Critical Thinking in Homeland Security

Homeland security officers risk their lives everyday for the protection of the general public from perceived and potential threats. From 1993 and beyond, the US has developed many security concerns.

For example, the US has been severally attacked through acts of terrorism such as the Oklahoma City bombings that happened in April 1995. Other potential threats still lurk, like the World trade centre bombings of 1995 and the September 11th attacks in New York. The fight against terrorism has thereafter taken a very broad dimension whereby the citizens to be protected now include the whole world and the perceived threat to state security is also taking a global dimension (Vaughan-Williams, p. 105). These new developments therefore mean that laws and policies need to meet the new challenges of state security. There has been a considerable degree of development in law enforcement to tackle newly perceived threats in state security and many proactive approaches have been adopted in the same regard.

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Although this progress is commendable, more can still be done to further improve state security from what it is. This therefore means that homeland security officers need to “think outside the box” by employing critical thinking as their core pillar in changing most of their policies (Vaughan-Williams, p. 105). More creative security policies therefore need to be developed and new paradigms also need to be arrived at. This study incorporates this thought by developing strategies that the US homeland security can use to improve the accomplishment of its security mandate. Core in this study will be the critical thinking model which will act as the ultimate model to the development of homeland security procedures.

The eight elements of thought in critical thinking will outline the model and provide a blueprint to the development of new policies and strategies. Comprehensively, this study advances the fact that critical thinking can be potentially used to improve homeland security services.

Elements of Critical Thinking

In any kind of human thought, there are eight elements of critical thinking that always take place. These eight elements are encompassed in the critical thinking model.

The basic elements are thinking for a purpose, raising questions, utilizing specific information, incorporating concepts, deriving inferences, making assumptions, deducing implications, and embodying a point of view (Philips, 2008). They outline the blueprint structure below:

Thinking for a Purpose

Instead of sitting back and waiting for a specific calamity to happen (before action is taken), it is important to incorporate critical thought to avert such eventualities. Critical thinking can be incorporated as a progressive type of thinking that can possibly lead to the development of multiple scenarios. Critical thinking as a proactive measure is one instrument law enforcement officers can use as a managerial technique. This approach is better than being reactive, which only leads to pointing out fingers at people or parties who are perceived as the cause for a security lapse. With regards to homeland security, using critical thinking to develop tactical strategies and implementing them is just one side of the coin because a lot still needs to be done to come up with the right solution to security problems. Indeed, Philips (2008) notes that “Tactical Case Support Prevails, Yet Operational Strategic Analysis and Predictive Intelligence or Warning Intel- Ligence Is Non-Existent or Misunderstood” (p.3).

Critical thinking as a proactive measure enforces homeland security intelligence systems. Most organizations and institutions the world over have already accepted the importance of critical thinking as a standard operating requirement, more so, for massive or statewide operations like that of the homeland security. Philips (2008) is of the opinion that ‘now that thinking about thinking is globally accepted as a critical business function, the most successful companies not only recognize, but also embrace, the behaviors and skills required’ (p. 4). In developing a critical thinking approach for proactive purposes, it is important to note that critical thinking needs to incorporate previous experiences, should be team based, and should incorporate a formal structure for decision making. For example, when an officer is given a gun to practice shooting, he/she should consider possible scenarios before he/she can take a shot. Proactive critical thinking uses the same principles.

Critical thinking will therefore enable homeland security to gauge these possible scenarios and come up with prudent policies and possibly overcome situational biases.

Raising Questions

Engaging critical thinking is aimed at overcoming biases, assumptions, myths and fallacies associated with security to come up with applicable and effective security policies. When incorporating critical thinking in national security procedures, it is imperative that officers should continuously question the agency’s strengths while constantly pushing to break their limits.

Critical thinking is primarily fueled by thinking and challenging perceived thoughts to come up with better policies. Philips (2008) attests that: “Questions de?ne variables, state factors, outline tasks, clarify issues and express problems. Complex questioning drives thought beyond what is super?cial and historical. Asking questions forces everyone involved in the decision to express and challenge preconceived notions and assumptions” (p. 4).

Utilizing Specific Information

Probing in critical thinking for the purpose of improving public safety warrants law enforcement officers to reevaluate their sources in terms of their validity, credibility and reliability. More so, having an efficient homeland security agency is not only based on coming up with viable security policies and enforcing them but also engaging a high level critical thought and developing skills that would help contain security threats before they happen.

Incorporating Concepts

Critical thinking also goes hand in hand with problem solving and can go a long way in solving homeland security’s perplexities because the countermeasures to be derived are developed at an optimum level of thinking.

Moreover, critical thinking can help to rank policies or solutions developed in terms of their effectiveness and reliability in measuring up to the goals and objectives of the agency.

Deriving inferences

One of the most prominent inferences derived from critical thinking is that in-depth questioning and analysis will not only ensure homeland security meets its desired goals and cut above mediocre solutions; it will ensure that a right solution to a given problem is arrived at. This kind of scenario also breeds more ground for reassessment incase a given solution fails to work because more brainstorming can be engaged at a higher level of thought to come up with the precise solution to a given problem.

Making Assumptions

Many researchers have often deduced assumptions that critical thinking is associated with an internal drive to think and break comfort zones of thought. Nonetheless, the truth is not far away from this hypothesis because critical thinking engages a high level engagement of cognitive skills, a high level of interpretation, explanation, evaluation and reasoning beyond conventional thought (Philip, 2008).

It is quite possible for homeland security officers to achieve these desirable levels of thought in a natural way if they engage critical thought. In fact, there is no difference from this thought development with the development of artistic, athletic and leadership skills.

Deducing implications

Self reflection is a critical component that supplements critical thinking because it exposes the implications of critical thinking. At an advanced level, this level of critical thought is important to comprehend procedures and strategies together with monetary limitations and the likelihood of event occurrence. With regard to homeland security, this thought process is important in assessing risks.

Philip (2008 argues that: “the use of critical thinking skills is purposeful — the self- regulatory review process results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based” (p. 5).

Embodying a Point Of View

Proper inquiry cannot be made without the inclusion of critical thinking. Nonetheless, for this process to be entirely successful, it is important that homeland security officers take into consideration the evidence, method and context in which important security decisions are to be developed. The thought process involved therefore goes beyond coming up with the most appropriate decisions because the process spills into engaging critical thinking to come up with better alternatives/decisions. State policies can therefore be better developed and be supported at all levels of governance.

Advantages of Critical Thinking for Homeland Security

Critical thinking enables homeland security officers to create viable security policies and options in a flexible manner that enables them device new strategies that are effective and practical for implementation. Homeland security officials can also develop and analyze information better than the contemporary way of using fallacies which often misguides their actions.

In this manner, they can come up with sound and persuasive arguments for reviewing national security policies. If critical thinking is adopted in a sound manner, homeland security officers can develop sound policies that will prove effective in today’s age of changing security variables while developing consensus building ability with regard to complex security issues and also learning to build a motivating spirit around ideas that are viable and out of the ordinary. Critical thinking also enables officers to focus on important issues and avoid debates that waste time or which are not focused on supporting the agency’s mandate. In close relation, the homeland security agency can save a lot of time in reducing the frequency of meetings. Critical thinking being comprehensive and participative in nature will also help motivate all officers to contribute to the overall decision making process of the agency. Techniques to foster comprehensive decisions will also be developed while coming up with different scenarios for perceived threat analysis. Public officers will also be empowered with decision making skills by incorporating new models for assessing decisions. This new attitude will supersede the traditional and contemporary attitude purporting that there is only one right solution to every problem faced.

In this regard, psychological barriers that always impede the adoption of better and efficient policies will be removed, creating an opportunity for fresh ideas. In the same regard, critical thinking will stop most officials from making important decisions without analyzing important facts or whether new reforms are in line with the mandate of the agency and whether they conform to the goals and objectives of the organization. Critical thinking will also help the agency identify the pros and cons associated with each course of action they undertake.

Moreover, it will enable the agency get a firmer public approval because critical thinking is not only comprehensive but also incorporates feedback from relevant parties. Critical thinking will also help the agency prioritize their actions through the determination of critical factors. Although critical thinking is highly advantageous, instances where its adoption fails will provide a good opportunity for new opportunities to be developed because failed strategies provide groundwork for new experiences. This therefore means that sober decision making after factoring in all relevant variables is likely to change poorly functioning courses of action, lead to the adoption of decisions without looking back, and initiate a progress into the future with a lot of enthusiasm because past events are deemed history.


Critical thinking skills are usually acquired and perfected with time. Perfection is usually achieved if individual actions are made in the context of critical thinking and practiced repetitively to create a new pattern of behavior. Critical thinking should especially be emphasized in law enforcement because of the sophisticated nature of security threats in today’s world. Since homeland security’s core mandate is ensuring public safety, incorporating the experiences of knowledgeable individuals and incorporating new ideas developed from critical thinking (which are of an out of the box nature) is critical.

To eliminate the threat of terrorism by homeland security, the adoption of critical thinking skills has never been more important in the history of homeland security. More importantly, critical thinking skills should be strategically used in the operations of homeland security as a tool to develop different security scenarios. Regardless of the level of threat posed by different security threats, it is important to counteract them and plan for their potentiality if they become real. For instance, the probability of an aeroplane crashing into the world trade centre should have been evaluated in terms of the number of planes that can potentially crash into the building and their potential effects. Critical thinking also plays a fundamental role in establishing core ethical roles and determining the burden of legal responsibility because players are usually empowered to be more creative in their thought processes.

Philips (2008) affirms that ‘everyone should take responsibility for their own personal creativity behaviors and skill development, whatever their role or level’ (p. 7). This is especially true because as has been previously noted, terrorism has taken a whole new dimension, which warrants innovative strategies to solve such kind of problems through critical thinking, because homeland security has the responsibility of being proactive and analyzing the probability of occurrence of a terrorist attack.

This is still done even with the responsibility of tackling old kind of crimes and new kinds of security threats. Through the adoption of creative thinking therefore, the agency will be able to overcome the challenge of dealing with new, perceived and emerging threats. From this analysis therefore, critical thinking proves to be an important tool homeland security could use to improve its services because it essentially helps them “think out of the box”.


Philips, W. (2008). Decision-Making Skills That Encompass a Critical Thinking Orientation For Law Enforcement Professionals. Retrieved 7 October, 2010, Vaughan-Williams, N.

(2009). Critical Security Studies: An Introduction. New York:Taylor & Francis.


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