The primary objective of soft target hardening is to stop the fight before it starts.

The U.S government spends billions of dollars to secure strategic and tactical assets at home and abroad against enemy and terrorist attack. However, as hard targets, such as military installations and government buildings, are further strengthened, vulnerable soft targets are increasingly in the crosshairs of terrorists. Battlefield lines have been redrawn to include churches, schools, hospitals, malls, and other gathering places. Attacks against soft targets have a powerful effect on the psyche of the populace. Soft Target Hardening: Protecting People from Attack, written by Watermark’s employee, Dr. Jennifer Hesterman, provides case studies, best practices, and methodologies for identifying soft target vulnerabilities and reducing risk in the United States and beyond. This book is the second, updated edition containing new information to encompass a rapidly evolving security environment.

Soft target attacks in Europe and the United States have steadily climbed in number and scope of violence since the first edition of this book. New targets and tactics have emerged, as terrorists continually hit the “reset button” with each attack. Along with new hardening tactics such as use of tactical deception to disguise, conceal, and divert, the author has updated the text with new case studies to reflect and respond to the fast-moving transformation in methods from more complex and organized forms of terror to relatively low-tech forms. This book is highly recommended for those who secure, own, and operate soft target facilities, and for citizens who want to protect themselves and their families from attack.

For more information on the book check out the link here. Dr. Hesterman is available for presentations and speeches at schools, organizations, and government organizations. Contact Watermark at for more information regarding Dr. Hesterman’s schedule and availability.

Reviews for the book are as follows:

“Dr. Hesterman addresses the soft target hardening topic like no one else in the security industry. Attackers assess targets to see if they are inviting; the goal hardening is to stop the fight before it starts. This well-researched, superbly written book details the soft target hardening challenge from threat to vulnerability and mitigation.” ~Lawrence J. Fennelly, security expert and author of over 35 books


“One fundamental problem in protecting free and open societies from terrorism is their virtually unlimited number of ‘soft targets,’ unprotected venues like churches, shopping malls, and dense public spaces. Dr. Hesterman’s latest volume assesses the growing soft target threat and provides innovative hardening tactics to protect citizens from violent attacks.” ~Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, PhD, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and Chief Executive Officer, Valens Global


“Violent attacks against soft target locations are on the rise. This unique book assesses soft target vulnerability factors and provides best practices for handling an attack scene before responders arrive. Dr. Hesterman’s background in counterterrorism and commanding emergency response in the military brings a practitioner’s approach to this topic, a benefit to all readers.” ~Joshua Sinai, PhD, Counterterrorism Expert and Senior Analyst at Kiernan Group Holdings


“Four years ago, Dr. Hesterman’s book “Soft Target Hardening” started the dialogue about protecting civilian venues from attack. The second edition is updated with new content and case studies of recent attacks, new hardening tactics, and best practices garnered from the author’s 32 years of experience in the security field.” ~ Jack Plaxe, Founder/Managing Director, Security Consulting Alliance


About the Author:

Dr. Jennifer Hesterman is the Vice President of Business Resiliency and Education Services at Watermark Risk Management International, LLC. She served in the U.S. Air Force (retired), completing three Pentagon tours, commanding both logistics support and mission support squadrons, and serving as a base commander in the months following the attacks of 9/11. Her last assignment was Vice Commander, 316th Wing, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, the home of Air Force One. In this role, she was responsible for installation security, force support, and the 1st Helicopter Squadron, and regularly escorted the president and other heads of state on the ramp. Her decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal with five oak leaf clusters, and the Global War on Terrorism medal.

Dr. Hesterman has a Doctoral degree from Benedictine University, Master of Science degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Air University and a Bachelor of Science from Penn State University. In 2003, she was a National Defense fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, where she immersed herself in a year-long study of the nexus between organized crime and international terrorism. The resulting book won the 2004 Air Force research prize and was published by AU Press. She is also a 2006 alumnus of the Harvard Senior Executive Fellows Program.

After her retirement from the military in 2007, Dr. Hesterman worked as a private contractor in Washington, DC, studying international and domestic terrorist organizations, transnational threats, organized crime, and terrorist and criminal exploitation of the Internet. This unique background, combined with experience protecting and defending military installations and two years living in the Middle East, led to her work in soft target hardening. Dr. Hesterman provides training and security assessments for Fortune 500 companies, Major League Baseball, universities, K-12 schools, churches, malls, hospitals, hotels and airports. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the International Foundation for Protection Officers; and advises the Homeland Security Training Institute at the College of DuPage. She previously served as a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University, serving on the Homeland Security and Emergent Threats panel.

Dr. Hesterman designs and teaches graduate level security courses for the federal government on behalf of Watermark and is a sought-after public speaker for the FBI, DHS, ASIS, DoD, and state and local law enforcement agencies. She is also on the ASIS School Safety and Security and Women in Security Councils.

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