HomeFeaturesDailyBriefingsRapidReconSpecial ReportsAbout Us

Creating the Future of Homeland Security Through Partnering and Education

Last week more than 500 people from government, academia and the policy sector came together at the Second DHS University Network Summit to discuss what Jay Cohen, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology directorate, recognizes as the need to educate a new group of scientists and business managers who are educated to create the products, methods and systems to more effectively defend the homeland.

During this conference, such topics as explosives detection, event modeling, port security, border protection, biometrics and terrorism research were covered. Since 2002, a number of universities have created programs to develop curricula in the fields of homeland security. Some focus (or focused) on regional requirements while others looked at training and degree or certification programs. DHS also “encouraged universities and colleges to explore funding, research and other opportunities within vast consortia of schools linked by region as well as by area of activity.” The key, of course, is the funding of these programs. I’m familiar personally with at least one program that was pretty much abandoned because it didn’t become self-supporting within three years. Another program simply didn’t come together because of difficulties in gaining cooperation between the participants that included a local university and that area’s department of public safety.

Diana Beecher, chief technology officer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said:

”We have taken ideas from universities and turned them into real-life technologies. Both parties need to be cooperative. We cannot sacrifice our business practices [and] universities cannot sacrifice open inquiry. The needs of everybody at the table need to be clearly understood and addressed."

The social sciences aspects of achieving this public-private partnership cannot be understated. The problems are not unlike those experienced in the field of technology transfer. The director of one successful effort (even at its early stage), Warren Edwards of the Southeast Region Research Initiative (SERRI) that is managed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory stated that:

”the nature of homeland security projects requires schools to link with other schools, national laboratories or private companies to maximize their research and development capabilities.

The importance of creating these public-private partnerships was discussed almost a year ago in When Disaster Strikes - The Importance of Public-Private Partnerships. Among those already created, and discussed at the conference, were:

CREATE (the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events), led by the University of Southern California.

PACER (the National Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response), led by Michigan State University and established jointly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

• The National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD), led by Texas A&M University.

START (the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism), led by the University of Maryland.

However, creating these consortia and gaining the level of cooperation is a lot easier said then done. While it is absolutely necessary for the pipeline of skilled and trained professionals and a supply of technologies be created, it is interesting that industry was apparently not included in the program. From experience, universities are a great place to do research, but not necessarily the likely place to commercialize the results of that research. DHS, of course, knows the importance of industry in the process of defending the Nation from terrorism.