Capabilities and Skills Needed by Those
in New Roles of Responsibility for Homeland Security
at the State and Local Levels of Government

by Paula D. Gordon, Ph.D.

Reprinted with permission: PA TIMES, Vol. 28, Issue 3, March 2005
(A publication of the American Society for Public Administration)

What do you do if you are assigned new responsibilities in the area of homeland security and you lack the background needed to carry out your new responsibilities? One approach is to take advantage of available education and training materials, programs, workshops, and conferences, or courses of study, whether short- or long-term. Following such an approach can be of considerable help as you attempt to acquire the knowledge, understanding, and skills that you will need if you are to be effective in carrying out your new responsibilities. Much in the way of assistance is immediately accessible to you online and much of that is available at no cost. The intent of this article is to provide a rudimentary roadmap for those trying to develop the needed capabilities and skills as quickly as possible.

There are, for instance, brand new free courses offered online by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), now part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Indeed, FEMA has already launched courses designed for those who need to understand the intricacies involved in implementing the National Response Plan at the state and local levels. This course was designed for "DHS and other Federal department/agency staff responsible for implementing the National Response Plan as well as state, local and private sector emergency management professionals. See

There are archived transcripts of programs on a myriad of topics bearing on homeland security and emergency management that can be of help. The Emergency Information Infrastructure Partnership (EIIP) Forum at provides such an archive. The National Academy of Sciences provides summaries of its disaster roundtables at

For more concentrated and intensive study, one can turn to numerous new and growing degree and certificate programs that address a full spectrum of homeland security-related concerns. Some examples, in addition to FEMA, include degree and certificate programs offered by the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California; Texas A & M University; the University of Denver, Jacksonville State University in Alabama; the National Defense University, and the National Graduate School. Information concerning the currently available offerings of these and other schools and universities, can be found at a variety of websites. In some instances, homeland security syllabi and course materials can be accessed without cost online. See especially FEMA's Higher Ed Website at, a website that includes an abundance of material on both emergency management and homeland security courses of study.

Ohio State University has launched the National Academic Consortium for Homeland Security. NACHS makes available online valuable information concerning colleges and universities that currently have or are in the process of developing homeland security curricula. See . The website of the more recently formed consortium known as the Homeland Security and Defense Education Consortium (HSDEC) at also serves as a valuable source of information to anyone who is trying to identify what is going on nationwide in higher education. HSDEC's efforts include a particular emphasis on educational programs and curricula focusing on role of the military in homeland security and defense.

What specific course content, information, knowledge, and expertise will be helpful to the public administrator who is getting involved in homeland security efforts for the first time? The website of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism at is a very rich source of material and portals to information. This website includes case studies that capture lessons learned, reports of significant training exercises, as well as listings of upcoming events. is another website that has been set up with complementary purposes in mind.

Those new to homeland security responsibilities will want to acquire knowledge, understanding, and expertise concerning the nature of the wide range of threats and challenges that confront the nation in a post 9/11 world. It is essential that there be a growing understanding regarding the nature and scope of the terrorist threats and challenges that we face. Without such a basic understanding, there may not be sufficient impetus needed to sustain viable homeland security efforts.

There are many training programs already in place that focus on various aspects of the threats and challenges facing us. Many of these have a relatively narrow focus and are geared to training first responders and emergency managers who may or may not have broader roles of responsibilities for homeland security. The READI Institute is an example of a newly established government funded institution that focuses on the training of first responders.

The National Governors Association has established a Center for Best Practices ( The National League of Cities/US Conference of Mayors, National Association of Counties, International City Managers Association, and National Conference of State Legislators have all become important sources of information and knowledge, and, in some instances, model policies, programs, legislation, and best practices bearing on homeland security. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the Navy Postgraduate School provides Mobile Education Teams that conduct state-based seminars "to further intergovernmental, interagency, and civil-military cooperation and communications in the Homeland Security arena" ( Homeland) .

Numerous newsletters available online provide an abundant source of information. Many of these are available free of charge. One outstanding newsletter that can be found at has a section dedicated to state and local news relating to homeland security concerns. The same website also includes additional references and resources that will be of help to state and local officials.

There are also a growing number of publications that are designed to address the information needs of professionals in the homeland security arena. These include among others: Homeland Security Professional, HS Today, and McGraw Hill's Homeland Security.

There are numerous associations that can help individuals gain the expertise, experience, and knowledge that they need to perform in roles of responsibility in homeland security. These associations can also facilitate networking and the building of valuable working relationships with those in similar roles of responsibility. These include the National Emergency Management Agency and the International Association of Emergency Managers among many, many others.

The Interagency Operations Security Support Staff (OPSEC) at provides free training material on operations security. These OPSEC videos and training materials can be extremely helpful to those new to homeland security.

The various organizations that focus on contingency planning and management and continuity of operations planning and implementation, whether from a governmental or a private sector perspective, can be equally rich sources of information, materials, and networking contacts. These include training programs and conferences sponsored by Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRII) at and CPM East and West at and related websites and publications on contingency d planning and management and continuity of operations.

Numerous organizations are organizing conferences and providing briefings on many different aspects of homeland security. These include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Equity International, E.J. Krause & Associates, E-Gov, AFCEA, Tech-Net, the National Defense Industry Association, the Homeland Security Industries Association, and the Eisenhower Symposium on National Security.

There are also governmental task group efforts that can help individuals become quickly linked up with others locally and regionally. These groups can be of assistance in connecting individuals to channels of communication and the flow of valuable information. Two of these include InfraGard (Department of Justice/FBI-sponsored) and the Electronic Task Force efforts sponsored by the U.S. Secret Service.

There are numerous online portals of information concerning practically every aspect of homeland security, including references and resources pertinent to those in roles of state or local responsibility for homeland security. There are also selected lists of portals of information. Some of these can be found on the following websites: FEMA, the American Red Cross, Ready.Gov and DisasterHelp.Gov, and

Knowledge and expertise in emergency management is of fundamental importance, including all phases of the emergency management cycle from prevention and mitigation to preparedness, response and recovery; contingency management and planning; crisis management; and continuity of operations. By the same token, knowledge and expertise concerning critical infrastructure vulnerability, risks, protection, and continuity are also key. It can be helpful for those seeking to develop capabilities in these areas to go back to the work that was done in the years immediately preceding the Year 2000 rollover. Much of this work is as relevant today as it was then. Selected references and resources concerning the relevance of past efforts can be found at

In addition it is extremely important that those assuming new responsibilities in homeland security do all they can to expand the skills sets that they will surely need in carrying out their responsibilities. In many locales, regions, and jurisdictions, this can entail replacing unhelpful non-collaborative paradigms with new paradigms that foster good inter- and intra- organizational, agency and governmental working relationships; sharing of information and expertise; collaborative problemsolving, networking and communication skills; and conflict resolution skills. These can be key to the successful development and implementation of contingency plans, mutual aid agreements, and memoranda of understanding. They can be key to successful implementation of any and all phases of the emergency management cycle, including mitigation of potential impacts; the building of disaster resilient and resistant communities, regions, and states; the strengthening, securing, and protecting of the sustainability and continuity of critical infrastructure; and response and recovery. All of these skills go hand in hand with the development of the knowledge and understanding needed to face the challenges in a post- 9/11 world.


Paula Gordon's homeland security website at includes
writing, reports, and compilations of references and resources on homeland security concerns.




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