Dec. 23, 2005

Senators push for preparedness training

by Dibya Sarkar

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) introduced a bill yesterday to create a National Homeland Security Academy that would help train homeland security professionals at the federal, state and local government levels.

“It was clear to me as I was working to create a Department of Homeland Security that we would need to find a way to make sure department professionals, as well as the state and local officials with whom they work, understand the full scope and range of responsibilities entrusted to the department, not just the details of their own particular jobs,” Lieberman said in a news release.

The academy would train leaders and provide cross-disciplinary education to government officials at all levels “so that they can develop the bonds and relationships that will make their work more efficient and effective,” Lieberman said.

According to the release, the academy would be modeled on the Defense Department’s war colleges. Its purpose would be to ensure that DHS’ new and midlevel executive employees and other federal, state and local officials understand DHS’ mission and undergo hands-on training and simulation exercises.

The academy’s centerpiece would be the National Homeland Security Education and Strategy Center for continuing education. It would also incorporate the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, located in Monterey, Calif.

Since 2002, the center, which the Naval Postgraduate School operates, has been offering a master’s degree in homeland security, certificate programs and other educational tools developed in partnership with DHS' Office for Domestic Preparedness. According to its Web site, the center offers current and future homeland security leaders various programs focused on “policies, strategies, programs and organizational elements to defeat terrorism.”

The new bill would also create a National Homeland Security Education Network composed of academies and training centers under DHS' jurisdiction. The network would offer distance learning.

Another portion of the bill would create a state and local education and training coordinator within DHS' Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness to help department officials gain access to state and local education programs.