Thursday, January 9, 2003
The Terror War has gone academic. In the first program of its kind, Monterey''s Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) now offers a master''s degree in Homeland Defense, even though the definition of the term is nebulous and no textbooks exist in such a discipline.
In order to learn how to defend against and react to terrorism within the U.S., the first students-14 civilian safety officials and military officers-will wade their way through the nightmare scenarios of a grim tomorrow: Jetliners hijacked to spread smallpox, agricultural sabotage, gas-masked soldiers patrolling city streets.
Under a sponsorship from the Justice Department''s Office of Defense Preparedness-one of 22 agencies to be folded into the Department of Homeland Security-NPS will take advantage of its vast experience and resources studying war, conflict, government and bureaucracy, and apply it to the war at home.
NPS applied to the Justice Department to run the 18-month program. It has a start-up cost of $2 million and has the funding to run at about $1 million a month for the next 16 months.
A second session beginning in September expects to enroll 60 students. Students, each issued a laptop computer, baseball hat and golf shirt with program insignia, spend limited time at NPS. The bulk of the lessons are taught online.
Although all students are government employees, that soon may change. NPS-which calls itself a "corporate university" for the Defense Department -already reaches out to the private sector by inviting corporate leaders to speak at its Center for Executive Education.
NPS spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joe Navratil says that while law currently precludes students from defense manufacturers like General Electric or Lockheed Martin, "Certainly that''s an element of homeland security we''d look at in the future."
To kick off the program, a Monday morning ceremony began in Hermann Hall with full color guard honors and a prayer led by a Navy chaplain. He prayed the government would be able to operate with "cooperation across agency lines" so that "terrorism may wither and be defeated" and "that freedom and justice will prevail."
For the event, NPS gathered Rep. Sam Farr, a crew of Justice Deptartment officials, admirals, academics and a repre- sentative from Northern Command, an entirely new post-Sept. 11 Pentagon entity responsible for military operations in North America.
Gov. Tom Ridge, Secretary for Homeland Security, was invited but did not attend.
The new master''s degree program is run through the Center for Homeland Defense & Security. Its motto is "Devel-oping Leaders for a Secure America."
The task of defending America from internal terrorism is daunting not only for the unpredictable nature of the threat, but maddening layers of government, conflicting jurisdictions and unclear lines of authority. One main purpose of the program will be to sort out and define what exactly Homeland Security means, now especially that the military is heavily involved.
As Rep. Farr said in his remarks, referring to old separations of power that have now been blurred, "We have to break a lot of these barriers that have been established in our society."
To iron out tangled lines, NPS''s Center for Homeland Defense & Security has brought on a distance learning outfit called Telelogic Learning. It has created a fictional online American city called San Luis Rey, disturbingly similar to an outsized Monterey. San Luis Rey has everything that makes an American city vulnerable to terrorism: It''s a port town with heavy industry, pipelines running through residential areas, electric power nodes, bridges, dams, a nearby Air Force base and so on. It has 657,000 people and straddles two states and counties, making jurisdictions messy.
Philip Palin, head of Telelogic, demonstrated the program. It has students rate potential targets, such as courthouse, for terror value. In one online scenario, cyber-terrorists hack public utility networks to trigger a release of a nearby dam, flooding the city. The lesson begins with an emergency broadcast of the type in place for decades but not activated on Sept. 11, 2001.
Part of the curriculum is to "control data," Palin says. Asked if students will be taught how to inform the public in the event of pending disaster he says the Centers for Disease Control have procedures.
"They will be introduced to those guidelines," Palin says.