Changing Homeland Security: The Issue-Attention Cycle
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The July 7, 2005 attacks on London inescapably direct public attention to our own transportation system. But eventually – as happened after the Madrid bombings in 2004 – public vigilance will wane. This can be seen as an affirmation of the profound trust Americans place in their public safety professionals. It is also the natural dynamic of the Issue Attention cycle, in which certain issues follow a predictable five stage process: preproblem, alarmed discovery, awareness of the costs of making significant progress, gradual decline of intense public interest, and a post-problem stage. Before the London attacks, Homeland Security was on the cusp of the fifth and last stage. Unless the U.S. is attacked again, we will continue into Stage Five once the waves from the London bombing recede. In the absence of an active national consensus that terrorists are a clear and present threat to the lives of average Americans, the dynamics of the Issue-Attention Cycle are as inevitable as the seasons.
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