Self-study Courses

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The Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security offers non-credit, self-study courses online. These courses are developed by the NPS CHDS teaching faculty and are derived from course content (lecture material and course readings) from the Center’s homeland security master’s degree curriculum. The courses, offered at no cost, are designed for homeland defense and security professionals who wish to enhance their understanding of key homeland security concepts and require the flexibility of self-paced instruction. NPS does not provide graduate credit for the courses; however, participants are encouraged to check with their professional associations regarding continuing education units/credits.

Introduction to Social Network Analysis

Developed in conjunction with the NPS CORE Lab, this course is an introduction to social network analysis, what it is, what it isn’t, and why it’s important. This five module series will provide an overview of social network analysis, how it differs from standard approaches, and what some of the misconceptions are. We will also look at some of the basic terms and concepts, and consider the various assumptions that underlie social network analysis. [Created 2016]


Counterterrorism in the United Kingdom

This self study course is comprised of three lecture modules that address counterterrorism in the United Kingdom. Tracing the UK response to violent subnational terrorism back to its efforts against the PIRA in the 1970s through the 1990s, these modules demonstrate how the UK counterterrorism community recognized long ago the serious threat to national security that subnational violence poses, and how its response to the recent violent terrorist activities of al-Qaeda is situated within an environment informed by the earlier “Irish Troubles.” Additionally, the modules provide an overview of the contemporary counterterrorism organizational structure within the UK, and the challenges it faces in a world of increasing vulnerability and uncertainty. [Updated 2017]

The Global Jihadi Threat

Islam is a faith of richness and complexity that has manifested itself over time in a broad variety of ways. Unfortunately, it is also used as the basis for the violent ideologies of the Global Jihad. Understanding the fundamentals behind the religion (as well as concepts such as Jihad), the background with respect to the Islamic community’s relationship to the West, the position of Muslims in modern-day Western societies and the various permutations of extremist Islamic ideologies is critical in helping policy makers, law enforcement personnel and governmental administrators at various levels relate to Islam and Muslims in an informed manner while also being able to effectively counteract extremist activities and ideas.

This course will provide a brief introduction of the religion, its early history and schisms, the role of Jihad, Islam’s relationship to the West and that of individual Muslims within Western countries and the ideologies of Islamic extremism.

  • Module 1 focuses on the basic principles of Islam, the origins of the faith and role of the Prophet Muhammad and fundamental schisms.
  • Module 2 focuses on the role of Jihad in Islam.
  • Module 3 focuses on the historic relationship between Islam and the West and Muslim attempts to address and cope with the reality of contemporary Muslim weakness in the face of Western power.
  • Module 4 focuses on the development of Islamic extremism from Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahab to Osama Bin Laden.
  • Module 5 focuses on the role of Islam and Muslims in the West (particularly in Europe) and the problems involved in integration, which sometimes lead to social isolation and can help create an infrastructure for radicalization. The module also briefly outlines the radicalization process.

[Updated 2016]


Understanding Terrorism: A Social Science View on Terrorism

Over the last 25 years, much of the research on terrorism has been accomplished without rigorous adherence to analytical frameworks. This series of four modules will trace the history of religious terrorism scholarship, introducing you to Social Identity Theory (SIT) and demonstrating how this particular scholarly approach within social psychology can provide nuance, depth, and rigor to your studies of religious terrorism. The first two modules will focus on explaining and exploring SIT itself, while the final two modules take a closer look at the phenomenon we refer to as “religious terrorism.” By applying the analytical framework of SIT to different historical and contemporary religious terrorist groups, this course offers students of homeland security and terrorism studies a new understanding of group and individual dynamics within a covert environment. [Updated 2012]

ss_securityCritical Infrastructure Protection: Transportation Security

This self study course is comprised of three lecture modules developed by Kip Hawley, former Administrator for the Transportation Security Administration, focused on presenting risk-based solutions for airport and freight rail security and related readings of interest on the topics covered here. The first module within this course presents the concept of how to create smarter security policies and procedures. Module two presents lessons learned from the famous Christmas Day (2009) Underwear Bomber case – and shows how application of “Inside-Out” risk management can and should be applied to more effectively protect our airlines. The third module in this series moves away from aviation to present the challenges TSA faces in effectively protecting the freight rail network, an equally vital part of our national economy. Concepts presented in this unique self study course force students to look critically at current policies and procedures and evaluate them from a risk-management approach – an approach that may not be politically palatable – but one that makes sense given the complex environment surrounding the transportation sector.  [Updated 2012]

ss_financingTerrorist Financing and State Response

This course examines exactly how far we have come in understanding how terrorists raise, store and transfer funds. It also evaluates and challenges the U.S. government and international community in responding to this problem. [Updated 2011]

Research Methods

The goals of the lectures in this course are to explore the practices and modalities of good research, to learn a set of research steps or phases required to conduct thesis research in the program, and to expose students to several common research methods. The methodological portion of these lectures is therefore intended to be introductory.  There is no one, ‘right’ way to do research. It’s an iterative, organic process that requires the researcher’s imagination, resourcefulness, and common sense as much as any technical skills. Some skills, methods, and steps are specific to a discipline or field, while others – literature review for example – are universal. [Updated 2013]

ss_intelIntelligence for Homeland Security: Organizational and Policy Challenges

To quote a cliche: “There are operational successes and there are intelligence failures.” Unfair perhaps, yet the Intelligence Community has been criticized for not preventing the catastrophic events of 9/11. Repercussions of 9/11 have required the Intelligence Community to assess itself and refocus its ability to support Homeland Security. Intelligence agencies have been forced to review some of the basic tenets of the profession and develop new techniques, tactics and procedures to combat the new threats to the security and stability of the United States.

The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the ensuing War on Terror have focused the nation’s attention on homeland security. This course examines key questions and issues facing the U.S. intelligence community and its role in homeland security and homeland defense. Course reference materials will provide an overview of diverse intelligence disciplines and how the intelligence community operates. Course emphasis will be on issues affecting policy, oversight, and intelligence support to homeland defense/security and national decision-making. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 is presented and the course is shaped to focus on homeland intelligence support issues at the State / Local / Tribal levels. [Updated 2011]

ss_israelHomeland Security in Israel

Since its creation in 1948, Israel has had to cope with ongoing periods of terrorism punctuated by periods of war. While this has been an unfortunate reality for Israeli citizens, it has enabled the Israeli authorities to develop a wealth of experience in homeland security policies and practices.

This course will focus on a range of preventive and response policies followed by Israel in the context of its counterterrorism and homeland defense policies. After a brief discussion of the nature of the terrorism threat facing the country, the course then focuses on the legal, organizational and strategic environments that affect Israeli policies before moving to discuss some of Israel’s response policies in the context of the response agencies, medical system and the military’s Homefront Command. [Updated 2009]

ss_cipCritical Infrastructure: Vulnerability Analysis and Protection

Critical Infrastructure protection is one of the cornerstones of homeland security. While PDD-63 lists 8 sectors, the National Strategy for Protection of Critical Infrastructure and Key Assets lists 11 sectors: Water, Power & Energy, Information & Telecommunications, Chemical Industry, Transportation, Banking & Finance, Defense Industry, Postal & Shipping, Agriculture & Food, Public Health, and Emergency Services. For the purposes of this course, we have divided these into levels with Water, Power & Energy, and Information & Telecommunications forming the first – or foundational – level. Chemical Industry, Transportation, and Banking & Finance are assigned level 2, and the remaining sectors are designated level 3 infrastructures. These levels indicate dependencies – higher levels are dependent on lower levels. Thus we focus most attention on the most fundamental critical infrastructures. This course develops a network theory of vulnerability analysis and risk assessment called “model-based vulnerability analysis” used to extract the critical nodes from each sector, model the nodes’ vulnerabilities by representing them in the form of a fault-tree, and then applying fault and financial risk reduction techniques to derive the optimal strategy for protection of each sector. At the completion of the course, students will be able to apply the model-based vulnerability technique to any critical infrastructure within their multi-jurisdictional region, and derive optimal strategies and draft policies for prevention of future terrorist attacks. [Updated 2006]

ss_techTechnology for Homeland Security: Inspection and Detection Technologies

In a race to detect and prevent future terrorist attacks, the US has accelerated spending and has brought together formerly disparate disciplines to produce cutting edge inspection and detection technologies used to protect against CBRNE attacks. “Nuclear physicists and bioforensics specialists now cooperate with the best brains in behavioral science to devise ways to reduce the threat of nuclear smuggling and suicide bombers.” [1] These collaborate efforts are fueling rapid advances in inspection and detection technologies that are fundamentally reshaping how we detect and prevent terrorist attacks and if necessary how we will respond to both small and large scale incidents.

Inspection and detection technologies are strategic enablers that support Presidential Directive #8, “capability specific priority 3.2.3 Strengthen CBRNE Detection, Response, and Decontamination Capabilities.” [2] This course focuses on technologies that enable the early detection of the presence, import, or transport of CBRNE materials.

The objective is to empower the student to influence the plans and actions of homeland security organizations in preventing and preparing for homeland security, homeland defense, and terrorism. Another primary objective of the course is to help the students recognize the possibilities of new technology and novel applications of policies or laws to address threats. The knowledge and skills acquired will make students more effective technology users and help them to recognize opportunities where the application of technology solutions can provide a strategic advantage and therefore make a contribution to homeland security. [Updated 2006]

[1] Popular Science – SPECIAL REPORT – Technology vs. Terrorism Stephen Handelman
[2] Interim National Preparedness Goal – Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8: National Preparedness

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Access is granted to local, tribal, state and federal U.S. government officials; members of the U.S. military; corporate homeland security managers or contractors; homeland security researchers or educators; and students currently enrolled in homeland security degree programs.  Questions about access can be directed to