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Cadet Education

The Center manages the most popular academic minor at West Point: Terrorism Studies.

The Terrorism Studies Minor (TSM) program is designed to provide cadets with the intellectual, conceptual, analytical, and theoretical tools to understand the nature, implications, root causes, and complex challenges posed by terrorism in the 21st century, and the multifaceted issues associated with counterterrorism policy. Housed within the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, the TSM program leverages the robust expertise and experiences of the CTC and the department’s permanent and rotating faculty members.

The TSM is based on two pillars: academic and professional development. These interrelated components are designed to offer cadets a world-class education in the different facets of terrorism and political violence and the ways governments respond to these challenges, while creating a community of young counterterrorism professionals in the process.

The TSM consists of five academic courses, which include two required courses (SS465 – Terrorism: New Challenges & SS466 – Combating Terrorism) and three electives. Cadets can concentrate their studies in five different tracks, which include: Counterterrorism, Middle East/Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eurasia. These tracks provide cadets with the ability to design their coursework according to their interests by choosing from an extensive, flexible, and interdisciplinary list of electives.

The professional development component of the TSM program provides opportunities for cadets to engage with leading scholars and counterterrorism practitioners. This portion of the program includes guest lectures and roundtable discussions with experts, practitioners, and senior government officials in the field; participation in academic trip sections to New York City and Washington, D.C; an ability to participate in a robust suite of AIADs in the nation’s leading counterterrorism units and agencies; participation in a capstone field exercise with the FDNY; and involvement in the Irregular Warfare Group, as well as other opportunities.

To learn more about TSM contact Dr. Richard Yon.

Professional Development Opportunities

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Special Events

Terrorism Minor Cadets will be given unique opportunities to attend lectures and roundtables with leading counterterrorism experts and practitioners. In addition the CTC is engaged in sponsoring and organizing various extra-curricular activities. The CTC sponsors an annual trip to Washington D.C. to meet with high ranking counterterrorism officials. Cadets on past trips have met with the Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. In prior years cadets have also had the opportunity to present their papers/theses and receive guidance and constructive feedback from CTC staff, senior faculty, and top experts in the field at formal events. Finally, twice per semester, the CTC hosts a Movie Lunch event that includes screening a movie relevant to the program and is followed by discussion with CTC Staff.

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AIADs / Internships

Through the generous support of Mr. George Gilmore select Cadets will have the opportunity to pursue six week-long internship opportunities at key partner institutions in Washington D.C., as well as in other parts of the country and abroad. In past years CTC AIAD program participants have interned at the NCTC, State Department, FBI, and other organizations.

Irregular Warfare Group

The Irregular Warfare Group (IWG) exposes Cadets to the principles of Irregular Warfare and special operations writ large at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. The program emphasizes critical thinking, innovation, small unit leadership, and team-building in order to prepare Cadets to wade into uncertainty and confront the intellectual, physical, and moral challenges of today’s complex operating environment. It also provides the opportunity for Cadets to develop critical relationships that will significantly influence their careers and future contributions to U.S. national security.

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Advanced Research Opportunities

In addition to mentoring Cadets pursuing their theses the CTC assists select Cadets who have a particular research interest with locating a sponsoring agency for both funds and additional academic opportunities. Past projects that have received additional support from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) include senior theses concerning the London 2012 Olympics, and illicit smuggling networks. The CTC has also supported a Behavioral Sciences & Leadership thesis cadet whose paper was accepted on a panel with Terrorism Experts Martha Crenshaw and Gerald Post.

Required Terrorism Minor Courses

Terrorism: New Challenges – SS465

This course is designed to offer cadets a solid understanding of the causes, nature, and consequences of terrorism, and of the practical and moral dilemmas facing states’ attempts to counter the terrorist threat. The course rests on the assumption that a sophisticated understanding of the contemporary terrorist threat requires an understanding both of the theoretical and historical underpinnings of terrorism, as well as of practical and policy considerations surrounding terrorism and counterterrorism. We will therefore approach the topics from both a theoretical and practical stance; in other words, we will apply theory to contemplate, develop, and discuss policy relevant solutions. The course also rests on the assumption that an informed understanding of terrorism must involve examinations at various levels of analysis: that of the individual terrorist, that of the terrorist group, and that of the situational context of terrorism.

Combating Terrorism – SS466

This course will introduce cadets to the tools, tactics, and strategies of combating terrorism in the current operational environment. Additionally, cadets will learn about the metrics used to evaluate counterterrorism strategies and tactics. The goal of the course is for cadets to think critically about combating terrorism. In short, this course exposes cadets to how we currently combat terrorism and encourages critical thought on how we can improve the way we fight terrorism in “the long war.”

Homeland Security – SS464*

*Although not a core class, SS464 is a required class for those cadets who pursue the TSM Counterterrorism track. It is also a popular class.

This course addresses the complex challenges of homeland security through an interdisciplinary approach. It provides future leaders with a thorough understanding of the homeland security policy area, explores the evolving nature of the terrorist threat, and analyzes the unprecedented and complex challenges America faces in providing for its security. The course examines how homeland security policy intersects with other domestic and foreign policy issues, how our federalist system of government affects homeland security, and how moral, ethical, and civil liberties concerns complicate the development of effective homeland security policies. By analyzing the threat and developing an understanding of the unique policy problems and tools of homeland security, the course enables students to critically assess national efforts in such areas as border security, domestic counterterrorism policy, preemption of emerging threats, critical infrastructure protection, countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and emergency preparedness and response.

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