Homeland Security launches graduate academy

The Homeland Security Department is expanding graduate education opportunities for its employees by establishing a new academy near Washington, the agency announced last week.

The department launched the Homeland Security Academy on June 6 at the Office of Personnel Management's Eastern Management Development Center in Shepherdstown, W. Va. The full-time graduate program lasts 18 months, and is open to Homeland Security and state and local government employees, as well as members of the military, DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie said Monday.

"Establishing the Homeland Security Academy is a significant achievement in the implementation of a comprehensive DHS education and training system," said George Tanner, chief learning officer for DHS. "Investing in the leadership and management capability of our employees is a top priority of the department."

Congress gave the department authority to create the academy in the fiscal 2007 Homeland Security appropriations bill, with the goal of improving the agency's ability to respond to acts of terrorism and natural disasters. The program is tuition-free, but employees must commit to two years of service with their respective agencies after graduation.

The academy is an expansion of the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, Calif., which teaches local, state and federal government officials from public health, law enforcement, fire, emergency management and other disciplines that relate to homeland security.

"A few years back, the criminal justice degree was created to make the criminal justice system what it is today," Orluskie said. "This is the start of the homeland security degree."

Three groups of students per year are currently educated at the NPS campus in Monterey. The introduction of the academy in Shepherdstown will bring this number to four, and there are plans to add a fifth group in Shepherdstown in 2008, Orluskie said. The new group starting in Shepherdstown has 27 students, he said.

More than 150 government officials have earned master's degrees through the NPS 18-month program, which is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's national preparedness directorate.

"The NPS master's program has a proven track record of building a national network of leaders who work across agency and jurisdictional lines to solve problems and protect the American people," said FEMA Administrator David Paulison. "We are very pleased to be able to leverage this successful program and offer more opportunity for DHS employees to learn in a setting that mirrors homeland security across the nation."

DHS provides other educational incentives to employees, including student loan repayment programs designed to recruit and retain talent.

Employees interested in the academy can submit an application through the NPS Web site or through the DHS employee intranet, Orluskie said.

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