Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 10, 2008

Homeland Security & Technology Panel Event

Filed under: Business of HLS,Congress and HLS,International HLS,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on June 10, 2008

Yesterday IBM and GW’s Homeland Security Policy Institute convened a panel event and discussion entitled “Technology in Homeland Security: A Double-Edged Sword.”

Brad Buswell, Deputy Under Secretary for S&T at DHS kicked it off with a presentation on how his directorate views the technology landscape, with a focus on not falling victim to the “failure of imagination” the 9/11 Commission blamed as one of the reasons the 9/1 attacks were not disrupted. This notion caused a number of us to ask about the practical limits on such an approach to technology. Specifically, how to insure against spending money on an “anything’s possible” mentality that invests in countermeasures against any threat imaginable? Buswell explained that White House guidance, Department level plans, and input from the customer community (the component agencies at DHS) helps bound the imagination.

Jan Lane stepped in for Frank Cilluffo to moderate Busewell’s presentation and Q&A and I joined the panel as moderator and occasional referee. Frank was able to join toward the latter half and weigh in on the issues.

Our panelists provided a diverse treatment of this challenging topic. Parney Albright, former DHS Assistant Secretary for Science and Technology, and now Managing Director & Vice Chairman at Civitas, weighed in on the challenges confronting the innovators on the business side of the equation who seek to take pre-prototype solutions to market and how that shapes the spectrum of technology solutions deployed at the state level.

Christian Beckner, Professional Staff Member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, explained some of the rough patches still preventing a more accelerated trend in technology as a homeland security advantage, as well as indications of areas of interest from an oversight perspective. (Note that Christian spoke not on behalf of the Committee.)

Greg Nojeim, Director of the Project on Freedom, Security, and Technology at the Center for Democracy and Technology offered insightful warnings about the unintended consequences of technology when it is not developed or deployed with privacy protections at the initial stages. He cited such things as the PATRIOT Act and government wire-tapping outside of FISA.

Langdon Greenhalgh, CEO of Global Emergency Group, provided the needed perspective of the international emergency response community, which depends to an ever increasing degree on technology as an enabler.

I’m working with Jan and Frank to generate an after action report that condenses the highlights of the discussion. Look for it to be available here and possibly on the HSPI website.

Over 70 participants attended representing the following, among other, organizations:

• DHS, NPPD, IP, HITRAC
• DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council
• Homeland Security Institute (DHS S&T)
• DHS S&T
• U.S. Secret Service
• Department of State
• Department of Energy
• The White House
• Immigration and Customs Enforcement
• Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
• Government Accountability Office
• European Union
• IBM
• Bingham Consulting Group
• Northrop Grumman Corporation
• Lockheed Martin
• Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC)
• Trade Security Institute
• Dutko Worldwide
• The Washington Times
• USA Today
• Swedish Institute of International Affairs
• Embassy of El Salvador
• Embassy of Switzerland
• International Association of Fire Chiefs
• Embassy of Australia
• International Development Bank
• Latin America Working Group
• Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)
• Partnership for Public Service
• Center for Democracy and Technology
• MSCL, LLC International Maritime Consultancy
• Oxford Analytica, Inc.
• American Red Cross
• Institute for Regulatory Science

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 10, 2008 @ 4:39 pm

There is a huge shortfall in R&D and applied research on decision support sytems. In many crisis management there is too much information that is of no consequence no matter how dramatic and too little that can make the difference in life and property saving in futuro. Interesting how little real imagination has been applied to DHS needs and HS shortfalls. Is it the quality of those asking the questions or those attempting to answer? We know that the Fire and Law Enforcement Professions are not early adopters. In fact development of EM and HS may be in reality a workaround of technology phobia in those professions. To some extent the Armed Services are the same, always a tradeoff between what worked in the past and what is needed for the future. Certainly, flexibiltiy in usuage (employment, inoperability, resiliency, reliability, restorability, and applications) will make some vendor products succeed. But are first principles of the needs and demands being looked at or just what can be sold to Uncle Sugar? At the moment it looks like the equivalent of the “wooden rifles” used to prepare troops in 1940 and 1941.

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