West Point's Combating Terrorism Center
Teaming Up with West Point
It’s a partnership that makes sense in the post-9/11 world: the FBI working closely with the prestigious Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, on a variety of training initiatives.
Established five years ago, the Center provides in-depth research, policy analysis, and education in matters relating to terrorism, counterterrorism, homeland security, and weapons of mass destruction. Its “clients” include representatives from all levels of government, undergraduate students, non-profit groups, and private enterprise.
Our collaboration started in 2006, when FBI counterterrorism executive T.J. Harrington got in touch with the Center as part of his efforts to strengthen training for our more than 100 Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) around the country. Says Harrington, “I knew the center by reputation and thought it could really augment our original training, helping JTTF members to put their investigations into context against the overall terrorism picture.”
Turns out, he was right. The Combating Terrorism Center quickly developed a three-day counterterrorism course specifically tailored to the needs of the Bureau and its task forces, focusing on understanding Islam, the roots of extremism, how terrorists use the Internet, and the origins and practices of terrorist networks like al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas. In mid-2006, Center instructors began traveling to select FBI field offices to conduct the class for JTTF personnel—which include FBI agents, analysts, and other support professionals, plus our non-Bureau task force partners.
The feedback so far? Extremely positive. “The history and background information allows you to understand why each organization believes what they do and why they do what they do,” said one participant. Offered another, “It gave me a clearer knowledge of where the bad guys are coming from…[and] has actually prompted me to seek out more information about the socio-economic-religious aspects of the terrorist ideology.”
That initiative was just the beginning. Since then, we’ve greatly expanded our involvement with the Combating Terrorism Center. Today, the Center:
- Sponsors leadership retreats at West Point for our field office management and counterterrorism executives from Headquarters in Washington, who not only get a healthy dose of the latest counterterrorism training but also an opportunity to exchange ideas, to raise important issues, and to work together to help shape the Bureau’s counterterrorism strategies;
- Provides each of our new agent classes with insightful historical and cultural information on current terrorism threats;
- Takes part in intermediate career development training focused on Islamic ideology and Arabic culture for onboard counterterrorism agents; and
- Offers training to our staff operations specialists who directly support our agents and analysts working counterterrorism issues.
Says T.J. Harrington about the training and expertise that the Combating Terrorism Center has provided so far: “It has been excellent at every level. It has been of tremendous value to our execs, agents, analysts, and partners. But the ultimate beneficiaries are the American people, who will be better protected from the threat of terrorism.”