Psychologists Provide New Insight in New London

Psychological science was well represented at a homeland security leadership and workforce development conference held November 16-18 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Headquarters in New London, CT.

Psychological science was well represented at a homeland security leadership and workforce development conference held November 16-18 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Headquarters in New London, CT. The conference, "Charting a Course for Homeland Security Strategic Studies", brought together diverse perspectives representing senior military service institutes, the intelligence community, academic researchers and educators, think tanks, international organizations, the private and corporate sector, and state and local governments.

The first day and a half was devoted to plenary and keynote addresses to help provide a framework for the breakout groups that followed for the next day and a half. Within that framework the 150 or so participants heard a variety of perspectives from Capitol Hill (Dr. John Gannon, Majority Staff Director for Rep. Chris Cox on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security), from Think Tanks (Mr. Michael Wermuth, Director of Homeland Security for RAND Corp) and from Regional Military Commands (Colonel Eugenio Pino, Director, Training and Exercises, US Northern Command). Perhaps the most memorable, and certainly the most personal, insights were offered by Ambassador Prudence Bushnell (Dean of the Leadership and Management School at the Foreign Service Institute within the Department of State), who was serving as Ambassador to Kenya when the Nairobi embassy was bombed on August 7, 1998, killing 213 people and wounding close to 4000. As Ambassador Bushnell revealed, the Nairobi embassy had in fact been targeted by Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network in large part because the group assumed it would get more publicity for killing a woman ambassador. Both in her formal presentation and in sidebar conversations, she repeatedly noted the need to prepare for the psychological environment in which homeland and national security personnel were required to operate. 

The charge of the conference, concentrated across seven workgroups that met in multiple sessions, was to begin thinking about guiding principles, core competencies, and education models/venues that should be considered in the education of future homeland security leaders. Several APA member psychologists were invited to attend the conference to help raise awareness of the critical role social and behavioral sciences should play in the overall effort. Steve Breckler, Executive Director for Science, and Geoff Mumford, Director of Science Policy, represented APA. Also in attendance were Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver, the only psychologist serving on the Academe and Policy Research Senior Advisory Committee at DHS; Dr. Janice Laurence, representing the Society of Military Psychology; Dr. Peter Hancock, representing the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society; and Dr. Felice Levine, representing the American Education Research Association. Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, who had been invited to represent the Society for Risk Analysis as President-Elect, was unable to attend the conference but agreed to serve on a board of editors to help shape the final work product. Also unable to attend, but lending intellectual capital during the planning phase, was APA member Dr. Susan Brandon, OSTP Assistant Director for Social, Behavioral and Educational Sciences.

On the final day, each workgroup reported out to a panel consisting of Admiral James Loy, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Paul McHale, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, representatives of the National Security Council, and federal, state and local emergency managers. In closing comments, Admiral Loy thanked the co-sponsors and participants and embraced the recommendations of the workgroups. He committed DHS to follow through by making a home for homeland security strategic studies within the Department. We were pleased that many of the APA-member recommendations regarding inclusion of topics in scientific psychology (e.g., risk analysis, perception and communication; human factors in the design of new technologies; understanding social networks; judgment and decision-making; performance under stress) were endorsed by many of the non-scientists present. Science Policy Director Geoff Mumford has been asked to assist in editing the final work product and will endeavor to make sure that scientific psychology retains a prominent role as this nascent homeland security continues to move forward.