Author Biography

Carl Ciovacco is currently a Director at a major financial institution in the Washington D.C. area. As a graduate of West Point, he served as a military officer in the US Army. He received his Master in Public Policy degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and his PhD from Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs. He served for nearly a decade as a national security consultant for the US Government focusing on national threat assessment. He has published national security related articles in The American Interest, The National Interest, Harvard International Review, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Journal of Policing, Intelligence, and Counter Terrorism, Strategic Insights, and Armchair General Magazine where he co-authored an article with the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina.



Subject Area Keywords

Conflict studies, Defense policy, Homeland security, Intelligence analysis, International security, Security policy, Threat assessment


Threat is a problematic term since it is both objective and subjective in nature. It is in one sense objective, especially in a national security perspective of capability to inflict harm, but it is also highly subjective in how it is discussed and perceived. More often than not, the very interpretation of the threat, influenced by threat narratives, dictates the reality of the threat. Through the iterative process of narration and the inherent subjectivity that narration introduces, a threat perception generally evolves in a direction away from objectivity. The nature of threat narration is based on a two-part process of story-telling by influencers and interpretation by an audience. Simply put, threat comes to life and is molded into a comprehensible construct through threat narratives. This animation of the threat is precisely where it is both simplified into digestible pieces while at the same time careening away from an objective threat truth. Reconciling the impact of threat perception and its detriment to threat truth is the focus of this article.


I would like to thank Professors Tim Luke, Ariel Ahram, and Georgeta Pourchot for their thoughtful feedback as I wrote this article. I would especially like to thank my Committee Chair Professor Joel Peters who helped me to pursue the difficult questions and keep me on track when there were more questions than answers.