From illegal border crossings to illicit cyber intrusions, America faces a barrage of homeland security challenges each day. Meanwhile, terror threats increasingly are homegrown, said Scott Caldwell, an adjunct professor at Florida Institute of Technology.

“Identifying and preventing terror attacks on U.S. soil is more difficult than ever in our history,” said Caldwell, a decorated veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division who has served at the Pentagon and at NATO headquarters in Germany, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Caldwell, who teaches in Florida Tech’s Criminal Justice Homeland Security degree program, which is offered 100% online, highlights border security and cybersecurity as major concerns.

In fiscal year 2013, agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended nearly 421,000 illegal aliens nationwide, agency statistics show. That represented an increase of more than 56,000 over the previous year but was well below the historic high of 1.69 million in 1986.

More than 414,000 of the apprehensions in FY 2013 were made along the Southwest border, according to CBP.

“In my opinion, the porous nature of our southern border must be priority No. 1,” said Caldwell, who is also a senior instructor with the Army Junior ROTC program.

Meanwhile, cyber threats are coming thick and fast. In May 2014, a federal grand jury indicted five Chinese Army officers on charges of hacking and economic espionage directed at nuclear power, steel and other companies in the United States.

“For too long, the Chinese government has blatantly sought to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries,” FBI Director James B. Comey said in a statement.

Banks, retailers and healthcare companies have also been targeted by cyber crooks in recent months, including Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase, attacks that exposed the credit card numbers and other personal information of millions of consumers.

We spoke with Caldwell about efforts to protect the nation from attacks and how Florida Tech is helping to prepare the next generation of homeland security professionals.

Q. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has said the terrorist threat “is increasingly decentralized, self-motivated, and may be harder to detect.” How and why do you believe the nature of the threats facing the United States has changed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001?

Likely due to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the stepping up of our outer defenses, outside-in attacks from foreign radicals are much more difficult to successfully conduct on U.S. soil. Since 2001, 77 of the 154 perpetrators were U.S. citizens with no prior terror or violent activity – virtually impossible to predict. The remaining terrorists were from 25 different countries, the majority of which were not from the Middle East. This change in threat makes profiling much less effective and puts the responsibility to stop attacks before they begin squarely on the shoulders of the everyday U.S. citizen.

Q. In fiscal year 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers processed more than 360 million travelers and almost 25 million cargo containers at the nation’s nearly 330 airports, seaports and border crossings. Where do you see the greatest vulnerabilities in terms of preventing cross-border terror attacks?

I would have to go back to the 20,000 miles of unprotected/unobserved coastline and borders. Central and South America are virtually unregulated and there are already pockets where radical Islamic terror organizations have established a foothold, unmolested by law enforcement. The 9/11 attackers came across the Canadian border, which also remains unguarded for the most part. That being said, this threat is not as dangerous to us as is the threat from within our borders.

Q. What priorities should Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske set for the 60,000-employee agency?

In my opinion, the porous nature of our southern border must be priority No. 1. Whether it becomes a solid barrier or has more agents or more observation technology – whatever the answer, illegal immigration from the south must be placed in check. Better coordination and information sharing between all DHS agencies should also remain a top priority to identify and detain attackers before they enter the country.

Q. The Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team responded to nearly 260 cybersecurity incidents in 2013, more than half of them involving the energy sector. Do cyber attacks represent the next frontier of terrorism?

The Department of Defense has nine Unified Command Headquarters for every region of the globe: PACOM (Pacific Command), EUCOM (European Command), CENTCOM (Central Command), etc. These commands have the responsibility to monitor their global area of responsibility and are the ones who respond to the Secretary of Defense’s directives to send U.S. military forces to conduct combat operations, disaster response or other foreign nation assistance missions.

U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) is also a unified command with responsibility for space operations, global strike, global missile defense, etc. STRATCOM is more focused on the security of U.S. soil. The fact that, in 2009, the Secretary of Defense directed the Commander of STRATCOM to create a sub-unified command that is now known as U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) should be an indicator of the significant increase in cyber threats against the U.S., and the importance of meeting this new and dangerous threat.

The increasing nature of this threat can be seen in a few of the reported attack figures consolidated and reported on Nextgov.com. The energy company BP says it suffers 50,000 attempts of cyber-intrusion a day. The Pentagon reports getting 10 million attempts a day. The National Nuclear Security Administration, an arm of the Department of Energy, also records 10 million hacks a day. … Even considering that the definition of a cyber incident may vary, the sheer number of these examples is alarming. In response, DHS has also established its own cyber attack response/monitoring organization, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT).

Due to the fact that attackers remain hidden and can conduct cyber attacks from anywhere in the world where they can access the Internet, it is becoming the attack method of choice.

Q. The Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community C³ Voluntary Program is a public-private partnership to help protect the nation’s critical infrastructure. What role can universities play in boosting cybersecurity defenses?

The C³ Voluntary Program seeks to unite the cybersecurity efforts of U.S. stakeholder organizations based around an established framework. In a sense, rather than a cyber battlefield of isolated fortresses, the C³ program seeks to create a more unified line of defense amongst all stakeholders, as well as to provide assistance to them to help their understanding of the framework, reach out to bring other stakeholders into the framework and accept feedback from stakeholders on how to make the framework better. Florida Tech’s educational foundation is deeply rooted in research, and cybersecurity is certainly an area where the nation could benefit from the brilliant young minds who conduct research through Florida Tech’s undergraduate and graduate programs.

Q. How is Florida Tech preparing the next generation of homeland security professionals?

Florida Tech’s 100% online Criminal Justice program provides the opportunity for full-time students and those already working in homeland security career fields to significantly enhance their work performance and career potential. The Criminal Justice program focuses on education for first responders, while the Homeland Security concentration seeks to provide an educational experience for those who desire a career in one of the Department of Homeland Security agencies.

Q. Troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as projected cuts in defense spending, mean that tens of thousands of servicemembers will be leaving the military in the coming years. As an Army veteran, what advice would you give to military personnel preparing to transition to the civilian workforce, possibly to careers in homeland security?

There are many government agencies and thousands of companies in the private sector who strongly desire to find and hire military veterans. This is mostly due to the work ethic, discipline, commitment, motivation and reliability found in military veterans. Military service education centers can help veterans receive college credit for the job training that they have completed during their service, as well as help them understand which civilian careers their job training most closely aligns with. I would also recommend – in addition to finding education which complements their military training – that veterans seek out a company to help them “civilianize” their resume by taking their military training and education and putting it into words and descriptions that the private sector can understand.

Veterans with active security clearances are also in high demand among both government agencies and private-sector companies that serve as subcontractors for the government and the military.

Veterans should take a look at websites such as USAJOBS.com. Veterans seeking further education using their GI Bill® should look for universities such as Florida Tech that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. [Through the Yellow Ribbon Program, universities contribute funding to help cover veterans’ tuition expenses.]

Q. What books, blogs or other publications would you recommend to students considering a career in homeland security?

As mentioned above, USAJOBS.com is the clearinghouse for all U.S. government agencies, including DHS agencies and partners. Clearancejobs.com is a great site to see those careers that are in demand that require a security clearance. The best place to learn about DHS careers is, of course, the Department of Homeland Security main website. All DHS agencies are located there, along with links to their own main sites, the latest DHS news, employment information, etc.

They should also monitor Florida Tech’s online Criminal Justice program website for updated information about opportunities in Criminal Justice as well as new offerings in Homeland Security.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

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