Homeland security education9/11 generates growth of homeland security college programs

Published 8 September 2011

The 9/11 attacks led to a flurry of spending not only on defense and homeland security needs, but also education; in recent years dozens of homeland security programs have emerged at community colleges, universities, and graduate schools across the country and thousands of students have flocked to these new programs lured by the promise of jobs

Campus of California University of Pennsylvania // Source: city-data.com

The 9/11 attacks led to a flurry of spending not only on defense and homeland security needs, but also education. Domestic security has become one of the fastest growing areas of study, thanks to federal grants.

In recent years dozens of homeland security programs have emerged at community colleges, universities, and graduate schools across the country and thousands of students have flocked to these new programs lured by the promise of jobs.

While most college graduates struggling to find jobs amid the recession, homeland security-related industries are struggling to find enough workers to fill their needs. For instance in 2009, DHS’ National Cybersecurity Division nearly tripled its workforce.

One university in Dallas, Pennsylvania is so confident in its national security program that it guarantees graduates a job. If graduates cannot find a job within six months or are not accepted into a graduate school, the university will provide a three-month paid internship in the student’s field.

Meanwhile J. Eric Dietz, the director of Purdue’s Homeland Security Institute, considers the university’s program a “differentiator” for students and a “a way to sell yourself in a tough job environment.”

Steve Riedel, a graduate student at Purdue, said, “What my resume looked like two years ago to what it looks like now — there is no comparison.”

Riedel, an eleven year veteran of the Navy, said Purdue’s Homeland Security Institute has recruited dozens of veterans to return to school. Riedel has completed three domestic security courses and is in the midst of completing his thesis. He hopes to finish and find a job in agricultural security.

The demand is phenomenal,” he said.

In addition, schools have also benefited from the billions of dollars that the federal government has spent on research and development.

 

A handful of universities have really hit the jackpot,” said Irwin Feller, a professor emeritus of economics at Penn State University who headed a study on the effects of homeland security on higher education.

In the last five years, DHS has poured nearly $4 billion into university research facilities designed to find solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing security concerns like explosives detection, dangerous biological substance research, and radiation detection. State and federal agencies, like the Defense Department and the National Institutes of Health have also contributed hundreds of millions of dollars from their own coffers.

University of California, Los Angeles recently opened its $32 million Global Bio Lab, which was largely funded with state and federal money aimed at biological terrorist attacks and infectious diseases.

Meanwhile the University of Southern California (USC) receives about $3 million a year in federal funding to investigate a range of homeland security concerns including calculating the economic impact of a terrorist attack that could potentially close a port or lead to epidemics. USC is also home to one of DHS’ twelve university-based research units, known as centers of excellence.

Other universities have received concomitant benefits from major DHS projects like Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, where the government is currently building the billion dollar National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural sector.

The facility’s scientists will become adjunct Kansas State University professors, providing new opportunities for collaborative research and bolstering its graduate programs. The university is also planning to use the project to develop partnerships with animal health corporations.

The Manhattan area could become “a Silicon Valley for food science and animal science,” said Dr. Tara O’Toole, the DHS’ undersecretary for science and technology.

But, the recent focus on homeland security studies at universities has some academics nervous.

William Chace, a recent president of Emory University and professor emeritus of English at Stanford University, warned that the shift to homeland security studies risks turning colleges and universities into “servile mechanisms for state or federal interests.”

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Chace, who is currently conducting a seminar in London on T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” a poetic treatise on philosophy and spirituality, said he fears that works like Eliot’s would be lost in favor of domestic security programs.

In contrast, others argue that higher education is constantly evolving and the rise of one discipline will not necessarily spell the end of another.

Colleges in the United States have frequently adjusted their curricula to meet national needs. For instance, in 1957 after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first object to successfully orbit the Earth, the U.S. government began pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into research and education initiatives out of fear that it was losing the space race.

It is just the nature of American universities. It is in their DNA,” Feller said.

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