Terrorism, Budgets and Brains

“Biodefense research is one area that is growing especially quickly: Funding from the National Institutes of Health grew thirtyfold from 2001 to 2005.

 

The Department of Homeland Security has created four national research centers to study food safety, threats to animal agriculture, the risk and economic analysis of terrorist events, and — in an effort led by University of Maryland with a three-year, $12 million grant for researchers from multiple universities — why people become terrorists.

 

The agency plans three more centers, including one to study “high-consequence event preparedness and response.” Michael Greenberger, the director of the U-Md. Center for Health and Homeland Security, is hoping a bid from his group of 25 universities will be chosen.”

 

The imperatives of government, business and the academy tend to move in the same direction. Universities and colleges are always looking for “new dollars” to grease the institutional wheels. The academy cannot be viewed as an independent, objective source of information. Academic institutions exist in a context of financial need, research & development interests, and other institutional imperatives. The Washington Post put together an interesting piece in 2005 about the impact of Homeland Security funds on the direction and velocity of academic research.

Kinzie and Horwitz rightly connect this emerging trend with previous cycles during World War II and the Cold War.

Today, the financial incentives can be particularly enticing:

“The Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, which pays the $42,000, 18-month tuition and expenses, plus travel every few months to class, for such students as Lanier. “We take rising stars in homeland security,” said director Paul N. Stockton– people from the Coast Guard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CIA, the FBI — and teach them to design security strategies.”

The future of the United States, however, may not depend on the technical prowess of its citizens as it depends on the moral direction of its leaders.

 

 

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