General and Flag Officer Homeland Security Executive Seminar

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, multilevel and multisectoral events.

Participants will be nominated by their organizations to attend the General and Flag Officer Homeland Security Executive Seminar. For more information about the nomination and application process, please email