U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) on March 29 to meet with scholars and students and to learn more about the center's ongoing terrorism research projects and its extensive education and training efforts.
After welcoming remarks by University of Maryland President Wallace Loh, Secretary Napolitano addressed the START headquarters staff. START Director Gary LaFree then provided an overview of the impact of START's work and the benefits of the consortium model, particularly in its ability to create a highly networked research community that is flexible and adaptable, cost-effective, and interested in working with the policy and practitioner communities.
Erin Miller began the discussion on START's research and education efforts by emphasizing the importance of consistent funding for basic research projects such as the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which Miller manages. Citing metrics on the extensive use of the GTD , Miller conveyed that open-source databases like the GTD are critical foundations upon which homeland security policy and practice are based.
Emphasizing that START's work goes beyond basic research, Acting Director Gary Ackerman then discussed a project modeling transnational criminal organizations and their potential for smuggling radiological or nuclear material. START is conducting the project in concert with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detention Office.
To close out the session, Education Director Kate Izsak described the center's commitment to developing the next generation of homeland security scholars and practitioners through classroom and experiential education. She also described several training programs being developed for current practitioners based on START-sponsored research, emphasizing that START serves as an investment in the human capital of the current and future homeland security enterprise.
"Secretary Napolitano's visit was important because not only were we able to demonstrate START's value to the current homeland security enterprise by highlighting some of our most heavily utilized research, but also to the future by showcasing the substantive work done by our students and interns," said Bill Braniff, Executive Director of START.
After touring the office and engaging with undergraduate and graduate student interns working on sponsored research, Secretary Napolitano took time to meet with a group of undergraduate students from the University of Maryland's Federal Semester program, START's Global Terrorism Minor and the DHS funded Career Development Program.
She answered questions about her career experience, including serving as Governor of Arizona, and her thoughts on what challenges DHS will likely face in the next several years.
"It was interesting meeting with her and learning first-hand what she believes are the future threats to the United States., such as cyber warfare," said Kate Gilles, a senior mathematics major and START intern.
"She was very engaging with us and gave great advice for those of us interested in pursuing careers in homeland security."
Secretary Napolitano was joined in her visit by DHS Under Secretary of Science and Technology Tara O'Toole, Science and Technology Office of University Programs Director Matt Clark, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office Acting Director Huban Gowadia and Executive Director for Academic Engagement Lauren Kielsmeier. University of Maryland Provost Mary Ann Rankin and College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Dean John Townshend also attended the meeting.