The Education Defense: Fostering a Competitive, Engaged, and Secure Generation

October 24, 2015

President Janet Napolitano spoke at the Council of International Relations 50th Anniversary Gala "The Education Defense: Fostering a Competitive, Engaged, and Secure Generation in Santa Fe, NM on October 24, 2015. Here are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you for that wonderful introduction. And a big thank you to the leadership of the Council on International Relations for the invitation to speak at this 50thAnniversary Gala tonight.
 
This gala is a terrific occasion. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the impact of the CIR on the Santa Fe community for the past five decades, and to toast the organization for another 50 years to come.
 
It is always a pleasure for me to spend time in Santa Fe. I grew up down the hill in Albuquerque, where my Dad served as Dean of the UNM Medical School. I am still a proud Matador from Sandia High School.
 
Every year, I return to Santa Fe for the Opera. I actually remember when those who had seats beyond the orchestra or balcony sections had to bring rain jackets to the performances with them.
 
Despite my travels over the years, I still believe—I firmly believe—that Santa Fe is home to the best huevos rancheros anywhere on the planet. And lest anyone further question my New Mexico bona fides, let me say this:
 
I take my chili Christmas style.
 
I’ve been asked to speak to you this evening on matters of national security, and various threats the United States currently faces. I’m happy to do so and to answer any additional questions you may have regarding these topics in a few minutes.
 
But I’d like to begin by elaborating a bit on the relationship between my prior work in politics and President Obama’s cabinet, and my current work as President of the University of California.
 
In the first few months after I became UC President, I was frequently asked this question:
 
What is the connection between youroldjob—preventing terrorist attacks and cybercrime, securing the border, enforcing immigration, and responding to disasters—
 
And your newjob—leading a University that spreads across ten elite campuses, three national labs, five medical centers, and a statewide division of agriculture and natural resources?
 
In the larger sense, it’s important to recognize that access to education is a key ingredient of hope—hope that you have a future; hope that you can live in a society with stable governments that operate under the rule of law, and hope that you can give your children a better life.
 
The absence of hope is despair. And when one traverses the globe, one sees the areas where young people, having no hope, have turned to organizations like ISIS. One recognizes the power of despair that causes thousands of people to leave countries like Syria and Libya and make a dangerous crossing to Greece or Italy—to Western Europe and to America—where there is relative stability and opportunity.
 
And so the missions of Homeland Security and the University of California share more in common than you might think. Both require collaboration, and both demand constant innovation.
 
When President-elect Obama first asked me to lead the Department of Homeland Security, I was excited and humbled.
 
But once I started receiving daily security briefings, and began digging into everything I needed to know about DHS, I had a slightly different reaction.  It went something along the lines of: “Gee, I thought this guy liked me. Why did he give me this assignment? Is it too late to get an Ambassadorship or something in the Arts?”
 
It became clear to me that the responsibilities of DHS were bigger than one department could deliver.  In fact, in my opinion, they were bigger than what the federal government alone could deliver. 
 
As a result, we had to look beyond DHS, and collaboration became a top priority. Our natural partners included international leaders, governors and mayors; state, local and tribal law enforcement; and first responders. 
 
We sought out new forms of collaboration, too, with the private sector, with the business community, with other countries, Washington think tanks, and NGOs. 
 
Out of these collaborations came innovation. This became another top priority. Innovation meant breaking down silos and creating new tools and resources. 
 
We built many of these new tools ourselves—from new data sharing systems to new technology, to better interoperability.
 
We also launched initiatives. For example, on Christmas Day 2009, a man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to board a plane in Amsterdam bound for Detroit. He was armed with explosives hidden in his underwear.  Fortunately, the underwear bomb did not explode as intended, and his plot to take down the airliner failed. But Abdulmutallab’s attempt revealed the glaring gaps in aviation security at international airports.
 
Thus was born our global aviation security initiative, which was developed in partnership with the International Civil Aviation Organization. Ultimately, it resulted in tighter security precautions, new global standards, and a unanimous UN resolution that dramatically strengthened security for global travel.
 
Collaboration and innovation are paramount at the University of California, too. And if one identifies the key security risks in the world today, one can see how the power of a huge public research university might best be marshaled to combat them. I’d like to address three of those security risks with you this evening.
 
The first risk is terrorism.
 
Terrorism thrives on lack of opportunity; on lack of education; and on lack of hope. These are its primary ingredients.
 
Terrorism also takes many forms. The threat against global aviation, which remains to this day, is just one of them.
 
Another is the destruction of sites and relics of historical, cultural, and intellectual significance. For example, when ISIS destroyed the nearly 2,000-year-old Temple of Baal earlier this summer, they destroyed a “cultural touchstone” for many Syrians. Those who attack educational institutions, or attack girls and women who pursue education, manifest yet another, a similar form of terrorism.
 
Here is where the soft power, and not just the military power, of the United States, must come into play. Our country must export more than arms and technology. We must also export our knowledge, and our teaching and education expertise. And public research universities like the University of California can help. These institutions are global actors, but they do not carry the baggage of a diplomatic corps, or security or military missions.
 
Universities can also take a meaningful part in understanding and combating the terrorism wreaked by domestic, lone wolf actors. These terrorists have killed a higher number of Americans than Al-Qaeda. They are extremely difficult to identify and to predict. UCLA Visiting Professor of Political Science Jeffrey Simon has noted that lone-wolf attacks have been “propelled by the revolutionary impact of the Internet, which provides lone wolves with limitless opportunities” to find instructions on bomb-building, track down maps and guides to potential targets, and cultivate their extremism in chat rooms or on social media. 
 
Further research into the motives and movements of these terrorists is critical. And universities are uniquely positioned to undertake this research. Examining this strain of terrorism under the lens of public health or epidemiology could represent a major step forward in our understanding of how, why, and when these terrorists act.
 
The second security risk is cyber—specifically, cyber threats and attack.
 
When I started my service at the Department of Homeland Security in 2009, cyber threats occupied about 10% of my time.
 
By the time I left in 2013, that figure had grown to about 40% of my time.
 
Cyber is among the gravest threats we currently face as a country. The sheer number of attempted attacks is astounding. In any given year, the University of California alone successfully thwarts millions of attempted cyber intrusions. And cyber attacks do not only threaten American infrastructure. They also threaten our intellectual property.
 
The U.S. government has made major strides in safeguarding the American public from cyber attacks. But as always, there is more to do. And I would argue that much of the best, most innovative research on this front is taking place in American universities.
 
At the University of California, for example, security is the bread and butter research discipline at our three affiliated national laboratories. A development program jointly run by Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Bechtel recruits and rapidly develops cybersecurity specialists who will, in turn, guide cyber research at their respective institutions, and create the necessary solutions to meet the cyber defense needs of private industry.
 
At UC Irvine, the Center for Secure Computing and Networking sets the bar on research regarding topics as varied as applied cryptography, computational grid protection, and intrusion detection.
 
At UC Davis and UC Riverside, researchers have partnered with the U.S. Army to better understand and model the risks, human behaviors and motivations, and attacks within Army cyber-maneuvers.
 
And just two weeks ago, three Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professors at UC Berkeley received National Science Foundation grants to research the security challenges of computer hardware design, cryptocurrencies, and wearable devices that are capable of audio and video capture. 
 
And finally, there is the third security risk—a risk that only now is being fully recognized. That risk is our changing climate.
 
Climate change is perhaps the greatest security risk we face—and the most difficult one to combat. It impacts issues as varied as disease management and food security; the preservation of water resources and the stability of fragile governments; immigration patterns and transportation infrastructure.
 
Last week, in a speech at Stanford University, National Security Advisor Susan Rice spoke movingly about climate change and what it represents for our collective future. As she said, “we face no greater long-term challenge than climate change.” “It is an advancing menace,” she added, and “we’re on a collision course with climate impacts that have inescapable implications for our national security.”
 
Once again, public research universities like UC can help alter that course. At UC, much of the research we undertake is focused not only on combating big global challenges like climate change. It is also focused on solving them. 
 
For example, UC’s natural reserve lands—which comprise the largest system of its kind in the country—are rich ground for the education and research that enables us to understand California’s physical environment, and acute issues like the drought.
 
Right now, a consortium of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses is conducting research in these natural reserve lands so we can better assess how climate change will affect California’s ecosystems. This past December, my office gave one of the first UC President’s Research Catalyst Awards to this consortium so researchers from across the University could undertake this critical work together.
 
That same spirit informed an initiative we at UC launched last year to address the challenges to the global food supply, which is another critical issue driven by climate change. We are harnessing the resources of the University to address this major question:
 
How will we sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach 8 billion people by the year 2025?
 
To answer this question, we are conducting research that ranges from breeding new crop varieties to improving nutrition. We are identifying best practices to address food needs, and creating toolkits that can be shared beyond the borders of our campuses. And we are pushing the boundaries of policy, research, and public service to find new ways to increase food security locally and globally.
 
But that’s not all. The footprint of the University of California in the state of California is enormous. So we are applying UC research to the University itself, as we work to achieve complete carbon neutrality in UC operations by the year 2025. We are making—and will continue to make—a real difference in California in energy usage, best practices, and sustainability solutions.
 
At the same time, as UC becomes a model for other institutions, and helps the state of California achieve its own climate change goals, we will share our research, our discoveries, and our solutions with the world.
 
On Tuesday, in San Diego, California Governor Jerry Brown and I will participate in a UC-hosted Carbon Neutrality Summit. This Summit possesses very ambitious goals. For starters, it will marshal the vast intellectual resources of the University of California to identify 10 scalable technologies to combat climate change globally.
 
These solutions will not only support the Governor’s efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions in California. They will also ignite powerful and much-needed strategy, dialogue, and action on carbon neutrality and climate change mitigation around the world. In other words, we at UC are doing our part—across our ten campuses, research centers, and national laboratories—to create the practical, scalable solutions our planet needs.
 
Fundamentally, universities like the University of California are in the opportunity business. When it comes to phenomena like terrorism, and seemingly intractable problems like cyber and climate, we can take on the challenges, and aim right at them with some of the smartest brains in the world. These efforts can enhance and drive our country’s soft power abroad. And it is this soft power that, more than military might, can provide a long-term, sustainable leadership role for our nation around the world.
 
It has been an honor to address you this evening. And congratulations to CIR on 50 wonderful years.
 
Thank you.