April/May 2009

Homeland Security Policy Institute Addresses National Threats

HSPI Director Frank Cilluffo (right) and Deputy Director Daniel Kaniewski (left) head up an internationally renowned team
dedicated to advancing homeland security.

By Jamie Freedman

The September 11 terrorist attacks ushered in an era of unprecedented security challenges in the United States and around the globe. GW is confronting the vexing array of national and transnational threats head on through the fast-growing Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI).

Established in 2003, HSPI has quickly garnered a reputation as a national leader in homeland security policy analysis and debate. The interdisciplinary institute, led by Director
Frank Cilluffo, B.A. ’93, associate vice
president for homeland security, and Deputy Director Daniel Kaniewski, B.S. ’00, creates policy solutions to complex security issues and conducts innovative research.

“Universities have a responsibility to shed more light than heat on these pressing issues facing us and to provide insights into the way forward,” says Cilluffo, an international counterterrorism expert who joined GW from the White House, where he served as special assistant to the president for homeland security. “We pride urselves
on being the first ‘think and do tank’ in the country specializing in building bridges between theory and practice to advance homeland security.”

Kaniewski, too, comes to GW direct from three years at the White House, most recently as special assistant to the president for homeland security and senior director for response policy. A firefighter and paramedic by training and an authority on domestic
incident management and response, he oversees HSPI’s domestic homeland security portfolio, focusing on the policy implications of manmade and natural catastrophes.

“Frank and I are a great tag team,” says Kaniewski, who co-founded the institute in 2003 and was thrilled to return to it last August. “HSPI has grown tremendously in staff size, budget, and scope of work over the past few years. The institute is now renowned
nationally and internationally by the homeland security community.”

Cilluffo and Kaniewski head up a team of six policy analysts working on a wide range of issues across the disciplines. “We have an outstanding group who provide a broad array of expertise to HSPI,” says Cilluffo. The staff is supported in its efforts by a steering committee, corps of senior fellows, and international network of homeland security experts who provide strategic direction. “We draw on top subject matter experts around the world to do some of our intellectual heavy lifting,” he says. “HSPI prides itself on leading discussions that are often placed in the ‘too hard’ category and on looking at these tough issues more broadly and holistically. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve become a trusted force across nations, political divides, and disciplines.”

GW’s privileged location makes the University an ideal base for the institute, says Cilluffo. “GW has an incredible amount to contribute to the international dialogue, given our unique position just a stone’s throw from the White House, the State Department and the American Red Cross,” he says. “Inside government, you’re working on the crisis du jour, putting out fires without the luxury of sitting back and reflecting on the
issues or questioning assumptions. By convening domestic and international policymakers and practitioners at all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and academia, HSPI plays a vital role in looking at ways to rethink our national security policies vis-à-vis counterterrorism and homeland security beyond guards, guns and gates.”

The institute’s work reverberates throughout the policy world. Its experts regularly testify before congressional committees and government commissions. HSPI studies, including one on the radicalization of individuals within the prison system and another
on Internet-facilitated radicalization, recently led to full Senate committee hearings. The institute also extends its global reach through regularly published policy papers and by hosting events featuring leading thinkers in the homeland security field.

A case in point is the group’s Ambassadors Roundtable Series, an ongoing dialogue on international counterterrorism efforts that has hosted more than 30 ambassadors
since its inception. “The series provides a trusted forum for open, holistic, strategic discussions about transnational counterterrorism issues,” says Cilluffo. “We’ve hosted ambassadors from a number of hot-spot countries, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, China, Iraq, and Israel, and routinely draw 200 or more guests.”

The institute also coordinates forums spotlighting new policy solutions and innovative research. “Our Policy & Research Forums feature leading policymakers, academics, and researchers from the United States and abroad who share their insights,” Cilluffo
says. In February, for example, HSPI hosted the majority and minority House and Senate leaders on homeland security for a lively discussion on Congress’ homeland security priorities. The well-attended event came on the heels of a successful round -
table series leading up to the historic change in administration this January titled “Thinking Anew—Security Priorities for the Next Administration.”

“HSPI brings great attention to the University through our unique programs focusing on current and future threats to the nation,” says Kaniewski. “Our vision is to continue
outreach to all facets of the University and ultimately to join forces in some way with every school at GW—by co-sponsoring events, co-authoring policy papers and through various other partnerships. That’s the value of having a prominent think tank in a university setting—when we work together, everybody wins!”

For further information, visit HSPI’s Web site at, e-mail, or call 202-994-0295.


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