San Francisco Chronicle 07 Jan 03, Page A19
MONTEREY — The Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey unveiled a new government — funded Center for Homeland Defense and Security on Monday, promising that the first class of 14 public safety officers and military veterans will "lead the charge" to defeat terrorism.
The start of the Monterey master's degree program — and the simultaneous launch of a similar graduate course at Livermore's Sandia National Laboratory — is one element of the national race to develop a new core of leaders to fight the war on terrorism within the nation's borders.
"Homeland security does not exist as an academic discipline," Paul Stockton, the new center's director, told students and visiting military and congressional dignitaries Monday. "We don't have case studies, we don't have the textbooks.
"We're building the field together."
While holding down "serious day jobs" protecting real Americans, the students will develop strategies, policies and plans to ferret out terrorist cells and shield crucial targets — power, water and transportation systems — from attack. The 18-month program will combine intensive weeklong seminars in Monterey with Internet "distance learning."
The participants are expected to link up electronically and thwart attacks on the ill-fated "San Luis Rey," a simulated city "where all the bad things happen," as Ted Lewis, a professor at the naval school, put it. Bearing an eerie resemblance to many major California cities, the coastal metropolis of 2. 1 million people has a wealth of terrorist targets — a deep-water port, an international airport, a nuclear power plant, a natural gas pipeline and railroads.
The goal, Stockton said, is "to strengthen our capacity — not to respond after a terrible attack occurs, but to make sure that attack doesn't happen."
The center will rely on field-tested students to help craft a "real world" program and share their knowledge with colleagues back home. The first class includes two New York City firefighters and a police inspector who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the security chief for the Salt Lake City Olympics, state public health and emergency management officials, and members of the Navy, Coast Guard and National Guard.
Michael Weinlein, New York City's fire chief for special operations, lost more than 300 colleagues who died rushing in to save people in the twin towers that collapsed. Communication equipment failures prevented many firefighters from hearing the evacuation order.
"I don't want to see another municipality have to go through that," Weinlein told his classmates Monday.
Like the 60 students who follow them next fall, the program's first participants were handpicked by the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Domestic Preparedness, which provided the $15 million including participants' tuition, housing and travel. "We're training the trainers," said Rear Admiral David Ellison, superintendent of the naval school.
The new homeland security programs will feature such subjects as "Asymmetric Conflict and Homeland Security," "Intelligence for Homeland Security" and "Critical Infrastructure -Vulnerability and Analysis." They also explore the benefits of "Civil-Military Relations" and the civil liberties challenges raised by the war on terrorism. The naval school's interactive challenges are designed to spur teamwork among the classmates as they assume different roles to head off or minimize attacks, said Philip Palin, head of Teleogical Learning Co., which developed the online program.
One demonstration of an Internet "electronic" exercise began with an alarm and a voice warning students: "This is not a test." An uncontrolled opening of the local dam's gates has triggered flooding, and authorities suspect terrorism because someone tampered with the manual floodgate controls.
This isn't far-fetched.
"In a part of Illinois that I won't disclose," Lewis said, there are electrical lines where "if you take down three critical power pylons, three-quarters of the people of Illinois won't have power for about three weeks."
That, officials said, is why the new homeland defenders have put their school work into practice as quickly as they learn it.
E-mail Alan Gathright at email@example.com.