Prepare for Promotion: Homeland Security

By Dr. Joseph V. Saitta, Columbia Southern University

OK, you’ve been in law enforcement for several years and you’re thinking about increasing your promotion potential. There are a host of things that will help, including academic preparation, training, experience, physical agility, practical intelligence and emotional maturity. Also, the promotional process itself must be understood. But let’s take a look at part of the training component — specifically homeland security, a topic that was, for all practical purposes, “born” after September 11, 2001, as a widely acknowledged law enforcement function. Learning about homeland security will not only increase your promotional potential, but it will help you to better perform your duties. Unfortunately, terrorism is not going away anytime soon.

Quite probably you’ve had the basics in homeland security during your initial recruit training if you were hired after 2001. But you might not have sufficient training in any one area or a broad enough spectrum of training, so let’s look at the kinds of training that will help you to be a more complete homeland security professional and improve your promotion potential.

Weapons of mass destruction: You should have a solid grounding in all of the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) agents. The areas that most LEOs are weak in are the biological, radiological and nuclear agents.

Incident command: You’ve probably already taken the FEMA Independent Study (IS) courses IS-100 and 200. However, there are four other courses for you to consider: IS-300, 400, 700 and 800. These will give you a broader perspective on incident command at larger and more complex events.

Threat assessment/risk analysis: Can you gauge what the specific threats are to your community? If not, there are several programs to help develop this skill. Once you can determine these threats, you need to address them. A critical infrastructure protection course would be a great start.

Terrorism emergency response/incident management: These kinds of programs examine personal protective equipment, preparing your agency for response and post-incident recovery, available technology, developing partnerships with other law enforcement agencies and responders, and so on.

Emerging threats: These programs contain information on cutting-edge topics such as cyber security, the rise of the “lone wolf” terrorist, recent developments in biological agent usage, useful homeland security technology, updates on personal protective equipment, and lessons learned from recent incidents.

Let’s talk about some resources available to you. Many states offer training courses on these topics, sometimes through the designated state law enforcement training agency or the emergency management agency. In addition, there are still a number of free or very reasonably priced classroom courses and online offerings conducted by law enforcement associations, federal training agencies (such as the Center for Domestic Preparedness or the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) and consortia (such as the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium).

Here are a few examples of weapons of mass destruction or CBRNE agents topics cross-matched to National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC) training partner organizations:

Chemical agents: Center for Domestic Preparedness, Anniston, Alabama

Biological agents: National Center for Biomedical Research and Training (NCBRT), Academy of Counter-Terrorist Education at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Radiological and nuclear agents: National Nuclear Security Administration, Center for Radiological/Nuclear Training (NNSA/CTOS), Nevada National Security Site, North Las Vegas, Nevada

Explosive agents: Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC), Socorro, New Mexico

Training through the NDPC is often free, and courses are available onsite, at some field locations, and a few are even available on the Internet. Although courses are not offered as frequently as in the recent past, due to constrained budgets, NDPC programs still represent great value. Generally, the courses receive rave reviews from graduates. There are also a number of academic partners that offer high-quality training. Visit the NDPC’s website for more information at

Finally, as for practical value to you: Yep, learning more about homeland security should help you to get promoted. But of greater importance, this knowledge will help to prepare you for a terrorism incident response, broaden your understanding of other agencies’ roles, help keep you safe at an incident, and even “pay benefits” to your understanding of how to respond to other high criticality events such as natural disasters and active-shooter incidents. Good luck and stay safe out there!

About the Author

Dr. Joseph V. Saitta is the academic program director for Homeland Security and Criminal Justice at Columbia Southern University. He is a retired Commonwealth of Virginia bioterrorism coordinator, former federal agent and deputy sheriff.

He has been a trainer and an educator for over 40 years, conducting programs in all 50 states and overseas.

Dr. Saitta holds a master’s degree in adult education from the George Washington University and a doctorate in education (with a cognate specialization in management) from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

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