What role do big businesses like Bank of America, Target, and Verizon play in homeland security? It’s a question that has long fascinated Austen Givens, assistant professor of cybersecurity at Utica College.
“Many people think homeland security and disaster recovery are exclusively government responsibilities,” he says. “But that’s just not true.”
In 2014, after years of research, Givens published his first book on the subject, The Business of Counterterrorism: Public-Private Partnerships in Homeland Security. Along with co-author Nathan Busch, Givens explored how public-private sector partnerships influence federal-level homeland security functions, including critical infrastructure protection, border security, and cybersecurity.
“During the research process, I quickly learned that there is not a single facet of homeland security that is not influenced, directly or indirectly, by the business community,” says Givens. “So it’s imperative for the federal government to find ways to work with businesses.”
Shortly after The Business of Counterterrorism was released, Givens began work on his second book—this one focused on a topic rarely explored, even by cybersecurity and infrastructure experts.
“Quite a bit has been written about the disaster response work that takes place in the federal government,” says Givens. “But very few researchers have explored the more interesting story playing out in state capitals.”
To that end, Givens spent three years interviewing state government officials and business representatives in California, New York, Florida and Virginia. His goal: to learn how they coordinate and collaborate to deal with unexpected events like wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorist attacks.
“The stories I heard were amazing,” he says. The Texas businessman, for example, who was tapped by then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to rent an airplane, fill it with one million cans of insect repellent, and fly from St. Louis to New York in order to combat the spread of West Nile Virus there.
It’s one of many anecdotes in the book that Givens says represent how governments often rely on private companies to assist them in managing disasters. The book, which is tentatively titled The Disaster Labs, is due out in late 2017.
Says Givens: “It’s an awesome time to be a researcher in my field.”
Learn more about UC's cybersecurity program here.