The evolving nature of the threats facing the nation in the 21st century means that homeland security professionals are “vital to the survival and security of U.S. commerce, infrastructure and our citizens,” said U.S. Army (Ret.) Lt. Col. Scott Caldwell, a Florida Institute of Technology adjunct professor.

As a result, careers with the various agencies of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “are really in great demand,” Caldwell said during a recent webinar on Homeland Security titled New Careers to Meet New Threats.

Caldwell’s co-presenter was Jim Reynolds, Academic Program Chair for Criminal Justice and Homeland Security at Florida Tech, and former Deputy Chief of Police in Melbourne, Florida.

Reynolds discussed Florida Tech’s Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Homeland Security program, which is offered 100% online.

“The idea is to get a well-rounded education in criminal justice and homeland security issues because a lot of people like to have the flexibility that a program like this allows,” he said.

(Editor’s note: The transcript of this webinar has been edited for length and clarity.)

About Scott Caldwell, Army Veteran and Florida Tech Instructor

[Scott Caldwell]: I’m currently teaching the Global Perspectives elective, and also we do a terrorism course and we talk about a lot of these subjects in our discussions. And the comments and feedback from the students are the best part of the course because it’s really talking about relevant things that are happening today. Most of the students are already involved in some kind of Homeland Security-related career or on the verge of making a decision, so we do have some great chatter in there, and I’m looking forward to sharing some of my thoughts and opinions about what’s going on and hearing from you as well.

Just a little bit about me. I’m a 30-year military retiree – I retired in 2011. I had the opportunity to do a lot of different things during my career, including being a UH-60 pilot for about five or six years. But the most interesting facet of my career was that for the last 12 years I was an Army civil affairs officer. Oddly enough, I was a Latin American specialist. However, most of my service working as a civil affairs officer was in the Middle East, of course, due to the circumstances that have been going on since 9/11. An Army civil affairs officer is really a liaison between the military and civil government whenever we would deploy or go somewhere, so I really liked that kind of work.

I’ve been in all the fun places. A lot of you remember Desert Shield, Desert Storm back in ’90, and, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan. I was the Chief of Civil-Military Coordination at the NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. I also was serving as a Disaster Response Advisor in a small capacity with the Afghan government as they were trying to build up their disaster response and mitigation: they have a lot of floods and earthquakes and things there. So I kind of got my hand into a little bit of DHS/emergency management-type work.

I spent an interesting time at the NATO headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany, for three years, traveling around Europe as an evaluator. Really enjoyed the interaction. As a civil affairs guy, nothing’s better than being able to travel and meet different people in different countries and some of that will come out this evening. I think it flavors kind of who I am and some things that I offer in the courses that I teach here.

I’ve been an adjunct professor now since about 2006. I did some work at Darton State College for a while. I’ve been with Florida Tech now since 2009. I was a professor of military science there, responsible for the senior ROTC program and then started teaching some of these courses. I really enjoy it.

Careers in Homeland Security in Demand

A few things to keep in mind as we go through this. My personal opinions, my views from the things I’ve read and what I believe, is that careers in Homeland Security agencies are really in great demand. They’re so much more important now than they have been in the past, as you’ll see in the next few minutes as we talk about these things. The nature of the threat here in America has changed since 9/11, and it’s evolving at a really alarming pace. It’s only going to be resolved and solved by people who are working in the DHS-related careers, from first responders all the way up to people who work in the three-letter organizations. It’s really going to be you who are going to make the difference, and I think some of that will come out tonight during this discussion. We really need trained, educated professionals who are willing to put themselves up and keep us safe here.

Is the War on Terror Really Over?

So, that being said, probably the big question that many people are asking themselves now as they’re tuning into their media, their newspapers, their televisions, is are we there yet? Is the War on Terror really over? Media interest for the War on Terror continues to fade. From our televisions, our newspapers, our uniformed heroes find their stories are disappearing from public view.

Although we’ve had a slight surge in our U.S. military presence in Iraq in some advisory roles, for the most part our presence in Iraq is all but gone. Troop levels in Afghanistan continue to be reduced with the final goal of withdrawing all our troops by 2016. Guantanamo Bay is rarely mentioned these days. Probably the most recent thing that actually came out of there was the release of five detainees who were there who were exchanged for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who you remember disappeared under some suspicious circumstances in Afghanistan some five years ago.

With more than 50 foreign terror attacks thwarted since 9/11, only a few have been successful, people are asking themselves, is the War on Terror really over? Have we weathered the storm? Are we secure for the foreseeable future? Has DHS served its purpose? The Army is drawing down now. We haven’t had a drawdown of this size probably since I first came in the military, probably after Desert Storm in the late ’90s. Unfortunately, the questions are probably clearer than the answers.

A Simpler Time: 1979-2001

Let’s take a look back in time to help us gain a little bit of perspective; to a time when the War on Terror was a bit simpler. During 22 years between 1979 and 2001, there were more than 20 attacks conducted against U.S. citizens, against infrastructure and other interests by Islamic militant organizations, including Al Qaeda and some other affiliated groups. Organizations that were based on foreign soil. We knew who they were; the targets were quite predictable; the action was in someone else’s backyard. That’s kind of a nice way to have it. I think we learned from World War I and from World War II that if you’ve got to fight battles to protect your home country, you certainly don’t want to do it in your front yard. You want to do it somewhere else. And any of you that have taken an interest in history, and have taken a look at pictures and photos and movies and things from World War I and World War II in Europe, you know the devastation that that kind of war can bring.

That was how things were during that time period. 9/11 changed everything; changed all aspects of the fight. And we’ve had another major change even in the last few years since then.

Enemy from Within

As I said, the threat now in the U.S. is more complex and diverse than ever before. The enemy is us – it’s your coworker; it’s your next-door neighbor. It’s a U.S. citizen, unfortunately. More than 60 terror attacks, both successful and foiled, between 9/11 to 2013 involved 154 perpetrators. Of those 154, 77 were U.S. citizens, and the remainder of those perpetrators came from more than 25 different countries. I want to throw out some of these countries’ names because they’re places you wouldn’t normally expect we would receive a terrorist attack from: 33 from the United Kingdom; Albania; Haiti; Kosovo; Guyana; Bangladesh; Jordan, one of our few bastions of U.S. friendliness and partnership in the Middle East; Kuwait; Turkey; Russia; Trinidad; Tunisia. Some very strange places that you wouldn’t normally see in the past attacks coming from. Al Qaeda’s war against the West inspired a lot of new, unaffiliated terror groups and even individuals … that you’re seeing now. People who watch the news, they watch the fight going on. Perhaps they’re from the country where the activity is taking place, they become emotional, they become radicalized about it, and they’re leaving their home countries and they’re going off somewhere to fight as terrorists. And, of course, the potential there is what did they learn, what were they told and how did they come out afterwards. And what did they do when they come home, when we allow them to come home.

Homegrown Violent Extremist

The new term now is HVE: homegrown violent extremist. Recent ones include: the Boston bombers; Timothy McVeigh, a former Army soldier involved in the Oklahoma City bombing; Maj. Hasan, another Army guy who popped up, conducted the attacks at Fort Hood; Faisal Shahzad, who parked his SUV in Times Square. The disturbing thing about all these guys is that none of these guys had criminal records before they conducted their attacks. These are U.S. citizens or legal aliens, residents of the U.S. with no past background or history of criminal activity and certainly not terror activity. How do you predict that? How do you monitor that? How do you stop that attack before it happens? Well, that’s the nature of the threat that we’re facing now. It’s extremely difficult to stop.

Colander of Coastline

One of my concerns, and the reason why I went this way as part of the presentation, is it’s a big country. And in the past, it’s been the large oceans that we have on both sides of us that have really protected us and been able to keep us isolated from World War I, World War II, Korea. It’s been our protection. We’ve got more than 7,000 miles of shared border with Canada and Mexico. We have 20,000 miles of coastline and border in total. So the complexity of this problem is further exacerbated by the porous nature of these borders.

You may remember that the 9/11 terrorists entered the U.S. through Canada. Right now, there’s only 31 miles of the 4,000-mile border that we share with our northern neighbor that is considered to be properly secured by the government. Mexico continues to provide us with a steady stream of illegal immigrants despite our efforts to secure and monitor the border.

‘Fortress America’

So the most popular public response these days is: Why don’t we just put up a fence? We will build “Fortress America.” I did some research into that, and I got some great education and some interesting numbers. Between 2006 and 2009, U.S. Customs and Border spent over $2.4 billion to construct 670 miles of single-layer fence along the 3,000-mile Mexican border.

The price per mile of fencing depends on the type of fencing you’re building, the location, what its purpose is – whether it’s vehicle or individual – the cost of the land the government has to buy, the labor, the materials and a host of other variables. But the range per mile is between $200,000 and $15 million, and the average is somewhere around $1 million per mile to build a single-layer fence. So when you start to do the math for the 20,000-mile border that we have, is it feasible, is it even possible for us to build a fence and create “Fortress America” to keep attacks from coming from the outside, and keep outside folks from coming in? It’s really impractical and almost unaffordable. 

Stirring the Pot

So on top of that, a new U.S. foreign policy initiative in Asia-Pacific really has the potential to get us entangled in some new regional conflicts and alienate us from another cultural segment of the world, but continuing to keep our military security forces busy and far from home. I think I speak for a lot of Americans when I say that we’ve been looking forward to the end of this decade-long war, entanglements in the Middle East. I think there’s been a lot of collective hope that since they feel like the War on Terror’s over with, that at some point in the early years of this new millennium that our presidential administration will return tax dollars and turn the focus inward to try to address the multitude of domestic issues that we have that have been ignored; that we haven’t been able to address because the War on Terror has been so costly in the last 10 or 12 years.

If you follow the news or follow the government closely, you’ll know that in 2011, the Obama administration announced the rebalancing of U.S. relations to expand and intensify our role in the Asia-Pacific region. This new policy included a military and economic and diplomatic element to it, and is intended to focus U.S. foreign policy efforts into an area of the world that, according to the administration, will be of great strategic and economic importance in years to come.

To be honest, I would have to say the economic and political security advantages for the U.S. that are part of this initiative, you can certainly argue that it could be in our benefit. It may be a long-term thing before we realize some of those benefits; I think you could argue for that. However, the fact that’s undeniable is that the Asia-Pacific region has its own unique regional conflicts that could easily entice U.S. involvement. Our intensified presence in the region can have a polarization effect. This is China’s backyard here, and I don’t know what the administration has in store for the details for what exactly our engagement will be here. However, there may be some tendency that countries are going to have to choose sides, again, between supporting China and being China’s ally or being the U.S. ally in some way.

Mission Creep

In the Army, we would call this risk or this threat mission creep. We go there with particular things in mind and, due to our presence there, we start to creep into different things that we get involved in in these countries that get us in trouble. The Philippines, for example, Japan, South Korea, Singapore are already engaged in territorial and security disputes in those areas, and we know from history that we’ve already had involvement with those different countries in the past with disputes. The Thailand military recently took control of their government again, took control of their country and kicked their government out. So there’s a lot possibility.

U.S. Perception and Muslim Presence

I will tell you, I think at one time I had lived and worked in about 37 different countries around the world. My NATO assignment alone, we had 23 countries represented in the headquarters. I made some very good friends there. And one thing that I learned, and I value it very much, is the ability to get a view of the U.S. through someone else’s eyes. Some of us who don’t get to travel very much, we have sort of a one-sided view of our country, of our foreign policy, the things we do. But when you get out there and travel and get to know other people, you find out that we’re not especially loved in every corner of the world. And when we go places and we engage and we think or we believe that we have good intentions there, a lot of times it’s not viewed that way by the country. Imagine if another country sent troops here, and we would have foreign troops based in our country and their government was doing things with our country that not everybody agreed with. It can cause a lot of hostility and a lot of frustration.

So imagine that the possibility exists that we now go into some of these countries with our engagement. Take a look at some of the numbers: 62% of the world’s Islamic population resides in these Asian-Pacific countries. Indonesia, alone, has over 203 million Muslims living there. Of course, religion is a big portion of the conflict that we have had in the last 13 years. And 17 million U.S. residents from a lot of these different countries are living here in the U.S. You’ve already seen on the news from the United Kingdom, from Scandinavia, from the U.S., people are flocking to go fight with ISIS in Syria and in Iraq. So what’s going to happen if we go into Asia-Pacific and alienate ourselves with 62% of the world’s Islamic population and 17 million people from those areas who are here? If you think about the worst-case scenario, it could be a nightmare with these homegrown violent extremists here. So, it’s just an interesting thing to think about.

Is There Any Good News?

Think about DHS for a minute. While our military security are focused on winning the fight in distant frontlines, DHS agencies … are already manning the frontlines here at home. There are over 240,000 employees from 22 different components that work together, with a combined annual budget of over $60.9 billion for DHS in 2015.

The DHS has not only transformed the way that America is secured, but it continues to grow and improve its functionality, its coordination, its information sharing, which is a huge challenge for them, transparency and its overall effectiveness. Trying to fight an enemy that is constantly adapting and evolving is certainly no easy task, and I laid out for you the template, the profile, for some of these HVEs. It’s nearly impossible to stop attacks like that before they happen. And certainly when you’re trying to coordinate the efforts of 22 separate components, with missions that range from enforcing and administering immigration laws, cybersecurity, protecting critical infrastructure, securing the borders, responding to natural disasters and so on, it compounds the problem.

DHS is continuously trying to expand its partnership network, including other federal agencies, state, local, tribal authorities, foreign governments and even international partnerships in the private sector. There is no way, really, that we can do this on our own. Since 2001, 90% of the terror plots have been foiled by U.S. law enforcement. There’s been some amazing work. Sometimes you don’t hear about it because there wasn’t an attack, but if you do your research, which you can easily do on the Internet, they’ve done some incredible work in being able to keep us safe since that time.

DHS on a Daily Basis

I have some figures here I want to share so you get an overall picture of the immensity of DHS’ task. On a daily basis, DHS agencies prescreen over 6 million air travelers and physically screen nearly 2 million air travelers. That’s every day. They patrol 4.5 million square miles of waterways. They inspect 100% of vehicles and people that enter the U.S. from either Mexico or Canada. They support over 500,000 employers in screening their new employees, so when employees come work for corporations, they do the background checks, the screenings, the security clearances, that kind of thing. One-hundred and sixty million visas a day. And they secure $2.4 trillion in trade. That’s all on a daily basis. Those are some staggering numbers, and we haven’t even talked about the efforts that go into identifying, locating and capturing the bad guys. That’s a whole other aspect.

Upcoming DHS Developments

In the future coming year, DHS plans to hire an additional 4,000 Customs and Border Patrol officers and spend $1.25 billion to improve cybersecurity. That’s probably the latest area of a component of threat that we have right now. The government has created what’s called Cyber Command, which is a blend of civilian and military experts to battle the cyber threat. A lot of you are probably aware that many of our critical infrastructure components are controlled through computers: our electricity, our sewer systems, our security systems, our water systems – things that are critical – air traffic control, ground traffic control. All of these things are controlled by computer systems, so we’re quite vulnerable.

About $10.2 billion will be funded to improve support disaster resiliency; that’s to improve our ability to withstand some kind of natural or manmade disaster. Also, over $300 million to support our local law enforcement and our first responders to increase preparedness, mitigation and emergency response.

So it’s really a daunting task, and it’s going to be you who are already out there working or those of you considering a career in homeland security, who are going to have to do the work. We’re not going to be able to build Fortress America, we’re not going to be able to bring our military home to guard our borders. It’s going to be you that’s going to do it, so that’s quite an amazing future career.

Future Security of the U.S.

The future security of the U.S. will depend upon men and women standing on our borders, flying the surveillance vehicles, monitoring the cameras and the ground sensors, analyzing the intelligence, conducting the counter-terrorist detective work to identify, find and arrest or kill terrorists before they’re able to carry out their attacks. Based on this brief analysis that I shared with you this evening, any chosen career field in the area of homeland security is not only vital to the survival and security of U.S. commerce, infrastructure and our citizens, but will also deliver a demanding and rewarding career to those who have the courage to accept such an important responsibility.

With that, I’d like to turn this over to Jim, who’ll talk more about the Homeland Security program.

BA in Criminal Justice Homeland Security

[Jim Reynolds]: Over the last couple of years we’ve been studying this, and we put together an option for our Criminal Justice curriculum that pulls out all the things that a homeland security specialist doesn’t need to know about the criminal justice world. Things like juvenile delinquency, for example, and drug abuse classes, we have replaced those with 10 or 11 pretty specific homeland security-related coursework. It’s a very organized program that takes the student through introductory coursework first that prepares them for more complex courses, leading from the planning in homeland security course all the way to risk assessment/response courses. Getting into more domestic terrorism, a special course for that as opposed to just the basic terrorism course that Scott teaches, we also will have a more advanced one that specifies domestic terrorism.

The idea is to get a well-rounded education in criminal justice and homeland security issues because a lot of people like to have the flexibility that a program like this allows. We looked at pure homeland security degree programs and we felt like our students, the base that we attract to our school right now, would be more interested in having the ability to have this homeland security option as part of an overall criminal justice program. It makes them more attractive and employable by law enforcement agencies, by government agencies, by private security and other private employers. We just feel as if you have a whole lot more options available to the students out there once they graduate from our program.

And the criminal justice elements that are still a part of this program are the core elements that any criminal justice student needs: criminal law; introduction to the law and legal system; introduction to criminal justice; community policing; ethics. All these are critical components of a well-rounded criminal justice program. We’ve just taken some of the more specialized coursework, investigative coursework, for example, and replaced it with homeland security courses.

So we believe this is a great option for a student who’s looking for some flexibility in their education and the ability to show a prospective employer a well-rounded education in several different areas; that you have enough similarity and yet enough differences that should be well-prepared for the kinds of work that are going to be soon added to America’s employment possibilities.

Q&A Session

Q. What do you think about the involvement of Iran and Hezbollah in Latin America?

[Scott Caldwell]: The border security is pretty much nonexistent in many of the countries. … So it’s a huge threat. Combine that with our porous borders, and these people can show up with a lot of money, buy their way into the country, secure themselves there and establish a working base. From there, they can easily move northward, and if we’re not able to secure our borders properly, it’s a wide open door for them to come into the country.

Q. Who or what poses the largest threat to national security: ISIS, China, Russia, illegal immigration or something else?

[Scott Caldwell]: For me, at this point, I think it’s the HVEs, if we’re talking about the security of our infrastructure here and our folks there. ISIS currently is a threat elsewhere. However, I mentioned briefly, with all these people who are leaving the country to go fight with ISIS who become radicalized, what happens when they come back home again? That could certainly build itself. Time will tell on that. Right now, things seem to be OK with China, but again as I mentioned, we are now going to enact a new foreign policy and become more engaged and involved in their backyard in Asia-Pacific. That could stir things up a little bit. Russia, in addition to all the stuff that’s going on with them and Ukraine right now, they have been systematically and regularly violating the airspace of many of the Scandinavian countries and some of the Eastern European countries. I don’t know what the purpose is, but they may be testing the reaction of the former Soviet bloc countries. What are they going to do? What are we going to do? Russia is quite an unknown right now; that would, of course, be a security threat on a much larger scale. So there are several things out there, but right now, for me, I think it’s our porous borders and our HVEs that are already inside the country who we don’t see coming.

Q. How do you see homeland security changing over the next 10 years?

[Scott Caldwell]: I think it has to become very people-oriented. I don’t think “Fortress America” is a viable option. I really don’t see us ever, although I would like to, bringing our military home and use our military on our own borders because we have the capability. It makes sense. It may very well be time to disengage from some places around the globe and shore ourselves up, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think it’s going to be a combination of battling the cybersecurity threat and what I would call civilian boots on the grounds. It’s going to be the border guards, it’s going to be the people who are monitoring the intel, watching the cameras, flying the [unmanned aerial vehicles], the first responders and the three-letter agencies who are out there beating the street, picking up information, following up leads. I think that’s going to have to be the future because, again, the enemy is us and in amongst us. Very unpredictable; very difficult to see coming. And it’s going to have to be people on the ground using their personnel skills. 

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