Securing the Vulnerable: Threat Mitigation for Community Infrastructure

Two coworkers assessing the situation and mitigating any threats to the community.

Every year, the U.S. government spends billions of dollars to secure strategic and tactical assets at home and abroad against enemy attacks. However, as hard targets, such as military installations and government buildings, are further strengthened, vulnerable soft targets, such as churches, schools, malls, transportation hubs and recreational venues, are increasingly in the crosshairs of terrorists and violent criminals.

These soft-target attacks are steadily climbing in number and scale of violence – and new tactics are continually emerging as terrorists hit the "reset button" with each attack. This course can help individuals who secure, own or operate soft-target facilities to create fluid and adaptable plans that protect people and property in this volatile, ever-changing security environment.


To kick off the course, you’ll choose a soft target, such as your workplace, a school, church, shopping venue, hotel, theater or stadium (or an event like a parade, open-air market or festival). Through that lens, you will learn to apply course strategies to provide a comprehensive protection plan:

  • Explore the vulnerabilities of soft targets.
  • Understand the motivation and capabilities of the actors most likely to strike soft targets.
  • Critically review case studies of soft target attacks and lessons learned.
  • Assess current threats against soft targets.
  • Explore hardening tactics and understand their proper application.

At the conclusion of the course, you will use the FBI’s Terrorism Vulnerability Self-Assessment Checklist to conduct a scored assessment of your selected soft target and develop a tailored action plan for hardening the facility, organization or event.


This course is ideal for individuals tasked with leading company security strategy, managing teams, addressing organizational threats, or coordinating projects and events:

  • Organization executives and leaders who devise policies and strategies
  • Managers responsible for directing day-to-day operations
  • Military personnel and veterans (veterans receive a 10 percent discount at checkout with "USFVA")
  • IT and cybersecurity professionals who need to stay abreast of the latest threats
  • Police officers and government officials
  • Project managers responsible for planning and executing large-scale events
  • Small-business owners, school leaders, church officials, event venue managers and others responsible for safeguarding their organizations


  • Live online, expert instruction

The instructor will reinforce lecture concepts by presenting case studies of recent terrorist or violent criminal attacks and plots. She will also share her firsthand experiences assessing and hardening soft targets.


  • $495


Jennifer Hesterman, PhD, is a retired Air Force Colonel who served in three Pentagon tours and commanded in the field multiple times. Her final assignment was vice commander, Andrews Air Force Base, Md., where she led installation security, including the security and protection of Air Force One. 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 five oak leaf clusters and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, among others.

With her background as a counterterrorism and soft target hardening expert, she is currently vice president at Watermark Risk Management International. In this role, she designs and instructs graduate-level security courses for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency. She is also the lead security expert for the three-year effort to deploy security practices in state departments of transportation. She also advises the Homeland Security Training Institute at the College of DuPage and the “Crisis Response Journal.”

Hesterman 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. She is also a graduate of the Harvard Senior Executive Fellows program and was a fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University.

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