Behavioral Science LEADs in Homeland Security Curriculum Workshop

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During the second week of August, APA hosted a two day Department of Homeland Security Strategic Studies (DHS) Curriculum Development Workshop in coordination with staff of the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCG). The workshop, part of the DHS Learning, Education and Development (LEAD) program, was an extension of previous APA Science Directorate efforts to help identify core competencies that would be necessary for effective DHS leadership.

The August workshop was rooted in research conducted by USCG Academy investigators in late 2002 on Homeland Security education and training which subsequently led to the initial concept for a conference entitled "Charting a Course for Homeland Security Strategic Studies". The research affirmed trends in security studies and yielded new findings in critical areas: (1) the academic and military fields of strategic studies are struggling to sort out arguments for their future direction in the aftermath of the Cold War; (2) responses to terrorism require methods that are different in kind, not just in degree, from approaches to earlier threats to national security; (3) DHS, as a new collection of disparate agencies and offices, needs an established senior educational structure for executives with Homeland Security responsibilities; and (4) the timing of solutions to the above is critical.

In March 2004, the Homeland Security Advisory Council gave its full endorsement to the conference concept, and followed with a recommendation to Secretary Ridge that the Department of Homeland Security actively support the Academy's efforts and sponsor the conference. The concept was to gather a diverse and informed group of experts from industry, academia, all levels of government, and private organizations who by their backgrounds and positions were natural stakeholders for the issue of Homeland Security strategic studies. The goal was for the participants, assisted by facilitators, to articulate a vision for Homeland Security executive education in the broadest sense and to capture the participants' views in the form of a draft report [PDF 250K], for use by relevant people who face decisions on that topic. APA co-sponsored the conference with DHS, the USCG Academy, and others in November 2004.

The conference achieved its aim. The resulting draft report provides guiding principles to animate all Homeland Security studies, proposed core elements of a strategic studies program, and a range of educational vehicles describing structural options for the delivery of a strategic studies program for the Department. A general conference finding noted the need for a substantive rethinking of what a responsive strategic studies program curriculum would look like. In order to leverage the momentum gained via the conference, the DHS Office of Human Capital, the Coast Guard Office of Strategic Analysis, the U. S. Coast Guard Academy, APA and many partners inside and outside the Department moved ahead to build on the conference's work and further develop a DHS Strategic Studies Curriculum and delivery strategy that would meet the Department's needs.

In the August meeting held at APA headquarters, participants were asked to flesh out the curriculum by developing course outlines with proposed course titles and descriptions in various "competency clusters". Geoff Mumford, Director of Science Policy, was assigned to a group tasked with developing courses in "Domain Awareness" and suggested the need for a course entitled "Applications of Behavioral and Social Sciences in Homeland Security" with the following description:

The knowledge and tools of the social and behavioral sciences are immediately applicable to the construction of strategies that can enhance the Nation's capacity to predict, prevent, prepare for and recover from a terrorist attack. This course will summarize relevant aspects of these scientific domains to provide an understanding of such topics as risk assessment methodology and communication; historical and operation dynamics of threats; judgment and decision-making; user-centered design of surveillance and countermeasures technologies; emergency preparedness and response; and enhancement of team performance under stress.

While not intended to be comprehensive, the basic course description serving as a placeholder, was universally accepted by those assembled and will be one of three core competency topic areas to be forwarded through the chain of command to DHS Secretary Chertoff and expanded upon as the curriculum is further refined in subsequent deliberations by the group.