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The case for “all hazards” education

Jonathan Walsh

By Jonathan M. Walsh

Far too often, the concept of “homeland security” is understood through a filter designed to capture only the meaning imparted to it by 9/11. That is, “homeland security” is looked upon as a way to secure the homeland from terrorist attacks.

For many reasons, this makes little sense. When one looks at the impact measured in dollars of terrorist attacks versus natural disasters, for example, it is readily apparent that natural disasters are more expensive than terrorist attacks. The terror attack of 9/11 resulted in insured losses of some $40 billion, while Hurricane Katrina alone cost the insurance industry some $60 billion. Considering the statistical certainty of natural disasters, including pandemics, a concept of homeland that anticipates responding to “all hazards,” instead of focusing on preventing “the next 9/11,” should be the concept that is taught by today’s educators and demanded by today’s prospective students.

In February 2003, President George W. Bush mandated a “single, comprehensive approach to domestic incident management,” in the form of Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5 (HSPD-5). HSPD-8, published in December of that year, required “all-hazards preparedness” and defined “all-hazards” as “domestic terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies.” Nevertheless, the most recent data (as of May 21, 2009) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lists only three of 15 “National Planning Scenarios” as responding to major disasters: Scenario Three is “pandemic influenza,” Scenario Nine covers a “major earthquake” and Scenario Ten is a “major hurricane.” The other 12 concern “domestic terrorist attacks” of one kind or another.

The effect of this federal policy is to force municipalities to prepare and train for terrorist attacks instead of a much more likely natural disaster. The marketplace, too, does its best to enforce this imbalance. Of 43 categories listed on GSN's Web site’s “marketplace” section, 33 pertain to physical or network security or bioterrorism. Whether this is really an imbalance -- one created by the wash of federal funding for “domestic terrorist attack” preparedness -- or the natural way of things, as created by pure market forces, is better left to another paper. Regardless, it is imperative that the nation's homeland security study programs, at the very least, be focused on “all hazards” preparedness.

How to do this becomes the challenge. Considering the failure of government and industry to meet the mandate of “all hazards” preparedness, it seems odd to suggest that one potential solution is found within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) itself. Yet, there, at the Office of University Programs, exist 12 Centers of Excellence (COE), established by DHS in partnership and cooperation with universities across the country. Because each COE focuses on a distinct element of homeland security, taking them together provides a ready framework upon which an educator can develop a curriculum.

The focus of each COE is easily discerned through a reading of their individual title -- the newly commissioned Center of Excellence in Command, Control and Interoperability or the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events or the National Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response. Drilling down into the individual mission statements and focus of each COE, it soon becomes evident that the 12 COEs cover the waterfront of “all hazards” preparedness, as well as any other construct.

By comparing a given curriculum to the COE list, a department head could quickly determine whether his or her program is truly offering “homeland security,” instead of “criminal justice,” “anti-terrorism” or “fire science,” and thus is fulfilling the mandate of HSPD-5 and HSPD-8. Through the same exercise, a prospective student could make the same determination. Thus, the process of educational selection, in which programs are augmented or scaled-back to meet institutional goals, and students choose to enroll in one school or another, should reduce the number of schools currently offering “homeland security” programs from the 292 currently listed by DHS today, to a number more reflective of the programs actually in the “homeland security” business. 


Jonathan M. Walsh is an adjunct professor in Tulane University’s Department of Homeland Security, a partner at the law firm of Deutsch, Kerrigan & Stiles, L.L.P., of New Orleans, LA, and a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard (Reserve). The views expressed are his own. He can be reached at:

[email protected]


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