Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Michael Brewer


U.S. counterterrorism policy appears to be influenced by different perspectives, as evidenced by conflicting statements by U.S. presidents regarding the causes of terrorism. Academic theories are not always applied by U.S. government employees who develop, influence, and implement counterterrorism policy. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to understand U.S. government policymakers' perspectives on the causes of terrorism, the influences on these views, and the impact on U.S. counterterrorism policy. Six theories regarding the causes of terrorism provided the theoretical framework. Additional theories related to individual and organizational impact on decision-making provided a broader conceptual framework. Data were collected from interviews and survey questionnaires from 31 participants. Data were coded and categorized for thematic analysis. Five key findings were observed: (a) Root causes theory was a predominant factor in participants' understanding of the cause of terrorism, (b) personal experiences are a dominant influence on these views, (c) organizational influence on the views of terrorism varied by organization, (d) participants viewed their interagency colleagues as well informed regarding the causes of terrorism, and (e) individual views among U.S. policymakers have a minimal impact on U.S. counterterrorism policy. Findings may be used to influence U.S. counterterrorism policymakers' views at the national policy level.