Professor delivers address at national program


By Paul Janczewski
Legal News

Mike McDaniel thought his military career might be over before it even started.

After completing his Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in college and being commissioner as a second lieutenant, McDaniel took a deferment from serving on active duty to attend law school.

But circumstances have a way self-correcting.

Years later, while working in the Attorney General’s office in Lansing, McDaniel was assigned a case representing the Michigan National Guard, and was later asked to join part-time.

To say he’s made the best of an opportunity would be a huge understatement.

In the years since then, McDaniel has risen to the rank of brigadier general, and has become an expert in homeland security at both the state and federal levels.

“It was great when I went to the National Guard,” McDaniel said. “I could have been done (with the military), but it worked out very well.”

He said it might not have happened had he not been assigned that case, which he called “fortuitous.”

“It was a great opportunity for me, and I’ve really enjoyed it,” McDaniel said. “It worked out very well, and I’ve had 26 good years in the Michigan National Guard.”

But it also took hard work, “and a little bit of luck” to make brigadier general, he said.

McDaniel, 55, now lives in East Lansing with his wife of 30 years, Ann, and two children, who both attend the University of Michigan. He is still in the Michigan National Guard, and is a go-to guy in matters of homeland security.

In fact, McDaniel was selected as the keynote speaker at the National Critical Infrastructure Symposium held recently in Arlington, Va.

The event was hosted by the U.S. Military Academy, George Mason University and the Infrastructure Security Partnership’s Society of American Military Engineers.

The symposium — a collaborative learning community of students, educators, practitioners and government officials who develop the next generation of critical infrastructure protection and resilience leaders, technologies and strategies — is now in its third year.

“It’s vital to national health, safety and welfare,” said McDaniel, whose keynote address focused on regional resilience.

McDaniel is also an associate law professor at the Cooley Law School, and is responsible for developing an LL.M. program in Homeland Security Law. So he has come quite far from his birth in Illinois.

His father was a Presbyterian minister, so McDaniel said the family moved a number of times while he was growing up, with the majority of it in upstate New York. He knew college was in his future.
“It was a household where everyone was involved in some discipline,” McDaniel said.

His father and grandfather were ministers, an uncle was a music professor, and another grandfather was a judge.

“I clearly wasn’t cut out to be a minister,” he said.

He graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 1979 as an American history major, and went to law school at Case Western Reserve University, graduating in 1982. He and his wife, who he met on a blind date, moved to Detroit.

After two years in Detroit doing criminal defense work, McDaniel said it was “a great experience, doing trial work and learning the rules of evidence, but I realized I didn’t want to do that forever,” so he was hired in the Michigan Attorney General’s Office in 1984, moving to Lansing after his wife got a job there.

While at the AG’s office, McDaniel held a number of positions in his 19-year career in several divisions, including environmental law, torts and in the executive division, where he was in charge of reviewing every civil and criminal complaint, and was also in charge of training others.

Within a few years of being hired there, McDaniel worked on that military case and was asked to join the Michigan National Guard, which he did on a part-time basis.

But after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and while McDaniel was in the AG’s executive division, then-Gov. John Engler asked him and others, as part of a task force, to help draft executive orders for placing the National Guard at airports, land crossings, and at bridges for protection.

“They agreed that we needed to develop some legislation that asked the question ‘Where are the holes in the system?’”

McDaniel said the group was responsible for developing more than two dozen pieces of legislation, and showed that political parties could work together in times when bipartisan cooperation was needed.

When Jennifer Granholm was elected governor, she appointed McDaniel as her adviser on homeland security, and he served in that position from 2003-09.

He also was serving full-time now as assistant adjutant general for Homeland Security for the Michigan National Guard as the liaison between the governor’s office and all state, local and federal homeland security agencies for developing policies and plans on preparedness and coordinating infrastructures on what to do if a terrorist attacks occurred.

“I gave up the day-to-day law practice,” McDaniel said. “I had to step back and say ‘How am I going to use my law degree now?’”

McDaniel now tells his students to look for other ways to use a law degree and their legal skills. Since a number of statutes have been passed since the Homeland Security Act in response to 9/11,
McDaniel said he was not actively practicing law “but using it everyday in one capacity or another.”

He also obtained a Master of Strategic Studies degree in 2005 from the Army War College, and two years later a Master of Arts in Security Studies from the Naval Postgraduate School.

While with the Guard, McDaniel earlier was State Judge Advocate, a military judge, and later served as a member of the National Governors Association’s Homeland Security Advisors Council and named as Chair of the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Government Coordinating Council through the Office of Infrastructure Protection of the Department of Homeland Security.

In all his positions and studies, McDaniel had become an expert in homeland security, its many agencies and arms, how rules would impact state and local governments, and how to protect critical systems and look for lapses in many different systems.

From 2009-11, McDaniel was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense Strategy, Force Planning and Mission Assurance at the Department of Defense in Washington, where he advised on homeland defense, developed strategies on domestic counterterrorism and worked on a national preparedness program, among other duties.

Under President Barack Obama, McDaniel worked on a program where the National Guards of various states and federal government had a plan to exchange views, share information and advice on homeland security, civil support and synchronizing state and federal agencies.

McDaniel said the entire homeland security system is much better now.

“There’s been a real interesting evolution because you ended up creating this whole new discipline of homeland security,” he said.

Although the phrase existed before 9/11, “it was not used in a focused way to refer to the whole of government efforts to protect the nation.”

Now, he said, it has evolved to protect the nation against accidental and manmade threats, whether another nuclear Three Mile Island threat occurs, a tornado, or a hurricane, or another massive attack like 9/11. Even smaller, pointed attacks, which McDaniel called “ankle biters,” fall under homeland security jurisdiction.

“It’s still a very broad, fuzzy definition,” he said. “And it’s still evolving.”

McDaniel said the important thing is the greater “collaboration and cooperation we see between all levels of government, and in the private sector as well.”

Besides his role at the Michigan National Guard, which is now a part-time position, McDaniel returned to Cooley Law School full time in 2010. Although he worked there in the mid-1990s, he talked to several people, including Associate Dean John Nussbaumer and President Don LeDuc about establishing a course in homeland security. He also teaches constitutional law courses.

“The opportunity to start this is exciting,” McDaniel said. “As homeland security has evolved, so has the law for that evolved. And we need to be training some good lawyers on this.”

His next goal at Cooley is to work on a course on veterans’ benefits.

“There’s a huge need for access of members of the military yearning for an access to justice,” McDaniel said. “There’s a need to improve the world around us.”

McDaniel said he never imagined his career path would unfold in this way.

“Just like everything, it evolved,” he said.

“It’s finding these opportunities and accepting new challenges what makes this career so interesting,” he said. “And in the law you get the skills to adapt.”