The History of Homeland Security

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Approximately 11 hours to complete

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Long-form content and interactive media

Course Overview

This course considers the emergence, development, and implications of the modern homeland security enterprise. Users will be asked to consider what “homeland security” is, as well as challenged to critically assess many popular notions about the homeland security enterprise. The course primarily focuses on the U.S. experience with homeland security, but it situates the discipline within broader international forces—in particular globalization—that are shaping the operating environment and threats with which homeland security practitioners must contend.

The course begins with a strategic overview of the United States’ approach to the issues of public safety that are now grouped under the term “homeland security,” which represent threats to civilians that do not stem directly from actual or potential military action by foreign nation-states. The course then provides a strategic overview of globalization and how it has challenged the government’s approach to security issues and shaped the contours of the modern threat environment. With that background, the course shifts to consider the emergence of the modern homeland security framework through a review of the searing lessons of the 9/11 attacks and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security that resulted. The course concludes with a series of modules examining the key threats to homeland security that have resulted in the enterprise’s principal mission areas: natural disasters and emergency management; migration management and border security; critical infrastructure and cybersecurity; infectious disease and public health; terrorism; and transnational organized crime. The course concludes with a discussion about the possible futures for homeland security.

Throughout this course, users will be asked to consider various viewpoints concerning key homeland security issues. A reoccurring theme will be the appropriate balance of homeland security functions and responsibilities among the federal government and state and local authorities, and between homeland security agencies and traditional law enforcement agencies. The course also considers alternative perspectives around the proper legal and policy approach to balance security with liberty, privacy, and civil rights. Finally, the course raises the international dimensions of homeland security and its place with respect to the traditional government focus on national security and foreign policy.

Module 2: Origins of the Modern Homeland Security Enterprise

Module 3: International Terrorism, the Shock of 9/11, and the Enduring Terror Threat

Module 4: The Formation of the Department of Homeland Security

Module 5: Hurricane Katrina and the New Era of Natural Disasters

Module 6: Twentieth Century Immigration Systems Meet Twenty-First Century Migration

Module 7: Critical Infrastructure and Law Enforcement in the Cyber Age

Module 8: Infectious Disease, the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the Future of Civilian Safety

About the Instructors

The instructors are partners at New Macro Risks, a business intelligence firm providing strategic insights into today’s most pressing homeland security challenges.

Alan Bersin has held numerous high-level positions at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Justice. Most recently, after serving as the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Bersin served as the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Chief Diplomatic Officer for DHS. Previously, he was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. He also served as a Vice President for the Americas and on the Executive Committee of INTERPOL. Bersin is a Global Fellow with the Wilson Center and a Senior Fellow with the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Nate Bruggeman held senior policy positions at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection addressing border security, law enforcement intelligence, and U.S.-Mexico engagement. He has also had a distinguished legal career, most recently at the Colorado Department of Law and previously in private practice. Bruggeman is a Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center’s Homeland Security Project and the Executive Editor of its Homeland Security Policy Paper Series.

Ben Rohrbaugh has been at the forefront of border and supply chain security and advancing U.S.-Mexico relations for over a decade. Rohrbaugh held senior policy positions at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and he was a Director on the White House’s National Security Council where he developed policy on border and supply chain security issues. Rohrbaugh is currently a Fellow at the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas-Austin, and he is the author of the acclaimed More or Less Afraid of Nearly Everything: Homeland Security, Borders, and Disasters in the Twenty-first Century.

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