Forty students from fourteen countries assembled at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS) in Washington DC on Monday, April 16 for the fourth rendition of the Perspectives on Perspectives on Homeland Security and Defense (PHSD).
The goal of the course is to permit participants to analyze and compare different perspectives on homeland security and defense including considerations. These topics include border security, preservation of critical infrastructure, response to natural disasters, terrorism, interagency coordination, maritime and port security, nuclear plant safety, cybercrime, and continuity of operations for the government. These topics are of the utmost interest to many citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean due to the frequency of catastrophic natural disasters like the Colombian volcano eruption at Nevada del Ruiz in 1985, Hurricane Mitch in 1989, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. In fact, natural disasters have killed more Latin Americans than all the wars of the region combined.
As importantly, another topic of discussion in the course is man-made security challenges. Trans-national criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and even trafficking of humans have raised such concerns in the region that security is now the number one concern of most citizens.
The opportunity to share ideas and practices of homeland security among the representatives of 14 different countries is an important component of the course. Perhaps an indication of the urgency of such international cooperation is the recent initiative by the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) to develop a natural disaster response team composed of different countries in the region, one of the topics of discussion of the course. The ability of such a unit to react to problems in the region was a message reiterated by the keynote speaker on the first day of the course. Mr. Jose Mayorga, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Security in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said that the “first twelve hours of a disaster are critical” and that forces that arrive 48-72 hours after the event are “too late.”
The PHSD participants will receive a broad range of opinions on matters of homeland security. The course involves 33 different speakers from all walks of the government. Furthermore, the students will spend the first week analyzing policy and doctrine of the participating countries in Washington DC. For the second week, the group travels to Colorado Springs, Colorado for a visit to the US Northern Command, the DOD-designated lead on homeland security.