UCCS program leading way in homeland security

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Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, national security has become a focus of both business and government, but only one university in the United States has a homeland security doctoral program — The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

The Center of Homeland Security, one of four that are part of the National Institute of Science, Space and Security Centers, developed the program in partnership with U.S. Northern Command and the Naval Postgraduate School.

“It’s the only federally funded Ph.D. program in the nation,” said Dr. Steve Recca, director of the center. “It’s combined with our newest effort — helping Iraq war veterans find jobs in the homeland security fields when they return from their deployment.”

The program’s primary purpose is to “seed” the security field with professionals “who can come up with solutions to solve security problems.”

The center has a certificate program within the UCCS School of Public Policy. Graduate students enrolled in public administration master’s degree programs also can earn the certificate.

Homeland security is one of the most vital topics of the day, Recca said. And the center hopes to create graduates who can develop solutions to solve long-term problems.

“We have to get this right,” he said. “It’s incredibly important.”

The Ph.D. program is funded through the Department of Defense. Recca said students have already applied to the program, which will start next fall. The only delay, he said, is getting the money, which has been allocated from the DoD.

“The program focuses on policy aspects,” he said. “It views security from the national level, which is an umbrella for the rest of the nation. But it also looks at other security issues — like Hurricane Katrina. So, we’re really talking about coming up with solutions on a number of fronts.”

The Ph.D. effort is just one program in which UCCS is working with the military to create new jobs — and new expertise. The university began offering classes to Air Force officers who are stationed in Colorado Springs. The five classes — which can be applied toward the master’s program as well as the Ph.D. program — provide the technical expertise necessary for military and civilian leaders.

“The collaboration is unique,” said Dr. Houston Polson, chief of the joint education branch and chairman of the Homeland Security/Defense Education Consortium. “There aren’t any other 100 percent federally funded programs in homeland security or homeland defense.”

The program arose from the military response after Sept. 11. The military wanted to train people who can “research and understand the concepts,” Polson said.

“Then those people are able to translate the concepts at an operational or technical level,” he said. “For instance, they can take the research and apply it so first responders, military personnel can apply and understand it. We needed people who could do the research and make practical application of it. That will translate into those people doing their job better.”

As a civilian contractor for NORAD and Northern Command, Polson said the departments are among the first line of defense during national emergencies. The program will train mid-level military officers to understand homeland security issues.

“Then when they come back to NorthCom as senior leaders, they’ll already have the training they need,” he said. “We’re involved in asymmetric warfare — things we haven’t done before — so we recognize the need to provide that training.”