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New Horizons in Homeland Security: Discoveries at NASPAA Conference

By Stephen Recca, M.A.

CTU Homeland Security Degree - New HorizonsThe National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) annual conference wrapped up in Austin, Texas this past fall. The NASPAA – which, letting no successful status quo go undone, now stands for Network Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration as the group aims for a more international flavor – is the authorized accreditor for public policy programs and is considered the global standard in public service education. Their annual conference is a significant event, with national and international scholars addressing issues of public policy importance. Most schools with a Public Administration or Public Affairs degree-granting program – and certainly all that have a recognized reputation – had a presence at the conference.

On the final morning, I had the privilege of joining four prominent scholars for a roundtable discussion of leading topics in Homeland Security. With a 2012 conference theme of “New Horizons in Public Administration and Policy,” our panel focused presentations and subsequent conversation on the future of homeland security.

I specifically addressed the gaps in undergraduate and graduate Homeland Security education programs. For the most part, higher education has done a fair job meeting core homeland security needs. Even still, I see opportunity for more education in areas such as cyber and border security, risk management, comparative (or international) studies, private sector integration into the homeland security enterprise, and more esoteric topics like Arctic and environmental security. As large as the field is, it’s not surprising that there are plenty more areas worthy of further research and study. For a short version on this topic, see: www.journalhse.org/v1i2-reccacommentary.html and www.journalhse.org/v1i2-reccacommentary.html.

Dr. Dave McIntyre, CTU Distinguished Faculty and Director of Homeland Security Programs at the National Graduate School, made a simple, but foundational statement at the outset of our panel discussion:

"The traditional education establishment is formed around “disciplines” (e.g., physics, biology, economics, political science, basket-weaving, etc.) but jobs are formed around problems – green energy, manned space flight, supply-chain management, counter-narcotics, and information security, to name a few.”

Let’s not also forget warfare, which has driven job creation in direct and in indirect roles for the past 11 years. Dr. McIntyre’s premise is that we are seeing a “collision of tectonic plates,” using an analogy to compare the geologic shifting of the earth’s plates to the major structural changes in how we interact with our known world. His key examples included:

  • Citizen expectations of government: We expect more and more, ranging from disaster services to public safety to medical care;
  • Massive and steady changes in technology: New technology demands we do more with less. Think about our telephones-cum-computers and passenger jets-cum-cruise missiles;
  • Sustained growth in government bureaucracies: Bureaucracies, like any living organism, have two priorities: (a) sustaining itself and (b) multiplying. Any doubts? Consider when the U.S. Government last disbanded a department of its executive branch.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the global financial system, climate change, public health… the list goes on. Homeland security is either at the edge, or square in the middle, of the major issues facing current and future generations. The challenge is, What now? How do we shape homeland security education, which arguably drives how we see threats and opportunities and whether we have the tools to solve these big questions?

Our panel had the challenge of tackling this large issue in just 60 minutes. So the bad news is we didn’t resolve all the unanswered questions. The good news is that the discussion identified some of the coalescing questions that should drive Homeland Security Version 3.0 including:

  • What are the “tectonic plate challenges” of the next 10-20 years?
  • How do we identify and frame the problems arising from these challenges, so we can focus on the jobs that will need to be done?
  • What are (and will be) the component education pieces of homeland security that will provide tools for interdisciplinary approaches to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs?

Ultimately, I left the conference feeling a bit better about the direction of homeland security in practice and education. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all. And, discounting that the preponderance of the federal Homeland Security apparatus was designed and placed in the Federal Registry less than 18 months after 9/11, our community is progressing pretty well, growing pains and all. With the significant global issues we face, we will do well to get it right.

Image credit: Flickr/ The U.S. Army