“Homeland Security’s ‘Wicked’ Problems: Developing a Research Agenda for Homeland Security”

Annual Homeland Security and Defense Symposium

Sponsored by the Consortium on Homeland Defense & Security in America, a partnership of the US Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership; the Center for Strategic & International Studies; the Heritage Foundation; and HSPI

November 12-13, 2009


On November 12 and 13, 2009, The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI), together with partners—the US Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership; the Heritage Foundation; and the Center for Strategic & International Studies—co-hosted the Fourth Annual Symposium of the Consortium on Homeland Defense & Security in America (CHDSA). This year’s conference was titled “Homeland Security’s ‘Wicked Problems’: Developing a Research Agenda for Homeland Security.”

Keynote speaker, HSPI Steering Committee Member Frances Fragos Townsend, former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, opened the event and defined wicked problems as “those that are persistent, and for which we could have solutions, but lack leadership.” Throughout her remarks, Townsend stressed the importance of clearly deciding national needs and priorities. A series of panel discussions followed over the course of the two-day Symposium, addressing a wide range of themes: national preparedness—creating a culture of preparedness; communicating during crisis—roles, responsibilities and capabilities; recovery; and the international dimensions of homeland security.

HSPI's panel focusing on the international highlighted the importance of global partnerships in preventing, and when necessary responding to, terrorist attacks and other crises. The National Guard Bureau’s Lt Col Mark Bour noted that by bringing together State Guard members with various partner countries, the Guard’s State Partnership Programs (SPP) serve to build host nation capacity and support the goals of the relevant US embassy. Further, by virtue of the Guard’s civilian facet, the SPP creates societal linkages that extend beyond military ties. Alistair Millar, of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation, next highlighted the important role played by regional organizations in communicating norms and gaining compliance on the part of nation-states. Millar called for the creation of an international organization dedicated to counterterrorism. Michael Mohr, of the Swedish Embassy, in turn emphasized the need to cooperate—as a function of shared threats, interdependence, and common values. Mohr stated that national strategies for security were insufficient given the transnational nature of threats.