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Guest Blogger: Re-imagining America’s Business School Curriculums

Posted By Ed Piper On August 24, 2010 @ 10:00 am In Security | Comments Disabled

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Approximately 90 percent of America’s infrastructure is privately owned and yet the primary focus of homeland security educational programs in the U.S. has been directed toward local, state, federal government, and military employees. In addition, most of the homeland security educational programs on college campuses are located within the criminal justice or security studies degree programs. The challenge we must now face is how to best develop a culture of critical infrastructure preparedness within the private sector—one that will allow us to effectively mitigate, prevent, prepare, respond to, and recover from all hazards including acts of terrorism.

The question we must ask ourselves is: Who provides the leadership to direct the spending of resources of the multiple entities that compose our privately owned infrastructure? The answer of course, is the CEOs, CFOs, and COOs of American businesses and nonprofit organizations.

How have they prepared themselves for these traditional roles? Most have earned undergraduate degrees and advanced degrees/MBA’s in business, finance, accounting, IT, and marketing. These academic credentials help them develop the traditional knowledge, skills, and abilities required to succeed in leading a business or nonprofit entity. As an adjunct professor who has taught both business management courses and security courses for over 15 years, I continue to find it shocking to observe that it is still possible to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in business without ever taking a course in business continuity, crisis management, terrorism, security management, or homeland security. Ironically, it is the graduates of these business programs who one day will be the senior decision-makers deciding on how the organization will use its resources and finances to protect the people, properties, profits, and assets of their own organization/segment of America’s infrastructure. How can they be expected to make the proper decisions on infrastructure preparedness without the proper education?

The Department of Homeland Security has attempted to address the issue of critical infrastructure preparedness by sending government liaison employees to the private sector. These employees endeavor to not only make organizations more aware of their responsibilities for emergency preparedness/infrastructure protection, but to discuss how they can best realize this goal. It’s always a challenging role for government employees without any private sector business management experience to advise private business leaders on how to best incorporate security practices into existing business processes and operations. DHS has also advocated the use of ICS/NIMS as the standard emergency response system for both the public and private sectors. The system emphasizes the strategic roles of operations, logistics, planning, finance, and administration. These are the exact elements traditionally addressed in business degree programs. Again, I would challenge anyone to find a business management course that incorporates ICS/NIMS into its course design or business curriculum!

In order to develop a true culture of homeland/hometown security and critical infrastructure preparedness within the private and nonprofit sectors, it is imperative that America’s colleges and universities re-imagine their business school curriculums by integrating business continuity, crisis management, and homeland security courses and modules into existing business courses. Additionally, these curriculums should require a basic understanding of critical infrastructure preparedness prior to graduation.

As an adjunct professor who has taught both business and security management courses I’m recommending that the following courses incorporate emergency preparedness and homeland security content:
1. Strategic management courses must include modules that address threat and vulnerability assessments. SWOT analysis would have a new meaning;
2. International business courses must address the impact of terrorism and all hazards preparation and response in their design;
3. Logistics and supply chain courses must have modules on supply chain security and compliance with U.S. and international security requirements;
4. Human resource courses must integrate security management issues into their curriculum to include workplace violence, domestic and international terrorism, and emergency management;
5. There should be mandatory courses in business continuity, crisis management, and the basic principles of homeland security to include ICS/NIMS. Business schools that do not have qualified faculty members to address these special topic courses should allow business students the opportunity to take these courses within other departments(criminal justice, security studies, and homeland security programs) located either within the university or at nearby educational institutions; and
6. In order to better protect business entities from cyber attacks, students should be required to complete a basic course in IT security/information assurance.

The benefits of requiring America’s business schools to take a leadership role in integrating critical infrastructure preparedness courses into existing business curriculums should be obvious. This return on investment will allow the private sector to develop a new group of leaders who are better prepared to make well-informed decisions on the allocation of corporate resources and monies needed to better protect the private infrastructures of the United States. Leading practitioners from the field of applied behavioral science and organizational development have estimated that it takes approximately 5 years to change the culture of an organization. If we could convince the deans of America’s business schools to take the actions necessary to re-imagine business management curriculums with the previously prescribed homeland security oriented courses we would be well on our way to developing a culture of critical infrastructure preparedness and protection by the year 2020.

Ed Piper is an Adjunct Professor Johns Hopkins University/Carey School of Business.

The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of the Heritage Foundation.


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