Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 17, 2014

Sometimes government regulation is good; or how Medicare/Medicaid increased preparedness

Filed under: Biosecurity,Business of HLS,General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on March 17, 2014

The phrase “government regulation” usually implies something bad.  But sometimes, a few new seemingly minor regulations can have a positive impact. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (cms.gov) provides the latest example:

Describing emergency preparedness as an “urgent public health issue,” the proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services offers regulations aimed at preventing the severe disruptions to health care that followed Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. More than 68,000 institutions would be affected, including large hospital chains, “mom and pop” nursing homes, home health agencies, rural health clinics, organ transplant procurement organizations, outpatient surgery sites, psychiatric hospitals for youths and kidney dialysis centers.

It might seem like common sense, but previously health care organizations and facilities were required to do very little in terms of preparedness. Because of the market share that Medicare and Medicaid holds, that is going to change:

The regulations would require hospitals, nursing facilities and group homes to have plans to maintain emergency lighting, fire safety systems, and sewage and waste disposal during power losses, and to keep temperatures at a safe level for patients.

Those inpatient facilities would also be expected to track displaced patients, provide care at alternate sites and handle volunteers. Transplant centers would need to identify alternate hospitals for patients awaiting organs — a challenge because centers maintain different transplant criteria.

Home health care agencies would be required to help patients create personalized disaster plans. Hospices and others caring for frail, homebound patients would need procedures to help rescuers locate them. And health care employees would have to conduct disaster drills, while administrators might have to coordinate drills and response plans with local business competitors.

What is aggravating is that the seemingly sensible is so strenuously contested:

One of the most contested of the requirements calls for hospitals and nursing homes to test backup generators for extended periods at least yearly rather than once every three years, as is currently recommended. The generators have sometimes failed catastrophically during prolonged power losses.

This is not a narrow effort, but instead applies to a wide range of health care organizations:

The current proposal is unusual because it applies to 17 types of providers at once, which together serve an estimated nine million fee-for-service patients each month, as well as other patients covered by Medicare Advantage and Medicaid. Federal officials said this broad approach was needed to ensure that the health care system pulls together and that poorly prepared institutions do not stress others during a crisis.

You can read more about this effort, including the push back , here: http://nyti.ms/1fndiuP

August 21, 2012

Community powered recovery

Filed under: Business of HLS,Preparedness and Response,Private Sector — by Christopher Bellavita on August 21, 2012

This post is about two sisters from Monson, Massachusets.

A tornado destroyed part of Monson in 2011.  The sisters — Caitria and Morgan O’Neill — used “two laptops and a slow Internet connection” to create what they call  community powered recovery.

They now teach other communities how to do the same thing.  They turned their experience into a business.

Caitria and Morgan O’Neill describe their idea in a TED video.

You can watch the nine minute video at the end of this post.

But first a few appropriate words from the 2012 National Preparedness Report (with my emphasis):

Efforts to improve national preparedness have incorporated the whole community…. This whole community approach to preparedness recognizes that disasters affect all segments of society.  While the Federal Government plays a critical role in coordinating national-level efforts, it is communities and individuals who lead efforts to implement preparedness initiatives throughout the Nation….

Experience has shown that community members often serve as first responders…. Faith-based and voluntary organizations, furthermore, have demonstrated remarkable speed and capacity to establish operations to care for those in need after a disaster….

Of course, preparedness is not a new concept…. What is new is the unity of effort that whole community partners are bringing to the challenge, as well as the recognition that preparedness does not just involve spending resources—it involves changing mindsets and behaviors.

Here is the TED talk

A somewhat cynical colleague watched the video and sent me the following note:

I’m delighted at the confidence, even the certainty, that the 2 sisters have that ‘someone’ will do what is necessary.  Ah the human spirit!



May 29, 2012

“… it is not fish they are after.”

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Business of HLS — by Christopher Bellavita on May 29, 2012

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” — John Buchan

Homeland Security Research Corp. (HSRC) describes itself as “a Washington, DC-based international market research and strategic consulting firm serving the homeland security community.”

Two years ago, it projected that

Over the next four years: the U.S. HLS-HLD (i.e. federal, state and local governments, and the private sector) funding will grow from $184 billion in 2011 to $205 billion by 2014. The market will grow from $73 billion in 2011 to $86 billion by 2014.

In another 2010 report– about the private sector’s role in homeland security — HSRC notes:

The private sector procurement of homeland security related products and services represents 15-16% of the total US Homeland Security market. The US private sector HLS market is larger than the combined federal aviation, maritime and land transportation HLS markets. Over the next five years, the US private sector HLS market is forecasted to grow … from $7.7 billion in 2010 to $11.2 billion by 2014.

(To digress, this report contributed to my personal collection of favorite homeland security facts by pointing out The US private sector controls 86% of the nation high-priority infrastructure sites.” The usual estimates typically cite an 85% figure. Since the 85% number has no basis in anything beyond rhetoric, I admire the attention to precision suggested by 86%.  I also respect the creative addition of “high priority” to the otherwise mundane term, “critical infrastructure.”)

A third HSRC 2010 report points out that DHS is just part of the homeland security enterprise:

While the DHS plays a key role in homeland security, it does not dominate the US counter terror … market. The combined state and local markets, which employ more than 2.2 million first responders, totaled $15.8 billion (2009), whereas the DHS HLS market totaled $13.1 billion. …In spite of the fact that nine years passed since 9/11 with no successful terror attack on the continental USA, periodic, multi-year Harris polls, reveal consistent growth of public concern about another major terrorist attack.

That concern suggests opportunity:

Future small scale terror attacks (successful or not) will maintain this trend in the future. [sic] For example, the failed 2009 Christmas attack aboard a flight bound for Detroit and the attempted car-bombing in New York’s Time Square (February 2010) resulted in immediate White House intervention, Congressional hearings and a radical air passengers screening upgrade program costing over $1.6 billion.

But even if the federal budget does not come through, there’s still state and local government.

Most analysts overlook the fact that the OMB federal rules demand that state and local HLS activities must be financed at the state, county and city level. Annually, all the states and over 40,000 counties and cities fund $53-$62 billion of their HLS activities, while the federal government supplements this spending with grants valued at $3-5 billion annually.


“Fishing is a delusion entirely surrounded by liars in old clothes.” — Don Marquis

A recent two-day Counter Terror Expo was sparsely attended, writes Andrea Stone in Huffington Post.

“This is probably one of the worst I’ve been to in years,” said Jason Henry of Field Forensics, a Florida manufacturer of explosives and hazardous-material-detection devices that was incorporated in September 2001. “Nobody’s walking the show.”

“It was not as well attended as we expected,” said Mark Anderson, a representative of FLIR, which manufactures sophisticated thermal imaging equipment for police and the military and was an event cosponsor. …

“Unless a war pops up somewhere else, the homeland security mission will become much more important [compared with a declining DoD mission],” said John Gritschke, a manager for Laser Shot, a Texas-based maker of training videos.

… Despite the low attendance at the expo, most exhibitors said business was good.

That bothered Benjamin Friedman, a Cato Institute analyst.

“Our panicked response to 9/11 has made a kind of self-licking ice cream that tries to keep us worrying about terrorism and sells us defenses against it,” Friedman stated …. “This conference is a small part of that.”

“The good news is that austerity has meant that there is less money for homeland security, shrinking the homeland security industrial complex and bringing it into increased competition with its far bigger cousin, the military industrial complex,” Friedman added.

But one can always count on human nature’s self destructiveness.

Whether it’s war fighters or cops, Patricia Schmaltz of Virginia-based A-T Solutions sees a vibrant market for her company’s antiterrorism training classes. “I don’t see peace on Earth coming anytime soon,” she said.

“We would definitely support it but we don’t see it,” Schmaltz said. “So long as there are bad guys and nutcakes out there, we’ll be in business.”


Meanwhile, in a completely unrelated story, Rebecca Shlien reports the third annual Homeland Security Bass Tournament took place on Friday, May 18th in Decatur, Alabama.

… [Roughly] 300 current and retired firefighters, police officers, first responders and military troops came to cast a line—and not only from North Alabama.

[The tournament’s founder said] “I know we’ve got one [participant] here from Iowa, we’ve got Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida, so we draw them from quite a ways…. The jobs that these guys have, there’s a lot of tense, a lot of stress involved, and to get out there on the water and go fast in a bass boat, spend a few hours catching some fish, it really helps you unwind.”

If you’re interested, you can watch a video about last year’s Homeland Security Bass Tournament here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtxiA43BrnY

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” — Henry David Thoreau

August 18, 2009

A “Grand Challenge” of its Own

Filed under: Business of HLS,Congress and HLS,General Homeland Security,Technology for HLS — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on August 18, 2009

President Obama nominated Tara O’Toole as Under Secretary for the Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this summer.   While approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and sent to the full Senate, her nomination was one that did not make it through in the final days before the Congressional August recess.

If and when Dr. O’Toole is confirmed, she will have a significant job ahead of her at S&T.  Tasked with being the research and development arm of DHS, S&T has a budget of nearly $933 million (FY 2009) and is in charge of research in such areas as Chemical/Biological, Infrastructure, Command, Control and Interoperability (CCI), Explosives and Maritime.  The Directorate also oversees the Department’s Centers of Excellence/University programs and runs partnerships with a number of the Energy Department’s labs.

S&T also oversees the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA),  an entity which has struggled to find its mission.  Originally, it was intended to be Homeland’s equivalent of the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a scientific arm that focuses on high-payoff, innovative, and potentially risky R&D.  HSARPA, in its early days, focused significantly on conventional R&D that was not cutting edge but potentially provided some better returns.  In the past year or so, there was a push to mold HSARPA into the DARPA model but it hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

One idea that Dr. O’Toole and others at DHS may want to consider as they take the helm is to create a “Grand Challenge” for HSARPA, similar to the well-known and successful DARPA Grand Challenge.   The DARPA Grand Challenge, for those not familiar, is a competition sponsored by DARPA to facilitate robotic development for national security purposes.  Teams from the robotics, automotive, and defense industries, as well as from academia and elsewhere, design autonomous ground vehicles to complete a course set up by DARPA, with the winners of the competition receiving cash prizes.  There have been three DARPA Challenges to date, with the Urban Challenge, held in 2007, offering prizes of $2 million, $1 million, and $500,000, respectively, to the top three teams.

The theory between the DARPA Grand Challenge is that it “mobilizes the technical community to accelerate research and development in critical national security technology areas.”   If that is the case, why not develop a Homeland Security Grand Challenge?

There are countless specific technological challenges in the homeland security space that need to be addressed.  The Department has continued to struggle with pairing technology with solutions in a number of areas, including in the areas of border security, transportation security, and infrastructure protection.   As a result, Congress continues to mandate deadlines for implementing certain programs – deadlines that the agency has not always been able to meet.

A few ideas on some potential HSARPA Challenge subjects:

  • Technology to address the 100% maritime cargo scanning mandated by the “Implementing the 9/11 Commission’s Recommendations Act of 2007.”
  • Improved technology for identifying weapons, liquids, explosives, and the like at TSA security screening points to facilitate quicker and more effective travel.
  • Technology to improve border crossing times at the Southern and Northern Border Ports of Entry (POE), especially at peak travel times and during special events.
  • Technology to improve perimeter and access security at critical infrastructures and federal government buildings.

Admittedly, there are a couple of private sector-run security challenges already in existence.  Those may be good for generally promoting emerging technologies for general homeland and national security purposes. They are not the same as a government-initiated challenge to a specific problem. If anything, those programs would compliment what the government could be doing to furthering security technologies.

In addition, there are companies who claim they have technologies that can address the issues described above.  Allowing those companies, along with others, to openly and transparently demonstrate capabilities in a “crisis” designed environment would go far in getting these technologies out of the lab and pilot programs and into the field.   This effort may also help Congress better understand what can and can’t be done with technology and what R&D still lies ahead.

March 18, 2009

Fraud, Flexibility, and Rocks (and they ain’t diamonds)

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Business of HLS — by Philip J. Palin on March 18, 2009

An Inspector General’s prose styling can sometimes  take your breath away:

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursed a subgrantee receiving Stafford Act funds $3.8 million for rocks used for emergency repairs and improvements to facilities, notwithstanding that the rocks had originally cost the subgrantee less than $20,000.”

As the late Paul Harvey might have said, you can read the rest of the story on page 2.

June 26, 2008

Technology Task Force Presents 7 Recommendations to Chertoff

Filed under: Business of HLS,Organizational Issues,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on June 26, 2008

I’ve covered the work of the DHS Essential Technology Task Force here and here, and yesterday the ETTF reported out its final recommendations to the Secretary during the public portion of the HSAC’s bi-annual meeting with the Secretary.

The Secretary of Homeland Security tasked the Homeland Security Advisory Council with establishing an Essential Technologies Task Force (ETTF) to address the following questions:

• What are the legal, financial and operational issues that must be understood to assess whether and to what extent DHS should acquire various types of technology on a service or lease basis, rather than as a purchase/capital investment?

• What types of technology might be considered as candidates for different approaches?

• What types of financial arrangements would the private sector likely be prepared to accept, and how should DHS assess the pros and cons of each?

IBM’s Scott Gould and I were among those invited to testify before the Task Force. On the two occasions that I presented to them, my testimony focused on key attributes of successful technology acquisition from other parts of the USG, as well as opportunities for DHS to collaborate with international partners for joint technology development, the models for which reside at the EU, NATO, and elsewhere.

Both Scott and I made the point that without an overarching framework to guide a Department-wide acquisition strategy, little progress is likely. Scott actually recommended using the Global Movement Management framework as a model, which the Task Force chose to include as a specific example in their final report. That report described in detail the following seven top-level recommendations:

1. Build a high performance acquisitions and program management function implemented by capable staff.

2. Adopt a rigorous Department-wide requirements management process.

3. Develop a Department-wide acquisition strategy with a clear implementation plan.

4. Improve engagement with the private sector.

5. Manage innovation though a variety of approaches.

6. Use the regulatory and standards setting role of DHS to generate economies of scale across stakeholder domains.

7. Continue to advocate for the reduction of homeland security Congressional committees.

The Secretary stayed only to delivery praise to the Task Force and swear in three new members to the HSAC. He left before ETTF chairman George Vradenburg delivered his presentation on the Task Force’s findings. This is unfortunate. The ETTF is another example of how the HSAC is becoming a more focused and more useful advisory entity to the DHS leadership. Kudos to Chuck Adams and Amanda Rittenhouse for their tireless efforts over the last several months in leading the Task Force’s staff team.

Before he left, Chertoff charged the HSAC membership with one more task: “What are the ten tasks for the next Administration to take up and accomplish over its first year or two?”

It seemed odd to charge this group with something so trite. However, he explained, rightly, that it is important that efforts be made to preserve the institutional knowledge of the Department into and through its first ever Presidential transition.

I’d like to know what you think should make the top ten list. Comment below.

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 Homeland Security Advisory Council
• Homeland Security Institute (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
• 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

June 3, 2008

Innovation Competition Focuses on HLS Solutions

Filed under: Business of HLS,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on June 3, 2008

Readers may recall the Global Security Challenge as the technology and innovation competition started a couple years ago to focus on homeland security and CT capabilities. This year, co-president of the GSC, Simon Schneider, wrote me to explain that they’ve expanded the competition in two important ways. First, they are inviting early-stage innovators to compete with ideas, not necessarily prototypes or finished products. Second, they’ve created a new category for the best solution for protecting crowded places – an area that is of particular concern to the UK Government.

This year’s Best Security Idea award is aimed to support researchers, infant companies with no revenue yet, and any other inventors who just have an idea for a security solution. Judges are seeking submissions with compelling “disruptive potential,” rather than product maturity. The prize for this competition category is mentorship by Siemens Venture Capital and the opportunity to present the winning idea on stage of the GSC Grand Final in London.

Secure Futures, the GSC’s partner company and a UK-based national security “innovation firm,” will provide financial and advisory support for a new award category in the Global Security Challenge competition to reward the most innovative ideas for securing crowded areas. Winning solutions, according to GSC, may include innovative video surveillance solutions, access control technologies, or solutions for better communicating with crowds. This award is a subcategory of the Best Security Idea Award with a focus on contributing to public safety. The winner receives $10,000. Since this is held in London, I’d recommend asking for that in pounds or euros.

The big fish at the GSC is of course the $500,000 grant sponsored by the Technical Support Working Group, an interagency technology development entity led by DOD, DHS, and State. This prize is open to competition from any security technology startups with less than $5 million in revenues in 2007 and a working prototype. All finalists receive mentorship by leading VC firms.

October 31, 2007

HLS Biz Watch: USCIS Ramps Up Contracting

Filed under: Border Security,Business of HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on October 31, 2007

DHS announced it has contracted California-based Computer Sciences Corp. for information-technology support. Under the $53 million contract CSC will provide desk support, systems training and security and strategic business system planning among other business intelligence analysis support services for USCIS.

USCIS announced that it has selected a team that includes Northrop Grumman Corporation to provide large operations management services at the USCIS California and Vermont service centers. The three-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contract has a total ceiling value of $225 million to the team, on which Northrop Grumman will be a subcontractor to Stanley, Inc.

A $357 million contract from USCIS went to Northrop Grumman to continue providing biometric capture services in support of U.S. citizenship applications and green card renewals. Biometric capture services involve electronic scanning and recording of fingerprints, and photograph and signature collection, for identification purposes. Under Northrop Grumman’s management of the biometric program, USCIS has reduced its fingerprint rejection rate from 20 to 1.5 percent.

A $225 million contract supporting USCIS Service Center Operations in Nebraska and Texas went to SI International. The company also supports USCIS Office of Records services with the tracking and accounting of more than 62 million immigration files.

September 18, 2007

Show Me the Money – and More

Filed under: Business of HLS,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 18, 2007

The Security Breakfast Series launched in WDC this morning. Titled “What’s Next: The Future of Homeland Security Technology,” the event included a mix of official DHS representatives and private sector leaders mainly from the venture capital and investment banking community. Crowell Moring and Legend Merchant Group were core sponsors.

Main theme over danishes: there’s money to be made in homeland security and the government is looking for us to wise up to the fact.

Bob Hooks, Director of Transition for DHS S&T, made two important points. First, the asymmetric nature of the threat faced by DHS and its component agencies is far broader than that which DOD must confront. Second, technology as a “force multiplier” serves a central role in meeting DHS needs in this mission. To make it even easier for the investors in the room, Hooks brought an unclassified document that lists (without too much specification, of course) the high priority technology needs the Department seeks.

Drawing a difference between DHS and DOD is easy to do, but Hooks’ point suggested an added challenge. Technology is in great need at DHS, but the budget is far smaller than anything similar at DOD. Hence the market forces that came for coffee this morning. An underlying assumption made explicit by almost every panelist was that the most successful technologies for homeland security will require a commercial application. Michael Steed of Paladin Capital drove this home with a drumbeat of investments his group has made in funds valued at several million dollars. Heck, the Department was even smart enough to bring on a Chief Commercialization Officer to help the private firms get the idea.

Tom McMillen of Homeland Security Capital Corp spoke to the trajectory of the threats DHS will likely consider top priorities while suggesting that a Democratic win of the White House in 2008 is sure to generate greater federal investment in homeland security (at the expense of Iraq funding, which is about $452, 447, 997, 763 to date).

However, another important role of the private sector in securing the homeland was out of scope for today’s discussion. In addition to selling services and solutions for DHS to defend against terrorism, the private sector is also in many ways the target of terrorism. What makes the asymmetry in protecting the homeland so much broader than that which the Pentagon deals with has both to do with the methods that must be defended against and the spectrum of targets that includes almost anything in the civilian domain. Private industry, however, is not only a target or vector for terrorism. There are ways in which the private sector — global shipping, banking industry, HAZMAT, etc — can become part of the defense in doing daily business.

The guys at the DNDO call this “grafting security onto the private sector.” In this way, a globally flung network of shipping fleets could be vectors for detecting the presence of dangerous materials. The international banking industry could partner as they sometimes do through SWIFT to detect the presence of dangerous money flows. As the public and private sector begin to work more collaboratively from this standpoint, we might see the asymmetry winnow. Moreover, if terrorists use our weaknesses against us, let’s use theirs against them: they don’t have international alliances through the World Customs Organization, but we do. They don’t have working relationships with the global banking community, and yet we do. Indeed when panelists this morning spoke of how technology has the potential of being a “force multiplier” for federal efforts to secure the homeland they may have sold it short. A broader perspective on how the public and private sectors can work together and exploit our shared strengths – “grafting security” onto the private sector – could go a long way in shifting the asymmetry.

September 5, 2007

HLS Biz Watch

Filed under: Business of HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on September 5, 2007

Nortel Government Solutions began a new contract this month with a potential value of $39 million to support U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) procurement strategy development, project planning, reporting, purchasing and database management. The new award is scheduled to run through November 2011. 

Rainmaker: To transform from paper-based technology to information technology, USCIS is preparing to release a contract for its Business Systems Transformation initiative with an estimated value of $235 million. 

Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) won a three-year, $85 million contract from ICE to provide information technology operations and maintenance support. 

G&H International Services of DC won a $1.6 million contract from DHS to provide research and development for the Public Safety and Security Institute for Technology Program.

August 28, 2007

HLS Biz Watch

Filed under: Business of HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 28, 2007

ICF International won three nine-month contracts worth a total of $1.6 million from the San Francisco Office of Emergency Management to help coordinate and improve local disaster preparedness. 

Serco Inc. won a three-year contract from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center for $62 million to expand its existing port and antiterrorism security systems at Navy ports. 

Both the RHG Group and Transcom won $7 million contracts from DHS for transportation services.

July 9, 2007

Jane’s Sells to IHS

Filed under: Business of HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on July 9, 2007

Jane’s Information Group was acquired by IHS, Inc., which delivers analysis about the energy and engineering sectors.  They paid approximately $183 million in a stock deal to Jane’s owner Woodbridge Co.  

Jane’s, a solid source of intel and analysis on a range of defense and security since topics 1898, commanded about 4.4 million shares of common stock from IHS, whose shares fell 29 cents to $41.42 last week. 

Jane’s Homeland Security & Resilience Monitor launched a few years ago in a partnership with London’s Royal United Services Institute.  RUSI’s Sandra Bell is among the leading thinkers on HLS issues and is someone I credit with elevating the concept of resilience as a viable defense against assymetric theats in a civilan context.  The Brits are sort of keen on that. 

July 4, 2007

Global Security Challenge Ups the Ante and Extends the Deadline

Filed under: Business of HLS,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on July 4, 2007

When the GAO foiled DHS efforts to detect smuggled nuclear material coming across the border last year, they did so without actually having to dupe the detection equipment.  They forged the associated documentation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  That shifted blame from the DNDO to the strategy itself and the coherence among the motley web of agencies involved in securing the Homeland. 

GAO’s investigators were able to enter the United States with enough radioactive sources in the trunks of their vehicles to make two dirty bombs using counterfeit documents.  

To be sure, CBP felt the heat for this, too, since their strategy allowed the documentation to travel separately from the material it described.

The CBP inspectors never questioned the authenticity of the investigators’ counterfeit bill of lading or the counterfeit NRC document authorizing them to receive, acquire, possess, and transfer radioactive sources. 

And the NRC had to do some soul searching about the part it plays in this strategy.  But whatever happened to the issue of dealing with the forgery? 

While this was another example of both imperfect strategy as well as technology, the technology issue is almost always easier to solve.  Here’s an interesting option: Something called the Laser Surface Authentication or LSATM (developed by Ingenia Technology) reads the surface of paper, plastics, and metals with a low cost laser to determine its structure and veracity.  It generates a signature or “fingerprint” to verify a material for authentication and tracking of anything from credit cards to passports to medicines.  Perhaps even NRC documentation someday. 

Groundbreaking stuff – especially for a company only a few years old.  Last year it was this breakthrough technology that won Ingenia the Global Security Challenge, an international competition run by students at the London Business School. 

The LSATM snagged the top prize of $10,000 bestowed by the jurors.  The jurors were not students, but rather the Director of Siemens Venture Capital, the Global Director of Information Risk Management for Barclays Capital, the Deputy Director of the DOD Technical Support Working Group, and the Strategy Director of BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies, among others. 

Not bad for a bunch of grad students. 

Here’s another way to gauge the success of a competition: The top prize this year jumps to $500,000.  Get to work though because the deadline was already extended from June 30 to July 15.  Check out the press release here. 

Who knows, this year the winner may offer an exit function for US-VISIT.  

Happy Fourth of July!

April 17, 2007

USCG to LockMart/Northrop: Thanks a Billion(s) for Nothing

Filed under: Business of HLS,Port and Maritime Security — by Jonah Czerwinski on April 17, 2007

Spencer Hsu and Renae Merle write in today’s Washington Post that the U.S. Coast Guard responded to Congressional frustration over the failure of a consortium of contractors to deliver on the $24 billion modernization program called Deepwater.  Among other disappointing developments under Deepwater, a clear necessity for providing the USCG part of what it needs to carry out a growing list of HLS missions, the new cutters built by consortium leads LockheedMartin and Northrop Grumman don’t float.  $100 million a piece, they’ll never be used. 

Failures prompted the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership yesterday to call for the Justice Department to open a civil and criminal investigation into Deepwater.  As a result of this restructuring of Deepwater, Coast Guard must reissue a 43-month extension of the contract. About $2.3 billion has been committed to the program so far, and the second phase is reported by Hsu and Merle to be worth $2.5-$3 billion.

Perhaps we should’ve seen it coming.  Last August, the DHS IG issued his warning about the program’s execution.  IG Skinner cited “limited oversight as well as unclear contract requirements,” which prevented DHS/USCG from “ensur[ing] that the contractor is making the best decisions toward accomplishing Deepwater IT goals.”  Hmm.  Do we blame the requirements, the agency, or the contractor?  The Washington Post’s Steve Kelman wrote an insightful analysis explaining diff’rent strokes for different IGs by suggesting an ideological posture that may decide how this question is ultimately answered.

And it looks like it may be answered soon enough: Tomorrow’s hearing (4/18) before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at 2:00 p.m. in 2167 Rayburn is entitled “Compliance with Requirements of the Coast Guard’s Deepwater Contract.”  For a witness list, click here.

— Special Note —

Please keep the families and friends of the victims of yesterday’s shootings at Virginia Tech in your thoughts. VT student bloggers commenting on the shooting were highlighted here.  More on this issue is available.  -CZ

December 15, 2006

New Civitas report on homeland security market

Filed under: Business of HLS — by Christian Beckner on December 15, 2006

The homeland security strategy advisory firm Civitas Group LLC released a report this week entitled “The Homeland Security Market: Essential Dynamics and Trends”, updating a 2004 report on the same topic (full disclosure: I was a co-author of that earlier paper). The new report contains some valuable insight into the state of the homeland security market, in particular the section from pages 8-11 on “dominant market characteristics,” which outlines nine top-level issues that people need to understand about the homeland security market. As with the earlier version of the report, I think that it’s an objective and sober take on the homeland security market, in contrast with other reports of this ilk that forecast multi-gazillions of dollars of DHS spending in the coming years.

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