Elevating, Advancing the Role of Homeland Security

By Robert “Bob” Lally, M.S.

CTU Homeland Security Degree - Airplane in an orange skyYou might consider Homeland Security a work in progress.

It’s a function. It’s an approach. It’s a new discipline that is a profession in and of itself, but is a facet of many others.

It’s far more than the Department of Homeland Security because the whole business of protecting our country is a collaborative effort that, for any given situation, can involve public and private resources, at the local, state and national levels, from firefighters to military personnel to medical researchers.

The fact is that the homeland security “industry” is continuing to evolve. And now, at close to ten years old, it’s reached a level of maturity that it’s time to up the educational stakes to continue the field’s advancement.

Recognizing an Academic Need

According to the University Agency and Partnership Initiative, between 2003 and 2007, the number of academic degrees or certificate programs in homeland security went from zero to about 200. That’s since edged up to 300. Today, only about 50 schools offer a master’s degree in homeland security. There are no regionally-accredited Ph.D. programs in Homeland Security, though one Doctorate of Science in Civil Security qualifies for the most part.

Moreover, homeland security is not, with a few exceptions, treated as a stand-alone discipline. It’s typically housed in a university’s business school or the criminal justice program. And that’s despite the fact that homeland security professionals have their own standards and terms, which are not necessarily determined by either the business or criminal justice specialties.

The reality is that there are a million and one moving parts to homeland security. To manage them effectively as we move forward will take the development of future leaders, those who have gained a broad strategic grasp and situational awareness of all those parts. Who are asking the right questions and being prepared to address today’s and tomorrow’s issues.

Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders

Meeting that need is the impetus behind Colorado Technical University’s new master’s degree in Homeland Security. Our aim is to grow the next generation of leaders – in both the public and private sectors – who understand the complicated system that is represented by Homeland Security.

It’s designed for high-level thinkers interested in learning to solve complex problems and set strategic policy.

Selective Admission

This degree – occupying its own “vertical” at CTU – was modeled on learnings from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, which set the standards for what it takes to be a homeland security professional. In addition to core coursework around fundamentals (e.g. terrorism dynamics, organizational and political risk assessment, technology solutions, etc.) it has a thesis requirement.  Admission is very selective: Five years of operational experience in a related field, a 3.0 GPA and an analytical essay that essentially will outline the direction the candidate intends to take with his or her thesis.

A big part of the educational challenge around homeland security is going to be effectively fostering a better understanding of what, exactly, it is. That will set the stage for advancing the dialog on what the policies and practices that are needed to mitigate threats to the stability of our nation.

Image credit: Flickr/Fabcom