HS Goes Mainstream

When historians look back on the American reaction to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they’ll likely divide it into several phases: The immediate reaction and an intense focus on national security and defense resources; a longer-term redirection of national thinking, planning and preparation to prevent future attacks; and the internalizing of homeland security in American thinking.
That internalizing has begun in academia, as homeland security becomes a mainstream course offering and a degree path.
In fact, immediately after 9/11, some pundits declared that the US faced a potential crisis when it came to academically preparing future generations to protect national interests. HSToday has found, however, that colleges from coast to coast are aggressively trying to meet the challenge. It isn’t simply a matter of better serving the nation’s needs; for higher education, homeland security makes for savvy marketing and recruitment. After all, domestic jobs reports have been discouraging in recent years. Outsourcing has resulted in tens of thousands of educated professionals joining the ranks of the unemployed. But career opportunities in homeland security are soaring, and many jobs within it are outsource-proof. And those jobs aren’t simply about responding to a bomb blast or taking part in some Spy vs. Spy game. Graduates are finding that they can pursue their personal vocational interests—whether in public safety, health, law, tech or even accounting—and still serve their country, either in the public or private sector.
Despite the lack of data on homeland security as a curriculum and the number of students taking part, it’s clear that classes are available covering virtually every aspect of the subject—including state/local threat assessment; terrorism and money laundering; cybersecurity; and US policies.
“The United States enjoys an absolutely unparalleled level of educational capability, so it’s only fitting that a portion of that capability be focused on the greatest threat our nation faces,” said Lee A. Van Arsdale, executive director of the Institute for Security Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). “Only our institutions of higher learning can address the educational needs of our policymakers, responders, public-safety personnel, private security, elected officials and all others who contribute to preventing or responding to another attack. The war of ideas is every bit as critical as our defensive efforts with homeland security and our offensive policies with the global war on terror.”
The institute was launched in August 2003 and is developing both graduate and undergraduate degree programs for those pursuing homeland security-related careers—for both full-time students and working professionals.
Wide ranging
UNLV is far from alone. From big-name schools with tens of thousands of students to the relatively small institutions, class offerings are remarkably far ranging in topic and hands-on in approach.
As for funding, schools need look no further than the federal government itself, which is eager to accommodate. Not surprisingly, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking a proactive approach with colleges. At the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, the CREATE (Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events) research center is supported entirely by DHS, which is providing $12 million over three years. Launched to develop toolsfor assessing risk and the consequences of terrorism, CREATE just began offering a master’s of science degree in system safety and security. While enrollment figures for the master’s-degree classes aren’t available yet, university officials say interest is strong.
“We allow students to specialize in a variety of areas, including infrastructure, information security, policy and environmental threats,” said Randolph Hall, co-director of CREATE. “We need to place the threats of terrorism within the context of the full range of safety and security threats faced by the American public. We need to make wise decisions to improve our nation’s safety, and to be able to compare investments directed at countering terrorism to other life and property threats. We also need to train professionals who are versatile, who can work in a range of industries, and who can address a range of problems.” The classes are available via distance-learning resources at USC, which is popular among working professionals seeking advanced degrees.
Other federal agencies and schools are involved as well. A wing of Boston University’s division of extended education, Metropolitan College, offers an online master’s of science in computer information systems, with a focus on cybersecurity in a post-9/11 world. Students are eligible for grants and scholarships from DoD and DHS, and the program has been certified by the National Security Agency. Students learn about data mining for suspicious activity; network firewalls and disaster recovery; authentication techniques; and strategies to thwart viruses and data terrorism.
“The best-paying and fastest-growing jobs in information technology are forecasted to be security-based,” said Jay Halfond, dean of Boston University’s Metropolitan College. “Our goal is to produce savvy graduates who are significantly smarter than those who would invade and destroy the information systems upon which we all depend.”
In San Antonio, Texas, St. Mary’s University School of Law recently partnered with the US Air Force Air Intelligence Agency and the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Center for Infrastructure and Security to launch its Center for Terrorism Law. Unique among law schools in the nation, the Center for Terrorism Law is dedicated to the study of legal issues associated with antiterrorism and counterterrorism. Students study everything from federal legislative packages to US military tribunals to the case for extended detention. The first course on terrorism law was offered in the fall of 2003. A second course has just been added, and 40 students are now enrolled, up 20 percent within the last year. Students are getting valuable real-life experience, working as homeland-security-committee interns on Capitol Hill; writing white papers; editing books on terrorism law; and helping faculty deliver policy addresses here in the United States and internationally.
“Students understand that terrorism law will have a significant impact on all aspects of the legal profession,” maintained Jeffrey F. Addicott, the director of the center and an assistant professor at the law school. “Thousands of new job opportunities are opening for lawyers skilled in terrorism law, particularly in the field of criminal prosecution and Fourth Amendment issues regarding privacy concerns. In addition, the business community is in desperate need of lawyers to assist them on a wide range of terrorism issues that impact the private sector.”
In many cases, classes are taught by instructors who bring key experience to the table. At Davenport, Iowa-based Kaplan College, senior faculty member Dan McBride developed the college’s Terrorism and National Security Management Certificate program at the school of criminal justice. Kaplan is a former supervisory special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, where he investigated drug cartels, terrorism efforts and bombing incidents. He’s also a former counter-intelligence agent for the Department of Defense.
 “We provide a very demanding and intense program designed to stimulate the students and increase their overall awareness and preparedness,” McBride said. “We’ll continue to review the program to ensure that it meets the demands of the professional community, to graduate students who can deter, defeat and respond to terrorist events.”
Career paths
And what exactly are the career opportunities for students? Given the demand in many government and private circles for security professionals, it’s unlikely that a graduate with good grades will have to move back home with mom and dad.
 At the University of Maryland, the focus is on public health law at the Center for Health and Homeland Security, established after the 9/11 attacks. After taking classes such as “Crisis and Health Consequence Management Policy in the Era of Counterterrorism,” students have graduated and assumed counterterrorism positions with the FBI, state and local police and the military. Classes cover law enforcement, intelligence, military tribunals, civil liberties, the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“Our courses are on the cutting edge of legal and public-health policy issues to address an array of counterterrorism policy,” pointed out law school professor Michael Greenberger, director of the center. “We also address a healthy dose of federal, state and local laws that empower different levels of government to respond to terrorist attacks, especially with regard to public-health concerns such as quarantine, forced vaccination, forced medical care and use of military force.”
In Hamburg, NY, Hilbert College has firmly established homeland security as a potential career path for students who would otherwise be looking at relatively traditional auditing careers in a cubical farm at some anonymous corporation. The college now offers an economic crime-investigation degree that covers such homeland security topics as computer security and terrorist money laundering. To further their education in the field, students have been sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Ga., now a part of DHS. There, students saw a demonstration of a simulated computer virus and got an up-close look at terrorist use of steganography, a method of hiding text messages in computer graphic images. Not everything was digital or academic: Students got at taste of action when they participated in a hands-on firearms training system exercise using a laser gun and interactive video, and were graded on decision-making, accuracy and reaction time.
There are now more than 150 students enrolled to earn the degree, 15 percent of the college’s overall population. They’re attracted by the potential career sizzle.
“Students may find a job as an accountant unexciting,” said Sandra Augustine, who chairs the program. “But working on, say, an IRS criminal investigation has a lot of appeal. Our new forensic training lab gives students the hands-on experience they need to be marketable. Real-world examples, like terrorist-launched cyber attacks, are used so students learn how to prevent and investigate a multitude of financial and computer crimes. Students can examine a hard drive, trace money trails, or use intelligence research methods to help solve problems, and this sector is hiring students.”
Even if a school isn’t offering a formal degree in homeland security, plenty are offering classes. Rochester Institute of Technology’s undergraduate program in environmental management and safety, for example, offers the popular course “Counter Terrorism for the First Responder.” The class is part of a six-course certificate in disaster and emergency management, and it teaches students how to identify potential vulnerabilities in local communities; assess chemical/nuclear/biological threats; and pinpoint international and domestic terror organizations.
“Interest in the course spiked immediately after 9/11 and has remained fairly constant since then,” says Maureen Valentine, the program chair. “We began to offer the course twice a year immediately following the attacks, and have continued to have 10 to 15 students in the course each offering. Students are typically first responders who are taking the entire certificate to move up in their careers. They’re also safety and environmental managers who find it interesting, and they’re students taking criminal justice concentrations.”
It’s clear the building blocks are in place: The nation’s higher education institutions not only recognize that it’s in the nation’s interest to prepare future generations to take charge of homeland security for years to come—it’s a matter of competitive survival for them as well. Students aren’t just willing to pursue these academic disciplines; they’re eager, given the wealth of diverse vocational possibilities and the glut of potential employers out there with money to hire them. Less nimble institutions that are slow to recognize these needs may be left behind, unable to catch up.
Over time, the pursuit of homeland security as a curriculum path will no longer seem novel. It will join the mainstream disciplines—business, law, medicine, humanities—and, in fact, incorporate many of those subject areas into the study of protecting this nation. As national policy, intellectual discourse and technological changes continue to evolve and shape our understanding of meeting homeland security goals, while maintaining our fundamental freedoms, generation upon generation of students will take part in understanding—and providing their own input on—the effort of keeping America safe from its enemies.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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