Communicating Homeland Security Threats: Government and Public Efforts   [open pdf - 2MB]

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is widely criticized for poor performance, and much of its problem stems from its poor performance in public communications. DHS has not been able to earn the respect of the public and local officials, and that means that many Americans are not paying attention to important threat warnings and security based exercises. This ultimately means our homeland security is suffering and American citizens remain vulnerable to future terror attacks. This research project considers the public communication efforts of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by analyzing how both the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) and National Exercise Program (NEP) continually fall short of effectively communicating security threats and warnings to the American public. By looking at two of its highest profile projects, HSAS and NEP, we see that the problems are largely the result of DHS taking too much of a top-down, federal approach. This thesis will argue that the highly centralized management and execution of both the HSAS and NEP fail to convey the importance of federal efforts to local levels of government and American citizens. This thesis will be a comparative case study of these two programs. I find that both programs are useful and necessary, but both can be improved by decentralizing the national exercise framework and communication efforts to local level officials who can better tailor information and response efforts pertinent to their communities. As the most important component of disaster relief and response, local level officials, who are typically overshadowed by national level personnel, can more effectively utilize federal exercise money and communicate threats the American public than DHS personnel can."

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Naval Postgraduate School, Dudley Knox Library: http://www.nps.edu/Library/index.aspx
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