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Critical Thinking for Homeland Security: Analytical Essay

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Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has become a valued college program since the September 11th terrorist attacks. The general purpose of homeland security and emergency preparedness courses is to help individuals develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills through active learning, discussions and case studies so that they are able to adapt successfully in an ever changing environment. This study path however can be a challenge because the critical thinking methods of teaching are debatable. This paper will assess key components and strategies for the “best” critical thinking model that could be used in Homeland Security.

KEYWORDS: active learning, discussions, case studies, problem-solving, critical thinking, strategies, teaching.

The “best” critical thinking model that could be used in Homeland Security

The Homeland Security Department involved the largest restructuring of the federal government for several years. Homeland Security explores the concept and challenges of national security through government reports, budget proposals, public affairs campaigns and press releases, speeches, testimony, and other primary sources. In Homeland Security critical thinking skills are imperative in just about all career fields as each discipline often require the ability to be thorough in assessments with swift problem solving skills since the responsibilities of most Homeland Security careers overflow with liability for American lives and property. For this reason, it is necessary to keep enhancing and developing an effective model of critical thinking to use in evolving times.

People can build professional mastery by developing a body of knowledge that evolves through research, practice and instruction. Homeland Security is a broadening unique professional discipline; it is a specialty area for careers that can help individuals be better prepared to deal with national catastrophic events. After examining the Elements of Thought in The Thinkers Guide to Analytic Thinking written by Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul (2005), Eugene Bardach’s book titled A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis as well as the book entitled Asking the Right Questions, A Guide to Critical Thinking written by M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley (2010) a combination of elements from each book have been used to create a model that will further be discussed.

In the Thinkers Guide to Analytical Thinking “The elements of thought”, is a method that is suggested by Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul, it is made up of eight components which are purpose, point of view, assumptions, implications, evidence, inferences or conclusions, basic concepts and key questions. The text indicates that the answers to these questions will help to better understand and discover theories.

In M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley book titled asking the Right Questions, A guide to Critical Thinking, Tenth Edition. This method investigates the When? Where? How? And Why? of issues, reasons, ambiguous words or phrases, value conflicts, assumptions, fallacies in the reasoning, evidence, rival causes, statistics, significant information, and possible reasonable conclusions. This guide promotes more in depth inquiries about a situation and in doing so may help uncover additional note-worthy details.

In Eugene Bardach’s book A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis, he suggests that, “Rarely will you have any confidence that some helpful-looking practice is actually the ‘best’ among all those that are addressed to the same problem.’ He suggests the term “smart practice,” because the activity being studied has something worth analyzing that is applicable to a problem. Bardach further notes that “a practice is … an expression of some underlying idea — an idea about how the actions entailed by the practice work to solve a problem or achieve a goal.”(Eugene Bardach, 2004).

In 2005, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff spoke on the future direction of the department at a policy forum held March 16 at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., saying, ‘We must calibrate an approach to security that incorporates prevention and protection into our lives in a way that respects our liberty and our privacy, and fosters our prosperity.’ (Michael Chertoff, 2005.).

The following developed critical thinking model was created to serve as a guide in the decision-making processes of Homeland Security professionals. This combination additionally will be utilized as one functional critical thinking model to apply to a homeland security historical event that could have been prevented or mitigated by use of this model.

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I call this model The Critical Thinking Risk Assessment Model. As a country, we need to adopt a risk-based approach in both our operations and our philosophy. Our first model step is risk management, this is fundamental in managing a threat, while retaining quality of life and living in freedom. Risk management must be used to guide our decision-making as we examine how we can best organize to prevent, respond and recover from an attack.

After assessing the overall risks, we incorporate some of the elements of thought and continue on to define a purpose and point of view using basic concepts. This must be done before proceeding to apply our key questions toward general assumptions of a situation. These important steps start to pave a way and let us know how and where to proceed or apply forceful measures that will be most effective without unnecessary damage. Once these steps have been taken we can investigate the implications, evidence and inferences of the situation. This type of investigation allows collection of data and information to analyze giving the ability to select the most essential facts.

Upon obtaining any reported data and collected information we can now apply asking the right questions. In doing this we focus on the issue at hand and are able to pin point reasons and conflicts, additionally fine-tune statistics or assumptions and detect fallacies in the reasoning. Furthermore, we proceed with observation of evidence and by doing this carefully we will be able to narrow the presented options into being either the most or least relevant evidence to the event. As we recognize significant information from applying previous skills of thought, we are then able to decipher possibilities and reasonable conclusions. Risk assessment is the study of vulnerabilities, threats, likelihood, and consequences and critical thinking is a type of reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or what to do. I believe that this model would be helpful because it incorporates elements of thought which is needed to think critically and the ability to think critically assists with the ability to effectively manage risks and collectively in unison of one unique model it will decrease catastrophic events.

Historical Event in Homeland Security

There are numerous potential homeland security threats, from chemical, nuclear or biological threats to hijackings, bird flu and others. Americans remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Yet American institutions and officials have responded to several homeland security issues throughout the life of the nation. One way to be prepared for any major threat is to have and use the best critical thinking method to avoid mistakes from occurring in overwhelming situations.

The model described in this report would have been appropriate to apply to the November 5, 2009 Fort Hood shootings. It’s nearly three years after the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. Major Nidal Hasan, an American-born Muslim, currently faces the death penalty if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.

According to witnesses this event occurred after lunch on Nov. 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan, was described as a gunman wearing an Army combat uniform opened fire after shouting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ — or ‘God is great!’ in Arabic — inside a Fort Hood medical building where deploying and returning soldiers received vaccines and other tests. He rapidly fired, pausing only to reload, shooting at soldiers hiding under desks and those fleeing the building, according to witnesses.

Amongst several others, a Staff Sgt. named Shawn Manning was shot six times that day, and as a result of his injuries he is no longer able to continue serving. Senate, Homeland Security and the Government Affairs Committee, deemed this situation as a threat of violent Islamist extremism in the context of a broader threat of workplace violence. The Department of Defense did not comment further, but in the ‘Fort Hood coalition of heroes’ video, soldier’s recount being shot that day while others describe how they tried to crawl to safety. For these soldiers this was not just a work-place act of violence, it was an act of terrorism.

If this Critical Thinking Risk Assessment Model was implemented then Major Nidal Hasan would have been caught before even entering the treatment facility with a weapon. Military bases are secured at points of entry/exit and have personnel that are employed to secure the base. This event seems to have many loop holes that are unfilled, and may possibly be hidden from the public. By the result of this story, we can attest to the ill preparedness of this facility as Major Nidal Hasan was able to not only enter with a loaded weapon but was able to pause for reloading this weapon, that moment of pause would have been a good chance for intercepting his attack minimizing the destruction.

This was an act of terrorism on our Military in our homeland, a horrid act that was carried out by one man who may have been a trusted person, which would explain his ability to enter grounds without question of any premeditated agenda or odd body language and behavior. If the right model measures were implemented swiftly this man would not have gotten the opportunity to have killed so many soldiers and certainly not wound several others. We can be certain that military facilities all around will use this unfortunate occurrence to be better prepared and always have a watchful eye on everyone who sets foot on any base facilities.

In conclusion, collectively our Homeland Security mission and efforts are to continue to champion critical thinking methods for our nation’s preparedness and the support of our emergency responders. Moreover, the ultimate goal of the “best” critical thinking model is for Homeland Security to help incorporate critical thinking, effective safety and security measures along with problem-solving skills as a convenient part of a comfortable daily routine into the lives of all Americans. In the end, what we are trying to protect – and at the same time, preserve – is not only our lives, but also our way of life.


  1. Dr. Linda Elder and Dr. Richard Paul. (2007). The Thinker’s Guide to Analytic Thinking. Foundation For Critical Thinking Press.
  2. M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley. (2007). Asking The Right Questions, A Guide To Critical Thinking. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.
  3. Eugene Bardach, A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving 2nd ed. 9 Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2004), 91.
  4. Michael Chertoff. (2005) the future direction of the department: speech, March 16, 2005, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
  5. CBS News. Fort Hood Shootings Article, retrieved from

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