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Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Editor-in-Chief: Renda-Tanali, Irmak

Managing Editor: McGee, Sibel

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Development of Competency-Based Education Standards for Homeland Security Academic Programs

James D. Ramsay
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  • University of New Hampshire, Business, Politics & Security Studies, 88 Commercial Street Manchester NH, United States of America
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/ Irmak Renda-Tanali
Published Online: 2018-09-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2018-0016


Colleges and universities that educate aspiring homeland security professionals are duty-bound to supply a national workforce that is capable and adequately prepared to meet the National Preparedness Goal. It is perhaps not an exaggeration to suggest that developing a qualified homeland security (HLS) workforce could be considered a matter of national security. Indeed, an appropriately educated workforce is not only (at least implicit) part of the current FEMA National Preparedness Goal, it was identified as a national security imperative as early as 2001 by the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. A baseline set of education standards for homeland security education would, at the very least, ensure that academic programs would consistently graduate a workforce that has a common set of competencies aligned to the needs of both public and private sector actors engaged in domestic and national security. In turn, employers and students alike would better understand not only what homeland security is, but what HLS graduates can do. Many mature disciplines ultimately use education standards to not only define themselves, but to sanctify and protect their professional boundaries. Nutritionists, for example, are professionals protected by registration, and licensure (as well as certification in some cases). Yet to become a registered dietician, one needs to graduate from an accredited academic degree program, the basis of which is compliance to a set of education (i.e., accreditation) standards assessed by an external organization. In the same way, and to advance the HLS profession, it makes sense to think that HLS practitioners should have educational backgrounds (like doctors or lawyers) that share some common set of educational competencies. To date, we observe that higher education’s response as to how to best educate students to enter the homeland security enterprise has been to consider homeland security as a meta-discipline, or a discipline of disciplines. As such, homeland security curricula tend to include faculty, courses and student learning outcomes from a variety of other disciplines such as law, business, management, political science, international relations, emergency management, etc. Second, we note that academic homeland security education is still largely characterized as an emergent discipline. That is, the core theory of what is and is not “homeland security” remains under-developed. Indeed, it is accurate to characterize homeland security more as a “practice discipline” such as medicine, nursing or law (each of which, by the way, shares the characteristic of being meta-disciplines), albeit a practice with a growing literature and experience basis as well as a theoretical basis. This project leveraged the collective expertise of subject matter experts over roughly a 3-year period to emulate the structure and approach used by these better-established disciplines and create a consensus set of HLS education standards. Created were nine knowledge domains and a set of competencies (aka knowledge, skills and abilities as student learning outcomes) per domain. Taken together, such a set of knowledge domains and competencies (the minimum set of skills, knowledge, and abilities students of homeland security acquire academically) would describe the professional boundaries of the homeland security discipline. A major remaining challenge is how best to conceptualize and implement a system that integrates a set of competencies into all academic HLS programs nationwide. The paper tackles this issue by proposing a system of “voluntary academic accountability” from all academic institutions that offers a bona fide peer review of undergraduate level homeland security programs.

Keywords: homeland Security education; accreditation; education standards


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Published Online: 2018-09-08

Citation Information: Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 20180016, ISSN (Online) 1547-7355, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2018-0016.

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