Academic programs in homeland security make gains, report states

Homeland security as an academic discipline is gaining recognition, according to a new report by two government security experts.

“While this field is experiencing many of the growing pains that accompany any new venture, there are positive activities occurring that suggest a future discipline capable of helping shape and significantly add to the homeland security environment,” said John Rollins, a specialist in national security at the Congressional Research Service, and Joseph Rowan, senior technical adviser for intelligence systems and architectures to the Marine Corps’ director of intelligence.

The report, “The Homeland Security Academic Environment: A Review of Current Activities and Issues for Consideration,” was commissioned by the Homeland Security and Defense Education Consortium, a network of teaching and research institutions. It was founded by North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command in collaboration with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the University of Denver and the Naval Postgraduate School.

According to their report, the researchers found that 227 schools offer degree or certificate programs in homeland security, comprising about 1,800 courses. Many of these programs have been established since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the report states.

In an effort to attract federal funding, recruit new students and prepare graduates for careers in the expanding field of homeland security, universities are augmenting existing courses and launching new programs around security, defense and terrorism-related issues, Rollins and Rowan said.

However, the programs still lack standard coursework or core teaching areas, the researchers concluded.

“At this stage of the homeland security academic maturation process, it appears programs and accompanying courses will provide dissimilar and inconsistent learning opportunities for the foreseeable future,” they said.

“Before there is agreement and recognition of homeland security as an academic undertaking, there needs to be acceptance and understanding of the discipline as a profession,” Rollins and Rowan said.

Student interest in homeland security programs is increasing; collaboration among academic institutions is becoming more frequent; student recruitment and retention numbers in the field are rising; and the first homeland security graduates have recently entered or returned to the workforce, they said.

As more federal employees retire in the next decade — which will affect the homeland and national security communities — it is now more important than ever that new graduates with expertise in homeland security be available to take their places, the researchers said.

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