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Pathway to Reality: The Establishment of the Homeland Security Intelligence Academy

August 1, 2009
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In several contributions in this magazine over the past year, we proposed the need for establishing a federally run, full-time, resident, self-contained national academy: the U.S. Homeland Security Intelligence Academy (HSIA). At HSIA, students will earn an undergraduate degree in homeland security/intelligence studies.

This program will provide students with homeland security/intelligence-related practical and tactical skills as well as relevant leadership capabilities. It is the goal of HSIA to produce tier-one education and training for future homeland security and intelligence-focused agents and other professionals.

In broad measures, this article discusses how HSIA could become a reality. While we previously addressed the need for HSIA, what coursework and physical training would be offered there, and from where employer interest would emerge, a brief overview of possible obstacles could make this a reality.

Issues to Address in Making HSIA a Reality

Some important issues are necessary to address in crafting a plan towards establishing HSIA. An act of the U.S. Congress will likely be needed to create HSIA. Although less appealing, alternative processes to create a new institution could include the establishment of a state-level-organized entity or a public-private partnership.

Site Location

With reference to where such an institution could be located, several possibilities exist. First, to some degree, it would make sense to have the institution within 50-100 miles of the Washington, D.C., area because homeland security and intelligence experts already based in that vicinity could possibly serve as faculty or staff.

Second, from a risk and vulnerability perspective, one might not want the facility in the same location where an already existing service academy is based (Colorado – Air Force Academy, Connecticut – U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Maryland – U.S. Naval Academy, New York – West Point and Merchant Marine Academy).

Third, what types of federal and/or state land grants and site location opportunities could be hatched would play a factor in choosing a site over another. In these difficult economic times, competition among states could prove highly advantageous to HSIA.

Fourth, the costs relating to land, construction, labor, infrastructure, and a multitude of other issues will be crucial variables in choosing one destination over the others.

Fifth, another determinant factor would be whether the institution’s facilities would comprise of: Completely new construction, a combination of new and old, or through the possible acquisition of an existing (or recently closed) university campus and facilities.

Sixth, the terrain and weather in the location of the institution should also be kept in mind, as significant physical and other training will be conducted outside.

And seventh, the academy should also be situated in an area with social and economic development levels meriting a proposed facility of this caliber.


How will HSIA secure its funding support? If HSIA becomes a national service academy, funding will be allocated from the U.S. federal budget. Even so, particular state and local taxes could be provided to HSIA. A one-time or multi-year “security” tax on the top five hundred-government defense and homeland security contractors might be considered for further funding.

If a state-level-run entity or a public-private partnership would arise, then different funding scenarios, including possibly charging students tuition, could be contemplated. This approach could undermine a subsequent mandatory pairing with a federal agency, as students would have paid for their education and training.

The operating expenses of the academy would consist of many facets: labor in connection with teaching, research, and service; physical and tactical training; auxiliary activities (e.g., athletics, bookstore, housing, meals); and academy overhead (e.g., academic support, student services, institutional support, operation and maintenance), among others.

An active donation and philanthropy campaign to offset HSIA’s initial costs could be considered. With respect to funding HSIA, all non-government funding would need to undergo substantial scrutiny such that no conflict-of-interest issues or discredit attaches to the new institution.

Substantial efforts will need to be undertaken in relation to developing the course curriculum, physical and tactical training components of the program, although broad outlines have been developed. The management team, board of advisors, academic teaching personnel, physical and tactical training employees, and other staff will need to be recruited, vetted, hired, and trained (accordingly). The success of HSIA will rest in large part on the quality of employees that will be associated with the institution.

Marketing and Additional Issues

HSIA will need to undertake substantial marketing and advertising activities in relation to attracting prospective employees and students. As with engaging interest by future HSIA employees, the quantity and caliber of students who will attend HSIA will be paramount to the institution’s success.
Attracting the support of academic, government, private sector and non-profit constituencies will also prove important for HSIA’s long-term success. Also, HSIA will conduct outreach activities with prospective employers of the academy graduates. Enrollment projections would need to be crafted. The lengthy and complex college accreditation process will need to be pursued as well.
Additional items to be considered include the security features of HSIA – from background checks on employees and students to physical and information security measures on HSIA other assets. Security is a factor that must be considered from the initial design of the facilities as well as throughout HSIA’s existence.
HSIA’s main campus layout would include: academic core areas, student support services, student/faculty housing, medical, campus support, recreation/athletics, parking, physical and tactical training facilities, among others. These campus components would need to be kept secure.

From Obstacles to Success

Clearly, there are challenges to HSIA becoming a reality. For instance, some might assert that the program we envision already exists. We have discussed elsewhere that our plans are different in scope and character from current institutions. There is certainly no service academy of this strain. Also, none of the competing organizations are as comprehensive in terms of homeland security and intelligence-focused academic coursework, physical and tactical training, or its mandate.
Apprehension could rest with the prospective costs of establishing and maintaining such an entity. The future costs of creating and running HSIA will be relatively small given the manifold benefits that such an institution would offer. HSIA would allow for recruiting more professional people, at a lower cost, and at a faster rate than the current system provides. For many years, government has spent substantial amounts of money on pork projects that have no national security or strategic benefit.
Given the numerous threats that face U.S. interests here and abroad HSIA future costs – to be in line to some degree with other service academies – would be well worth it.
Other potential misgivings might include the notion that HSIA should not be a priority as there are far more pressing issues on the nation’s agenda. As articulated before, HSIA would aid us in improving our capabilities in the intelligence and homeland security arenas, and in turn, help our efforts globally.
In the next stage, an extensive study and business plan in relation to HSIA would be necessary. Such a process would be complex, time-consuming, and costly. And yet, national security concerns require substantial more research, outreach, and analysis so that the proper pathway towards forming HSIA takes hold. 

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