Penn State alumnus Christian Marrone shares insights into work helping to lead Department of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security Chief of Staff Christian Marrone speaks to a Penn State security and risk assessment class on Wednesday.
Department of Homeland Security Chief of Staff Christian Marrone speaks to a Penn State security and risk assessment class on Wednesday.

Penn State senior Dan Ocasio said he’d love to return to his alma mater someday to talk about his job.

“To reach the level of success that they’d ask you back would be awesome,” Ocasio said.

He and about 50 other students listened Wednesday to Penn State alumnus Christian Marrone give insight about his job as the chief of staff to Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Information and Sciences Technology professor Edward Glantz said via email that Penn State’s College of IST is about 10 years old, but it has developed worldwide connections.

“Through these relationships we are able to invite distinguished guests to speak to our students, some of whom have a strong Penn State relationship, such as Mr. Marrone,” Glantz said.

Marrone, who played football for Penn State from 1994 to 1997, spoke to Glantz’s security and risk assessment class. Students in the class, such as Patrick Shea and Lauren Anderson, said they enjoyed hearing more about the field they’ve chosen to enter.

Marrone touched on matters that DHS handles, such as securing borders, screening for Ebola and counterterrorism.

He said the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention take the lead on addressing Ebola, but that DHS also plays a role.

“We have a program in place where we’re funneling anybody coming from infected countries to five airports,” Marrone said.

West African travelers must be screened at New York’s John F. Kennedy, Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare, New Jersey’s Newark or Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson international airports.

“When you’re from one of those countries, you go through screening where your temperature is taken and you have to fill out a questionnaire, and depending on a doctor’s assessment they could refer you directly to CDC,” Marrone said.

Marrone said that, despite media and political debate, the country’s borders are secure.

“If you read the press and hear different candidates and officials, they’ll have you believe that the Southwest border is so porous that anybody can just walk in,” Marrone said. “That’s not the case at all. We have 18,000 border agents today, whereas in 2000 we had 8,000.”

The DHS’s top priority, Marrone said, is counterterrorism, and said the Islamic State’s ability to communicate enables them to reach into Western countries.

“Before you would see, if you remember, Osama bin Laden coming out of his cave or wherever he was, and he’d make some stoic speech every couple years,” he said. “These guys are different. They’re on social media and other mediums every day and they’re sophisticated at it.”

Ocasio was an intelligence analyst in the Marine Corps.

“This is a serious thing I’m interested in,” Ocasio said. “I think he really hit it on the money when he talked about the production value of ISIS videos and things you see on Twitter.”