January 06, 2003
Government Executive Newsletter, Posted 07Jan 03, News Section

Naval school offers graduate degree in homeland security

By Amelia Gruber

MONTEREY — Homeland security specialists can now earn a master’s degree in the subject, thanks to a new program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.

The 18-month program, run jointly by the Justice Department’s Office of Domestic Preparedness and the Navy, will bring together 14 students who have already distinguished themselves in a mix of civil and military emergency response positions at the federal, state and local levels.

“Education will play a key role in strengthening homeland security,” said Homeland Security Secretary-designate Tom Ridge in a statement. “By equipping students with the knowledge and analytic skills they will need to counter the evolving threat of terrorism, programs such as the Naval Postgraduate School’s can help us to meet our future leadership requirements and build interagency teamwork.”

Students enrolled in the program will supplement knowledge gained through years of experience in the field through classes on such topics as protecting critical infrastructure, intelligence sharing, and military support for civilian authorities. But, more importantly, the graduate work will help build relationships among emergency responders across the country and help bridge gaps between military and civilian homeland security experts, according to Paul Stockton, a professor and associate provost at the naval school.

The coursework is also designed to help students look at the broader issues that sometimes get lost in day-to-day work at individual agencies, Stockton said. For instance, some classes will encourage discussions on how to develop policies to prevent terrorism without violating constitutional rights to privacy.

Students will meet as a group in Monterey only for the first week of each academic quarter, and will complete the rest of their studies through distance learning techniques, allowing them to continue working at their jobs during the day. The schedule will be demanding, but the current crop of students, who went through an extensive application process to join the program, are dedicated and should be up to the task, said Darrell Darnell, an official in the Office of Domestic Preparedness’ training division who helped organize the program.

The Justice Department sent applications to civilians in prominent homeland security positions and received 16 forms back, of which the Office of Domestic Preparedness selected 10 candidates. The remaining four students enrolled in the current class come from military backgrounds.

All applicants must complete a form that includes five essay questions, Darnell said. The applicants also had to be nominated by their agency heads and submit recommendations from a supervisor, a peer and the agency head.

Enrolled students do not have to pay for the degree, as the Justice Department will foot the bill, according to Darnell. So far, the program has received $4 million in funding, and future funding will depend on its success, Darnell said.

One of the greatest challenges facing organizers will be to bring together the military and civilian components of the curriculum, Stockton said. He said that the divide between military and civilian roles in homeland security—a subject he hopes to tackle with his students—is not always clear.

It has also been challenging to design a curriculum in a subject area that is still being developed and has never existed before as an academic discipline, Stockton added. The professors have had to take their knowledge of classic security problems and apply it to the new threats that have surfaced since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Despite the challenges, Stockton said he and other professors are looking forward to teaching the courses. “We’re all loving it,” he said.

For more information on the new program, go to the Homeland Security Leadership Development Web site.