On Thursday I was in Manchester, New Hampshire to attend the New England and Eastern Canada Cargo Security Symposium, a regional conference focused on supply chain security. The group of people behind the conference have been working on these issues for more than five years, and were the original folks behind Operation Safe Commerce, before DHS created a new program with the same name that has spent tens of millions and whose results have never been officially publicized.
Instead, the leaders of this group have taken a grassroots approach to addressing the challenges of container security, operating on the cheap in comparison with similar federal projects and organizing in an open, collaborative manner, across formal jurisdictional boundaries. At the event, the organizers presented the results of their latest pilot tests of container security technology, which had been executed in partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which I thought offered a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge on the technical challenges of container security. (I’ll post an updated link to the findings if/when it shows up online; meanwhile, here are two earlier reports from 2005).
This model of homeland security R&D is exactly what’s needed in greater quantities today. The traditional large-scale models from the aerospace and defense world are appropriate for some homeland security challenges, but in many areas what’s needed is the competition of ideas among numerous small, nimble groups. HSARPA within DHS S&T has funded some activities that fit this mold. But too often, small, creative groups akin to this team in New Hampshire are inadequately or inconsistently funded.