Book Review – Next-Generation Homeland Security by John Fass Morton

I’m a firm believer that professionals need to keep current on trends and major discussions in their field of practice.  Homeland security and emergency management are no different, which is why I spend a great deal of time reading – books, blogs, newsletters, etc.

A book I finished in recent months was Next-Generation Homeland Security by John Fass Morton.  The book offers a great history of the roots of emergency management and homeland security, insights into the politics involved in the evolution of the two related fields, and thoughts on how preparedness agendas of the federal government and preparedness needs of local and state governments can be better merged moving forward.

Mr. Morton provides a highly detailed history of EM/HS – the most detail I’ve ever seen published anywhere.  This history doesn’t just cover new laws and changes in agency names, but also identifies key players and influencers, missteps, and practices along the way.  His detail of EM/HS over the past two decades is even greater as he has been able to obtain information and insights from his own experiences and those of his colleagues and contemporaries.  These details include all of our current programs such as NIMS, EMAC, and others – including many of the predecessors of those programs.  If you have interests in history or politics, much of the book will be very interesting to you simply based on this content.

Much of the book’s focus is on all-hazard preparedness, so you won’t find a great deal of information on DHS member agencies and their mission areas.  The book primarily follows the evolution of emergency management and its relationship with homeland security, while also providing some insight into the roots of homeland security which well predate 9/11.  Mr. Morton’s research certainly demonstrates how cyclic these evolutions have been.

Mr. Morton offers some interesting perspectives on our current state of preparedness and offers thoughts on organizational models which can enhance the coordination between the federal government and state and local authorities through strengthening of the FEMA/DHS regional offices, particularly the regional preparedness staff.  It’s apparent that there often conflicts between the federal government and state and local governments in regard to EM/HS priorities across all mission areas.  Mr. Morton’s perspectives offer a viable solution.

As I read I marked a lot of pages in the book for future reference, particularly in the second half (about 200 pages).  If you don’t have much interest in the histories Mr. Morton provides, as they are quite detailed, the second half of the book is where there will still be great value to you as this is where more contemporary practices, policies, and organizations are detailed as well as Mr. Morton’s thoughts on the further evolutions of our practice including the Federal regional approach and other topics such as professional development.  This is an excellent book for the dedicated practitioner who is looking for not only a detailed history but also thought provoking insight, not just a regurgitation of doctrine.  I believe it would also serve as an excellent book for graduate level academics, as it not only provides a great deal of information but can certainly stimulate quite a bit of discussion.  I hope to see some of Mr. Morton’s ideas get discussed broadly for the benefit of our profession.

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