Homeland security nominee could bring changes, professor says

William Pelfrey,  Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness program at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the potential appointment of former Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson as the next Homeland Security secretary could bring changes to the department’s handling of security and policy issues.  

Johnson served as general counsel for the Department of Defense during Obama’s first term in office and played a key role in shaping the administration’s current national security and counterterrorism policies.

“Since Johnson worked as general counsel for the Department of Defense, it will be interesting to see what kind of new policies emerge with regard to personal privacy, such as wiretaps and email and Internet surveillance,” Pelfrey said.

If his nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Johnson will succeed Janet Napolitano, who announced plans to leave the position in the summer.

“As with any administrative change, I'm sure that some of Napolitano's efforts and initiatives will be scrutinized and changed,” Pelfrey said. “Over the past few years there was an emphasis on FEMA and resilience issues. At first glance, this may be a swing back towards a military/intelligence/homeland security approach. We'll have to see.”

In addition to homeland security, Pelfrey teaches courses in graduate and undergraduate criminal justice research methods, forensic psychology, white collar crime, police administration and problems in policing. He researches terrorism prevention, policing, the spatial analysis of crime, police use of force, crime patterns, the psychology of the offender and program evaluation.

Much of his work focuses on links between community policing practices and terrorism prevention. He has written numerous articles, book chapters and manuscripts as well as applied research reports for local, state and federal agencies. Pelfrey’s research has been published in the nation’s leading scholastic journals, including Justice Quarterly, Criminal Justice Studies, Homeland Security Review and the Journal of Criminal Justice.

VCU’s Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness program is housed in the L. Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.


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William Pelfrey Jr., Ph.D.
William Pelfrey Jr., Ph.D.