Heslen is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Augusta University and serves on faculty at Augusta University’s Cyber Institute.
Before coming to Augusta University, Heslen served as an intelligence officer with both the Defense Intelligence Agency and the United States Air Force, specializing in combatting terrorism, counterintelligence, and strategic cyber intelligence. He is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserve and has served in military operations on four continents to include humanitarian relief operations in Mozambique and South Africa as well as a combat tour in Afghanistan.
Heslen earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Georgia, an MA in International Relations from the University of Oklahoma, and a PhD with a doctoral dissertation in Organizational Leadership from the University of Oklahoma.
In his capacity as a military reservist, he is currently assigned to the National Intelligence University pursing an advanced degree in Strategic Intelligence. His research interests include cyber conflict, the influence of cognitive bias on discrimination, and applying the tenets of coalitional psychology to international relations theory.
Areas of Expertise (9)
International Relations Theory
Media Appearances (2)
Augusta University receives cyber education grant
The National Security Agency has awarded nearly $285,000 to Augusta University to aid their cyber education department.
Proposed cyber security facility set for riverfront location
The Augusta Chronicle online
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal was crystal clear: the new $50 million cyber security facility he proposed building in Augusta should happen “with lightning speed,” Augusta University President Brooks Keel said. Business and economic development will soon follow, he said.
Surveys show US local governments must do more to address their cyber insecurity.London School of Economics
William Hatcher Donald F. Norris Laura Mateczun Wesley L. Meares John Heslen
Cyberattacks on organizations and institutions have unfortunately become commonplace, and the 90,000 local governments in the US are often targets for these incidents. Taking data from local government surveys, William Hatcher, Donald F. Norris, Laura Mateczun, Wesley L. Meares, and John Heslen assess the current state of cybersecurity in state and local government, finding that these organizations are in fact practicing cyber insecurity. Considering these findings, they make a number of recommendations, including better funding for cybersecurity measures in local government budgets, and improved staff training and management practices. During the summer of 2023, New York City’s school system was hit by two successful cyberattacks that left the data of over 45,000 students and their families vulnerable. In response, the NYC Department of Education centralized management of school websites, email systems, and other information technologies. This is one of the hundreds or thousands of examples of cyber-attacks on the public sector. It is telling, though, that the largest city in the US, even with its significant resources, struggles to ensure cybersecurity.
Local Government Cyber Insecurity: Causes and Recommendations for ImprovementWiley Online Library
Donald Norris, Laura Mateczum, William Hatcher, Wesley Meares, John Heslen
In this paper, we address several facets of the problem we call local government cyber insecurity – a problem that plagues such governments across the nation, if not the world. We describe this problem and discuss its manifestations in local governments. This is followed by our analysis of why, on average, local government cybersecurity is managed and practiced so poorly. Next, we discuss several constraints on local governments that may help to explain why so many of these governments are not able to provide highly effective cybersecurity. We then discuss steps that local governments can and should take to improve their cybersecurity, including adopting dedicated cybersecurity budgets, adopting several highly recommended cybersecurity policies, and following best cybersecurity practices.
Leading a More Effective Intelligence Community: Understanding and Managing the Cognitive Challenges of Human Intelligence Collection in Lethal EnvironmentsOklahoma University
2016 The purpose of this research was to gain a better understanding of how specific aspects of cognitive performance are influenced by operating in lethal environments with the aim of incorporating any helpful insights into the operations performed by human intelligence collectors. Gaining a better understanding of any negative cognitive effects could enable leaders in the intelligence community to take mediating action resulting in a more efficient enterprise. Simulating the cognitive processes expected to be at play in lethal environments was accomplished by utilizing a technique known as mortality salience that has been shown to induce specific psycho-social reactions in individuals. Cognitive performance was tested by using the simple reaction time, attentional switching, and Stroop tests of the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics (ANAM4TM). Memory recall was tested by asking participants to recall categorized items after watching a video of a fictional intelligence source. This study found mortality salience had a statistically-significant influence on certain aspects of executive function as well as memory recall and suggest the etiology of mortality salience effects are most consistent with modern understandings of cognitive bias. As such, the term “mortality bias” is proposed for future investigations and explanations of the phenomenon.
Epidemiological intelligence fusion centers: health security and COVID-19 in the Dominican RepublicTaylor & Francis Online
Craig Albert, Alejandro Amando Baez, Lance Hunter, John Heslen, John Rutland
Research on health security has focused on how many different political, economic, social, and health-related factors affect disease containment within states. However, largely missing from this scholarship is an examination of the role public health intelligence plays in limiting the spread of disease. Thus, this study focuses on the effect epidemiological intelligence fusion centers have on disease prevalence. We conduct a case study analysis of the Dominican Republic’s use of epidemiological intelligence fusion centers during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide policy recommendations for other states to follow.