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“In the 1960s and ’70s,” he says, “the Hertz Foundation would screen students who they thought likely to work on nuclear-weapons research and send them to Livermore for a summer.”
DHS’s Scholars and Fellows program also flies students on paid summer internships to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, as well as other Energy Department labs specializing in security and nuclear-weapons research such as Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Sandia and Brookhaven. About 2,500 students applied for the aid program during its inaugural year, even though its existence was not widely known. (“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” USC’s senior associate director of financial aid, Guy Hunter, recently told the Weekly.) Last December computer-
“The real reason I applied,” says Bethard, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado, “was because my adviser said, ‘Would you mind applying for this? Colorado University doesn’t have enough money to go around, and the fellowship pays more than your stipend.’”
At the time of his application, Bethard was working on a “data-mining” project that would teach computers to recognize and extract opinions from raw text. One year later, he still is. All he had to do in his application essay was suggest ways his research might help DHS.
“You tool your essay to your audience,” Bethard says. “I said I had this project I’m already working on, and I’m going to convince you guys that this is what you need. I’m not solving anthrax. Someone else who applied was an entomologist. He told them how insects can carry diseases. He got a fellowship too.”
Young science students aren’t the only ones receiving grants and a trip to Washington. DHS, in partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, also offers three postdoctoral Homeland Security Fellows awards to be spent at the Directorate for Science and Technology. These one- to two-year renewable stipends range between $60,000 and $75,000, and are intended “to provide the opportunity to learn through participation how scientific and technological information is used in federal policymaking, to demonstrate the value of science-government interaction, and to bring technical backgrounds and external perspectives to DHS.” Already, then, a policy trout farm based on the malleable concept of anti-terrorism has been established at the undergraduate level and through the senior ranks of scholarship into government itself.
Academia, accordingly, has recognized homeland security as a financial salt lick in these lean times. After all, if nine rural Minnesota fire departments could receive $600,517 in grants from a DHS division and the Little League World Series land $250,000 from the Pennsylvania Commonwealth’s own homeland-security office, why shouldn’t higher education get a little of the runoff? Not surprisingly, then, nearly every college today offers some homeland-security and terror-themed courses, while many major universities have established homeland-security departments — UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Laboratory has a homeland-security office; UCLA’s Extension school offers homeland-security courses; and there are homeland sub-departments at Johns Hopkins, MIT and Ohio State University. Likewise, high-profile conferences and symposia on homeland-security issues have become staples for public-policy institutes, strategic-studies think tanks and engineering schools.
“A lot of that would have happened without the Department of Homeland Security,” Gusterson says about the academy’s new paper chase. “Faculty are pretty entrepreneurial and a lot of professors look for classes that tap into current events and generate excitement.”
There are plenty of current events to tap into these days as America engages more countries and makes more enemies around the world. For now, the dialectic between DHS and the students it funds remains in flux, and it is too early to tell who is using whom. Laura Nader, a senior anthropology professor at UC Berkeley, told the Weeklythat ultimately the relationship is not going to benefit the students.
“There is a vulnerability among the young,” she says, “and there are also no jobs for them after they graduate. As a professor it breaks your heart to watch these kids who want to do the right thing but who’ll probably get jobs with he who pays the piper.”
Last January students walking along USC’s Downey Way found their path blocked by several cars and a large detail of campus cops, Highway Patrol officers and federal security agents. The commotion was caused by DHS Secretary Tom Ridge’s paying a secretive visit to the campus after it had beat more than 71 competing institutions to become his agency’s first Center of Excellence. Ridge spent 45 minutes in a congratulatory meeting with members of the School of Engineering, which supervises the center. When the handshaking was over, Ridge was whisked away without so much as a press conference or photo op beneath Tommy Trojan.
A similar cloak-and-dagger visit occurred last August, when DHS undersecretary Charles McQueary and a retinue of security staff descended on the University of Colorado at Boulder — after requesting a media blackout of the event, which campus authorities had hoped would result in their receiving funds for security-related research programs.