Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fostering a "Homeland Security" Culture

(Excerpted from "Reyes the Rainmaker," a three-part series on Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tx) and his role in promoting military, homeland security, and intelligence operations in the the El Paso area. For the entire article, see: ) Working in close coordination with CDSR is UTEP’s new National Center for Border Security and Immigration, which was created in 2008 by a $6-million grant from DHS. The University of Arizona is UTEP’s partner in the new homeland security research center. NCBSI was launched at UTEP’s 2005 Border Security Conference. NCBSI aims to: “Stimulate, coordinate, leverage, and utilize the unique intellectual capital in the academic community to address current and future homeland security challenges, and educate and inspire the next generation homeland security workforce.” Additionally, the DHS-sponsored and financed center will “foster a homeland security culture within the academic community through research and educational programs.” NCBSI , according to DHS, is “developing technologies, tools, and advanced methods to balance immigration and commerce with effective border security, as well as assess threats and vulnerabilities, improve surveillance and screening, analyze immigration trends, and enhance policy and law enforcement efforts.” Even before the March 2003 opening of the DHS plans were underway to involve universities in homeland security. Congress, as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, authorized the new department to “designate a university-based system for several university-based centers for homeland security.” Today, there is a network of universities that receives DHS funding to collaborate with the government to, as the act stipulated, “enhance the Nation’s homeland security.” It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement, with universities benefiting from large grants from a rapidly expanding part of the federal government and with the government benefiting from the sponsored research of hundreds of university scholars. The new DHS-academy condominium includes an expanding national network of “centers of excellence.” Today, there are 13 DHS university-based centers of excellence. Through DHS’s Science & Technology Directorate and the department’s Office of University Programs, DHS aims “to leverage the independent thinking and ground-breaking capabilities of the Nation's colleges and universities” with its centers of excellence. The newest DHS university research institute is the Center of Excellence in Command, Control and Interoperability (C2I), which is led by Purdue University and Rutgers University. According to DHS, this center will “create the scientific basis and enduring technologies needed to analyze massive amounts of information from multiple sources to more reliably detect threats to the security of the nation and its infrastructures, and to the health and welfare of its populace.” There has been no overall evaluation of how this DHS-academy cooperative venture -– now six years old -– has contributed to improving homeland security. Since the creation of DHS there have been rising questions and concerns by DHS’ own inspector general and by congressional oversight committees about departmental operations, including issues of waste, over-reliance on private contractors, and widespread abuses and excesses in immigration enforcement and border control. Given the failures and controversies surrounding the department’s Secure Border Initiative -– including the border fence and high-tech surveillance systems (“virtual fence”) -– there is good cause to question the involvement of universities in the support and development of DHS border security infrastructure and strategies. The huge sums of DHS funds flowing to private contractors such as Boeing also raise questions about the degree to which research and education about border issues is shaped by monetary incentives. Also located at UTEP is another government-funded center of excellence -– focusing on intelligence. It’s the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence, which is one of a network of university centers funded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Backed by a multimillion dollar grant from the Director of National Intelligence, this center of academic excellence aims to “build a workforce prepared for 21st Century challenges” and to “broaden the base of diverse talent pools to achieve Intelligence Community mission effectiveness.”

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