Recommendations for Presidential Candidates for Improving the Nation's Homeland Security Efforts

The following statements were made by Dr. Paula D. Gordon in an interview for the public radio program "Homeland Security: Inside & Out" that aired April 29, 2008.

The program was produced by Texas A&M University. The program's weblog and archive is located at The broadcast can also be downloaded from the archives at

Thanks so much for this opportunity to share the recommendations that I have for Presidential Candidates, recommendations concerning things that are needed to help improve the nation's homeland security efforts. (Most of these recommendations are further supported or elaborated by material, including references and resources, that can be found at my website at .)

Of paramount importance is understanding the nature and scope of the threats and challenges that we face today. It is essential that the seriousness of the terrorist threat be far more deeply and universally understood than it is at present. It is also critical that the nature of catastrophic events and the challenges that they present be understood far more fully than they presently are in this post 9/11 and post Katrina world in which we live.

Unless those in positions of responsibility are on the same page regarding the nature of the threats and challenges that we face, it will be very difficult, if not impossible to take those steps that are needed in order to best safeguard the nation and minimize the potential impacts of any event that may occur, be it natural in origin or accidentally or deliberately man-caused.

Beyond arriving at a common understanding of the challenges before us, we also need to recognize, understand, and address the differences in organizational and professional cultures that exist in and between many of those working the fields of homeland security and emergency management today. These differences have not been well understood to date by those in major roles of responsibility in all branches and at all levels of government. Educational efforts could do much to remedy this situation, efforts that focus both on those currently in such roles of responsibility and those preparing for such roles of responsibility.

Such educational efforts need to help individuals more fully develop the knowledge, understanding, skills, and capabilities that are needed to help them fulfill their mission. Such efforts need to encompass all hazards, natural and man-made, through and including catastrophic events. Such educational efforts need to emphasize the role that commonsense, flexibility, and ingenuity have to play in addressing the challenges we face in this post 9/11, post Katrina world.

Such educational efforts also need to integrate a balanced concern for both public safety and national security. At present there is conflict among many in roles of responsibility owing to differences in understanding of the nature of the threats and challenges that we face, and owing to differences in values, and goals, and owing as well to a lack of a common sense of mission. The advancement of educational efforts, both pre-service and in-service education, could make all the difference here. To accelerate this process, it would be extremely helpful to focus some attention on the training and education of educators, so that there will be as large a group as possible of individuals who are in a position to contribute in a helpful way to advancing educational efforts throughout the government as well as throughout the nation.

Another major initiative that I would recommend would be the encouragement and support of public/private sector collaborative efforts at the local, state, regional, and national levels, with all such efforts being aimed at helping build a prepared nation that is both as disaster resistant and as disaster resilient as possible. There have been and are many models to look to and build on, from Project Impact-type efforts to HAZUS User Group efforts, to megacommunity examples. There have also been some regional efforts such as those in the Pacific Northwest that have been established to help ensure the resilience of a region's critical infrastructure.

In addition, it would be exceedingly helpful for the President as well as for the Secretary of DHS to establish proactive, problemsolving, conflict resolution arms designed to help keep them apprised of missed opportunities and of problems and impediments to progress and, at the same time, help enable these individuals to take needed action.

It would also be helpful for far greater attention to be given to the establishment and expansion of clearinghouses capable of proactively providing information and technical assistance to those needing it in the public and private sectors, as well as the general public. Many of the kinds of approaches that were taken during the years prior to Y2K would be helpful now. Such efforts could do much to help ensure that information and understanding concerning best practices and viable and promising programs, policies, and approaches, as well as research and technology breakthroughs are made widely available so that these could have as positive an effect as possible on enhancing the nation's homeland security capabilities and efforts.


Dr. Gordon is an educator, writer, analyst, and consultant. She has also served in a variety of capacities in the Federal government. Her website at includes articles, reports, publications, and presentations on homeland security and emergency management and organizational, managerial, ethical, and educational issues. Her doctoral dissertation, Public Administration in the Public Interest is posted at She can be reached by e-mail at She is based in Washington, D.C.