Protecting Our Borders: UDM programs and graduates safeguard our borders from threats to homeland security
Terrorism. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “The calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.”
Though terrorism has existed forever, its horror hit home almost six years ago with the tragic and unexpected attacks of September 11, 2001. Recognizing the need for heightened safety awareness, University of Detroit Mercy has delved into the serious area of homeland security. Through the recent efforts of both UDM faculty and alumni, the University is playing a significant role in the efforts to protect our borders from the threat of global terrorism.
Two specific undertakings—UDM’s new master’s programs in Information Assurance and Intelligence Analysis—will be instrumental in this fight. Both programs will help our country’s increasing need for security and, hopefully, put UDM on the national map as a security-education destination. The fear of terrorism will not go away, but thanks to some forward-thinking UDM faculty and a lot of determined students, it’s up against some tough competition.
Created in response to the recommendations of the President’s National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace and the 9/11 Commission Report, these new master’s degree programs are also approved by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security. Though their focuses are different, both courses of study are intended to help the fight against terrorism, a field in need of qualified specialists. Since Detroit is a major border city with an enormous volume of international commercial traffic, our hometown offers a vital and logical locale for homeland security training.
While the Intelligence Analysis program analyzes intelligence data for investigative and counter-terrorism purposes, the Information Assurance program prepares students to protect the country’s computer information infrastructure. Both Intelligence Analysis and Information Assurance are regarded as two of the first academic responses in the United States to the act of terrorism.
In 2004, the NSA designated UDM as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. Because of that designation, the College of Business Administration decided to offer a fully interdisciplinary degree in that subject. Since there are only 75 Centers of Excellence among all the colleges and universities in the United States, only the universities who have been designated are eligible to participate in the instruction for homeland security training and education programs, which the federal government funds. Dan Shoemaker, academic discipline coordinator and director of UDM’s Center for Assurance Studies, who conceived the degree program, is also the designated point of contact for UDM with the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security.
The two-year old Master’s of Science in Information Assurance is designed to produce a comprehensively educated information assurance professional who can engage in the business of protecting the nation’s information infrastructure. It relies on the advanced technology guarding computer networks, and the organizational systems it entails. This may include the design of security schemes and coordination and management functions. Other topics of study include ethical conduct, legal and regulatory compliance, and strategic policy.
While other academic institutions offer information programs taught exclusively by technology experts, UDM’s program is comprehensive, and its success thus far is notable, Shoemaker adds. Interest continues to climb, as do the number of applications. “The cadre of 40 students we currently have on board is extremely elite,” says Shoemaker.
The future of Information Assurance seems solid, according to Shoemaker. “In addition, Information Assurance is ranked as the number one growth area in all of the technology studies by every survey I have seen,” he says. “The general figure for estimated growth of the profession is about 14 percent a year over the next year, which is astronomical, compared to the overall average of three percent for other professions.”
Both the Information Assurance and Intelligence Analysis programs are interdisciplinary and include courses from the colleges of Business Administration, Liberal Arts & Education, and Engineering & Science.
“It’s important to note that, although there is no direct relationship between the study of Intelligence Analysis and Information Assurance, either in focus, or in the body of knowledge, the two do work together to guarantee the total security of an organization,” says Shoemaker.
According to Shoemaker, Intelligence Analysis is essentially oriented towards identifying threats, while Information Assurance is oriented towards structuring defenses to protect information.
“Actually, Intelligence Analysis functions can be imbedded in Information Assurance work, since we do threat identification and assessment,” Shoemaker clarifes. “In that respect the two programs complement each other,” Shoemaker adds. “We encourage our students to take courses in both programs if they can, since Intelligence Analysis provides an important additional knowledge set.”
The Master’s of Intelligence Analysis program is designed to help meet the governmental need for specialists in the area of intelligence analysis to assist in the tasks of homeland security in the face of threats from global terrorism. Here, students are prepared for key professional roles in the various institutions designed to maintain the safety of society: police, government, and private security. Only UDM’s sister institution, Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania, boasts as broad-based an intelligence studies program.
Like the Information Assurance program, Intelligence Analysis is experiencing tremendous interest and development.
According to Erick Barnes, professor of Criminal Justice and director of the Intelligence Analysis program at UDM, “I saw a need for this type of specific program following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Terrorism, or sustained criminal activity as it’s known, occurs when there are gaps in intelligence analysis and people are not trained adequately to examine the information at hand to observe potential subversive activities.”
Before joining the academic world, Barnes trained as a policeman. A former Deputy Police Chief with the Detroit Police Department, Barnes is a member of the National Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety program. He has directed crime mapping operations for the Detroit Police Department and serves as a consultant to police departments in the area of crime mapping.
“The idea for the program grew out of conversations with personnel of the Department of Homeland Security who expressed the need for trained personnel who were prepared to do intelligence analysis,” says Barnes. “Subsequent to that conversation, our alumni in private industry have also sought graduates from our existing programs that were competent to work with intelligence,” says Barnes.
In general, Barnes notes, the feeling was that students needed a broader background in the nature of geo-political conflicts combined with specific knowledge about how to obtain and assess information from a wide variety of sources.
“Police departments and global companies, who train their own personnel, would welcome university-prepared candidates,” says Barnes.
In order to create the Intelligence Analysis curriculum, Barnes and several of his colleagues determined what core classes already existed, and then contacted the FBI, CIA, NSA and the Secret Service.
“Those agencies, in turn, outlined specific attributes that would ultimately constitute perfect intelligence analysis,” Barnes says.
Those necessary sets have been carefully organized and detailed. “The Intelligence Analysis courses have been designed to meet the knowledge, skills, and abilities, also known as KSAs, that have been promulgated by the Department of Homeland Security for those involved in intelligence analysis,” Barnes adds.
There are many levels to the curriculum, according to Barnes. “A key component of course work in Intelligence Analysis is an emphasis on the two ethical issues concerning the use of the information. For example, is the organization that one is assisting—governmental or private—engaged in appropriate activity?,” Barnes explains. “It’s also vital to examine whether the organization is seeking information that can be gained through appropriate methods. Furthermore, is it seeking an honest assessment of that information?”
Today, more than ever, the intelligence of the Government must be protected, Barnes says. “A professional degree in Intelligence Analysis is a critical step for insuring that intelligence analysts understand the possible political misuse for which an analysis can be used, and thus, that they recognize the larger societal constituency to whom they are responsible.”
In addition, the field of intelligence analysis uses “open intelligence” information to provide forecasts of risks and benefits to guide governmental, law enforcement, and private industry decision-making. Barnes says, “These forecasts involve use of available data and news sources to analyze crime patterns, security threats, possible terrorist targets, and other relevant societal trends.”
Upon graduation from the Intelligence Analysis program, students may pursue one of three career tracks. One track involves working for a federal law agency, dealing with the specific concerns unique to that agency on a national level.
The second entails local law enforcement as a sustained crime analyst, gathering data and formulating it into specific useable information. The third enters the private sector, which encompasses private companies, and protecting the assets of those corporations.
The success of the Intelligence Analysis program is already clear, despite its relatively new position on the UDM campus. Only in its second year, the program has seven graduates. In addition, the FBI has placed its own agents in the program for supplemental training. Course topics include national security, counter terrorism, and competitive intelligence.
Intelligence Analysis builds on traditional courses in the areas of Criminal Justice and Security Administration, where the topics of crime foreseeability, threat analysis, crime prevention through environmental design, and offender behavior are central.
Barnes emphasizes the tremendous need for graduates.
“Given that both national agencies and global companies are seeking competent graduates to fill positions in this area, there is currently a lack of supply on both the national and local level,” Barnes says. “At the present, police departments and global companies must train their own personnel for intelligence analysis tasks.”
According to Barnes, “Homeland Security is going to be the government’s biggest employer in the next decade.”
Kelvin Moore, a current student in the program, and William Lyons, a recent graduate, are equally enthusiastic about their prospects.
Moore is interning with General Motors, while Lyons is employed by the Detroit Public Schools. Both men emphasize the need to disseminate information and utilize critical thinking as a key part of intelligence analysis training.
According to Moore, “Learning to interpret and utilize data correctly is one of the biggest challenges.”
It is also important to change one’s mindset in order to succeed, both say.
“One of the points of the program was learning to think like a terrorist or a criminal. In order to more effectively curtail their activities, we cannot think like a typical American citizen,” Moore says. “We can’t try to be logical when it comes to terrorism.”