Cathy Lanier had to think like a terrorist and come up with a way to kill a few
thousand people at a picnic in San Luis Rey. The virtual town in California, repeatedly
cursed with smallpox epidemics, explosions and attacks on its nuclear power plant,
is part of her new education: The commander of special operations for D.C. police
is earning a master's degree in the fast-growing field of homeland security.
Schools across the country are catering to such students as Lanier by revamping
curricula and research as they try to keep pace with the changes brought on
by the 2001 terrorist attacks and take advantage of a large pool of homeland
security money. At hundreds of schools, Sept. 11 is influencing how many topics
are taught -- from medicine to firefighting to politics to computer networking.
The changes are driven by legislation and policy, interest from students and
faculty, demands from employers, a sense of mission -- and money.
The federal government has pumped cash into this new fight, spending more than
$12 billion for homeland security research and development over the past four
budget years. "Homeland security is probably going to be the government's
biggest employer in the next decade," said Steven R. David, who directs
the homeland security certificate program at Johns Hopkins University.
"This is all brand-new ground," Lanier, 37, said.
A partner for the government
Just as it did during World War II and the Cold War, the government is turning
to academia as a partner in defending the country and understanding the enemy.
At universities, there are graduate-level classes full of police officers, intelligence
analysts and public health experts dwelling on worst-case scenarios, picking
apart the cultures of terrorist groups and planning defenses.
Researchers are creating models of explosives and studying germs. And such
workers as flight attendants, nurses and lab technicians, whose jobs have been
transformed by a variety of threats, are getting hands-on training.
"It's growing by leaps and bounds," said Stanley Supinski, chairman
of the Homeland Security/Defense Education Consortium, which was established
by two military commands within the Department of Defense, along with two universities
in Colorado and the Naval Postgraduate School.
About 80 percent of community colleges offer courses related to homeland security,
according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Some, such as Northern
Virginia Community College, offer certificates.
Employers often hire people studying computer network security before the students
have even finished the classes, said NVCC President Robert G. Templin Jr.
Four-year colleges have added courses for undergraduates in fields all but unheard
of just a few years ago -- about the Taliban and cybersecurity, for example.
Some offer degree programs; Virginia Commonwealth University hopes to have students
studying for bachelor's degrees in homeland security this fall.
Several schools are considering establishing master's degree programs. More
common are the certificates offered at such universities as Georgetown, Johns
Hopkins and George Washington that allow students earning master's degrees to
specialize in homeland security. Georgetown students can take a class on al
Qaeda from the former head of the Bin Laden unit of the CIA.
'This is our generation's war'
"There is a larger, compelling calling here," said Frank Cilluffo,
director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at GWU. "This is our
generation's war -- it's not going away."
This year's federal budget includes more than $4 billion for homeland security
research and development. From the Department of Homeland Security, $64 million
goes directly to university programs, including major research centers, scholarships
Much of the funding so far has gone to immediate practical needs rather than
long-term research, some analysts said. And the rapid increases seem to be slowing,
said Kei Koizumi of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"It's no longer a blank check, where homeland security programs can get
20 percent increases each year."
Still, there is no question that there is an influx of money for homeland security
studies, said Peter Stearns, provost of George Mason University, where students
can earn a doctorate in biodefense.
Biodefense research is one area that is growing especially quickly: Funding
from the National Institutes of Health grew thirtyfold from 2001 to 2005.
The Department of Homeland Security has created four national research centers
to study food safety, threats to animal agriculture, the risk and economic analysis
of terrorist events, and -- in an effort led by University of Maryland with
a three-year, $12 million grant for researchers from multiple universities --
why people become terrorists.
The agency plans three more centers, including one to study "high-consequence
event preparedness and response." Michael Greenberger, the director of
the U-Md. Center for Health and Homeland Security, is hoping a bid from his
group of 25 universities will be chosen.
Schools also get money indirectly, through homeland security grants to state
and local governments for training and education. "The entire grant program
is just a staggering amount of money," said William Kelley, of Homeland
Security's Office for Domestic Preparedness. And private employers are demanding
people with new expertise.
'There's no quality control'
As the field mushrooms, it has had its share of glitches.
Next month, Supinski's group will meet to talk about setting standards for
the field. He keeps seeing an ad in the paper: " 'Become a refrigerator
mechanic, a paralegal and a homeland security expert!' People are jumping on
this bandwagon," he said, "because students want this, and there's
no quality control."
Some question the way the money is spent. Last month, the Center for Public
Integrity questioned a homeland security contract for a small college in the
home town of former secretary Tom Ridge. Some universities avoid federal funding
for some graduate studies to ensure academic freedom.
The Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School
in Monterey, Calif., is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, which
pays the $42,000, 18-month tuition and expenses, plus travel every few months
to class, for such students as Lanier. "We take rising stars in homeland
security," said director Paul N. Stockton-- people from the Coast Guard,
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CIA, the FBI -- and teach
them to design security strategies.
In class, Lanier said, she sits next to the man who was the first fire incident
commander at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Much of the work is done online, as students juggle the immediate demands of
work at home with the need to look ahead. Sometimes Lanier has to cut class
-- she was responsible for security at the Washington Nationals' home opener,
when crowds choked roads and Metro stations. So she took the red-eye back to
Washington, put off her thesis for another day and went to work.
She has read the 9/11 commission report, learned about budgeting, technology
and civil liberties. She's studied the psychology of fear and terrorism. And
she's learned about such critical links as banking, transportation, water and
power supplies, down to the details of how fuel travels through pipelines and
how power grids work.
Then she pinpointed where the weaknesses are in Washington.
"It's very intense," she said. She used to think just about police
response. Now she thinks about prevention. Now she thinks like a terrorist.