Knight Ridders Newspaper, 7 Jan 03, News Section

Prestigious school creates homeland security center

by Ken McLaughlin

MONTEREY — (KRT) — The prestigious Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey announced Monday it is creating a new Center for Homeland Defense and Security that will blend civilian and military antiterrorism expertise.

Equipped with $15 million in initial funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, the new center will offer a master's degree program designed for experts. The first class — four military officers and 10 civilians — began the program on Monday afternoon.

Course topics will include how to protect critical infrastructure, scrutinizing the vulnerabilities of wireless networks and the use of software decoys and other technology.

"This is really a first for the nation," said Congressman Sam Farr, D-Salinas, who noted that instructors at the 93-year-old Naval Postgraduate School were teaching anti-terrorism tactics and strategy long before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Another key program at the new center will be the creation of "mobile education teams" that will visit state capitals around the country to educate governors and their staffs about terrorism strategy and response. Another program will sharpen the leadership skills of senior homeland security officials.

Farr, who was in the office of former Minority Leader Richard Gephardt as planes slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, remembers how helpless most government officials felt in coping with the disaster. "The town shut down," he said.

The center expects to enroll up to 60 military and civilian students by September. "To have only the military involved in this program would have been like one hand clapping," said Paul Stockton, director of the new center.

"Education will play a key role in strengthening homeland security ... by equipping students with the knowledge and analytic skills they will need to counter the evolving threat of terrorism," Tom Ridge, President Bush's homeland security director, said in a statement issued Monday.

"Policymakers need to know about technology to make good policy ... so they don't get snowed," said Ted Lewis, a professor of computer science at the school.

"I don't want to see another municipality have to go through what we went through," said Special Operations Chief Michael Weinlein, a 21-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department. He is one of three New York public safety officials in the elite first class.

Weinlein said the military has all kinds of technology that he knows can help find domestic terrorism - and he'd love to learn as much about it as possible.

Many of the high-ranking government officials and military brass attending Monday's ceremony at the school noted that increasing cooperation between military and civilians leaders is breaking new, potentially sensitive ground.

One of the new students who had to engage in the delicate balancing act is Robert Flowers, a Utah public safety commissioner involved in planning security for last year's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"It's a really dicey thing how you use" the military, Flowers said.

On one hand, he said, some people felt uneasy when they saw soldiers with M16 rifles patrolling the streets and F-16 fighter jets roaring overhead. But the overwhelming majority of athletes and spectators found it reassuring and knew that it was necessary, Flowers said.

Students will spend 12 weeks in residence during the 18-month program. The rest of the time class work will be done through the Internet so that the experts can continue to work full-time.

"Homeland security doesn't exist as an academic curriculum," Stockton said. "There are no textbooks."

Teleologic Learning Company has created a computer program revolving around San Luis Rey, a fictional port city of 657,000 with a nuclear power plant. The software will allow students to respond to everything from data system attacks on the plant to a smallpox breakout among airplane passengers who landed in the city, said Philip Palin, the company's CEO.

Christopher Hetherington, deputy commissioner of the New York City Office of Emergency Management who is enrolled in the program, said the fact that San Luis Rey was much smaller than the Big Apple didn't bother him.

In many ways, he said, size doesn't matter because the threats are the same.

On Sept. 11, Hetherington, then commander of the public advocates' office of the police department, was in his office five blocks from the World Trade Center when the towers fell.

He was about to retire after 20 years with the department. But the enormity of the day's events changed his mind. "I felt there was still work to be done."