The Dallas Morning News ran an interesting story (login req’d) last week on the role of universities in developing skills and capabilities for homeland security.
The lead of the story is a statement that agree with wholeheartedly:
To fight global terrorism, America needs thinkers as well as doers, policy-makers as well as first-responders, and universities must create the programs to educate them, says Dave McIntyre, a national security expert working to meet the need.
Right now we rely on on-the-job training for leadership of homeland security efforts, Dr. McIntyre said. “The whole thinking discipline needs to be created.”
The United States is still “making things up” in a lot of areas of homeland security today, because there aren’t frameworks and benchmarks and histories that leaders can turn to. That’s one reason why DHS has struggled mightily at times in its infancy.
Later, the article questions whether DHS funding universities is a form of ‘pork’:
But some critics say schools are merely repackaging old programs to dip into the new stream of government money.
“This is clearly a money-making operation,” said Steven Lab, director of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Dr. Lab questioned the need for a whole new discipline, suggesting that existing programs in international relations and national security policy can meet the need. He’s concerned about programs that offer only a course in terrorism here and a class in emergency planning there.
“I’m not sure what anybody’s getting out of this,” he said.
I have some sympathy with this view as well. Homeland security really isn’t a single discipline – it’s a cross-section of at least a half-dozen distinct academic disciplines, including business strategy, psychology, engineering, operations, international relations, and organizational behavior. If an undergrad is interested in homeland security, he or she would probably be better off choosing one of these traditional disciplines first and getting cross-sectional experience in homeland security later, through internships, work experience, and perhaps grad school.