When looking at the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it is easy to identify the Secretary as the end-all, be-all leader of the agency. Yet, at a more micro level, there are over 22 different operational components that make up the Department, employing over 240,000 employees that range in the mission areas from aviation and border security to emergency response and intergovernmental stakeholder engagement (Department of Homeland Security, 2017). Sorting through the components, there is an underrated office that holds an immense amount of influence and potential with stakeholders, constituents, and beneficiaries of DHS and its policies.
The Office of Partnership and Engagement (OPE) is the leading operational component for stakeholder outreach to state and local government, law enforcement, private sector entities, and academia. Within OPE lies the Office of Academic Engagement (OAE), lead by Executive Director Trent Frazier, who has recently had their hands full with a wave of school shootings and media emphasis on what DHS is doing and will do to prevent, protect, mitigate, respond to, and recover from harrowing active shooter incidents. Director Frazier is a career federal employee with an accomplished history at DHS. What separates Director Frazier from other agency leads, or private sector CEOs, is his emphasis on goal-driven, outcome-based leadership to ensure that the mission area attributed to OAE by the current administration is successful.
The process of leadership is better analyzed when the following three factors occur: When the process involves influence among his or her team; occurs within a group context; and involves goal attainment (Pennsylvania State University, 2019). Leaders at DHS thrive in their leadership setting as the entire framework and operational structure of the Department envelops these factors. Once the Federal Commission on School Safety was established after the Parkland High School shooting, school safety measures and goals become more evident for Director Frazier and OAE. Fortunately, due to his outcome-based method of leadership and team identity, the new measures of success were not a challenge for them. The process, as we identified, does not change, but adapts to the mission at hand for Director Frazier. By setting both qualitative and quantitative goals for outreach, engagement, and preparedness measures for academic stakeholders, OAE team members can effectively visualize their success in tangible terms (Department of Homeland Security, 2018). Director Frazier meticulously plans out each step towards the three mission areas by utilizing risk management methods to gauge which goals are on track, which have the potential for challenges, and which are actively facing challenges (Department of Homeland Security, 2013). This is the type of expectation that DHS instills in their leaders to ensure accountability as a national security agency with large-scale, influential, and essential mission areas.
Although OAE is a small program office within a relatively unknown component of DHS – when compared to more well-known components like FEMA or ICE – their role as the DHS prime for school safety is reliant on Director Frazier’s influence and success as a leader. The visualization of their goals and operational outcomes as defined by their mission areas creates a clear path for his employees to address, analyze, and deliver on the concerns of the American people and administration they serve for. A large ask for a minute office within a massive federal agency.
Department of Homeland Security. (2017). About DHS. Retrieved from https://www.dhs.gov/about-dhs
Department of Homeland Security. (2018). Academic Engagement. Retrieved from https://www.dhs.gov/topic/academic-engagement
Department of Homeland Security. (2013). The Risk Management Process for Federal Facilities: An Interagency Security Committee Standard. Retrieved from https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ISC_Risk-Management-Process_Aug_2013.pdf
Pennsylvania State University. (2019). L01 Leadership Defined. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963909/pages/l01-leadership-defined?module_item_id=25792372