argues, “would benefit from an institutional framework that can gain the initiative in the innovation process.”

As always, we welcome discussion and debate — either as a letter to the editor addressed to or an online comment posted to the individual article.

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