There is no respite from terrorists and natural disasters so the new President should consider establishing a federal-supported homeland security academic university.

In January 2009, the incoming president will need to address many domestic and international issues, particularly those concerning the economy and financial markets. Yet, the new administration must not lose sight of a constant risk facing our country: homeland security.

Homeland security -- terrorism (domestic and foreign) and natural disasters (be they of weather, animal, plant or other origins) -- is a multifaceted threat that the U.S. government must be better adept at preventing, mitigating and responding to, whatever the source. To combat these multi-generational challenges, a new institution is needed that will create a conveyor-belt of individuals educated and trained to ultimately hold high-level homeland security-related policy, operational, management and staff positions. Prospective employers of these individuals will include disparate U.S. government institutions: from the Department of Homeland Security and Central Intelligence Agency to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Directorate of National Intelligence.

Federally Run

These intelligent, educated, well-trained and vetted individuals -- with multiple knowledge bases and skills sets -- will craft effective and efficient solutions in their disparate homeland security-related roles. Such future employees should arise from a prospective federally run, full-time, resident, self-contained national academy/university, where students will be able to obtain an undergraduate degree in homeland security studies, coupled with garnering homeland security-related practical and tactical skills. Students will attend the academy on a gratis basis in conjunction with receiving a modest stipend. Upon graduation, they will be required to work at selected federal government entities for a period of six years.

The establishment of such an entity is principally needed because there is no existing institution that provides the academic program and training that we envision. Other organizations are either too narrow or diffuse in terms of subject matter exposure and training. Shortcomings in existing institutions are, for instance, their catering to different levels of education (e.g., graduate studies) and stages of career (e.g., working professionals). Currently, programs are not as comprehensive as what we foresee: a balance of academics, training and practical skills in all aspects of homeland security.

Additionally, the lack of a single location for academic and practical training in homeland security subjects makes locating tier-one candidates highly impractical, inefficient and costly with less than ideal results. Recruiters for myriad agencies need to peruse applicants from many university -- across diverse disciplines -- in the quest of finding a small pool of candidates rather than finding a “feeder” school -- the national academy/university.

A Diversity of Topics

Among the proposed academic courses to be offered at this national academy/university would include: terrorism, emergency management, business continuity, health sciences, intelligence, international affairs, technology, management, psychology, leadership and communications. Also, upon graduation, all students would be fluent in at least one foreign language with substantial knowledge in computers and technology. Furthermore, students would be exposed to a variety of practical and tactical skills during their tenure in the program: weapons and preparedness training, hand-to-hand combat, survival skills, paramedics, intelligence gathering, investigations and cyber warfare.

A daily physical fitness regime would be incorporated in a homeland security academy/university program. In doing so, well rounded, fit, dedicated, budding homeland security professionals would join respective U.S. government agencies with immediate and transferable knowledge and tangible skills. As such, graduates would add value more readily and at higher levels than those not attending the program.

The training programs at the two leading U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies -- the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) -- are worth addressing. The FBI’s Academy provides training for prospective agents with 17 weeks of instruction at the New Agents’ Training Unit as well as other law enforcement training for domestic and international students.

The CIA’s field academy for clandestine officers, called the “Farm” outside Williamsburg, Va. as noted in several books by ex-CIA agents, offers individuals with strictly focused training and skills.

Different Needs

While these organizations provide superb instruction, again, they have different course foci, shorter training periods, institutional mindsets and missions, distinct from what is foreseen in a homeland security academy/university. Given the complex and divergent threats presented by homeland security risks, the new institution would offer a unique, though holistic, homeland security-focused, resident undergraduate-oriented paradigm.

Currently, there are several governmental institutions that provide full-time, resident undergraduate programs: the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. While these organizations provide excellent education and training, their primary focus on military threats, largely limited organizationally to land, water and air, is distinct from what is perceived by a homeland security-focused academy/university.

Other military-tailored institutions including the Marine Corps University, Naval War College, Army War College and National Defense University, offer masters degrees in fields ranging from national security and strategic studies to operational studies. The National Defense Intelligence College of the Defense Intelligence Agency offers, in conjunction with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, a Masters of Strategic Intelligence degree.

In relation to homeland security, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security provides homeland security graduate (Masters of Arts in Security Studies) and executive education. Private and public universities make available homeland security coursework and degrees, but not with the breadth, variety and all-encompassing nature of a homeland security academy/university. Also, the supplemental training and skills acquisition envisioned in the new entity will certainly exceed the cursory, hodge-podge orientation of programs offered elsewhere

Bringing Things Together

Other government-related entities of note that provide some homeland security-related training include the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s Counterterrorism Division, which provides “training courses and programs relating to terrorism methodology, threat response and infrastructure protection.” Also, homeland security-focused training is available from, for instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In sum, the incoming administration must take up the call to create a federally run, full-time, resident, self-contained national academy/university. The new institution would aid in educating and training future homeland security professionals in a more effective and efficient regime than currently exists. Present and future threats do not allow for complacency or satisfaction with the status quo.

Remember: Neither terrorist nor Mother Nature shows any signs of respite.