DHS Social and Behavioral Sciences Partnership

APA Science Policy staff have spent considerable time advocating for the importance of psychological science in the mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

APA Science Policy staff have spent considerable time advocating for the importance of psychological science in the mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Much of that work began when the Department was merely an Office of Homeland Security in a small suite on the White House complex. Back then, it was easy to identify central points of contact, eager OHS staff were receptive to new ideas, and we had a dedicated Senior Scientist, Susan Brandon, willing to tackle a whole new set of scientific issues. When Dr. Brandon left APA, she soon found herself discussing many of the same homeland security issues but from the White House end of the phone, where she served so ably as the Assistant Director of Social, Behavioral, and Educational Sciences under Dr. Marburger at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). It's worth mentioning the early work, not as a trip down memory lane, but more as a reminder of how far we've come.

Psychologists are now involved in a broad spectrum of activities within the jurisdiction of DHS. For example, Michelle Keeney manages the Social and Behavioral Research Program within the Threat Awareness Portfolio of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate. Baruch Fischhoff and Roxane Cohen Silver provide expertise as members of the Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Committee and the Academe and Policy Research Senior Advisory Committee of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, respectively. Detlof von Winterfeldt and Arie Kruglanski serve as Principle Investigators directing the activities of two of the five University-Based Centers of Excellence and student psychologists are becoming the next generation of Homeland Security experts training under the DHS Scholars and Fellows program.

And what of Dr. Brandon? She's now a Behavioral & Social Sciences Principal within the Information Technology Division of Mitre, a nonprofit government contractor leading, among other projects, one she conceived while still at OSTP - the DHS Social and Behavioral Sciences Partnership. As described by DHS, the Social and Behavioral Sciences Partnership (Partnership) Program assembles leading thinkers on the social and behavioral aspects of terrorism and national security to participate in study sessions and web-based dialogue focused on topics of relevance to the SBR Program, to DHS, and to the nation as a whole. It was created to describe the significant roles that social, cultural, economic, and psychological factors play in the threats we face and our counter-threat activities, as well as to provide a mechanism for communicating social and behavioral research findings to policymakers. In FY06, at the request of the DHS Policy Directorate, the Partnership will examine the impact of U.S. policies on radicalization in the United States. It will also hold study sessions on topics related to 1) assessing the intent of terrorist groups and 2) determining the long-term impacts of a terrorist attack with improvised nuclear devices.

I was fortunate to have been invited to the first meeting of the group as part fly-on-the-wall, part scribe. Because all participants signed non-disclosure agreements, we are limited to sharing this approved summary, but I can say it was a very stimulating, if somewhat sobering, experience. Suffice to say psychological science is well represented within the group, and Dr. Brandon continues to provide the sort of leadership for which she received an APA Presidential Citation at the recent Science Leadership Conference.