Master’s grad to lead FEMA exercise division

Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security masters’ degree alumnus Chad Gorman has landed a critical role in ensuring homeland security plans and policies across the country are up to the job.

Gorman is beginning 2017 in a new with a Senior Executive Service position as Director of the National Exercise Division at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The division is charged with ensuring various response plans can stand up to rigorous challenge and that they accurately reflect core capabilities. Like study at CHDS, the role demands collaboration and cross-agency coordination.

Chad Gorman

“I think one of the biggest benefits I drew out of the CHDS master’s degree program was perspective, really looking at the homeland security enterprise, getting a better understanding of what it is and its complexities and looking at homeland security as several disciplines working toward a community of effort,” Gorman said. “I think with job with the National Exercise Division, having that perspective is invaluable. It lets you understand how different stakeholders may approach a problem from multiple vantage points.”

The National Exercise Program can take on a variety of approaches from real-world simulations of disasters that bring government and non-government agencies working together to table-top exercises in a board room with the upper echelons of emergency management. The aim is to support the execution of the National Preparedness System by assessing and validating core capabilities, identifying shortcomings, and informing corrective actions and improvement efforts. In doing so, FEMA seeks to gauge how various departments and levels of government – federal, tribal, state, local and territorial – work together to prevent, protect, mitigate, respond and recover from everything to harsh weather event to biological hazard to terrorist attacks.

“The National Exercise Division’s role is the validation piece so we can see where we are as a nation   and then use the assessments to inform how we continually improve ourselves as a nation,” Gorman said.

Gorman steps into his new job on the heels of working on FEMA’s presidential transition in the months leading up to the election and inauguration. That involved preparing the agency for a transition in leadership and ensuring career successors were prepared to take on key positions across FEMA. His involvement with transition efforts will continue into his new role as the National Exercise Division leads the delivery of the White House’s Senior Official Exercise program and helps prepare the new Administration and key senior leaders to face high-risk issues facing the Nation.

He comes to the post with a well-rounded resume. Before joining FEMA in 2009 as Director of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Office he worked for DHS on planning efforts focused on providing Department assets to support forward deployed military units and other national security issues. While a CHDS student he explored the value of gaming as a preparedness educational tool.

Gorman said the new position was appealing because he firmly believes the department plays a key role in securing the nation. He recalled reading the 9/11 report while a CHDS student and how emergency evacuations were more efficient that day because the previous 1993 attack resulted in drills and exercises that improved evacuation practices.

“If you can provide a valid opportunity to test a plan or capability it will perform a little better when it has to,” Gorman said. “I think a program like this is positioned to make a huge difference across the homeland security enterprise by working across different problem sets to help address key challenges.”

See also, master’s degree thesis: Getting Serious About Games-Using Video Game-based Learning to Enhance Nuclear Terrorism Preparedness