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What are the Disciplines of Homeland Security?

2012 July 2
by Jason Nairn, CPP, CISSP

It is widely agreed that certain public safety disciplines have a nexus to homeland security, and that individuals that are trained in and or practice these disciplines may (or may not) engage with partners in other agencies in a manner that can be described as homeland security, or what some have described as what homeland security might be.  I have suggested in previous posts that the issuance of HLS degrees in higher education should be focused in the core disciplines of homeland security.  Yet others have made the point, a valid one I believe, that homeland security is a discipline itself that by its very nature “binds together” the various disciplines for the purpose of responding to “all-hazards”.  These points are great material for future posts.  First, let us look at what disciplines have been or are often referenced as being associated with homeland security.

Researcher Dr. William V. Pelfrey developed a study in 2004 that described the disciplines related to “preparedness”. Pelfrey bases this summary on activities conducted by the former Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP) in which focus groups were used to identify the key preparedness-related disciplines. The ODP identified ten key preparedness disciplines, the first four of which were considered primarily responsible for response and recovery.  I believe that Dr. Pelfrey’s research provides one of the best supported listings of the disciplines of preparedness (Pelfrey, 2004):

Initial Disciplines

Law Enforcement Emergency Dispatch
EMS Health Services
Fire Service Emergency Management
HAZMAT Government Administrative
Public Health Public Works

In an effort to further define disciplines, Pelfrey identified additional categories, or as he refers to them “loose collectives of functional emphases,” that were identified as being related to preparedness (2004, p. 1). The disciplines or activities in this second group were identified as:

Secondary Disciplines

Business Continuity Red Cross, Volunteer and NGO’s
Conveyances Public Information
Cyber-security and IT Media Management
Infrastructure Protection Public Warning / Alerts
Homeland Security Public Places / Major Facilities
Educational Institutions Private Sector
Private Security, Loss Prevention Financial Institutions
Major Event Security and Public Safety Risk Management
Prosecutor Transportation Services
Skilled Trades Military

This second group provides some insight into the issue of the wide range of homeland security-related activities.  If it is possible to meet homeland security professionals from any of these disciplines, one can understand the difficulty in developing a common, specific definition of homeland security, which is why homeland security is often described in terms like “enterprise”, such as in the 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.

In my own research, I interviewed more than 20 individuals from Michigan that may be described as state and local homeland security professionals.  Based on the results of these interviews, it appears that at the state and local level the homeland security core disciplines tend to align with law enforcement, fire, EMS, emergency management, public health, and government administration.  Homeland security professionals often have focused expertise in one or more of these disciplines.

Pelfrey, W. V. (2004). Homeland Security disciplines and the cycle of preparedness. Unpublished Manuscript.

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