Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Trust and Cooperation in Cross-Border Counter-Terrorism Networks

Saturday, November 14, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Cali Ellis, University of Michigan
What is the influence of interpersonal trust on information sharing in the high-stakes environment of international counter-terrorism? September 11, 2001 occurred near the start of a global economic crisis that affected the middle class worldwide, with ever greater amounts of public resources devoted to military and security spending. Thirteen years later, policymakers and policy analysts continue to struggle with how to reconcile the national security mission that is shared by multiple levels of government. The inherent challenges of American and Canadian federalisms are magnified at the international border, where agencies with widely varying missions and levels of funding must cooperate to solve daily problems and prepare for extremely rare but potentially catastrophic events. Scholars, too, are struggling with how to conceptualize and understand the complex organizational and bureaucratic processes that have been put in place under the new “homeland security” mission. My research begins to fill this gap by focusing on the professionals – from the public and private sectors; from police, fire services, and hospitals; from federal border agencies and provincial law enforcement – who must work together on a daily basis to address shared security concerns at the U.S.–Canada border. Social network analysis provides insights into how even infrequent interaction can facilitate information sharing, but the secretive domain of individuals working in international border security has been largely overlooked. In studying the structure of U.S. and Canadian border homeland security communities, my research provides a novel empirical contribution to the political science literature on bureaucratic politics and a theoretical contribution to the larger social science literature on trust, bridging the two by focusing on the overlap of social norms. It develops a new data set with rarely collected network variables based on survey research that can serve as a baseline for understanding interactions between agents working in complex security bureaucracies, providing a natural stepping stone to further homeland security organizational studies. Based on a social network survey of American and Canadian professionals from multiple levels of government and the private sector, representing a wide variety of policy disciplines, I find that interpersonal trust plays an important role in facilitating social network development across international borders, as well as bureaucratic obstacles. Specifically, dyadic trust becomes one of the most important variables in explaining network density, rivaling traditional in-group measures. Homeland security spending and effectiveness operates in the background, but the ability to prevent another terrorist attack is of fundamental importance to the middle class. My research provides new insight into an infrequently studied community, with implications for other studies of inter-organizational social network analysis of difficult-to-study populations.