There is an abundance of rankings of US institutions of higher education. In compiling the 100 most militarized schools in America, we did not endeavor to determine the "best" of anything. We instead calculated what universities and colleges had the closest ties to US national security, in terms of education and training, and ranked them accordingly. To do that, we asked the essential questions: What schools did the people who work in and around US intelligence attend, and what did they study?
To determine this, we started with a unique dataset of resumes of more than 90,000 people who have worked for, in, and around the Intelligence Community (IC) since 9/11. These include military personnel, government civilian employees, and contractors at the federal, state, and local levels. The criteria for inclusion in the dataset is the possession of a Top Secret clearance or, in cases where an individual did not identify his or her security clearance level, direct employment in one of the 17 agencies that comprise the IC. Apart from the overwhelming number of resumes that explicitly identify a Top Secret clearance, we have used material evidence, including job announcements and descriptions, to deduce that everyone who works in a "substantive" job in the national intelligence program has a Top Secret clearance.
The resumes and biographies have been lawfully and freely obtained from various employment companies and social media websites by William M. Arkin, a national security consultant to VICE News. He obtained unique access to the documents and studied the resulting dataset. The analysis that underpins the VICE News ranking has been cross-checked against (and corroborated by) independent reporting. Mr. Arkin is an award-winning and bestselling author and journalist who has previously worked for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence states that there are some 1.4 million people who hold Top Secret clearances today. The dataset constitutes roughly 6 percent of the total. More than 90 percent of the people in the dataset assumed their careers in national security after September 2001. The analysis uses this considerable sampling of personnel to reveal characteristics of the broader population. For the sake of accuracy, we endeavored to make the dataset's distribution of affiliations — agency and department, military and civilian, government and private sector — reflect the actual composition of the national security community.
The overall ranking begins with a base value for each American institution of higher education that is represented in the dataset, which was calculated using the number of people who attended the school. We then considered 51 other factors, based on each institution's affiliations with intelligence, homeland security, federal law enforcement, and the military. They include federal funding for research as well as the school's academic, scientific, or security partnerships with the military, the IC, and law enforcement agencies. We also obtained documents from the government and from universities regarding these various academic affiliations and the rules and practices of "classified" research undertaken by universities on behalf of the government.
Since many schools represented in the base numbers are institutions that chiefly offer distance education, we adjusted the base value if more than 50 percent of an institution's undergraduates and graduates were online-only students. We did so by subtracting a percentage from the base value in order to compensate for the larger enrollments at such schools relative to brick-and-mortar counterparts. We felt this discount was necessary to compensate for the fact that the majority of these virtual schools often have no other affiliation and, apart from limited examples, do not receive any federal funding for research.
We added weight to institutions that received national security funding for scientific or academic research from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, or Justice, as well as other entities in the IC. We also considered the proportion of enrolled veterans or active-duty members of the armed services whose tuition was funded by the Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs.
We added weight to institutions that offered traditional training in military arts or were designated as one of the six certified US senior military colleges by the Department of Defense, as well as to those that offered specialized certificate and degree programs (e.g., homeland security, law enforcement intelligence, intelligence analysis and operations, unmanned systems) to train and educate the new cadre of federal and private-sector employees that make up the modern national security state. We also counted how many degrees were offered.
Though the three US military academies (the US Military Academy at West Point, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and the Naval Academy in Annapolis) all fell within the Top 100, we excluded them because we wanted our ranking to list the most militarized civilian institutions, and those academies are owned by the federal government.
We added additional weight to schools that possess formal academic, scientific, or security partnerships and programs with military, intelligence, or law enforcement entities. We also investigated the presence of centers, think tanks, and programs dealing with national security studies, and determined whether they were funded by the federal government, philanthropic institutions and individuals, or by the defense industry. We also considered which institutions had additional formal programs or projects funded by private industry in the areas of defense and information technology.
What follows is an explanation of the factors that were applied in ranking the schools.
IC Center of Academic Excellence
This factor acknowledges the existence of an Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence at an institution of higher education.
Congress mandated the IC to advance the education and development of future IC job applicants, "who are multi-disciplinary, as well as culturally and ethnically diverse." Under the mandate the Defense Intelligence Agency provides "grants to competitively accredited US four-year colleges and universities to support the design and development of intelligence-related curricula."
NGA Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Science
This factor acknowledges the existence of a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Center of Academic Excellence at an institution of higher education.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, in partnership with the US Geological Survey, uses the centers to develop a future workforce; to cultivate expertise in geospatial sciences and content processing; to establish and further tradecraft methodologies; and to perform research and development.
NSA Center of Academic Excellence
This factor acknowledges the existence of a National Security Agency Center of Academic Excellence exists at an institution of higher education.
This factor acknowledges the existence of Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity funding for research at an institution of higher education.
A branch of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, grants from IARPA fund "high-risk/high-payoff research" that has the potential to provide "an overwhelming intelligence advantage over future adversaries."
Intelligence Studies Program
This factor acknowledges the existence of any certificate or degree-granting intelligence studies program at an institution of higher education.
SCIF on Campus
This factor acknowledges the existence of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility on campus.
SCIFs are facilities utilized to handle information deemed by a federal agency as classified, or needing protection, under Executive Order 13526 or a similar precedent. There are several armed service regulations and IC directives that outline the legal and proper handling and storage of classified information.
Certified Military College
This factor acknowledges the existence of an institution as one of the six US senior military colleges.
Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC)
This factor acknowledges if an institution of higher education has an ROTC unit on campus.
Military training at institutions of higher education was established under a single federally-controlled entity called the Reserve Officers' Training Corps with the passage of the National Defense Act of 1916. Military training in higher education had previously existed at Norwich College in Vermont in 1819, and later expanded under the Morrill Act of 1862.
Enrollment Percentage of Veterans Funded by GI Bill
This factor accounts for the percentage of veterans enrolled at an institution who are using the GI Bill to pay for their education.
Enrollment Percentage of Active-Duty Military Personnel with DoD TA
This factor accounts for the percentage of active-duty members of the armed services who are enrolled at an institution who are using Department of Defense Tuition Assistance to fund their education.
This factor accounts for the designation of a college as Military Friendly, a trademark of the veteran-owned media consulting firm Victory Media. Victory Media produces the Military Friendly™ ratings and instructs brands and clients on how to market themselves to the military community.
Servicemembers Opportunity College (SOC)
This factor accounts for an institution of higher education's designation as a Servicemembers Opportunity College.
SOC is a cooperative agreement between a school and the Department of Defense to "provide high quality education while 1) maximizing the proper award of academic credit for military training and experience, and alternative testing, and 2) facilitating the transferability of credits, so servicemembers can reach their educational goals and the goals of the Services."
Department of Defense Research and Development Expenditures
This factor is the total of federally financed higher education R&D expenditures for each institution financed by the Department of Defense for 2013, the most recent year for which there is complete data.
The total value per institution includes R&D funding for computer, environmental, life, mathematical, physical, and psychological science projects, as well as other multidisciplinary/ interdisciplinary projects that cannot be classified within one field of science. The total value also includes engineering as well as non-science or non-engineering fields.
The principle purpose of federally contracted R&D is to "advance scientific and technical knowledge and apply that knowledge to the extent necessary to achieve agency and national goals. Unlike contracts for supplies and services, most R&D contracts are directed toward objectives for which the work or methods cannot be precisely described in advance."
Federal contracts for R&D are utilized where the "principal purpose is the acquisition of supplies or services for the direct benefit or use" of the government. Federal R&D grants or cooperative agreements are utilized "when the principal purpose of the transaction is to stimulate or support research and development for another public purpose."
Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC)
This factor accounts for the existence of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers sponsored by government agencies that possess a national security mission, which are also administered entirely or in part by institutions of higher education.
FFRDCs are established to support "special long-term" government research and technological development that is otherwise beyond the scope of academic and commercial enterprise, and to provide the government with objective and independent policy guidance.
A sponsoring federal agency establishes a long-term relationship with an FFRDC in order to attract the kind of talent, expertise, and capacity that can meet its objectives and respond quickly to critical needs.
FFRDCs must also work in the "public interest." Federal policy requires that FFRDCs be "operated, managed, and/or administered by either a university or consortium of universities, other not-for-profit or nonprofit organization, or an industrial firm, as an autonomous organization or as an identifiable separate operating unit of a parent organization." Sponsorship by the Department of Defense requires that an FFRDC operate as a non-profit.
An FFRDC's special relationship with the government requires that it maintain the kind of infrastructure and human capital capable of performing classified or sensitive research and development.
University Affiliated Research Center (UARC)
This factor accounts for the existence of University Affiliated Research Centers at institutions of higher education.
UARCs are entities within institutions of higher education that receive more than $6 million a year of sole source funding to maintain "essential engineering, research, or development capability" through a "long term, strategic relationship" with the Department of Defense. Like DoD-sponsored FFRDCs, UARCs serve as "subject matter experts that function as independent, trusted advisors and honest brokers, answerable only to their DoD customers." Unlike FFRDCs, UARCs have education as part of their mission.
The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering approves and designates research organizations as UARCs.
Every UARC has areas of expertise and core competencies that it "must provide in support of its mission to support DoD."
Minerva Initiative University Research Grant
This factor accounts for every University Research Grant from the Department of Defense-sponsored Minerva Initiative that was awarded to an institution or one of its faculty members between 2009 and 2015. The grant provides funding for social science research "focusing on areas of strategic importance to US national security policy." The program was established in 2008 by the Secretary of Defense.
According to the program's website, the goal of the initiative is to improve the Department of Defense's "basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US." The research grant aims to "leverage and focus the resources" of the best US schools; to determine and advance core expertise "about sources of present and future conflict" in order to glean insight into "political trajectories of key regions of the world"; and to develop the Department of Defense's capacity to cultivate "cutting-edge social science research, foreign area and interdisciplinary studies" that can survive the rigorous standards of academic scholarship.
Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI)
This factor accounts for every Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grant awarded to an institution of higher education or one of its faculty members between 2006 to 2012, and 2014. (The data for 2013 is unavailable.)
Under the auspices of the Basic Research Office in the Office of the Secretary, the MURI grant supports multidisciplinary research in a single topic of science or engineering that advances fundamental knowledge or that stimulates new technology that the DoD considers a priority to its mission. The initiative provides for three years of guaranteed funding, with an opportunity for two additional years. The average award is $1 million.
"MURI has become a mainstay of DoD's basic research programs, accounting for about one-quarter of the $1 billion in basic research funding that the Pentagon spends annually at US universities," said a recent news report from the journal Science. "In some fields, including computer science, engineering research, and math, the military is now the dominant US funder of fundamental science."
Grant evaluations are conducted by the Army Research Office, the Office of Naval Research, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Institute
This factor accounts for current Educational Partnership Agreements between the AFRL Information Institute, a consortium of academic institutions that conduct virtual and collaborative research into areas of information science and technology considered critical to the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate (AFRL/RI).
Individual faculty and students can also participate in the Information Institute "through postdoctoral arrangements, sabbatical leaves, the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Researcher Assistance Programs, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, Summer Faculty Fellowship Program and the National Academy of Sciences Associateship Programs and other similar programs and agreements."
Comprised of 800 military and civilian scientists and engineers, AFRL/RI is focused on advancing the discovery, development, and "integration of affordable warfighting information technology capabilities" for air, space, and cyberspace forces. AFRL/RI has four research divisions: Information Intelligence Systems and Analysis Division, Information Exploitation and Operations Division, Information Systems Division, and Computing and Communication Division.
Air Force Office of Scientific Research Top-Funded Universities
This factor accounts for institutions of higher education that received the most funding from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
This factor accounts for institutions of higher education that we determined have an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program that includes education and training in operating drones and associated sensors.
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Academic Partner
This factor accounts for the existence of formal partnerships between institutions of higher education and SPAWAR defense laboratories. These partnerships can include University Multiple Award Contracts, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, Partnership Intermediary Agreements, or Educational Partnership Agreements.
SPAWAR is the Navy's Information Dominance Systems Command. It provides the Navy with practical capability and enabling technologies for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; cyber warfare; command and control; communications; and information and knowledge management. SPAWAR "programs and projects cover the full life-cycle from research and development, system-of-systems engineering, test and evaluation, acquisition, installations and in-service support."
NSA-Sponsored Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC)
This factor accounts for the existence of a partnership by an institution of higher education with an NSA-sponsored Defense Department Systems Engineering Research Center, a collaborative research entity of more than 20 universities and research centers and over 400 researchers since 2008. The mission of the SERC is to "enable the DoD's capability in systems engineering for the successful development, integration, testing, and sustainability of complex defense systems, services, and enterprises."
US Strategic Command Deterrence and Assurance Academic Alliance
This factor accounts for the existence ofmembership by an institution of higher education in the US Strategic Command Deterrence and Assurance Academic Alliance, which advances academic collaboration and the development of current and future expertise about national security.
Deterrence "results from both the capabilities to deny an aggressor the prospect of achieving his objectives and from the complementary capability to impose unacceptable costs on the aggressor," according to a paper published by the US Air Force Institute for National Security Studies. Assurance, as a strategic concept, "represents the means and methods employed to convince a US ally or partner that the United States can guarantee its safety from intimidation, coercion, or attack by foreign actors. In many cases, this includes a pledge by the United States to use military force to protect the ally or partner from potential adversaries. It can also include the visible conduct of exercises and operations to demonstrate resolve, either conducted unilaterally by the United States or in concert with the ally or partner."
Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration's Academic Strategic Alliance Program and Predictive Science Academic Alliance Program
This factor accounts for membership by an institution of higher education in the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration's Advanced Simulation and Computing Program, which includes the Academic Strategic Alliance Program and the Predictive Science Academic Alliance Program.
Research conducted by the US academic community under these programs helps advance predictive modeling and simulation technologies to support the stewardship of the country's nuclear stockpile.
DHS Grants and Direct Payments
This factor is the total dollar value of Department of Homeland Security grants and direct payments to higher education entities and state-controlled institutions of higher education from 2008 to 2015. Federal grants are "an award of financial assistance from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public project or service authorized by a law of the United States." A direct payment is a "cash payment made by the federal government to individuals, private firms, and other private institutions.
This factor is the total dollar value of DHS contracts with educational institutions and historically black colleges and universities from 2008 to 2015, minus those awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Contracts are "agreement[s] between the federal government and a prime recipient to execute goods and services for a fee."
DHS Center of Excellence
This factor acknowledges the existence of a DHS Center of Excellence at an institution of higher education.
University and Agency Partnership Initiative
This factor accounts for the existence of a partnership between the Center for Homeland Defense and Security's University and Agency Partnership Initiative and an institution of higher education. We also considered if a college or university offered certificates or an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree program in homeland security studies.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress and the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice created and mandated the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) at the Naval Postgraduate School to educate and prepare "a national cadre of local, state, tribal, and federal leaders" to develop "policies, strategies, and organizational arrangements to prevent and respond to future attacks"; to advance homeland security studies; and to develop "a national homeland security education system by using an 'open source' model to develop programs, curriculum, and educational tools and share these resources with other academic institutions and agencies to expedite their development of homeland security programs."
"Recognizing the growing national demand for a robust pipeline of homeland security and defense professionals," according to an internal report, CHDS launched the University and Agency Partnership Initiative in 2004 to execute that mandate. "UAPI provides all curriculum and associated materials for a complete masters program (at no cost to partner organizations), supports partners launching homeland security educational programs, helps prevent redundancy in curriculum development, and encourages partners to improve and add to existing curricula. As new courses and resources are developed by CHDS and other UAPI partners, they are added to the pool of shared materials."
Homeland Security Defense/Education Consortium Association (HSDECA)
This factor acknowledges if an institution of higher education is accredited by HSDECA or if it conducts research or teaching that promotes the advance of homeland security and homeland defense studies under the auspices of HSDECA.
Established by North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command in collaboration with the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, the University of Denver, and the Naval Postgraduate School, the consortium is a network of teaching and research institutions of higher education focused on advancing the study of homeland security and homeland defense.
Citizen Corps Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
This factor acknowledges the existence of a Citizen Corps Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) or curriculum training program at an institution of higher education.
CERT trains community volunteers in disaster preparedness and response. CERT refers both to the training program itself and to individual volunteer groups in the community who have received training under the program.
Infrastructure Security Partnership (TISP) Council
This factor considers if an institution of higher education is a member of the Infrastructure Security Partnership, which was created after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to advance the practice and policies for the security and resilience of critical US infrastructure. TISP is part of the Society of Military Engineers.
Research and Education Networking Information Sharing and Analysis Center (REN-ISAC)
This factor considers if an institution of higher education is a member of the Research and Education Networking Information Sharing and Analysis Center.
In February 2015, US President Obama signed an Executive Order "to encourage and promote sharing of cybersecurity threat information within the private sector and between the private sector and government." EO 13691 directed the Department of Homeland Security to advance the formation of Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations.
REN-ISAC was created to "promote cybersecurity operational protection and response within the research and higher education (R&E) communities. The mission is conducted through private information sharing within a community of trusted representatives at member organizations, and as a computer security incident response team (CSIRT) supporting the R&E community at-large. REN-ISAC serves as R&E's trusted partner in commercial, governmental and private information sharing relationships, in the formal US ISAC community, and for served networks."
DHS Stop. Think. Connect. Academic Alliance
This factor acknowledges if an institution of higher education is a member of the Department of Homeland Security's Stop. Think. Connect. Academic Alliance.
The campaign was established in 2010 to promote safer online practices and to "develop the pipeline of future cybersecurity workers."
Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC)
This factor accounts for the existence of school officials, who are members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.
HSAAC was established to forge alliances between senior leadership of the Department of Homeland Security and the academic community on topics such as: "student and recent graduate recruitment; international students; academic research and faculty exchanges; campus resilience; homeland security academic programs; and cybersecurity."
National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC)
This factor accounts for the existence of partnerships between the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and institutions of higher education.
DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency sponsor the consortium to train and prepare first responders in counter-terrorism "within the context of all hazards including chemical, biological, radiological, and explosive Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) hazards." Congress funds the consortium through an annual appropriation through the Homeland Security National Training Program Cooperative Agreement.
Department of Justice Grants
This factor is the total dollar value of Department of Justice grants to each higher education entity or state controlled institutions of higher education from 2013 to 2015. Federal grants are "an award of financial assistance from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public project or service authorized by a law of the United States."
This factor accounts for a transfer of military equipment between the Defense Logistics Agency and a university or college police force between September 2011 and September 2013.
FAA UAS Certification of Authorization
This factor accounts for the Federal Aviation Administration granting an institution of higher education a certificate of authorization to fly an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).
Beyond the strict restrictions applied to recreational hobbyists, both private and commercial use of UASs in US national airspace is illegal, and law enforcement and civil entities must apply for the FAA certificate of authorization to fly a UAS.
The FAA sometimes grants universities UAS certificates for governmental or civil use if the institution is conducting aeronautical research funded by federal or state grants or for research done on the behalf of a state or federal government.
JTTF and ICE Task Forces
This factor acknowledges the participation of employees or entities of an institution of higher education in the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force or the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit.
State and Local Fusion Centers
This factor acknowledges partnerships or formal relationships between institutions of higher education and local and state fusion centers.
The University of Maryland is contracted staff for the Intelligence Analysis Section of the Anti Terrorism Advisory Council of the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center.
National Security Higher Education Advisory Board (NSHEAB)
This factor accounts for formal affiliation by a school official with the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller established the NSHEAB in 2005 to "bridge historical gaps between the US Intelligence Community and academe with respect to national security issues." The NSHEAB currently has 25 members, including presidents from public and private schools who meet with the senior leadership of the FBI.
DHS Nuclear Forensics Graduate Fellowship Program
This factor accounts for the existence of the Department of Homeland Security Nuclear Forensic Fellowship Program at an institution of higher education.
The program "provides support to graduate students pursuing doctoral degrees in nuclear, geochemical, and other disciplines directly related to nuclear forensics."
This factor acknowledges if an institution of higher education is a member of InfraGuard, a partnership between the FBI, DHS, local law enforcement, and other entities to facilitate information sharing and collaboration regarding counterterrorism, cyber crime, and other major crimes.
Campus Police per Capita
This factor accounts for the proportion of student enrollment to campus police at a university or college.
Federal Criminal Investigations
This factor acknowledges participation by campus police in federal criminal investigations.
Proportion of Sworn Officers per Campus Police Force
This factor considers the proportion of sworn officers to security guards who are employees of an institution of higher education.
Washington, DC Area or Office in DC
This factor accounts for the proximity of the institution's campus to the nation's capital or if the college or university has established a satellite location in the DC area.
This factor notes if the institution of higher education was established within the last 50 years or after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
This factor notes if the college or university is a public, private, nonprofit, or a for-profit institution.
This factor accounts for the percentage of undergraduates and graduate students enrolled solely in distance learning.
This factor notes the Fall 2014 enrollment at the college or university.