2008 volume 26(1) pages 7 – 28
doi:10.1068/d446t

Cite as:
Collier S J, Lakoff A, 2008, "Distributed preparedness: the spatial logic of domestic security in the United States" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26(1) 7 – 28

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Distributed preparedness: the spatial logic of domestic security in the United States

Stephen J Collier, Andrew Lakoff

Received 11 June 2006; in revised form 7 December 2006

Abstract. This paper examines the genealogy of domestic security in the United States through an analysis of post-World War II civil defense. Specifically, we describe the development of an organizational framework and set of techniques for approaching security threats that we call ‘distributed preparedness’. Distributed preparedness was initially articulated in civil defense programs in the early stages of the Cold War, when US government planners began to conceptualize the nation as a possible target of nuclear attack. These planners assumed that the enemy would focus its attacks on urban and industrial centers that were essential to US war-fighting capability. Distributed preparedness provided techniques for mapping national space as a field of potential targets, and grafted this map of vulnerabilities onto the structure of territorial administration in the United States. It presented a new model of coordinated planning for catastrophic threats, one that sought to limit federal intervention in local life and to preserve the characteristic features of American federalism. Over the course of the Cold War, distributed preparedness extended to new domains, and following 9/11 it has moved to the center of security discussions in the US.

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