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Crisis Leadership

Proposals from the White House and Department of Homeland Security have accurately advocated an "all-hazards" approach to protecting the homeland. However, the top-down implementation of this approach risks losing a critical aspect of protecting our society. A successful national strategy to protect civilian populations requires embedded security, which prepares not only for transnational terrorism but also state-based attacks, hybrids of government-terrorist operations, as well as catastrophic natural disasters.

The federal government has the ability to protect against 21st-century threats, and to maintain a suitable level of resilience after attacks occur, but state and local authorities, the private sector, and individual citizens must be trained, empowered, and incorporated into the overall plan. The challenge of embedding security throughout a society is to cultivate and ensure a reasonable capability at each of these levels and across practitioner disciplines. The U.S invests significantly at the national level, as governments tend to do. To embed security more pervasively, and thereby develop a more effective defense, requires a bottom-up approach that incentivizes and enfranchises other parts of society toward a more comprehensive, societal security.

On December 7, 2006, the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC) hosted the first seminar in a series entitled Crisis Leadership: Securing Societies, Protecting Homelands. While certain real-world scenarios such as 9/11 and the 2005 terrorist bombings in London revealed a rare ability to maintain leadership credibility and control, other crises, namely the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, showed how an erosion of public leadership in crisis can become perilous and even irreversible. Panelists at the December 7th event directed discussion around lessons-learned in crisis, the politics of crisis leadership, concepts of decision-making in crisis, and the differing perspectives and roles between policy-maker and practitioner in times of crisis. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary for Preparedness George Foresman delivered a keynote address.

On March 19, 2007, the Center hosted the second seminar of its Crisis Leadership series in the U.S. Capitol Building. Seminar participants examined transatlantic and private sector institutional structures and response systems for crisis, and reflected on the Canadian concept of "lessons-observed." This event built upon the conclusions of the first seminar, which delineated methods for decision-making in crisis, communications in crisis, and navigating the politics of crisis leadership. Jesper Gronvall, Senior Analyst for Homeland Security at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, presented the issue paper "Building Capacity for Enhanced Societal Security Through Crisis Management Training," co-authored by Bengt Sundelius, Chief Scientist for the Swedish Emergency Management Agency.