The Homeland Security Enterprise and Public Works: Improving the Relationship

Jason Lappin

Executive Summary


The homeland security enterprise (HSE) is a comparatively new term added to the government’s list of acronyms following the attacks on 9/11. In broad terms, the HSE is comprised of many institutions and agencies that attempt to support the United States through numerous national mission spaces. These mission spaces are found in literature from a wide variety of sources and require sturdy relationships to continuously improve our nation’s security posture. Support of collective goals is on many governmental and private organizations in a coordinated effort. This thesis focuses on the discipline of public works’ contributions and role within it.

Public works offers some of the most fundamental services and infrastructure needs of cities and communities throughout the nation. They have provided these services at local levels for generations. Physical evidence of public works’ presence abounds. This evidence is found in potable water delivered to homes, wastewater processed through sewer treatment facilities, road constructions, and more. One of the most notable periods for public works physical infrastructure was during the Great Depression of the early1930s. The New Deal utilized the Public Works Administration (PWA) to engineer and build monolithic infrastructure that was intended to bring the nation out of the recession. Other common responsibilities include disaster recovery and first response to incidents.

The HSE and public works have common mission spaces, which can more accurately be described as “areas of intersection.” This thesis explores the relationship between the HSE and public works within the areas of intersection. This thesis also answers the primary research question: how can the relationship be improved between the homeland security enterprise and public works? In addition, this thesis answers three research sub-questions: a) What are the intersections between the homeland security enterprise and public works? b) Is the relationship between the HSE and public works adequate or inadequate within the areas of intersection? c) What are recommendations for the future relationship between the HSE and public works?

This thesis used a qualitative “describe-compare-relate technique.” Within this analysis, the relationship between the HSE and public works was explored within three areas of intersection: 1) national preparedness and resilience, 2) cyberspace safety and security, and 3) presumption of cyber-physical. These areas were selected because they demonstrate the relationship between the HSE and public works in three different ways: a historic relevance, a current “hot topic,” and lastly an emergent field of study.

Ultimately, the thesis found that the adequacy of the relationship varied across each area. It also found an area of overall adequate relationship through national preparedness and resilience. Additionally, it found an overall mediocre relationship within cyberspace safety and security. Finally, it found an inadequate area of relationship in presumption of cyber-physical. Each area of intersection that contains an inadequate relationship was addressed through corresponding recommendations for the future and next steps that can be taken. The final conclusion of this thesis presents potential areas for future study.

National preparedness and resilience have a strong relationship between the HSE and public works but must continuously be nurtured in order to maintain this status. Preparedness and resilience are traditional characteristics of public works and are also important for the HSE. Cyberspace is a nontraditional mission space for public works, but it is continuously growing in importance. This area of intersection was determined a mediocre relationship with the HSE and public works, and it needs to be strengthened in order to maintain safe environments particularly regarding infrastructure. Cyber-physical systems are an emergent concept and have a potential future shared mission space between the HSE and public works. Cyber-physical is a developing field of cyberspace that integrates systems within systems. These systems of systems involve physical assets and controls of infrastructure, tightly coupled with computers, programming code, and the use of the Internet. This little explored area of cyberspace moves beyond the traditional sense of industrial control systems into a highly connected environment.

Some data is published on the topic of cyber-physical, but it primarily originates from private industry and the education fields. Cyber-physical has been recognized as an important topic within the HSE, and public works offers capabilities to address it. However, this area of intersection is found by this research to be inadequate in the relationship between the HSE and public works, therefore requiring additional attention placed on this effort.

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