Program of the Month Q&A: Homeland Security Program Director Steve MacMartin

Steven M. MacMartin ’13 is a clinical assistant professor in Medaille College's Department of Social Sciences and the director of the homeland security program. MacMartin recently retired as a senior special agent/national program manager with the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), having been employed by the DHS and its predecessor agency, the United States Customs Service, for more than 30 years. In 2013, he added a new dimension to his background by earning a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Medaille.

Here, MacMartin discusses his experience, and why homeland security is a vital and ever-evolving field in today’s world.


What drew you to a career in homeland security?

I had been working for the United States Customs Service for 23 years when it was made part of the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security. I chose the U.S. Customs Service after college because I was looking for a job in law enforcement, and the Customs Service had an interesting mix of investigative responsibilities.


As the director of Medaille’s homeland security program, how does your real-world experience in the field help shape the content of the program and the classes you teach?

When I designed the homeland security program, I did so with the intent of providing a program that was based on practical experience and the application of related skills. Every class in the program provides the students with exposure to homeland security professionals who share proven knowledge and leadership advice gained from their real-world experience.


What is the value of a homeland security degree in today’s world? For what types of careers does it prepare students?

If you open up your favorite news service on the internet or listen to or watch a network news broadcast, one of the top three stories every day will be about homeland security. This is partly because of the nature of current events, but also partly because the area of homeland security has such a broad range of concerns. A homeland security degree will help students in many areas better understand these issues and prepare them to cope more easily in today’s world. 


As technology and the nature of threats change and develop rapidly, how must homeland security professionals adapt and prepare themselves to stay ahead of the game?

Homeland security professionals are constantly training. Over the past 10 years or so, the use of computer-based training has expanded exponentially. It is an unfortunate fact that the bad guys are constantly seeking ways to successfully break the law (and terrorists are constantly seeking new ways to wreak havoc), so it is incumbent upon those who protect us to try and get one step ahead. 


You are serving as the keynote speaker at the College’s upcoming event, Buffalo’s Future: Disaster Preparedness – Where to Begin. How has your background with the DHS prepared you to speak on disaster planning? Why is it important that the average person be prepared for terrorism, cyber-attacks or natural disasters?

When people discuss homeland security, it is my experience that the first thing they talk about is terrorism. They tend to overlook the fact that the role and mission of homeland security involves so many other things:

  • Combatting drug smuggling and human trafficking
  • Preventing and defending from cybercrime
  • Managing immigration issues
  • Protecting critical infrastructure
  • Improving the performance of first responders through coordination of collaboration between local, state, tribal and federal authorities
  • Protecting from weapons of mass destruction
  • Airport and aviation security
  • Maritime security
  • The prevention of, response to, recovery from and mitigation of natural and man-made disasters

It is important for everyone to be just as well versed and prepared for a terrorist attack as it is for them to be prepared for a fire or other safety-related issue.


For more insights from MacMartin, see his featured interview from the summer 2017 issue of the Medaille Magazine.

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