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Back to Archives | Back to October 2003 Contents 

ODP Seeks Homeland Security Executives for New Graduate Degree Program

By Lois Pilant, President and Chief Executive Officer, Wings Publishing, La Verne, California

As part of its program to ensure that the nation's first responders are well prepared to deal with the threat of terrorist activity, the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) of the Department of Homeland Security is supporting a new Homeland Security Leadership Development program at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), the prestigious military university in Monterey, California. The concept was developed by NPS Associate Provost Paul Stockton, who brought the idea to ODP. With ODP funding, the recently opened Center for Homeland Defense and Security and its Homeland Security Leadership Development program are designed to sharpen the leadership skills of homeland security executives.

ODP and NPS have made the commitment to help public safety practitioners and military personnel increase their knowledge and expand their vision of what it takes to provide homeland protection and defense. ODP foots the bill for homeland security executives selected for the program, including transportation to and from the school, as well as books, tuition, and in-residence per diem. The program is especially challenging because it is compressed into 18 months, whereas most postgraduate programs take at least 24 months to complete.

Unique Master's Degree Program

The new program's first class comprises 14 professionals from departments of homeland security around the country as well as law enforcement, fire, emergency management, public health, and several branches of the military. They are an elite group. All have experience in security planning and operations-from such events as the Atlanta and Utah Olympics, the World Trade Center bombing in New York City, and the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, to name just a few. In the ODP training they are receiving in-depth preparation and education about the intricacies of developing a homeland security strategy in their home towns and states.

The graduate students will complete an intense 18 months of schooling that includes two weeks in residence every quarter. They will complete the remainder of their work online. They will leave with a master's degree in homeland security. More important, they will emerge as the policy makers of the future.

"Most of our students come to us with a great deal of experience, but it is largely centered in their own agency," said Colonel John "Duck" Mosbey (retired), the center's chief of staff. "They are learning that homeland security requires a unique blending of agencies which probably have separate funding streams. They'll have to understand the interplay of the different stakeholders, their motivations, and how the policies of different agencies work together and affect each other. They'll learn how to formulate and implement policy, and about the very complicated and intricate 'Kabuki' dance that takes place between federal agencies and local and state agencies. These complexities alone will explain why a policy can be clear at the federal level but not translate effectively at the state or local level.

"They will learn about technology and its elements, and about gathering and using intelligence. We're used to intelligence coming from above, but most of the information we need is going to come from the bottom up. We are going to have to create a model that lets us blend and merge our sources so we can sort, rack, and stack intelligence into information that has a national or transnational influence or that is purely local or regional. Our students are the ones who will create those models. They are going to be the leaders and policy makers of the future. If we haven't trained them to do that, then we've failed," Mosbey said.

The environment is one of an interagency meeting where students, formally and informally, learn the concepts, theories, and models applicable to homeland security. "We are educating a new generation of leaders at the state and local level who are comfortable with the new homeland security environment," said Chris Bellavita, Ph.D., a faculty member at the center. "Homeland security is not a command-and-control environment. These students are learning how to coordinate, work collaboratively with different levels and disciplines. They will learn to develop coalitions and organizational structures that don't get in the way of collaboration. They're learning how to build consensus and how to think vertically and horizontally. We're not inventing anything here. We're identifying what works in the world and applying it to homeland security."

They are also learning about world politics and governments, and how each handles terrorism. They are studying the different types of terrorists and terrorism. They are learning about the layers of infrastructure, including water, power, transportation, information technology, and finance. They are discovering methods and models that will help them determine the "critical nodes" and interdependencies of the infrastructure in their own localities. They are studying asymmetrical warfare and how civilian and military authority overlap and interplay.

NPS instructors also have created a virtual city. Named San Luis Rey, it has a wealth of targets: 2.1 million people, a deepwater port, an international airport, a nuclear power plant, railroads, a natural gas pipeline. Students apply their knowledge to problems and incidents in San Luis Rey.

Not Like Anything Before

The course has been called by its students, who are currently in their second quarter, "intense," "interesting," "challenging," "demanding," and "not for the faint of heart." But they also characterize the program as an opportunity they couldn't turn down.

"They don't get cut any breaks because they have full time jobs," Mosbey said. "These people are working 50- to 60-hour weeks. They are in mid- to upper-level management and many of them are high profile. They are valuable people in their organizations. Their agencies cannot give them up for 18 months to go to school. Their in-residence time is physically and psychologically exhausting because they are dealing with new ideas, theories, and conceptual issues, and they're in class eight hours a day. When they leave here they're writing papers that are the cutting-edge perspective of homeland security and what is going on in the world."

Yet none of the students complain. They estimate that school work takes 20 hours or more each week. They say the research is exhaustive, the reading extensive, and the writing complex and demanding. But they also say they feel lucky to have been given this opportunity.

"It has far exceeded my expectations," said Charley English, director of operations for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. "And my expectations were high. It has changed my view and opened up a lot of perspective for me in dealing with the agencies we call on in times of disaster. It lets us draw on some of the best minds and from different perspectives and gives us the opportunity to say this would or wouldn't work in my state, or we hadn't thought about it that way."

"It's harder than I thought it would be," said New York Police Department Deputy Inspector Christopher Hetherington, the homeland security liaison to the New York Office of Emergency Management. "I went to law school for four years at night. I know what it's like to do postgraduate work. This is not an honorary degree, I can tell you that. They have high standards. But we have a good mix of people. We have policy planners who are teaching us a lot about thinking in terms of strategy and policy. I'm one of those with a background in operations, and hopefully we're teaching [policy makers] about what happens when they come up with a policy and how we have to put it in play. I don't need a master's degree, but after what happened here in New York City I feel a compulsion to learn as much as I can about homeland security and the enemy we face and how best to deal with the situation. I think we're getting that."

The program's content is designed to be immediately applicable. New York City Fire Department Captain Vinnie Doherty, who has spent the last seven years doing WMD planning, proposed the idea for an exercise design team to help participants get more out of drills. Supervisors approved the idea immediately. Captain Tom Richardson of the Seattle Fire Department took the methods he learned in a class on critical infrastructure and discovered that what many believed were critical nodes in the infrastructure weren't so critical after all. "In Washington our first instinct is to look at the dams and see those as probable targets. But this class has broadened my perspective in ways I hadn't imagined and provided insight into the design of systems and how to protect them in ways I couldn't even fathom. We now know that there are other areas that may be more vulnerable. We are realizing where to spend our money, and that it might not be on things that seem obvious."

"This course is very contemporary and very theoretical," added Commissioner Robert L. Flowers, head of the Utah Department of Public Safety. "I'm finding that the theory is very applicable. "If you just do the academic work and nothing else, you're not going to get the full benefit of the program. We're doing work with intelligence issues and doing an analysis of our own area based on things I've learned. I think it's moved our effort along much faster and in a more effective direction."

Bill Kelly, a visiting scientist at ODP, says the homeland security educational program meets the needs that ODP's work has been identifying since 1998-that of helping state and local agencies prepare for WMD or terrorist incidents.

"What we saw was a big gap in training existing executives and rising executives in the kinds of skills they were going to need," Kelly said. "We found other gaps, but this was probably the most significant. At the time we didn't know how to deal with it. But Paul Stockton did. He had the resources already existing at NPS. He started with the idea of a master's program and took some courses he already had and tailored them to homeland security. We brought the program up to speed very quickly and in fact are still working on some of the curriculum."

ODP is currently accepting applications for the course. Kelley said he expects about 40 new students to start in the fall and another 40 to start in January. He admits that the application process is "onerous"-essays, college transcripts, reference letters, and approval by the student's employer, among other items. The most important qualification, though, is that applicants demonstrate, primarily through written essays, that they have experience synthesizing and applying knowledge.

Who Should Apply?

Professor Bellavita offered the following profile of the perfect student:

  • Someone who is already in a public safety discipline, in mid- to high-level management
  • Someone who can see how his or her organization would be better if only (fill in the blank)
  • Someone who can see how area agencies can work together more effectively
  • Someone who is dissatisfied with "what is," who is unhappy in the flock
  • Someone who communicates effectively, preferably in writing
  • Someone who is inquisitive, who knows how to read and think critically
  • Someone who has been on the losing end of an organizational battle and can figure out why they lost
  • Someone who has been on the winning end of an organizational battle and understands that as well

"We're appealing to a new breed of leader," Bellavita said. "People who are able to be successful but who also try to figure out why something might not have worked out the way they planned. They demand relevant information that is grounded in empirical research. It's a new leader-an interactive, effective practitioner who thinks and acts reflectively."

To learn more about the program or to apply, visit

.cfm, or write to Andy Mitchell or Darrell Darnell at the Office for Domestic Preparedness, NPS MA Admissions Committee, 810 Seventh Street NW, Washington, DC 20531, or at

ODP Homeland Security Leadership Development Program

Naval Postgraduate School

Monterey, California

The Right Stuff

Do you have career experience in one or more of the following emergency response disciplines?

  • Emergency management
  • Emergency medical services
  • Fire service
  • Government administration (appointed nonelected officials responsible for public administration of community health and welfare during an incident)
  • Hazardous materials
  • Health care
  • Law enforcement
  • Public health
  • Public safety communications
  • Public works
  • Coast Guard

Does your current career position directly relate to homeland defense and security or public safety?

Are you currently employed by a federal, state, or local emergency response or public safety agency, or in an appointed, nonelected government position with emergency response or public safety responsibilities?

Do you have an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university?

Did you graduate with a minimum 3.0 grade point average for all undergraduate coursework attempted?

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to participate in the program?
Federal and government employees with career experience in emergency response and public safety disciplines. No other categories of students may be admitted at this time.

What is required to complete the program?
The program is rigorous and extensive. It involves a significant commitment of time and energy on the part of the participants and the agencies to which they are assigned. The courses are organized into quarters, each of which requires two weeks in residence at the NPS campus in Monterey, California. The remainder of the coursework is completed using distance-learning methods. It is expected that the participant will spend an average of 15 hours per week reading assigned materials, responding to discussions with faculty and other participants, and formulating papers and projects. As the participant moves from quarter to quarter, the in-residence periods become more intensive and the coursework begins to focus on the research project, which will become the participant's thesis. This thesis is a major qualitative or quantitative research project on a topic beneficial to the participant's sponsoring agency and jurisdiction.

How do I obtain an application?
The application may be downloaded from the Homeland Security Leadership Development Web site at after completing a series of qualifying questions.

What should I include in the application?
Applicants must construct a dossier, which includes transcripts of undergraduate coursework and degree(s), self-assessment, portfolio of background and experience, and recommendations and endorsements from appropriate officials. This process is intended to ensure admission only of those whose background, credentials, and sponsorship suggest success in this challenging and rigorous endeavor.

What does the admissions committee consider in selecting applicants?

  • Academic credentials and potential for success in graduate study
  • Experience portfolio
  • Future contributions to the discipline, as expressed in the self-evaluation
  • Communication skills, as reflected in all written materials
  • Recommendations and commitment of support

Who pays for the cost of the program?
ODP pays all tuition, books, travel, and residential support during the two weeks at NPS, as long as the participant is making acceptable progress. The participant's agency or organization will continue to be responsible for salary, benefits, and related support. Computer equipment to facilitate study and research will be provided by ODP. U.S. military officers will have all tuition costs and other costs associated with enrollment paid by the sponsoring organization, in accordance with the applicable regulations.

Are government contractors, students, or private citizens eligible to participate in this program?
No, at this time only employees of federal, state, or local governments and U.S. military officers (all services, active and reserve components) are eligible.


From The Police Chief, vol. 70, no. 10, October 2003. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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