Homeland Security Professionals Say US Unprepared for Terrorist Attacks

While a majority of homeland security professionals say America is safer now than it was before the September 11 attacks, 75 percent believe the country will experience a similar terrorist attack in the next five years — and Americans are not prepared, according to a recent survey commissioned by the National Homeland Defense Foundation (NHDF) and Colorado Technical University (CTU).

The survey, which was conducted by Kelton Research, revealed that 94 percent of these professionals do not think Americans know the appropriate steps to take if a terrorist attack were to happen in their hometown.

Among survey findings from professionals within the field:

  • Homeland security experts do not feel safe. More than half of those surveyed (51 percent) do not personally feel safe from a terrorist attack.
  • Cyberterrorism is an emerging threat. When asked which security issues the U.S. should invest more resources in over the next five years, computer networks or the Internet came out on top (58 percent), followed by homegrown or domestic terrorism inside the U.S. or infrastructure (49 percent), and US coastlines and harbors (42 percent).
  • Public education needs to be increased. Fewer than three in 10 (27 percent) homeland security professionals believe the U.S. is doing a good enough job to educate the public on what to do if the U.S. experiences a terrorist attack.
  • Need for more qualified applicants. Only 17 percent of survey respondents believe there are enough qualified job applicants to fill key roles in homeland security.

“Since Sept. 11, many aspects of national security have improved, but we still have progress to make in terms of education for the professionals serving our country and in improving communications between government agencies at all levels,” said Donald Addy, NHDF President. “Much more can be done to prepare our nation for attacks, especially as acts and threats of terrorism evolve.”

Homeland Security: Marked Improvement But Room for Growth
Nearly eight in 10 (77 percent) of homeland security professionals surveyed believe that the response of federal, state and local governments to a terrorist attack today would be more coordinated than it was in 2001. Moreover, almost three in four (74 percent) feel that communication on homeland security matters across all government levels has improved since Sept. 11.

Although the survey shows greater confidence in government coordination, the following findings suggest areas for improvement:

  • Almost nine in 10 (87 percent) feel that the field is fragmented, not cohesive, when it comes to communication or collaboration among agencies and departments.
  • As for terrorist threats, 58 percent think that homeland security in the U.S. is still generally reactive rather than proactive.

“This survey clearly shows we need to do a better job when it comes to helping the public understand how to be prepared should we experience another terrorist attack similar to Sept. 11,” said Capt. W. Andy Cain, US Navy, a member of the CTU Homeland Security Advisory Board. “Professionals in the industry need preparation as well — in the form of advanced education and training to meet the needs the career will demand in the future.”

More Education Needed
Along with better public education, the survey demonstrated a need for better education. Seventy-two percent of homeland security professionals surveyed think better trained or educated staff would make the most dramatic improvement in US homeland security. In addition, a majority (71 percent) who do not already have graduate-level degrees in homeland security believe they could advance their own careers with this type of degree.

“This survey reinforces what we have long perceived as a need for advanced degrees in the homeland security field,” said Greg Mitchell, President of the CTU Colorado Springs campus. “It is for this reason that we developed both master's and doctorate degrees in homeland security, to provide opportunities for current homeland security professionals to advance their career, as well as for those looking to enter this growing field.”

Job Outlook for Homeland Security
Those looking to make a difference with a career in homeland security may be well positioned to pursue success, with 69 percent of the homeland security professionals surveyed portraying their opinion of the job outlook in homeland security in the next five years as excellent or good. The following survey results also speak to their experiences within the field:

  • Based on their experiences in the homeland security field, an overwhelming majority of the professionals surveyed (89 percent) would recommend a career in the industry to others.
  • 47 percent of those surveyed frequently, if not always, believe they are personally making a difference with their jobs.
  • 63 percent of those surveyed feel the public values the services they perform.
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