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Homeland Security

Helping the Grid
 to Bounce Back

June 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Industry and government search for for the best approach for the rapid recovery of a key element of the electrical grid in the event of an attack.

One of the most crucial elements of the nation’s critical infrastructure is gradually getting the attention it believes it deserves from both the electrical power industry and the federal government. In the years to come, that effort could finally yield agreement on how best to design and implement badly needed upgrades to a key component to the daily operation of the power grid—electrical transformers—and how they would be replaced in the event of a systemwide failure or an attack on the grid itself.

Electrical transformers are an important part of the power distribution system. Past wide-scale outages have been linked to failed transformers, and replacement can be a lengthy and expensive proposition. Experts predict that any wide-scale failure of multiple transformers could result in widespread social and economic damage. Groups representing the electrical power industry have focused in recent years on several voluntary initiatives involving the stockpiling of replacement parts in key locations to facilitate quick and timely recovery of electrical transformers. To date, the industry has been unable to reach agreement on a uniform, nationwide program.

The federal government side of the effort is being led by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Specifically, DHS has been a supporter of a parallel and competing program to develop a new modular transformer for use with power grids, one that is easier to transport and install in the event of an emergency and takes advantage of improved technologies.

The Bottom Line: The DOD Must Be a Squeaky Wheel

May 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

It’s time for military leaders, and yes, even members of the intelligence community, to come out from behind the curtain. They not only need to share with the public what networks and radios and tanks and guns mean to a warfighter’s safety but also what they mean to global security.

Coast Guard Adopts a 
High-Frequency Solution

May 1, 2013
By Arthur Allen and Zdenka Willis

The synergy between operational planning and radar sensing provides enhanced search and rescue capabilities.

The U.S. Coast Guard is combining high-frequency coastal radar data with traditional oceanographic and geographic information to improve its chances of rescuing people in distress on the high seas. By merging these different sources of data, the Coast Guard enhances its search abilities while also providing better weather prediction for both its search and rescue teams and an endangered public in coastal areas.

This combining of different data types requires more than just technological interoperability. It also mandates cooperation between two different government organizations: the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Both groups have been expanding their cooperation, and the results have been synergistic.

The utility of this approach was demonstrated when Superstorm Sandy struck the Eastern Seaboard in October 2012. The Coast Guard prosecuted 159 search and rescue (SAR) cases before, during and after Sandy made landfall. One of those cases was the sailing vessel HMS Bounty, which foundered and sank at the height of the storm off the coast of North Carolina. Aircrews from Air Station Elizabeth City plucked 14 crewmembers from the raging seas that night.

Two Bounty crewmembers did not survive—Claudene Christian, whose body was recovered, and the captain, Robin Walbridge, who was lost to the sea. In addition to two helicopters, a C-130 Hercules aircraft, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft, the high-endurance cutter Gallatin (WHEC-721) and the seagoing buoy tender Elm (WLB-204) supported the four-day search covering some 12,000 square miles of ocean, battling 30-foot seas and 60-knot winds, trying, ultimately in vain, to locate Captain Walbridge.

Cobham to Provide Surveillance Technology for 2014 World Cup

March 27, 2013
George I. Seffers

Cobham’s Brazilian subsidiary has secured its first major contract in Brazil to equip state police helicopters with high definition video surveillance downlinks, which will be used on helicopters in 12 cities during the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup. The contract was developed with a local integration partner following the opening of the Cobham’s Sao Paulo office in August 2012 and includes both airborne and ground based equipment. This procurement was made through the newly-formed Extraordinary Secretariat for Security at Large Scale Events.

Law Enforcement in the Cloud

March 14, 2013
By Rick Hansen

The Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) Program recently implemented a simplified sign-on capability that enables federal, state and local law enforcement to collaborate.

 

Event eNews Websites Deliver Conference Benefits to You

March 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

To help government and industry connect, network and learn about requirements and solutions, SIGNAL Media offers Event eNews websites for several major AFCEA International events that feature near real-time coverage as well as daily wrap-ups of speakers and panel discussions.

Tap Into New AFCEA Online Resources

March 15, 2013

To help keep global security professionals abreast of business opportunities and changes in the government acquisition landscape, AFCEA International has gathered information about these topics in a new section of the AFCEA website. Called AFCEA Corporate Member Resources, the page features new content about military and government organizations as it becomes available.

Ishpi Receives Coast Guard Cyber Contract

March 4, 2013
George I. Seffers

 
Ishpi Information Technologies Inc., Mount Pleasant, S.C., has won a $6.7 million dollar multi-year task to provide the United States Coast Guard with subject matter expertise in the areas of information systems security and analysis, certification and accreditation, risk management, and information assurance training support to the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Information Technology Service Center. 

Change Is Challenge

March 1, 2013
George I. Seffers

Homeland Security Conference 2013 Show Daily, Day 3

Although many in government are moving as quickly as possible to adopt new technologies, such as cloud computing and mobile devices, individual agencies still face cultural challenges that sometimes prevent them from moving forward, according to officials speaking as part of the Chief Information Officer Council at the AFCEA Homeland Security conference in Washington, D.C.

Richard Spires, chief information officer for the Homeland Security Department (DHS), reminded the audience that DHS was created by joining a lot of disparate agencies, all of whom owned individual networks. While the department is working to integrate the information technology infrastructure and consolidate data centers, officials still meet some resistance at the individual agency level. “There’s still have lot of duplication and in some ways duplication is holding us back. I’d like to say we’re making progress, but I’ll let others grade us on that,” Spires said.

Other officials agreed that they meet resistance as well. Robert Carey, deputy chief information officer for the Defense Department cited a culture of change and said a constrained budget environment can be a power catalyst for action in moving toward a more centralized environment.

Cybersecurity itself can present challenges, according to Luke McCormack, chief information officer for the Justice Department. “Cyber’s hard. The individual pieces of that can be very difficult,” he said. He also cited the need to bring people together on emerging technologies, such as cloud-as-a-service, as a challenging issue.

Securing Critical Infrastructure Through Nontraditional Means

February 1, 2013
BY Rita Boland

A cloud project takes advantage of emerging concepts to protect energy against disruptive threats.

Researchers at Cornell University and Washington State University have teamed to create GridCloud, a software-based technology designed to reduce the time and difficulty involved with creating prototypes of smart-grid control paradigms. The system will help overcome hurdles of cloud computing in complex settings. The effort combines Cornell’s Isis2 platform, designed for high-assurance cloud computing, with Washington State’s GridStat technology for smart grid monitoring and control. The advent of this technology promises to boost both the security and the reliability of electrical services.

Developers aim to build a scalable software structure that is secure, self-healing and inexpensive to operate. They believe that by combining Isis2 and GridStat, a cloud-based grid can have all those factors as well as guarantee consistency. Infrastructure owners motivated by economies of scale and the desire to deploy the new smart-grid solutions end up with a system that also is more resistant to attack and likely to survive other disruptions.

Dr. Ken Birman, a professor at Cornell and co-principal investigator on the project, explains that several motivations drive the effort. One involves trying to find a solution to control a power grid when multiple organizations own and have access to the infrastructure. “A second challenge that’s emerged is that people have studied the power grid and found that we don’t operate it very efficiently,” Birman says. Power suppliers often are producing extra power, for example, or finding it difficult to take advantage of renewable sources. Sometimes renewable energy—such as the type that comes from solar panels on homes—is blocked from entering the power grid because officials lack the knowledge to access and use it safely.

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