For nearly two decades, the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School has served as the preeminent graduate-level educational institution preparing the top U.S. homeland security officials for any and all threats to our nation’s well-being.
Twenty years after it was founded on April 17, 2002, CHDS stands as a monument to the dedicated labors of a dozen or so visionaries led by CHDS’ founding director Paul Stockton, all of whom realized the value of such an institution when the very concept of homeland security was still in its infancy and worked relentlessly to see it come to fruition, as well as those many others who have worked over the past two decades to make it grow and evolve with homeland security itself, and those who will shepherd it into the future.
As CHDS marks its 20th anniversary, we will revisit the founding of the institution and its early years, the Center’s growth and evolution over the years, and what we can expect for the future in a three-part series being published both online and in our alumni magazine Watermark over the next few months, along with a trove of archival photos and documents marking the passage of time.
Today, CHDS operates on a multimillion-dollar annual budget, offering an ever-evolving and growing number of homeland security educational programs and resources to a range of agencies and organizations at the federal, state, local, territorial, tribal, and private levels, including the Master’s Degree Program for mid- to senior-level officials, the Executive Leaders Program for senior executives, the Emergence Program for those in the first half of their career, as well as Executive Education, Radiological Emergency Preparedness, and Pacific Executive Leaders Programs. In addition, CHDS is also home to the University and Agency Partnership Program, Homeland Security Digital Library, Self-Study Courses, Homeland Security Affairs Journal, Pracademic Affairs Journal, and a thriving Alumni Network. And, it has done so at no cost to participants.
CHDS now boasts more than 3,000 alumni from the full range of homeland security and public safety disciplines and jurisdictions across the country, who have completed the Center’s educational programs.
CHDS Director Glen Woodbury, who has been at the Center’s helm for 15 years since 2007 and began working at CHDS after graduating from its inaugural Master’s program cohort, said its success has been realized in several key areas.
That includes the ability to bring together multiple jurisdictions, academics, and practitioners who hadn’t worked together before in one place under a common purpose, and spurring collaboration, coordination, and synchronization at a policy and strategy level by bringing them all into the conversation, which he noted is “now commonplace but was pretty novel” when the Center was founded.
CHDS also “changed adult learning writ large,” Woodbury said, with its groundbreaking hybrid model combining short, two-week, in-residence sessions with months of remote online instruction, which he said was done out of necessity in order to attract the senior-level people who couldn’t simply take months away from their jobs to attend the Center’s programs. “Remote learning is common now, Woodbury said, but not when the Center began the practice nearly two decades ago. As part of the hybrid model, CHDS also developed its digital library, which Woodbury said spawned the University and Agency Program due to the accessibility of so much material.
And CHDS, as a government and taxpayer-funded institution, was not beholden to the demands of tuition costs and endowments like typical secondary education programs, Woodbury said, offering the Center both the freedom to experiment with and develop whatever educational programs and other resources it deemed valuable, and the responsibility to share everything it developed with other institutions including some who used the information to develop their own homeland security educational programs. “We created our own competition,” he said.
But CHDS’s current success could hardly have been predicted at its founding, which occurred just months after 9/11 even before the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and before the term “homeland security” had even been fully defined.
While Congressional commissions had previously recommended education and training for first responders and emergency managers in preparation for a terrorist attack, and Stockton—then the NPS Dean of the School for International Studies—was already working on a graduate-level educational program for weapons of mass destruction at NPS before 9/11. The September 11, 2001 attacks served as the real catalyst for the institution’s founding.
On Sept. 12, 2001, Stockton said, he was called into NPS provost Adm. Richard Elster’s office and was told that he was fired as the Dean of SIGS and his new job was to create a graduate-level educational program for homeland security.
Stockton said he believed that many in U.S. government had overlooked the terrorist threat, including NPS, and he as a member of the faculty shared that responsibility. Everyone, he said, was playing catch-up after 9/11, adding to the urgency for the new program, so he immediately went to work acquiring funding and creating CHDS.
According to Stockton, he benefited from the efforts of three “main sources of intellectual firepower” in the fledgling days of the institution, including Jim Morhard, Mike Walker, and Lacy Suiter, who he credited with “building the whole CHDS team.”
Stockton, who had previously worked on Capitol Hill as a U.S. Senate staffer, said he was introduced by his friend Walker, a former Army Undersecretary, to Morhard, the lead staffer on the U.S. Senate appropriations committee at the time who would eventually write funding for the Center into legislation and bring in the Department of Justice’s Office for Domestic Preparedness Director Curtis “Butch” Straub and Deputy Director Andy Mitchell, who Stockton said were also of “foundational importance,” and their office eventually provided $15 million in start-up funding for CHDS.
Walker, a longtime CHDS subject matter expert, was “very far-sighted and understood the need for a domestic element of homeland security,” Stockton said, and proved to be a key supporter.
And Stockton said Suiter, the emergency management legend, was instrumental in “building the understanding that state-local-tribal-territorial capacity against all-hazards” was essential. Suiter understood the “important role” of state Governors and county administrators in homeland security, and was “invaluable as a source of wisdom.”
Stockton said many others provided key contributions to the Center’s founding, creation, and success, including Elster, who brought in the Department of the Navy to help bridge the gap between the Department of Defense, state and local leadership, and FEMA; then-chair of the Department of National Security Affairs at NPS Jim Wirtz, who “kept us academically grounded”; former CHDS executive director Ted Lewis, who “built the Master’s degree program focused on inquiry and research,” and was a key figure as former head of the NPS Computer Science Department in developing CHDS’ hybrid remote learning model; longtime CHDS instructor Chris Bellavita, who with Lewis helped develop the Master’s program as “faculty innovators”; NPS Judge Advocate General Don Lincoln, who helped navigate immense legal hurdles including the challenge of allowing public officials to enroll in a program at a military institution like NPS; as well as former Chief Executive Officer and long-time instructor David O’Keeffe, and Woodbury who he said both did a “great job” growing the institution over the years.
Many of those early contributors have their names affixed to a plaque in the hallway at CHDS dedicated to winners of the Founders Award, which also includes leaders such as Bill Kelley, Bill Pelfrey, Bob Ord, and Darrell Darnell.
All that leadership and expertise, Stockton said, made his job much easier.
“I was born on third base,” Stockton said. “We had so many building blocks. I had access to all the expertise I could want. It just took a little finagling.” And he said it took all that talent to create an educational program in such a brand-new discipline, homeland security, and do so essentially at the same time as running it.
“We had to build the plane while flying it,” he said. “There weren’t any textbooks (for homeland security).”
Walker said CHDS benefitted from a moment in time, noting that before 9/11 the major concern was getting the counter-terrorism issue the “attention it deserved” and after the devastating attacks no one was questioning the need.
“The early history at CHDS is in some ways about being in the right place at the right time,” he said, noting that previous commissions had recognized the threat but it was considered controversial. “After 9/11, there was no more controversy.”
Walker said “literally days after 9/11,” Morhard told him there was going to be an enormous funding stream and asked how Stockton’s WMD educational proposal could be expanded to cover the broader homeland security issue. “What began as a narrow focus on a WMD master’s program evolved into a full-blown homeland security center.”
Walker pointed out that Stockton’s original request for a few million increased exponentially and he began “building a world-class program” that included a homeland security digital library at NPS, the first of its kind.
While Stockton prefers to credit everyone else for the CHDS success story, the other founding fathers insist he was the key to its creation.
Lewis, who was the second person hired at CHDS after Stockton and became executive director, calls him a “political genius,” adding that Stockton “knew how to bend the rules and get things done” noting that it was his idea to hire an outside contractor to run the CHDS operation, which was not previously allowed at NPS.
As a deputy provost at NPS, Stockton’s job was to find “new business” and fend off BRAC efforts to cut or close the educational program, Lewis said, and 9/11 was “serendipity” for CHDS and its funding.
Lewis said he started out simply helping Stockton understand how a budget spreadsheet worked after hearing him talking in the room next door at NPS, then ended up helping create the entire Master’s Program. He said he and Stockton were in-synch and “understood the culture of innovation and how important it was to establish that culture early on.”
“We were creating a curriculum for a discipline that didn’t exist,” Lewis said. “That was motivation. If we ran it like a typical educational program, it wouldn’t have worked.”
Lewis said the challenge of creating a brand-new curriculum and establishing a culture of innovation spawned many cutting-edge concepts, including the use of hybrid instruction, combining cohorts during classes so two instructors could enhance the quality of the instruction, and experimentation was encouraged.
“The instruction was incredible,” Lewis said. “People were not afraid to experiment. I think that’s the main contribution of CHDS, that lean-forward attitude.”
In addition, Lewis said CHDS assigned a thesis advisor to each student “from the get-go” so they could track and advise on thesis projects from day one, and get them thinking clearly and developing their projects early on rather than in a year or two as is typical in academia.
And, Lewis said, Stockton was a “hard ass when it came to quality,” and brought in the highest quality instructors and subject matter experts.
Meanwhile, Bellavita is credited with reorienting the CHDS Master’s program from “note-taking and test-taking” to critical thinking and “thinking more deeply about solutions to problems.”
Veteran university educator Bill Pelfrey, who spent a decade as an outside monitor at CHDS, said Bellevita is “the best I ever saw,” noting his use of the Socratic method to get students to justify and support their conclusions with evidence.
“The day you all lose Chris Bellavita is the (start of the) countdown,” he said. “Somebody better be ready to turn out the lights.”
Wirtz said Stockton’s “real talent was to sense an opportunity and a need, and he could fill it.” While technically in charge of the CHDS program as department chair, Wirtz said his real role was helping shepherd the new institution through the NPS bureaucracy. “I really allowed them (to create and run the program),” he said.
He said he was aware Stockton had been working on a graduate-level program for some time. Then, Wirtz said, “after 9/11, Stockton comes back and said I have funding for homeland security education, and we all asked, ‘What the hell is homeland security?’”
“I can’t exaggerate how new [homeland security education] was,” Wirtz said. “We had nothing—no articles, no books, no nothing. We built the program one course at a time while it was going.”
Wirtz said the hybrid instruction model was the most innovative part of the Master’s Program, noting “there was no Zoom in 2000,” and crediting Lewis as the “genius who did all this” remote online learning.
Longtime CHDS instructor Stan McKinney, who would end up running the CHDS Executive Education and Mobile Education Team programs for a decade and now teaches the REP, said he was one of the first people to meet with Stockton about the CHDS concept when he was working at DOJ/ODP, and worked closely with Straub, Mitchell, and his close friend Suiter, and helped recruit the first Master’s cohort.
“If not for Paul Stockton, CHDS probably never would have existed,” McKinney said, calling Stockton an “idea guy, very intellectual,” while also praising Lewis and Bellavita as “very instrumental on the academic side.” Pelfrey said Stockton was a unique success at creating CHDS because he could “talk folks into doing whatever he wanted.”
Before 9/11, Pelfrey said he had been working with his friend Straub on a review of a WMD education program proposed by Stockton, and by August 2001 had developed a training strategy for WMD education and training. Then, he said, 9/11 happened and “everything changed.” His project was embargoed until it could be determined what information could be released, and by the following year he had been assigned to CHDS as an outside program monitor.
Pelfrey, who had already worked for more than a half dozen universities, said he was initially skeptical about the chances for CHDS’ success and said he expected it to be a “boondoggle” resistant to change including the recommendations of an outside monitor. But he ended up staying for ten years, and is generally credited with improving the institution through constant feedback and recommendations.
“But NPS’ reputation won the day, and my fears were allayed,” he said. “I’ve been at a lot of universities, but I’ve never been at an institution as long as I was at NPS.”
Ord, the Dean of SIGS at NPS, said Stockton “started with a blank sheet of paper” but Ord recognized immediately there was “obvious value” and said he talked up the CHDS program to everyone he met in Washington D.C., “including the janitor.”
“I saw the value because nothing existed to serve the need that we all saw to educate first responders, federal, state, and local,” Ord said. “But I also realized we couldn’t really create the program out of whole cloth and we needed to use NPS (resources). My style of leadership was to bring in the best people and give them the resources and let them do their job. It was not the hardest organization to create. It was such a difficult time for our country, and we didn’t have to convince people (of the need).”
By 2003, CHDS was ready to hold its Master’s Degree program inauguration on the NPS Herrmann Hall Quarterdeck on Jan. 6. The event featured remarks by NPS Superintendent Rear Adm. David Ellison, NPS Dean of SIGS Ord, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Vice Adm. Kevin Green, Office of the Secretary of Defense representative Pete Verga, Department of Justice Office of Domestic Preparedness Director Mitchell, and U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, as well as Stockton and all fourteen members of CHDS’ inaugural Master’s Degree Program class.
Listed as program sponsors or sources of policy guidance were the N3/N5 OPNAV, the Department of Justice’s Office for Domestic Preparedness, the U.S. Northern Command, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Press reports from the event noted CHDS was a partnership between the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, and would “blend civilian and military anti-terrorism expertise” through its Master’s degree program “designed for experts.”
Course topics included critical infrastructure protection, scrutiny of wireless network vulnerabilities, military-civilian relations, and the use of software decoys and other technology, and the use of a computer program simulating a fictional port city of 675,000 people with a nuclear power plant named San Luis Rey with software allowing students to “respond to everything from data system attacks on the plant to a smallpox breakout among airplane passengers who landed in the city,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.
The press also noted the “high-ranking government officials and military brass” who attended the ceremony, noting the importance of increasing cooperation between military and civilian leaders was “breaking new, potentially sensitive ground.”
Inauguration day was also the first day of class for the pilot Master’s cohort, which included Woodbury, then the Director of the Washington State Military Department’s Emergency Management Division; Ellen Gordon, then the Iowa State Emergency Management Administrator and Homeland Security Advisor; and Charles English, Robert Flowers, Christopher Hetherington, Susan Jones-Hard, Scott Behunin, Scott Breor, Gerry Charlton, Vincent Doherty, Nachelle Wilkinson, Thomas Richardson, Michael Weinlein, and Lisa Courtney. The cohort included four military officers and ten civilian officials, all of them executive-level leaders.
Shortly after the CHDS inauguration ceremony, CHDS also began conducting Mobile Education Team operations in January 2003 by visiting state capitals around the nation to educate governors and their cabinets and staff about terrorism prevention and response.
NEXT MONTH: CHDS hosts its first Master’s Degree Program cohort, which serves as “guinea pigs,” and conducts its first Mobile Education Team seminar for a governor and his cabinet. The institution shifts from the two pilot programs to building a national Center, adding staff, and creating both programs and resources and solidifying its funding. And later, transitioning to new leadership under Director Glen Woodbury, continuing to grow and change as the definition of homeland security itself evolves.