“This is the real world education I was looking for when I came to IWP.”
IWP student James DiPane has recently completed his duties as the first ever fellow at the Washington Regional Threat Analysis Center (WRTAC). Jorhena Thomas, the WRTAC Operations Manager, stated that his work product was of exemplary quality. “We’re really looking forward to repeating the success we’ve had here and reaching out to more students in the future. Offices like ours don’t normally collaborate with institutions of higher learning, and we’re happy to be on the cutting edge,” she said.
The Washington Regional Threat Analysis Center (WRTAC) is a crossroads of information relevant to the safety of Washington, DC. Known as a fusion center, the organization has been established in order to cope with the changing dynamics of our world. As opposed to the days of the past in which information was closely guarded, post-9/11 developments have made it necessary to share knowledge among more government and non-government entities and at a much faster pace.
“We liaise with various members of the intelligence community, law enforcement, and local government in order to keep all parties informed of evolving threats,” Ms. Thomas said. “We focus on many disciplines, such as counterterrorism, critical infrastructure protection, emergency management, public health, and emergency services. We take in information regarding these issues, process it, and make it available to District public safety leaders.”
A Fellowship at WRTAC
IWP students toured WRTAC in September as part of the IWP Career Services program, and both organizations quickly saw value in a partnership.
Career director Derrick Dortch commented: “After meeting Ms. Jorhena Thomas at the WRTAC Open House and Tour, she immediately saw the value in building a relationship with The Institute of World Politics. Things took off quickly from there. I was very excited about what I saw the WRTAC doing, and I wanted to get IWP involved. It was without question her vision and openness to collaborate on strategic issues that allowed us to build this successful fellowship. We thank her and the WRTAC for starting this relationship with us.”
Student James DiPane found himself right in the crux of this collaborative effort. Mr. Dortch recalls: “He has been focused on law enforcement and intelligence since he started at IWP, and the Washington Regional Threat Analysis Center (WRTAC) was the perfect place for him. He immediately applied when he heard about the fellowship.”
“I was excited to participate in a real world situation relevant to the safety of the DC area,” James said. “My coworkers treated me as a true colleague and factored my work into their analysis. I can’t say enough about what a positive experience it was working with them.”
James spent the six weeks of his fellowship analyzing open source intelligence regarding trends in terrorist activity, observing the security posture of DC’s first responders, and thinking proactively about crisis situations. “I showed up and they had an open desk for me and gave me free reign,” he said. “One of the biggest projects I worked on involved preparing for special events in the DC area. From day one, I was applying concepts I had learned at IWP, particularly the ones I learned at a crisis simulation organized by IWP alumni last fall.”
Looking to the Future
James was invited to return as a summer intern at the WRTAC and plans to do so. His exceptional work has made inroads for more students to follow in his footsteps. By providing valuable input with minimal need for guidance, he was able to find a seat at the table of a real world analytic effort in the heart of DC. “This is the practical education I was looking for when I came to IWP, as opposed to the more common academic and theoretical curriculum. I can’t say thanks enough to Derrick, Jorhena, and my immediate supervisor, Jen Del Toro.”
“Derrick T. Dortch is very much deserving of the credit for this pilot program,” Ms. Thomas confirmed. “We actually developed the position description together and he was very much a driving factor in the project.” James had similar input: “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without Derrick. I’m excited I was able to contribute, and I’m thankful he shared this opportunity.”
The IWP-WRTAC collaboration has had a particularly successful start thanks to the proactive attitude and willingness to work shown by James. Mr. Dortch commented: “James set the example for other students to follow by taking this fellowship serious and responding to the needs of the organization. He learned from the WRTAC team but was also able to bring knowledge gained from classes and training at IWP to his fellowship to assist in conducting analysis. We learned quickly that this was definitely a win-win situation for everyone. James DiPane is going to be a rising future star in the national and homeland security community, and we are proud to have him as a IWP Student. He has started off the WRTAC/IWP Fellowship off the right way, and we hope to keep that legacy going long into the future.”
Photo above: IWP students visiting the Washington Regional Threat Analysis Center.