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Remembering September 11, 2001: How it Shaped Our Nation and the Field of Counterterrorism 

Nineteen years ago today, our nation was faced with a shocking act of terrorism. The horrific attacks of September 11, 2001 immediately produced a call-to-action. Many citizens felt compelled to help the nation prepare for, detect, and avoid any future attacks, partially because the falling of the attacks threatened the security of not only the nation as a whole, but each individual living in the U.S. 

Capitol Technology University immediately felt the surge of protective patriotism following 9/11. In the fall of 2001 just prior to September 11th the university launched the MS in Network Security, now called the MS in Cybersecurity and received 70 full-time enrolled (FTE) students–a respectable number. However, after the attacks on 9/11, enrollment for the spring 2002 semester almost tripled to a whopping 205 FTE students. 

“I remember the increase was mainly from full-time military personnel enrolling in the Network Security program,” said Dianne O’Neill who was Capitol Tech’s Registrar in fall 2001 and now serves as Senior Vice President of Enrollment Management. “The surge in enrollment for this particular course not only showed Capitol Tech’s ability to provide meaningful and relevant coursework, but more importantly showed the call to action felt by U.S. citizens to take positive action to protect the nation from any further such attacks.”

The call to action was not only measurable by the increased interest in security programs. According to Defense News, an independent news source for defense leaders, “From fiscal 2002 to 2017, the U.S. spent 16 percent of its entire discretionary budget as part of the counterterrorism fight1.” Defense News broke down the percentage of spending, specifying that “During that 15-year period, homeland security spending totaled $979 billion (35 percent of the overall counterterrorism figure), emergency and overseas contingency operations (OCO) spending at DOD totaled $1.7 trillion (60 percent), war-related spending at State/USAID totaled $138 billion (5 percent), and non-OCO counterterrorism foreign aid totaled $11 billion, less than half a percent of the total figure.1” 

In the 9/11 Commission Report, issued by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, the Commission identified several security issues made apparent by the attacks. The Commission wrote: 

“We learned that the institutions charged with protecting our boarders, civil aviation, and national security did not understand how grave this threat could be, and did not adjust their policies, plans, and practices to deter or defeat it,” wrote Aaron Mehta, Deputy Editor and Senior Pentagon Correspondent for Defense News. “We learned of fault lines within our government–between foreign and domestic intelligence, and between and within agencies. We learned of the pervasive problems of managing and sharing information across a large and unwieldy government that had been built in a different era to confront different dangers.2” 

Since the events of 9/11, the university has expanded its degrees in cyber and information security, critical infrastructure, and, most recently, in the field of counterterrorism. The counterterrorism degrees, offered at the bachelor’s and doctoral levels, focus on preparing students with the necessary analytic skills to work in government agencies, intelligence, military, law enforcement, and the private sector to help protect the nation, people, critical infrastructure, and businesses. Students in these courses will analyze terrorism in all its manifestations including the history and evolution of terrorism, the role of the Internet in terrorism, and much more using methodologies drawn from the disciplines of homeland security, military studies, conflict resolution, and others. 

Dr. Joshua Sinai, Professor of Practice for Counterterrorism Studies at Capitol Tech, reflected on how the events of September 11th shaped the field from the day of the hijackings to present times. 

“Since 9/11 the counterterrorism field has been transformed in many ways. In one way, 9/11's catastrophically lethal simultaneous and coordinated attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which were previously considered "unimaginable," ushered in what is termed "the fifth historical wave" of modern terrorism involving "super terrorism," which transformed what were previously fewer mass casualty and physical damage causing attacks by a single terrorist group,” said Dr. Sinai. “This led the United States and its allies to transform their counterterrorism response capabilities in many ways, ranging from the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security to more aggressively fighting the terrorist adversaries wherever they might operate around the world, including on the Internet, which has provided terrorists a second "cyberspace" in which to operate.” 

“The counterterrorism response private sector industry and academia were also transformed, with new technologies and analytic methodologies developed to analyze the changing nature of terrorism and how to respond to it in effective ways. Some of the new technologies include the application of computer science software tools, such as data mining, social network analysis, and, in the latest development, the application of artificial intelligence, to substantially increase the capability of government counterterrorism agencies to mine millions of data points to locate "the needle in a haystack,"” continued Dr. Sinai. “Another important new technological innovation is the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) that can be flown remotely to surveil and, if necessary, target terrorist leaders and operatives in regions where they might operate that are difficult for a government military unit to reach, thus serving as an important force multiplier in counterterrorism.” 

“Universities with a technological and engineering capability, in particular, when combined with cutting edge analytic methodologies and knowledge of how terrorism is continuously evolving, are ideally suited to educate new generations of students in the components of counterterrorism, thereby benefiting government agencies and the private sector who employ them in upgrading their own response capabilities,” said Dr. Sinai. 

While Capitol Tech continues to offer topically relevant and increasingly important degrees to educate the next generation of Americans who will protect the country, there is no effort strong enough to change the past. Collectively the nation mourned throughout the day of September 11, 2001, and the weeks, months, and years that followed.  

Today, we gather again as a nation to remember the lives lost on that day and the deep impact the nation has felt ever since.  

References 

  1. Mehta, Aaron. (2018, May 16). Here’s how much the US has spent fighting terrorism since 9/11. Retrieved from https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2018/05/16/heres-how-much-the-us-has-spent-fighting-terrorism-since-911/

  1. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. (2004, July 22). The 9/11 Commission Report. Retrieved from https://www.dni.gov/files/ISE/documents/DocumentLibrary/911Report_0.pdf