Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 2, 2009

How To Improve Homeland Security: Accredit Homeland Security Education

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on July 2, 2009

I have the good fortune to work at the Naval Postgraduate School with smart people who have lots of ideas about how to improve this activity called homeland security.   This post is the first of what I hope is a recurring series intended to share some of those ideas on this blog.  I’ve asked those who contribute to this series to follow the format you’ll see below.

Today’s post is from Dr. Matthew J. Blackwood,  the Homeland Security Coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.  Matt outlines an argument — one that has broad support among relevant educators — in favor of accrediting homeland security educational programs. (That said, the ideas are Matt’s and do not necessarily reflect any organization he is affiliated with.)

As Matt knows, I disagree with him about the need for accreditation and the process he outlines for deciding what counts as quality in homeland security education.  But those disagreements are for another time.  First, a succinct and in many ways compelling case for accrediting homeland security educational programs.

1. What one sentence best describes your idea about how to improve homeland security?

A standard curriculum and accreditation process for under-graduate and graduate programs focusing on homeland security will assure quality control.

2. Describe your idea in more depth

Homeland security requires a broad understanding of numerous related fields; there are no standards for the various programs across the United States. In order to prepare homeland security professionals for these challenges, the colleges must offer a curriculum specifying necessary skills and knowledge. While many institutions may have quality programs of study, prospective students or future employers are unable at this time to ascertain the quality. An accreditation process would establish a consistent method of evaluating the curriculum.

The homeland security accreditation process could model that of the ABET[1] which evaluates engineering programs. This process would accredit programs only—not degrees, departments, colleges, or institutions—homeland security programs would follow a specialized accreditation process that examines its specific curriculum. This approach would be similar to that for architecture, medicine, and engineering programs.

Accreditation would be voluntarily initiated by the institution. The purpose should be two-pronged with both internal and external assessments. When an institution of higher education requests an evaluation of its homeland security program, a self-study process begins to determine whether students, faculty, curriculum, and institutional support meet the established criteria. That document would then be submitted to an agency composed of professionals in homeland security for their review. An on-site visit would audit the program with a final report declaring the status of accredited, accredited with provisions, or denied.

The most important consideration is that professionals must establish the criteria by which the programs are evaluated. These standards should reflect what is deemed as necessary skills for homeland security education. Accreditation is important for many reasons:

· Accreditation helps prospective students choose quality college programs.

· Accreditation enables employers to recruit graduates they know are well-prepared.

· Accreditation gives colleges and universities a structured mechanism to assess, evaluate, and improve the quality of their programs.

3. What problem or issue does your idea address?

Colleges and universities are preparing leaders for the myriad of challenges associated with homeland security. In the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001, many colleges began offering courses and programs to support the homeland security efforts of the United States.[2] Early in the developmental stage there was no agreed upon definition of homeland security and even less agreement related to the courses included in a homeland security curriculum. Working on this problem will address two related issues: (1) establishing a curriculum which offers standard skills for homeland security professionals and (2) developing an accreditation process to evaluate college and university programs. Currently, it is impossible for prospective students to determine which programs offer the proper preparation for a career in homeland security, and it is not feasible for employers to identify a quality program. An accreditation process would establish a consistent method of evaluating the curriculum.

4. If your idea were to become reality, who would benefit the most, and how?

Three groups would benefit from accrediting homeland security programs: students, schools, and homeland security professionals. Students would likely gain the most because they would be guaranteed preparation in the skill sets necessary to succeed in the field. The schools could benefit if the accreditation process were rigorous enough to set them apart from other programs; many programs simply take courses presently offered in other programs and revise them with a homeland security twist.[3] In this respect, the accreditation could be used as a marketing tool and would likely increase their enrollment. Current homeland security professionals and employers would also benefit because accreditation in any profession carries with it status of adequate preparation. Ultimately, accreditation assures that a program has met quality standards set by the profession. All of these groups would benefit if homeland security programs were accredited because the process insures that minimum qualification and standards are achieved.

5. What are the initial steps needed to get the idea off the ground?

The body to fulfill the role of accreditation is the Homeland Security Defense Education Consortium Association (HSDECA).[4] This organization is comprised of academic institutions which offer degrees or certificates in homeland security. Currently, the accreditation process is under development and will begin once approval is granted by the U.S. Department of Education. It is expected that this process “will play a significant role in the cohesion and regulation of homeland security studies across the nation.”[5]

The next step would be to develop a consensus on the standards for homeland security programs. Programs around the country rely on the curriculum established by the Center of Homeland Defense and Security; the University and Agency Partnership Initiative supports this initiative.[6] Members of HSDECA must work together to develop the standards; they will also provide the professionals who evaluate the programs and create the tools necessary to make sure that programs meet the standards.

6. Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure that outcome?

The desired outcome of this initiative would address both the creation of a standard list of skills for homeland security professionals and development of an accreditation process to evaluate college and university programs.

HSDECA will serve as the accreditation-body to create a process for evaluating homeland security programs and provide those programs meeting standards with a seal of approval. Schools would voluntarily ask for their programs to be considered for accreditation. This accreditation could be used as a marketing tool in an effort to set their programs apart from other schools. In order for this certification to carry status, the standards need to be set high.

The end-state of the accreditation would be a process that enables students to choose a quality homeland security program, permits employers to recruit graduates who are well-prepared, and gives schools a mechanism to review, evaluate, and enhance the quality of their homeland security programs.

[1] ABET changed its name from the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology in 2005.

[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/03/AR2005080300696.html

[3] Rollins, J. & Rowan, J. (2007). The homeland security academic environment: A review of current activities and issues for consideration.

[4] Supinski, S. (2009). Homeland Security Education: The CurrentState. Retrieved from: https://www.chds.us

[5] http://www.chds.us/?press/summit08, ¶ 4.

[6] Supinski. S. (2009). Personal Interview. June 9, 2009.

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22 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 2, 2009 @ 2:52 am

Read this post with great interest! First what happens if someone decides to rename “Homeland Security” into say (1) Non-military Defense of the United States; (2) Civil Security; (3) Civil Defense;
(4) Passive Defense; (5) military operations other than war; or some new combination? Is Homeland Security going to adopt the protocols of Law Enforcement and its culture? Right now over 70,000 FTE in DHS are badged and gunned. Another 45,000 are uniformed in Coast Guard. And Border Partrol (20,000) also uniformed. Oh that’s right both Uniformed and Non Uniformed Secret Service. On and On!
What have we really learned from the last decade and one-half from the cultures that fed into Homeland Security and their approaches to training and education? Well we learned that former military were welcomed into Homeland Security as second careers. Why they are young enough, strong enough, and smart enough to still contribute to the security of the country. Whether the VETS who have been through 1/2 dozen tours in AF-PAK and Iraq will be in shape to continue to serve remains to be seen. Some well be. Some from the EM field or Public Safety that graduated into Homeland Security had very different traditions and training and education. And by the way there is a big difference between training and education. Why not just an intake of 17-18 year olds to a new Homeland Security Academy? You get the point.
Higher education is completely in flux right now. We have gravitated from 7500 non-profit colleges and universities in 1960 and fewer than 1500 profit making ones to less than 3500 non-profits now and almost 10,000 profit making institutions.
My theme would be muli-disciplinary personnel bringing a wide range of backgrounds to Homeland Security for at least another decade then we shall see. Why do people end up in a certain discipline or career? Choice or chance or combination thereof? So far I would argue that the HOMELAND SECURITY paradigm has failed more than succeeded but time will tell.

Comment by Quin

July 2, 2009 @ 6:19 am

There is one problem with all of this. Until Congress and the Executive Branch can settle on the missons, responsibilities and strategic policies of Homeland Security, including those for not only terror and homeland defense, but natural disasters; decide the correct balance between prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery, and finally create the necessary statutes, regulations and doctrine to employ these decisions, its a shot in the dark. What these schools should be teaching should be lifted directly from the doctrine and national strategy for homeland security, without these in place, any accreditation plan and attempt to create a standard curriculum is imperfect at best and at worst creating and reinforcing the wrong skills and habits.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 2, 2009 @ 7:15 am

Agree with Quin’s comments. What has been of great interest to me over time is how the existence of a FEMA or DHS has caused other organizations and even individuals to beg off responsibility for their roles or resiliency. The last really tough review of the Executive Branch and its preparedness capability across its breadth and width was done by an exhaustive survey document sent out by the Joint Committee on Defense Production (I know odd Congressional committee to be doing it) and reviewing and publishing the entirety of the Executive Branch responses. What many still don’t understand is that critical technical response roles are played by NRC, DOE, EPA and other organizations for both regulated and non-regulated entities and many of these organizations have had their real capability wither since 9/11. I am beginning to think that a Joint Committee on Homeland Security would be a good idea and instead of pretending that all housed within DHS is Homeland Security some of those missions should be spun off to more appropriate homes. One in particular is the National Flood Insurance Program (42 USC 4001 and following) and their are others. If mitigation and flood plain management are housed in DHS and FEMA as step children for another decade the current financial bailout will look like peanuts when the “Big One” occurs. By the way the Japanese spent $250 billion in US dollars restoring their largest port KOBE after the earthquake in 1995, exactly one year after the Northridge Earthquake in CA. That is the largest expenditure by any country for a single city’s reconstruction. And by the way Critical Infrastructure of governemnt offices, schools, polic, fire, and medical should have been shown on flood maps long ago.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 2, 2009 @ 7:16 am

The survey I mentioned above was conducted in 1976-1977!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 2, 2009 @ 8:04 am

Quin very reasonably writes, and Bill Cumming concurs, that “Until Congress and the Executive Branch can settle on the missons, responsibilities and strategic policies of Homeland Security… its a shot in the dark.”

I disagree and would argue that waiting for Congress and the Executive regarding these matters is akin to waiting for Godot.

Especially as we approach the anniversary of our independence, I am very much of the opinion that if Homeland Security has value as a field-of-endeavor, this value will be best demonstrated by a self-organizing of the disciplines and communities to demonstrate vision, mission, purpose and more.

Our political institutions will follow in the wake of citizen leadership — if meaningfully offered — and will define and refine what is demonstrated. Political institutions can — and have — nurtured independent creativity. But political institutions are especially ill-suited to create ex nihilo.

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

July 2, 2009 @ 8:39 am

What has happened to HSDECA? After much fanfare months ago, the website still does not exist.

Comment by pat longstaff

July 2, 2009 @ 9:52 am

Accreditation is usually a tool for students and employers to assure that they are getting something like The Right Stuff. Since there is no consensus on what that Stuff is, perhaps the accreditation process is premature. Academic procedures and theories have a tendency to harden into granite so you don’t want to go there too soon. I agree with Philip (again!) that a lot of the doctrine needs to emerge from the people who have to live with these risks. Maybe the job of the academic world is to pay close attention to that emergence and teach the people who come to them for degrees how to do the same.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 2, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

Pat’s comment seems almost too basic to be so very very important. The question I have is who are the people that have to live close to the risks? It seems to me that the real problem is that the Department of Justice has such a lock at the federal level on LAW ENFORCEMENT doctrine and that wonderful seal of approval even if often meaningless of attendance and graduation of STATE and LOCALs from the FBI ACADEMY. Just as we have learned that financial regulation may well be beyond the ken of the Lawyer types at the SEC perhaps the LAW ENFORCEMENT world needs some different paradigm than that solely of the prosecutorial criminal lawyer types. CIVIL law enforcement is also a technicality. The lawyers have been granted a niche and the criminal justice system is one of the great engines of societal controls yet “reforms” like the “Sentencing Guidelines” are opposed by most judges, defense lawyers, and prosecutors. Okay what am I saying. With the addition of over 100 terrorism crimes in the last two decades to the US Criminal Code (Title 18 primarily) perhaps that system is too reactive for full protection of our society. So why does DHS model itself on that system when it is supposed to be more proactive? And do all the organizations within DHS really fit an anti-terrorism and/or counterterrorism model or construct? Not to my way of thinking. DHS has failed to either focus on CIP (critical infrastructure protection including cyber) and domestic intelligence gathering, collection and dessimation even while protecting the legitimate privacy and civil liberties of US citizens and residents. And this dynamic is now to be made an academic construct when most of the leading thinking in Homeland Security is primarily grey literature or funded by the Department of Defense, not independent academia. You know my theme. Does it really make sense for natural disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery to have to be forced into an all hazards mode meaning dealing with the consequences of terrorism. FEMA’s strength are handing money to other federal orgs through mission assignments or funding the STATE and LOCALs through grants. Technical response is NOT a FEMA function. Much less dealing with crime scenes, perps, or ensuring that DOD does not deploy for other than humanitarian purposes thereby complying withtthe posse commitatus prohibition. Hey its great to be on the ground flood of a new academic discipline, exciting novel and breaking new ground is always fun. But has any of this really occurred since 9/11? Tell me what and explain to me how that has occurred and the consequences of that development so I can understand better. Hey in certain situations give me the highly trained bench chemist or micro-biologist rather than what DHS is likely to offer as a PhD in Homeland Security. It may happen but too early for my way of thinking. Does not mean that the building blocks don’t have to start somewhere and maybe that is what has happened. Again just identify for me some of the building blocks? And since a huge PUBLIC HEALTH stove pipe has been built since the anthrax attacks seperate and apart from DHS and Homeland Security tell me whether that is part of the curriculum of Homeland Security?

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 2, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

I should probably have mentioned that I was an early and often enabling agent for the writing and publication of the law text “National Security Law” editors et al Dycus and Raven-Hansen now in its fourth or fifth edition. My interest can be simple in that the rise of the so-called National Security State since WWII seems to present many fundamental challenges to our democracy (republic). At the time National Security as of the mid-80’s was more of an Internation Law subset than anything with treatises rather than texts largely the theme. My encouragement was based on the fact of boredom. Boredom? Yes many small town, middle size town, big town, big city lawyers after 20-25 years of practice are bored to death. So they decide to enter politics. Not all are elected prosecutors which tends to be an up from the ranks sort of calling. Some become Chairmen of Board of Supervisors, or Mayors or whatever. I believed it was necessary that some might having had some knowledge of the National Security STATE while in Law School have understood some of its principles. The first of course is that the Constitution cannot be waived by anyone not even the President. Some will be elected to the Congress–House or Senate! Some might even become federal cabinet secretaries or the President, or Judges. My understanding from my friend Peter Raven-Hansen is that National Security Law 9not necessarily his text since competing versions are out there) is the most popular elective course in the majority of law schools. WOW! Think of that the Law Schools focusing to some minor degree on the National Security STATE. Remember it is not a Major or Minor nor a recognized speciality by the ABA such as Elder Law, Securities Law, Tax Law, Domestic Relations, but who knows. But this is just one building block. Perhaps the Law Schools should let all those in Public Adminsitration, Governent, and History audit that course for free. Maybe even other majors also. Or even everyone since the National Security State impacts US all. The Homeland Security STATE–maybe 100 years down the road it will be the set of which National Security and the Law of War is the subset or vice versa or in some combination or permutation. Again my point is let’s not freeze the curricula yet.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 3, 2009 @ 5:30 am

Is homeland security anything more than an arbitrary and superficial repackaging of previously existing agencies? What is “The Right Stuff” of which Pat writes? Bill asks if DHS or homeland security has really broken any new ground since 9/11? Does HS generate any real value? Or is it, instead, a bureaucratic and conceptual distraction that complicates and dilutes the generation of real value?

In my judgment the intellectual foundations for homeland security are exceedingly weak. In terms of theory, research, and practice, the sources of discipline observable today are anemic. DHS and the broader field are not yet more than the sum of its parts.

But… this is always the situation at any beginning.

Almost three years ago I was asked to convene a group of practitioners to talk through the challenges and future of HS. These were sheriffs, deputy chiefs of police, prosecutors, State and big county Emergency Management directors, State and big county public health directors, big city deputy fire chiefs, a few private sector CIP owners. And more. It was a reasonably inclusive list of senior operators.

At the end of two, two-day sessions the group was surprised — and I was too — to reach remarkable consensus that the most important difference between pre-9/11 and post-9/11 was a recognized need to work together across disciplines to prevent and mitigate catastrophic outcomes. The group also noted that post-Katrina had extended this recognized need for collaborative and anticipatory work to threats beyond terrorism.

Out of these discussions, I have come to view homeland security (something considerably beyond DHS) as an emerging field which is:

1. Rooted in, dependent upon, and adds-value to existing professional disciplines.

2. Adds-value through thoughtful and strategic organizing, equipping, training, educating, and exercising for inter-disciplinary collaboration.

3. Is especially concerned with collaboration that advances proactive prevention and mitigation resulting in social, physical, economic, and constitutional resilience.

4. Gives sustained and strategic attention to the identification and engagement of catastrophic risks.

I do not pretend that these four elements are exhaustive. And clearly even these four are not common to how most people immediately conceive of homeland security. But I see in these four elements the potential for value that is worth ongoing investment. Among other more substantial investments, this potential is probably the only reason I have undertaken this blog.

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