Domestic Extremism: What Security Teams Should Know

According to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: “Domestic violent extremism poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to our country today.”

Dr. Jennifer Hesterman is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, with deep expertise in counterterrorism and hardening soft targets. On June 17, 2021, Dr. Hesterman joined our Strategic Security webinar series to discuss domestic violent extremism and the potential threats different DVE groups present to corporate security teams.

Dr. Hesterman’s presentation materials.

Watch the on-demand recording:

What Security Teams Should Know About Domestic Violent Extremism

Corporate security teams are understandably concerned about the heightened potential for ideologically-motivated violence from Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) in the United States. Actors are motivated by a variety of ideologies, whether political, economic, religious or single issue, such as environmental. Understanding motivations and the threat to your organization by external and internal actors is critical to inform security planning.

There are many challenges associated with DVEs. Ideologies are persistent and easily leveraged by social media, giving  groups staying power. Recruitment is simple and quick through the Internet, shortening the ‘radicalization to operation’ cycle. This phenomenon accelerated during the pandemic, with worldwide increased use of the Internet by isolated individuals to gather information, as well as connect and commiserate with others.

Soft targets are abundant in the U.S., and many corporate facilities fall into that category or are located near a possible target and could get caught up in an attack. Organizations are also vulnerable to insider threat, currently a primary security concern at the Department of Defense. Although we want to believe employees wouldn’t target their own company, we need to understand the human condition in 2021 and how they could be exploited by various groups.

Which ideologies and groups present the greatest risks to personnel and corporate assets, and which are fleeting and simply grabbing headlines? Will the potential for violence diminish as time passes, or does polarization in our country serve as a perpetual incubator for DVEs?

Security professionals must understand the risks, potential impacts, and steps they can take to mitigate those risks.

We had a dynamic discussion with Dr. Jennifer Hesterman, an expert in terrorist organizations and hardening soft targets. Dr. Hesterman shared her research and insights to help security teams understand the potential threat of DVEs. She included many recommended resources for security professionals seeking deeper knowledge on the topic.

Key Discussion Topics:

  • What is extremism? Why do people radicalize? How do ideologies evolve?
  • What are the primary DVE groups, motivations and tactics?
  • What specific threats do different DVEs pose and how might they bring danger to your doorstep?
  • Current government activities to counter DVEs
  • Lone Actor Terror
  • Why is insider threat on the rise and how can we deter, detect and mitigate?
  • Practical steps security professionals can take to manage risks presented by DVEs.

Our Presenter

Dr. Jennifer Hesterman is a retired Air Force colonel, serving in three Pentagon tours and commanding in the field multiple times. Her final assignment was Vice Commander, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, where she led installation security and protection of Air Force One, force support, and the 1st Helicopter Squadron. She regularly met and escorted the President and other heads of state on the airfield. She is the recipient of the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service medal with 5 oak leaf clusters and the Global War on Terrorism medal, among others.

A counterterrorism and soft target hardening expert, she is presently Vice President at Watermark Risk Management International and instructs graduate-level security courses for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency. She also advises the Homeland Security Training Institute at the College of DuPage and the Crisis Response Journal.

Dr. Hesterman is a sought after consultant and trainer, supporting the DHS, the FBI, DoD, US Secret Service, the Department of Transportation, state and local law enforcement, Fortune 100s, Major League Baseball and soft target locations and mass gathering events.

She holds a doctoral degree from Benedictine University, Master of Science degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Air University, and a Bachelor of Science from Penn State University. She was a National Defense Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; is an alumnus of the Harvard Senior Executive Fellows program and was a fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University.

An academic author for Taylor & Francis Group, her book Soft Target Hardening: Protecting People from Attack was the ASIS Security Industry Book of the Year for 2015. The second edition received the same honors in 2019, and was the Social Sciences Book of the Year for Taylor & Francis. She also authored Soft Target Crisis Management (2016) and The Terrorist-Criminal Nexus (2013) and published 32 articles in a variety of journals and security magazines.

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