Monterey Herald 07 Jan 03, PG B2

Putting pressure on terrorists


MONTEREY — The best defense is a good offense.

That's as true in the war on terrorism as it is in any other conflict, said Peter Verga, special assistant for homeland security at the Department of Defense. Verga, in his keynote address Monday at the opening of the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Homeland Defense and Security, said that because it is impossible to counter every conceivable threat to the United States, defense against terrorism "requires that we take the war to the enemy."

"Our task is to put pressure on the terrorists, wherever they are, in Afghanistan and across the globe, to ensure that they have no safe haven, no sanctuary, anywhere in the world."

While there are terrorist operatives within the United States, Verga said, the organizations they work for, and most of their people and resources, must be sought out abroad.

Verga emphasized the difference between homeland "security" - a civilian responsibility - and homeland "defense" the military's job.

Security is a national effort to prevent terrorist attacks, reduce the nation's vulnerability to terrorism, minimize damage from attacks and assist in recovery, he said.

The Defense Department's role in homeland security, Verga said, is to support civilian agencies.

Homeland defense is the military protection of the United States against external threats and aggression, and in that the Defense Department takes the lead role.

The military already is engaged in defense activities within U.S. borders, he said: combat air patrols, maritime defense by the Navy and Coast Guard, and troops guarding military installations and other sensitive sites.

The National Guard fields 34 specially trained and equipped teams to assist civilian authorities in coping with attacks by nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, and 20 more such teams are being added, Verga said.

The Navy school's Homeland Defense and Security program, he said, is an example of the military providing its expertise to the civilian sector.

The 18-month course, aimed at managers in local, state and federal government agencies, covers a wide range of subjects related to terrorism, security and civil-military relations, with supporting courses drawn from the Navy school's national security affairs, computer security, operations research and international security affairs curricula.

The Homeland Security program also fields mobile education teams to support state governors and senior state officials with information on countering potential terrorist threats.

In addition to a master's degree program, certification programs in specific aspects of homeland defense are also available.

The 15 civilian students enrolled in the opening master's course "already have serious jobs" in homeland security, said Paul Stockton, associate provost for institutional development at NPS, who previously headed the school's center for Civil-Military Relations and served as acting dean of its School of International Graduate Studies.

Most of their work is done online. The students come to NPS at the beginning of each semester for intensive seminars and orientation courses.

The Navy school's international and civil-military programs also have a role in homeland security, Stockton said, by helping build democracies in nations that might otherwise become terrorist havens: "In the words of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 'to drain the swamps where terrorists breed.'"

Other speakers at Monday's opening session included Navy Vice Adm. Kevin Green, deputy chief of naval operations for plans, policy and operations; Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Rear Adm. David Ellison, superintendent of the postgraduate school; and retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ord III, dean of the School of International Graduate Studies.