Largest-Ever Cohort Completes Counterterrorism Course at the Marshall Center

Program on Terrorism and Security Studies graphic

Largest-Ever Cohort Completes Counterterrorism Course at the Marshall Center

The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies’ Program on Terrorism and Security Studies held their final session June 29, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen before each participant received a certificate of completion and became the newest members of the Marshall Center Alumni network.

“94 participants from 59 nations is truly a testament to the global reach and relevance of the PTSS program, with nearly one third of the world’s countries being represented,” said Defense Security Cooperation Agency Director James Hursch in a speech to the participants.

One of the Marshall Center’s programs with a global reach, this iteration of PTSS graduated its largest-ever cohort, adding to the more than 15,000+ Marshall Center alumni. 

The participants – mid-to-upper level government and private officials working in counterterrorism and countering violent extremism – examined global terrorist threats and challenges while analyzing and sharing best practices for comprehensive whole-of-government and whole-of-society solutions to counterterrorism, through lectures, seminar discussions, case studies, and table-top exercises. While the global security environment has changed significantly in recent years, terrorism is still a primary security threat for many countries around the world. By emphasizing cross-border collaboration and security cooperation, the PTSS program is meant to empower a global network of security professionals from partner and allied nations to tackle the challenge from terrorism collectively, in order to prevent, mitigate, protect against and recover from terrorism and extremist violence.

The four-week program aims at engaging participants on the strategic and policy levels, while a number of lectures also look at tactical and operational challenges. Special Agent Thomas O’Connor and Ms. Jean O’Connor, speakers at PTSS, shared their experience from their work with the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

“These professionals must work seamlessly in an effort to obtain and pass actionable intelligence from the scenes of major terrorist events,” they said. “This starts well before the attack begins. This starts through partnerships and coordinated training. It is too late to introduce yourselves when lifting up the crime scene tape. Courses like the PTSS break down boarders both internally and internationally. Truly building one team one fight. On countless occasions, we worked with PTSS graduates on Terrorist scenes around the globe.”

Counterterrorism is a field that is plagued by poor gender diversity among practitioners and professionals, and the course leadership has historically struggled with recruiting women practitioners. This year the Marshall Center team doubled down on this challenge and as a result, female participation tripled, increasing to 18% the number of women in the course. Similarly, the number of women serving as speakers and adjuncts also increased significantly in this iteration, as a result of the efforts of Dr. Tova Norlén , Professor at the Marshall Center, to track down and engage female subject matter experts.

Norlén explained, “I am often told that women counterterrorism professionals don’t exist. We do exist, but it’s just that nobody is looking for us.”  She says that while there are less women working in this field, the ones who do are often denied professional opportunities, especially if they come from traditional cultures. 

“As we move towards more comprehensive counterterrorism strategies, including both whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches, it is important to include all members of society, including women,” Norlén said. “Women play an active role both as agents and victims of terrorism, and they are also crucial for successful prevention and deradicalization.”

Upon graduation, participants join the PTSS alumni network, which includes over 2,400 members representing 138 countries. 

The George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies, founded on June 5, 1993, is a renowned international security and defense studies institute. A bilateral partnership between the U.S. and Germany, it is a lasting cooperation that promotes dialogue and understanding among the nations of North America, Europe and Eurasia. In 2023, the Marshall Center marks its 30th anniversary, re-emphasizing its commitment to carrying Marshall’s vision, an enduring legacy that continues through the security education initiatives of the Center.