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Standing Guard

How UVA helps protect America

UVA professors have written widely about how national security has changed in the decade since 9/11. American politics and history classes reflect a country that has transformed not only its foreign policy, but also its cultural ethos. Students and alumni alike negotiate the delicate balance between security and the freedom envisioned by the Founding Fathers. The University contributes to national security by educating the soldiers, law enforcement officers, policymakers and scientists of tomorrow. Among our faculty and alumni, a number of farsighted leaders have responded to the ongoing challenges resulting from the tragedy of 10 years ago and continue to shape the organizations designed to keep us safe. In addition, research at UVA helps create the insights and ideas that guide the national security agenda as well as the technology to carry out those plans.


A New Generation of Soldiers

Miles Kirwin

Look for Miles Kirwin (Col ’13) at 6 a.m. weekdays and you’ll find him with 10 other UVA students preparing for the Army ROTC’s “varsity sport”—the Ranger Challenge. This contest pits college teams in a test of strength, stamina and military skills.

Despite the intensity, Kirwin enjoys the training. That’s a little surprising, as he never considered military service before his second year at UVA. But he was drawn to ROTC by the caliber of the cadets, the leadership opportunities and the loss of his father, Glenn D. Kirwin (Col ’82), a Cantor Fitzgerald executive who died in the World Trade Center’s north tower on 9/11.

“I don’t want to take lives. I want to save lives,” Kirwin says about why he joined ROTC. “I’ve never seen myself as an aggressive person, but I do want to protect the people I love. I also like the adventure.”

Pride in the Army prompted Kirwin to wear his uniform when he participated in the recent ceremony in New York commemorating the event. On Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, he read the names of his father and nine others who perished in the terrorist attack.

When the observance ended, Kirwin found his father’s name carved on the World Trade Center memorial in Manhattan. That moment was an important milestone in a journey that began on Sept. 11, 2001, when, at age 10, sitting in his fifth-grade music class, he learned of his father’s death.

“The ceremony was an emotional experience for all of us,” he says. “And, for me, there now is a sense of some closure, knowing the memorial—and my father’s name—is there.”

The Personal Costs of War

Matt Farwell served in the U.S. Army from 2005 until 2010. Before enlisting, he studied government and history at UVA for two years as an Echols Scholar. Courtesy of subject

Mid-June 2011: I find myself alone in a dark wooded park tucked between million-dollar houses south of Stanford University, looking for a spot in the bushes to stash my bags. Until that morning I’d been living in a cheap weekly-rate motel in Palo Alto. Before checkout, knowing I couldn’t afford the $48 fee for another night, I laid out my stuff on the bed. I scrounged for quarters, dimes and nickels. There was enough for an extra value meal at Taco Bell. I divided everything else I had between three bags; an olive-drab backpack my brother used in the Army Rangers, a black duffel I bought at Goodwill and a satchel for my laptop.

This was my life. I was two weeks shy of my 28th birthday, unemployed, broke, thousands of miles from my family, watching the weather forecast to see how uncomfortable sleeping outside would be that night. Whatever the prediction, I could handle it. Four and a half years in the Army, including 16 months as an infantryman in eastern Afghanistan was wonderful preparation for being homeless.

I was searching for a hole in the bushes to hide my bags. They were heavy and awkward, and they clashed with the mishmash of designer bags that the Stanford kids carried. Walking with them, I stood out, the opening scene of the first Rambo movie cycling through my mind. That movie ended badly for Rambo, the sheriff and the town. My life wasn’t a movie and I wasn’t John Rambo, but the same possibilities for a bad ending loomed.

As infantry in Afghanistan, we were introduced to the ugliness of violent, unpredictable death. We caused it and we endured it; we grew well acquainted with it. Sometimes I think that we took it back, an invisible scythe-carrying stowaway onboard the airplane we took back to the States. How else to explain my friend Michael Cloutier, who probably saved my life when our observation post was attacked by Taliban but who died of a drug overdose a year after we came back? Or the staff sergeant from my former battalion who committed “suicide-by-cop” on Fort Drum later that year when military police were called to investigate a domestic disturbance?

Not long after that, I started to crack a bit. That year the Taliban killed two of my friends, Staff Sgt. Esau I. DeLaPena-Hernandez, 25, and Sgt. Carlie M. Lee III, 23. The next year a helicopter crash killed my brother, Chief Warrant Officer Gary Marc Farwell. As my last real duty in the Army, I escorted his body home from Germany.

None of this was on my mind that night in Palo Alto. I just wanted to stash my bags and get some sleep. I had a plan. I set off with my satchel, bound for Stanford and their 24-hour library.

Wearing a polo shirt and khakis, I could blend in, hide out and hopefully get a little sleep in the once-familiar environment—an American college campus—that, like my country, now felt so foreign and hostile.

Paul Rieckhoff, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the founder and chairman of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, testified that over 11,000 veterans between the ages of 18 and 30 were officially listed as homeless. I’ve been homeless for about 16 months. To put that in perspective, I’ve been out of the Army for about 18 months.

My résumé lists Eagle Scout, Davis Scholar, Echols Scholar and National Merit Finalist alongside the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Army commendation medals and parachutist wings. With the exception of the last year, my work experience is unbroken since I landed my first job at 15; soldier, SAT & GRE tutor, defense contracting intern, plumbing guy at Lowe’s, waiter and lifeguard. I try to gloss over the multiple arrests and hospitalizations after the war and highlight my hope to return to UVA, once my head gets screwed on a little straighter.

Part of the reason I came to California was to heal and figure out why my life seemed determined to come unglued. Blaming it on the war seems a cop-out and a cliché, but maybe there’s something to it. Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist with the Veterans Administration, wrote that combat post-traumatic stress disorder is “a war injury.”

The Palo Alto VA was one of the best in the country, I’d heard, and their psychiatric division had one of the best programs for treating guys like me, so I was waiting to get in. That night in June, though, I was on my own. The honest part of me wished I was still in Afghanistan.

Memories of four and a half years wearing the uniform occupy psychic space next to deeply ingrained habits, skills and instinctive reactions that, like all things war-related, are double-edged back home: They helped keep me alive and sane, but they’ve been doing their damnedest to kill me and my friends since we got back.

From The New York Times, Oct. 5, 2011 © 2011. All rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of this Content without express written permission is prohibited.

Veterans Bring Experience to Teaching

Capt. David Wright

Someday, if all goes well, peace will come to Sangin, Afghanistan, and the police there will do what police do everywhere—simply walk their beats and keep the peace. When that happens, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. David Wright can take some of the credit.

Today, Wright is an instructor with UVA’s Navy ROTC unit. From September 2010 to April 2011, he led Police Advisor Team 1 in Afghanistan, consisting of 20 Marine military police and infantry personnel.

“The work was challenging. The conditions were austere. But this is one of the best assignments I’ve had in the Corps,” Wright says.

His team taught police officers both law enforcement skills and infantry tactics. Military training was needed because Sangin is hotly contested. Marines, Afghan troops and police have been in fierce combat there with the Taliban for months. In fact, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates described this town of 14,000 as being perhaps the most dangerous place on earth.

In addition to fighting, Marines have tried to build a viable local government, including a police force. To do this, Wright and his men served as instructors, developing close relationships with Afghan men in the police. The Marines lived next door to them and ate, patrolled, fought the Taliban and watched DVDs during their downtime with them.

Wright praises his team’s work. Under its tutelage, the police’s professionalism, visibility and confidence grew greatly. So did their numbers, rising from 119 to 357.

Wright’s service in Afghanistan and Iraq informs his goals as a NROTC instructor at UVA. He’s dedicated to helping his students develop the skills and professionalism they’ll need to be effective leaders.

“I want them to understand that being an officer involves sacrifice and looking after your Marines,” Wright says. “They’ll become commanders and will have experiences and responsibilities that they currently cannot fathom. It’s our job to set them up for success.”


Janet Napolitano Leads dept. of Homeland Security

Forbes magazine named Janet Napolitano one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World.

As Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Janet Napolitano (Law ‘83) oversees an agency with 230,000 employees charged with preventing terrorism, securing borders, enforcing immigration laws, protecting cyberspace and ensuring resilience to disasters. That’s a tall order and a diverse one, too. On any given day, DHS personnel will screen airline passengers, patrol harbors, arrest criminals, inspect truck cargoes, seize drugs, naturalize immigrants and aid communities in the wake of natural disasters.

In recent months, Napolitano has reported that the nation is much safer than it was a decade ago. However, she also emphasizes that the nature of threats is constantly evolving, which has required her agency to adjust. Specifically, that means looking for increasingly sophisticated terrorist weapons, taking an active role in thwarting cyber attacks, patrolling ports and looking for terrorists both outside of and inside the U.S. Adapting to a changing security environment also means discarding techniques that no longer work. Earlier this year Napolitano got rid of the color-coded threat alerts, which seemed to obscure as much as they revealed.

Although she runs a large organization, Napolitano emphasizes that protecting the nation is too big a job for any one department. “Over the last two years, our approach has acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security—indeed, the whole federal government and the military—cannot, itself, deliver security,” she says. “Real security requires the engagement of our entire society, with government, law enforcement, the private sector and the public all playing their respective roles.”

Robert Mueller Transforms the FBI

Robert S. Mueller III

In the 10 years since 9/11, FBI director Robert S. Mueller III (Law ‘73) has revamped the bureau.

As Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, put it, Mueller “has overseen a top-to-bottom transformation of the FBI from a domestic law enforcement agency to a national security agency.”

The FBI has come a long way from its days under legendary chief J. Edgar Hoover. Agents still pursue gangsters, but now they also target terrorists, art thieves, cybercriminals, civil rights violators, and corrupt politicians and executives. Additionally, Mueller believes the bureau can no longer be content to investigate crimes after the fact.

“The stakes are too high and the dangers too great. The FBI must be more predictive and preventive than at any time in its history,” he says. “We continue to conduct investigations to bring criminals to justice, but we also use an intelligence-driven approach to prevent crimes and acts of terrorism by disrupting and deterring those who would do us harm.”

Remaking a culture is never easy. In the process, Mueller has modernized and refocused the bureau. He has hired about half its 35,000 employees, brought in people from the private sector and shown old-school agents the door. The results have been widely praised externally and deeply resented by some internally.

Mueller took office a mere week before 9/11. The law limits the director to a 10-year term, and he was due to leave in September. However, President Barack Obama asked him to stay for two more years. The Senate confirmed him unanimously, giving Mueller yet more time to finish reshaping one of the nation’s most high-profile agencies.

Matthew Olsen Directs the National Counterterrorism Center

Matthew G. Olsen

Matthew G. Olsen (Col ‘84) recently became the director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

A relatively new federal organization, the center is an integral part of efforts to protect the United States from terrorist attacks. NCTC pursues this mission by analyzing and integrating all of the nation’s foreign and domestic terrorism-related intelligence. The agency also conducts strategic operational planning for counterterrorism activities. During his confirmation hearings, Olsen explained the terrorist threat in 2011, “That threat is not so much from the senior [al-Qaeda] leadership in Pakistan with one unified goal; it is now diffused in various regional locations under various leaders and with various goals.”

Before joining NCTC, Olsen was general counsel for the supersecret National Security Agency. That led the Washington Post to call him “one of the most powerful attorneys in the federal government.” His other federal service includes stints as prosecutor, associate deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice and special counsel to the FBI director. He received widespread praise for his work as the executive director of the Guantanamo Review Task Force, which was charged with reviewing the status of detainees there.

Philip Zelikow Analyzes Aftermath of 9/11

Philip Zelikow

In some ways, the United States has become safer since 9/11.

“We still need to be vigilant against terrorism. Terrorists remain a danger, but they’re not as serious a threat as they once were,” says Philip Zelikow, associate dean for academic program at UVA’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He also has served as a career diplomat, State Department counselor and executive director of the 9/11 Commission. The latter produced the government report on the 2001 attacks at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

Terrorism threats may have declined, Zelikow says, but new concerns have surfaced, including energy issues, transnational violence and disruptions to communications and commerce by attacks in cyberspace.

Odds are good that some, if not all, of these matters may get Zelikow’s attention as the newest member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. Created in 1956, this 14-member body reports to the president on security matters of his choosing and the effectiveness of America’s intelligence agencies.

Zelikow believes that the board’s work will reflect the “new face” of American foreign policy. In the post-9/11 world, lines between national and international affairs are blurred. For example, Zelikow says, domestic U.S. policy on narcotics and gun control also affects drug cartel violence in Mexico. In situations like this, decision-making can be complex and require deep reflection and carefully balanced solutions.

“We need to do more to reinforce our system and to ensure it is resilient and can bounce back,” Zelikow says. “We don’t want to be held hostage by small groups with tiny agendas.”


The University Helps Train FBI Agents

UVA has played a key role in educating law enforcement officers in cooperation with the FBI for almost 40 years. In 1972, the bureau decided to revamp and enhance its training program at Quantico, Va. A key element of this effort was the creation of the FBI National Academy. Today, it welcomes participants from state and local police, sheriffs’ departments, the military, federal agencies and foreign organizations. Academy students can take undergraduate and graduate college courses in subjects such as law, behavioral science, forensic science and leadership development, among others.

Course work is accredited through the University and coordinated by the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. UVA maintains a full-time director in Quantico. Academy instructors serve as University adjunct faculty.

Exploring How We Respond to Crises

Critical Incident Analysis Group

The Critical Incident Analysis Group (CIAG) at UVA provides real-time expertise to the U.S. government in many challenging situations. In the 2002 Washington sniper incident, CIAG helped explain the meaning of a tarot card left by the killer at a crime scene. In 2004, UVA toxicologist and CIAG co-chair Chris Holstege diagnosed the Ukrainian President Yushchenko, who was suffering from dioxin poisoning. In the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking off the Somali coast, CIAG experts worked with the FBI and the U.S. Navy to develop assessments of the physical and psychological states of the hostage-takers. CIAG has been asked to assist in other intriguing cases. However, Greg Saathoff, CIAG’s executive director, is reluctant to discuss them. “Part of CIAG’s value is our ability to be discreet,” says Saathoff.

Established at UVA in 1996, CIAG studies how governments and societies respond to critical incidents, so they can be handled better in the future. CIAG includes students in the conferences it hosts at UVA and around the world to discuss major cases and identify emerging threats, lessons learned and best practices. Saathoff describes CIAG as a “thinknet,” connecting those who manage crises—leaders, diplomats and first responders—with international academic experts.

Scientific Research Creates Better Technology for Defense

Stuart Wolf fell in love with physics during the 1950s, when he was a teenager at New York’s Stuyvesant High School, home to a renowned science program and alma mater of four Nobel laureates. His passion for scientific inquiry still burns brightly. “There are,” he says, with unconcealed delight, “discoveries to be made. The idea of looking at uncharted territory is very exciting.”

For about 40 years, Wolf has prowled “uncharted territory” as a scientist and scientific manager, mainly with the Department of Defense. He now is director of UVA’s Institute for Nanoscale and Quantum Scientific and Technological Advanced Research (nanoSTAR). Through mid-2012, he’s working in Arlington for the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. Wolf’s task is to help the department decide how to use research dollars more effectively.

The professor’s job is not yet complete, but he believes that, no matter how much is spent, government will rely heavily on academic institutions to solve scientific puzzles. Of course, that approach is a well-established one that helped the United States win World War II. And today it’s alive and well at the University.

UVA professors now investigate issues for the Department of Defense, individual military services and the National Science Foundation. For example, Wolf has studied ways to reduce the power required by electronic devices, which could shrink batteries and devices themselves. Others have explored cooling high-power microelectronic systems, developing wireless sensor networks and protecting computer systems from attack.

Wolf believes that ensuring a sound academic-government research tie is key to America’s security and economic future.

“Schools have the freedom to do research that will yield important results in 10, 15, 20 years,” he says. “We need to have universities looking long term. Countries that advance are those that have the most breakthroughs. That’s what university research allows.”