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New UNM Institute would focus on global/national security

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

It was here in New Mexico, in the “secret” city of Los Alamos, that America won the race to harness the atom. Had Hitler’s scientists gotten there first, the world we know today would likely be a very different place.

The national laboratories headquartered in New Mexico – with their role in the nuclear weapons complex – remain key to U.S. national security.

Emile Nakhleh, a retired CIA senior intelligence officer, wants to build on that history and tap into that expertise, along with a wealth of university knowledge and talent, as he and others work to establish a Global and National Security Institute at the University of New Mexico.

The vision is to coordinate the resources of the university, the labs and companies working in the national security field to create a master’s level degree program that deals with issues ranging from nuclear proliferation to cyber security to directed energy weapons – along with courses on topics that are at the root of terrorism and conflict, such as rampant unemployment and refugees fleeing the loss of farmland as the climate changes.

“We call it the Global and National Security Policy Institute, based on a broad definition of national security – not the narrow CIA or espionage definition,” said Nakhleh, a research professor and director of the fledgling UNM Institute. “It ranges from cyber to terrorism to unemployment in Africa. Food security, energy security, water security – they all affect us.”

Nakhleh pointed out that Sandia National Laboratories, for example, does research on clean water. So bringing these kinds of resources together in a degree program “is one of the underpinnings of this institute.”

The UNM regents have approved the institute in principle, and it is now being reviewed by the faculty.

The Institute also has the strong support of Interim President Chaouki Abdallah.

“The Institute is designed to equip its graduates with a blending of concepts from technology, history, policy and culture,” Abdallah said. “The skills learned within the institute and similar ones will become ever more critical to dealing with and adapting to an increasingly changing and uncertain future.”

The payoff for UNM would be graduates with a competitive edge for employment in the intelligence community and the U.S. government, or with companies doing work in national security.

Scientists in America who do work in other countries could benefit as well.

“They regularly visit other countries and inspect programs, but they don’t have any idea about these countries,” Nakhleh said.

UNM already has courses that would work for the Institute, but Nakhleh said they are “stovepiped and turf protected, so other faculty and students don’t know about them or benefit from them.”

Nakhleh started talking to deans and department chairs, and they “came up with a proposal to form a university-wide umbrella institute to look at all of these programs.”

The institute has two advisory boards – one internal at UNM and one external. The external board includes former American Bar Association President Roberta Cooper Ramo and PNM President and CEO Pat Collawn, who believes the Institute can be a world class program.

As chair of the national Edison Institute, Collawn is deeply involved in cyber and grid security issues, highlighting the complex nature of the threats facing today’s world.

Under the auspices of the Institute, UNM is already offering pilot courses in cyber and directed energy. In addition to traditional counterterrorism courses, the institute could offer courses in topics such as sustainability and migration.

Nakhleh, who has a Ph.D. from American University International relations and was awarded the Director’s Medal for his work in the CIA, understands the importance of being able to fight an enemy in whatever venue is necessary – from Afghanistan to anti-terrorism efforts in this country.

But he also believes the U.S. will be better equipped to defend its security if its policy makers and national security professionals have the tools to better understand why another enemy foot soldier rises up whenever another one is struck down. What are the motivating forces behind those who wish to do the U.S. harm?

The proposed Global and National Security Institute at UNM, both Nakhleh and Abdallah say, is being designed to provide those tools.

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