As families across the country prepare for the barbecues, parades and fireworks in celebration of July Fourth, America’s national security professionals remain vigilant because, for them, Independence Day is about monitoring cyber threats by terrorists and enemies and protecting our people and landmarks from attack. Just like the military men and women fighting for our freedom overseas, these professionals work tirelessly to protect Americans from the evolving risks that threaten us on our own soil. In order for them to succeed, they need the right skills to deal with the complexities that face our country. In order for us to succeed as a country, we need a skilled workforce to continue their work for years to come.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act, which combined 22 departments and agencies to create the Department of Homeland Security and to better address the increasing threat of terrorist activity, both at home and abroad. Today, that agency counts 240,000 employees, including 60,000 jobs in border protection and over 20,000 in immigration enforcement. On top of that, the U.S. Army Cyber Command employs 19,000 soldiers and civilians, the National Counterterrorism Center employs 1,000 people and the FBI’s national security branch employs 35,000. This is just a sampling of the national security workforce required to defend this great nation.
What’s more, our traditional idea of national security is rapidly evolving. Employers place increasing importance on information, IP and cybersecurity – all of which have huge implications if compromised. The current state of security is more vulnerable to attacks through the internet and technological advances than through bombings or gunfire. This expands the need – and opportunities – for skilled employment even further. A quick search of “national security”-related positions in May 2018 on Glassdoor.com, a popular job site, unearthed 14,245 openings.
While the job market in the national security sector quickly blossomed out of a need, the educational training for this field began to evolve and recruit from outside the traditional talent pools found in the military, law enforcement and international relations. Today, future national security leaders and thinkers are not only in uniform or carrying a badge, but also learning critical skills in a post-graduate classroom setting with a focus on securing meaningful employment after graduation.
The need for problem-solving is obvious. The new global landscape demands that those who step into the national security space receive a more practical education, one that balances history learned in books and lectures with more hands-on lessons and strategy from those in the field.
That’s why national security professionals – both former and current – need to enter the classroom, sharing their real life experience and advice with students aspiring to enter the field. Whether they hail from the FBI, CIA and other branches of federal law enforcement, their national security and intelligence expertise is needed in higher education.
Both classroom experience and field experience matter and the only way for students to get that is with practitioners as teachers. The future generation of national security professionals need a handle on the field as soon as they graduate. They must have the skills to make a difference as soon as they enter the workforce — there is no multi-year grooming process. The people best suited to educate them are those in the field.
The benefit is that these students will take that knowledge not just to government but to the private sector where there are numerous national security positions at corporations of all sizes, as well as at nonprofits. The proud and determined people who carved from this continent a nation whose freedoms come by and for the people could never fathom the lengths we have to go to protect that nation.
Fortunately, the U.S. has the pool of practitioners with the information students need and they have a responsibility to help train a new generation of national security professionals. As we celebrate our freedom on the Fourth of July, it’s important to honor the hard work these professionals do to protect our country on a daily basis and recognize the role they have in shaping future national security professionals.