Hamilton Bean's research intersects communication, organization, and security. "Historically, national security scholars haven't paid much attention to internal communication issues, and organizational scholars couldn't access insider domains and so steered clear of national security institutions," says Bean. "But if we want to adequately understand national security-related phenomena, we have to better examine the interconnections between internal/organizational and external/public communication."
Bean's first book, No More Secrets: Open Source Information and the Reshaping of U.S. Intelligence (Praeger, 2011) brings the fields of national security and organizational communication together in order to study institutional change within the U.S. intelligence sector. Bean was able to draw upon his personal experience in writing this book because from 2001 to 2005, he served in management positions for a Washington, DC-based "open source" intelligence contractor. "Open source information" is derived from unclassified material including foreign newspapers, television, radio, and websites. The U.S. intelligence community defines open source information as publically available information that anyone can lawfully obtain by request, purchase, or observation. "Open source intelligence," by contrast, is defined as being produced from publically available information that is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement. These bureaucratic-sounding definitions nevertheless point to a perilous identity crisis facing the U.S. intelligence community at the start of the 21st century. Agencies that have historically focused on secrets must now confront the worldwide explosion of open source information wrought by new technologies. Commentators liken open source information to a vast "goldmine" filled with potential "nuggets" of intelligence on issues ranging from pandemic influenza to states' nuclear intentions and capabilities. Yet, the institutionalization of open source within the U.S. intelligence community has provoked conflict as stakeholders grapple with the competing values of secrecy and openness. Bean witnessed firsthand the debates between open source information advocates and their skeptics within the CIA, the White House, and the Pentagon. These conflicts served as the catalyst for his analysis of how open source stakeholders have attempted to influence the unfolding of U.S. intelligence reform. While open source has emerged as a key element of U.S. intelligence strategy, there has been little discussion of how these developments shape the nature of intelligence or relate to the deliberative principles of a democratic society. By critically analyzing how open source policies and practices are developed, maintained, and transformed, Bean's book enhances public understanding of contemporary U.S. intelligence and national security affairs.
Bean's other publications address topics including the ethics of government contracting in the national security arena, issues of organizational culture and identification, and how citizens respond to acts of terrorism. Since 2005, he has been affiliated with the National Consortium for the Study or Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) -- a U.S. Department of Homeland Security-funded Center of Excellence based at the University of Maryland -- and has collaborated on a number of START-related research projects with the Department's Dr. Lisa Keränen. Bean is part of a research team that recently received a $952,004 contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate through START. The two-year project titled "Comprehensive Testing of Imminent Threat Public Messages for Mobile Devices" will design and test prototype messages intended as alerts for use in the Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS), warning messages for the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), and full-length warning messages designed for use in imminent threat press releases. This multi-method study involves five different universities and will conduct interviews, experiments, and a survey to develop effective emergency alert and warning text messages for use by emergency managers. Findings will provide a state-of-the-art and scientific basis for alert and warning messages delivered via mobile devices.
Bean is also an active member of the Intelligence Studies section of the International Studies Association. As Director of the Public Relations Certificate, Bean teaches courses in public relations, advertising, and organizational communication. In these courses, Bean draws upon his MBA training and professional experience. "I am fortunate to have many first-hand examples to illustrate concepts to students," says Bean. "Students appreciate seeing how the ideas we are discussing in class are put into actual practice."
Last Fall, Bean traveled to China for eight weeks to team-teach courses in the Department's International College Beijing (ICB) program. He led this year's Narratives of the New China Maymester travel study course and will lead the course again next May. He is returning to China in 2013 to teach an accelerated Advanced Public Relations course.