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Featured Homeland 2013

Customs and Border Protection Agency Eyes the Cloud

February 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. agency responsible for customs and border protection has suffered from an unreliable infrastructure and network downtimes but already is seeing benefits from a fledgling move to cloud computing. Those benefits include greater reliability and efficiency and lower costs.

Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) priorities include moving the agency to cloud computing and adopting greater use of mobile devices. The CBP Cloud Computing Environment (C3E) moves the agency away from a number of stovepipe platforms. “In the past, we’ve run about every kind of platform that’s out there. We are a large IBM mainframe legacy shop. We use a lot of AIX Unix and also Solaris Unix, so we’ve even got different flavors of Unix out there, and then obviously, big Windows farms,” reveals Charlie Armstrong, CBP chief information officer and assistant commissioner for the office of information and technology. “This new environment that we’re moving to collapses a lot of that down into a single environment and loses all of the mainframe, and it gets us out of building environments from scratch.”

Armstrong describes CBP as being in the early stages of its move to the cloud, but the agency already is seeing benefits, he says. He compares creating a computing environment to building cars. “Building an environment with yesterday’s approach was like going to the car dealership, buying all the parts and having to put the car together yourself. Now, what we’re trying to do is to buy a fully integrated product that allows us to stand up environments quicker and also improve performance,” he explains.

Better Visibility for Border Security

February 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

U.S. officials tasked with securing routes into and out of the country are beginning to employ a technology that will pull together disparate information in a way that could save their lives or the lives of others. Though it was not designed exclusively for agents trying to control international movements, these personnel are early adopters, using the system to prevent illicit goods, undesirable persons or rampant violence from making its way over national boundaries.

The Global Information Network Architecture (GINA) is a system of systems that draws in information from many stovepiped sources regardless of their coding or programming. Originally, GINA was developed through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and Xslent LLC Technologies. The work since has transferred to a CRADA between Big Kahuna Technologies LLC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Research and Development Center. The NPS now works with GINA through a version licensed to the U.S. government or through a standing contract with Big Kahuna Technologies for the DOD [Defense Department] Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process version.

GINA employs a hybrid methodology that leverages model-based architecture and component-based development—two major approaches to contemporary software development. According to a paper titled “GINA: System Interoperability for Enabling Smart Mobile System Services in Network Decision Support Systems,” written by project personnel, both approaches aim at reducing, if not eliminating, the amount of coding required to develop a system.

Industry Organizes to
 Speed Border Security Technology Development

February 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Competing companies are working to a common goal of testing and selling new technologies to government.

A newly created research and development consortium aims to expedite the piloting and testing of new technology for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, one of the Department of Homeland Security’s top missions. This effort, using a successful Defense Department procurement model, also hopes to expand innovation by making it possible for small businesses that don’t traditionally do business with the government to bring their ideas forward.

One hallmark of the Border Security Technology Consortium (BSTC) is that very large, established defense and homeland security contractors are members along with the small, newer nontraditional firms. “All of the tasks are under full and open competition within the consortium, and so there’s incentive for both the consortium and the government to have as much participation as possible,” emphasizes Mervyn Leavitt, vice president for applied research and development with SCRA. It is the nonprofit research company that organized and manages the consortium at the request of some of its charter members.

“With government regulations, sometimes it’s very difficult for nontraditionals that normally don’t do business with the government to break in, and often these are the firms that have very innovative ideas,” Leavitt adds.

At the heart of the BTSC is a special federal procurement vehicle known as the Other Transaction Authority (OTA). OTAs are used in agencies such as NASA and the departments of Defense, Transportation and Homeland Security, and they are designed primarily to expedite science and technology-related research and development. In the realm of rapid prototyping and development, OTAs make such work attractive to small companies.

New Model Sparks Safeguards to the Grid

August 2012
By Max Cacas, SIGNAL Magazine

A significant modernization effort underway across the national electric grid is seeking a balance between strong cybersecurity capabilities and affordable protections across the sector.

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