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Federal Aviation Administration Approves First Unmanned Quadrotor

July 2, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The Instant Eye small unmanned aerial system received approval last Thursday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be used by an energy company, which will conduct research, development and training to see if the system is practical for inspecting infrastructure such as pipelines, power lines and insulators on towers. It is the first unmanned quadrotor to receive FAA certification and may be the lightest aircraft ever certified. The approval opens the door for the system to be used for a wide range of commercial applications.

Boston Marathon Bombing Lessons Learned

April 30, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Intelligence agencies could have investigated more thoroughly and shared information more effectively, but even if they had performed perfectly, they may not have been able to prevent last year's Boston Marathon bombing, according to a report delivered before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Cyber Age Spawns Complexity for Homeland Security Mission

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Dealing with the world’s increasing complexity is the primary challenge to keeping the homeland secure, according to Adm. Thad Allen, USCG, (Ret.), executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton and former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. He lists border security, the cyberthreat, information sharing, terrorism, criminal organizations and climate change as elements adding to that complexity.

“We have to start understanding that the root problem we’re trying to deal with is to defeat complexities that inhibit working across boundaries to deliver solutions,” he said while serving as the morning keynote speaker on the first day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., in March.

Adm. Allen set the tone for the conference. Speakers and panelists conveyed that the U.S. government and the private sector have made dramatic progress in keeping the homeland secure since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Information is more easily shared among government agencies and the private sector. Network security is better understood. Technology advances at a dizzying pace. But for all the progress made, many challenges still remain, the experts agreed.

Adm. Allen related terrorism to “political criminality” and declared that transnational criminal organizations constitute the real problem. “I don’t make a distinction between counterterrorism and transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking. They’re all connected,” he stated.

Regarding border security, he said borders no longer are managed in a traditional sense and should not necessarily be equated to a physical border. “The fact of the matter is we have migrated to what I call functional borders,” he offered. A container leaving central Europe, for example, for Omaha, Nebraska, may never be opened and inspected, but it will be fully vetted, and the potential for threat thoroughly assessed.

Open Source Intelligence Offers Crystal Ball Capability

April 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Researchers working on behalf of the U.S. intelligence agencies can use reams of open source, anonymous data to foretell social turmoil such as disease outbreaks or international political unrest. Once fully developed, the capability to predict coming events may allow U.S. officials to more effectively respond to public health threats; to improve embassy security before an imminent attack; or to more quickly and effectively respond to humanitarian crises.

Cybersecurity Tentacles Entwine Government

March 11, 2014
By George I. Seffers

It is not surprising that cybersecurity would dominate the discussion on the second day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C. But the depth and breadth and variety of topics surrounding cybersecurity and information protection in all its forms indicates the degree to which the information security mission has engulfed every department and agency at all levels of government.

Chief Information Security Officers Support Continous Diagnostics and Mitigation Program

March 11, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Chief information security officials from various agencies voiced support for the Department of Homeland Security's Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) Program, which is designed to fortify computer networks across the federal government. The officials spoke out in support of the program while serving on a panel during the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference, Washington, D.C. Panel moderator John Streufert, director of Federal Network Resilience at the Department of Homeland Security, took the opportunity to put some rumors to rest.

Weathering the Big Data Storm

March 11, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The National Weather Service is the granddaddy of open source data, according to Adrian Gardner, chief information officer, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). And, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was "into big data before big data was cool," added David McClure, a data asset portfolio analyst within the NOAA Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Recent Tragedies Illustrate Role of Information Fusion Centers

March 10, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, government agencies came under widespread criticism for failing to share information and "connect the dots." By contrast, law enforcement agencies were almost universally praised following the Boston Marathon bombing and the shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., both of which took place last year.

World Complexity Creates Greatest Challenge

March 10, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The real challenge to keeping the homeland secure is dealing with the world's increasing complexity, Adm. Thad Allen, USCG, (Ret.), executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, told the audience at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday during his luncheon keynote address.

Improving Information Sharing and Interoperability

March 10, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Homeland Security Conference Show Daily, Day 1

Information sharing and interoperability have come a long way since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but challenges still remain, agreed speakers and panelists on the first day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C.

Adm. Thad Allen, USCG, (Ret.), executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton and former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, kicked off the discussion as the day’s keynote luncheon speaker. Adm. Allen cited the ever-growing complexity of the modern world as the major challenge for keeping the homeland secure. Whether the complexity of climate change creating havoc during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, the growing complexity of technology wielded by foes or the complications associated with governments working together, the world has grown increasingly convoluted, Adm. Allen illustrated.

“We have to start learning how to raise leaders, operate and be successful in environments that have greater degrees of complexity,” he said. He cited climate change as one example. “You could have a tornadic event 100 years ago in Kansas, and it might be a catastrophic event and result in a loss of life. But looking at the critical infrastructure and population density that we have right now, it certainly takes on a greater degree of complexity, and therefore, the consequences associated with it are more extreme,” the admiral offered. “We’re at a point in this world where there is no significant challenge or crisis that can be handled by one particular agency, one private sector company, one entity, one faith-based organization, because the complexity of these situations demands resources and performance that exceeds traditional boundaries.”

That places a huge premium on being able to “cooperate, collaborate and work in new methods to actually produce results," he said.

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