The National Center for Border Security and Immigration
A DHS Center of Excellence Newsletter - February 2015

The NCBSI Succeeds in Establishing the Homeland Security Seminar Series

El Paso, TX -- NCBSI
The Homeland Security Seminar Series is an education focused initiative established by the National Center for Border Security and Immigration (NCBSI) at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP.) This initiative provides Homeland Security (HS) stakeholders with presentations, workshops, and applied exercises focused on training and education needs identified by local stakeholders. The non-college credit seminars provide relevant homeland security and law enforcement subject matter to seminar attendees. The seminars provide continuing education and training of active practitioners from within the homeland security enterprise and members of the community charged with protecting critical infrastructure and key resources in the El Paso jurisdiction. The seminars are open to individuals from both the public and private sectors. The topics of the seminars are identified through our interactions with local stakeholders and input collected from exit surveys completed by seminar participants. These exit surveys provide input concerning future seminar topics that attendees would like to see developed and implemented, as well as providing stakeholders the opportunity to evaluate and rate the overall quality of the seminar content and the instructors.

The NCBSI solicits quarterly stakeholder input on seminar topic selection and content, as well as conducting a survey of existing DHS approved courses that identify with/match stakeholder requests. The goals of these seminars is to provide DHS certified courses, key segments of established courses taught at UTEP, create opportunities for our stakeholders to learn directly from subject matter experts in a classroom type environment, and sharing educational modules developed from NCBSI research and UTEP faculty.

The seminars are free of charge and open to participants nationwide. The seminars range from half to full day seminars. The full day seminars have provided our stakeholders with the opportunity to get certified on a specific topic upon the successful completion of the training session. An analysis of the results from seminar participants through both surveys and seminar content evaluations have indicated that getting certified was highly endorsed by the local stakeholders and enhanced their knowledge in the subject matter relevant to their professional responsibilities. Although these trainings are unconventional, they provide the different DHS components a flexible outlet for continuing education that serves to enhance the quality of its workforce, and provide no-cost supplemental education and training opportunities identified by the stakeholder.

The topics covered foe the first two HS Seminars as part of the pilot launch included updated training on immigration case law, border enforcement policies, and the 4th Amendment. In 2013 the seminar series was officially launched and several seminars were successfully conducted for local El Paso stakeholders at the federal, state, and local level. The initiative in 2013 began with a Terrorism Trends on the Southwest Border seminar. In the same year three more seminars were conducted which were focused on cyber terrorism and security, bioterrorism, and multi-agency incident command system training for potential threat events in the El Paso jurisdiction. During 2014, the seminars involved training for incident response to terrorist bombings, bomb threat management, a multi-agency tabletop exercise focused on a large scale and protracted terrorist event, and a command and response for all hazards seminar. A full day Active Shooter workshop is scheduled for February 2015 of which nearly two-hundred local stakeholders from nearly forty different entities have already enrolled.

The sustainability and impact of the HS seminar series can be evidenced directly by the positive exit survey input provided by program participants, our growing enrollment numbers, and the growing number of agencies from both the public and private sector at the federal, state, and local level that participate in these training seminars, workshops, and applied exercises. Upwards of 85% of our exit surveys have consistently stated that our seminars have improved participant knowledge on subject areas related to their job responsibilities, and rated the quality of instruction for our program seminars as excellent. The program to date has provided supplemental training for nearly 1,000 different local stakeholders representing over a 125 different agencies at the federal, state, and local levels which is evidence of the program's credibility, program recognition, and program need. The NCBSI, through collaborative efforts with select homeland security related agencies, the integration of stakeholder input into seminar topic selection and development, and the careful development and vetting of instructional content, has met the different supplement training and educational needs identified by our HS community at all government levels and from both the public/private sectors.

In This Issue

  • Homeland Security Seminar Series


  • Security Studies Degree

  • HICSS 2015

  • About Us

  • Contact Information

AVATAR Field Test at the TSIF

Tucson, AZ -- BORDERS

BORDERS, TSA, and CBP are collaboratively investigating the screening and credibility assessment capability of the AVATAR--an automated system for automated interviewing using a virtual agent, rapid screening, and behavioral analysis. The field test, scheduled for Spring 2015, will take place at the TSA Systems Integration Facility (TSIF), a mock airport adjacent to Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington, DC. In this scenario, the AVATAR will conduct primary and secondary screening interviews with participants arriving at CBP preclearance lanes and provide decision support to officers.

Bachelor of Arts Security Studies Degree

El Paso, TX -- NCBSI
Nontraditional students from around the country interested in the security field will benefit from a new fully online degree plan created by The University of Texas at El Paso's (UTEP) National Security Studies Institute (NSSI) that is set to launch in May, thanks to a grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Science and Technology Directorate, Office of University Programs, through the National Center for Border Security and Immigration, a DHS center of excellence at UTEP.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) approved the Bachelor of Arts degree in security studies in December 2014. It will be among the first courses offered through the new UTEP Connect, home to the University's growing portfolio of online undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates.

Organizers hope the degree plan answers the need for more qualified applicants to fill the growing number of security-related positions created since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

Larry Valero, Ph.D., NSSI director, designed the program's curriculum with the needs of security and intelligence agencies and the military in mind. He believes the program will lay a solid foundation in theory and empirical thinking, while promoting a greater understanding of statistics and honing writing skills needed by security professionals.

"We are offering an opportunity to our target audience that they never had before," Valero said. "Earning this degree is highly relevant to their career path. They need it to advance. I believe it will be very popular, especially among nontraditional students with military, law enforcement and homeland security backgrounds seeking to complete their undergraduate education."

The NSSI director said he expects to have 350 students enrolled in the program by the end of the decade. Most of them will be self-directed adults with different responsibilities who want a quality education but cannot always attend scheduled classes in a brick-and-mortar setting.

The first classes will involve security tied to history and geography, but more courses will be added every seven weeks. The degree offers concentrations in intelligence and national security, homeland security, cyber security and security operations.

One of the aspects that excites organizers is the depth and breadth of interdisciplinary instructors who agreed to be part of this program. Faculty from around the country will share their expertise in intelligence, law enforcement and the military.

Christine Rinehart, Ph.D., adjunct instructor, has been teaching for 13 years and will focus on terrorism and counter-terrorism. The South Carolina-based instructor has taught online courses for UTEP's NSSI since 2012.

She said degree plans such as UTEP's new one will lead to more highly trained security specialists who can serve in the U.S. and around the world. She referred to the recent terrorist attack in Paris as an example of why the U.S. needs a robust intelligence program.

"The CIA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security start at square one when training their people," she said in an email. "When students graduate, already having obtained an undergraduate degree in security studies, we will have a better qualified group of professionals in the intelligence community."

Another faculty member is Brett Morris, Ph.D., who recently stepped down from his position as director of presidential communications at the University of Idaho. The retired Air Force colonel will teach modern strategy. He has taught about the military and intelligence to members of the U.S. Department of State and officials from almost 70 foreign countries.

Morris said the new degree plan emphasizes skills that transcend business, government and nonprofit sectors, and its international orientation should serve students well as they enter a highly connected and increasingly globalized work environment.

"The thinking and writing required in this course will equip students to respond to rapid change regardless of the specific setting," he said. "There's a lot to read, write and learn, but who gets to consider how countries rise and fall, develop plans to preempt cyberattacks, and practice high-level negotiations in a single undergraduate program?"

The security studies degree plan will be offered through UTEP Connect, home to the University's growing list of online undergraduate and graduate degree plans and certificates. The degree program was developed with funding from the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate and provided through the National Center for Border Security and Immigration at UTEP.

Mike Smith, J.D., Ph.D., dean of UTEP's Extended University, said the approval by the THECB was a positive step that would help those who want to enter or further their careers in the intelligence and security fields. Extended University is the University's administrative umbrella organization that oversees the institution's nontraditional academic offerings, including UTEP Connect.

Michael Topp, Ph.D., associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts, praised Valero and his program for designing the curriculum and having it ready for a summer launch.

"Because it's online, it will offer opportunities to students who might otherwise not be able to study at UTEP," Topp said. "We're hopeful that UTEP Connect will help the NSSI recruit interested students so that as many people as possible can take advantage of this new degree."

By Daniel Perez
UTEP News Service

HICSS 2015

Tucson, AZ -- BORDERS

In January 2015, BORDERS Director, Jay F. Nunamaker Jr., organized a 2-day symposium on Credibility Assessment and Information Quality in Government and Business, in conjunction with The Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS). Attendees included scholars from the U.S., Europe and Asia representing multiple disciplines. Presentations included: To Freeze or not to Freeze: A Motion-Capture Approach to Detecting Deceit; Theoretical Validation of IDT in Real-World, High-Stakes Deceptive Speech; Deception Detection Methods for News Discourse; Face and Head Movement Analysis Using Automated Feature Extraction Software; The Discriminant Validity of Deception Indicators; Building the Human Firewall: Lessons from Organizational Anti-Phishing Initiatives; Mining Bodily Cues to Deception; The Dark Triad of Personality and Computer-Mediated Communication; and, Appraising the AVATAR for Automated Border Control.

Now in its 48th year, HICSS is one of the longest-standing continuously running scientific conferences and ranks second in citation ranking among 18 Information Systems (IS) conferences.


The National Center for Border Security and Immigration, co-led by the University of Arizona in Tucson and the University of Texas at El Paso, is developing technologies, tools and advanced methods to balance immigration and trade with effective border security, as well as assess threats and vulnerabilities, improve surveillance and screening, analyze immigration trends, and enhance policy and law enforcement efforts.

Questions and Comments

For inquiries regarding the Center, please contact: Elyse Golob, Executive Director, BORDERS or Victor Manjarrez, Associate Director, NCBSI:

- Elyse Golob, University of Arizona, Executive Director,
- Victor M. Manjarrez, Jr., University of Texas at El Paso, Associate Director,

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