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General and Flag Officer Homeland Security Executive Seminar

Participants will be nominated to attend the General and Flag Officer Homeland Security Executive Seminar. Please see the Who Should Apply page for more details.

Program Director: Laura Simolaris

The General and Flag Officer Homeland Security Executive Seminar is designed by Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Crisis Leadership.


“Building essential response capabilities nationwide requires a systematic program to train individuals, teams, and organizations – to include governmental, non-governmental, private-sector, and voluntary organizations – to meet a common baseline of performance and certification standards.”

-National Response Framework, January 2008

The United States faces a continuing necessity to be prepared for and capable of responding to a major disaster – be it a massive seismic event, a major hurricane, a pandemic outbreak, or a terrorist event. Much of the thinking about how to organize a response to such an event imagines a highly centralized operation. However, much of our recent history with major events suggests an alternative approach to crisis response.

Instead of hierarchical command from a single location, we need to prepare for a response involving operations by many different organizations and agencies, including federal, state, and local government, nonprofit organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army, and private sector organizations like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, as well as community groups. Such a response is inherently decentralized. It will involve engagement without control, and coordination instead of command. The major determinant of the effectiveness of such a response will be the ability of the decentralized organizations to coordinate with one another and be effective in carrying out their own actions.

The General and Flag Officer Homeland Security Executive Seminar is designed by Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Crisis Leadership specifically for the National Guard and the United States Coast Guard. The program will equip senior leaders with the resources and capabilities to produce an effective response. This three-day program will emphasize the critical role of the National Guard and United States Coast Guard as the backbone of the nation’s leadership cadre for providing the essential intermediate response to large, complex, multi-jurisdiction, multi-level, multi-sectoral events.

“Improved training opportunities are essential to promote better understanding of response strategies, plans, and operations. All leaders should be proficient with the National Response Framework and the National Incident Management System, but few military leaders have been trained specifically for Defense Support of Civil Authorities.”

-Before Disaster Strikes: Imperatives for Enhancing Defense Support of Civil Authorities, September 15, 2010


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