Information Technologies Key to Homeland Security

July 2002

Information assurance, research and development, and increased vigilance all are necessary ingredients for homeland security in this new age of terrorism, according to experts from civil government, industry and the military. Both government and the private sector must tap new and existing technologies to address the vital security needs that face all sectors.

Many of these points were presented by a host of experts at Fiesta TechNet 2002, held April 22-24, 2002, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, Texas. AFCEA’s Alamo Chapter co-hosted the trade show and symposium with the Billy Mitchell Chapter of the Association of Old Crows and AFCEA International.

Approximately 2,300 registrants heard expert opinions from 21 speakers in the three-day event, which focused on both challenges and solutions facing homeland security planners. Fiesta TechNet also hosted the U.S. Air Force Information Warfare Center’s Phoenix Challenge and the Air Combat Command/Air Intelligence Agency Information Assurance conferences.

The first day’s discussions addressed information assurance and information operations. Gen. Robert T. Marsh, USAF (Ret.), former chairman of the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, presented his views on where the United States stands today on implementing the recommendations his commission developed in 1997 and 1998. Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, USAF, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Fort Meade, Maryland, led a distinguished panel that delved more deeply into information assurance and information operations.

The second day focused on information technology. Kem Clawson, divisional partnering manager, EMC, McLean, Virginia, discussed how his company helped to restore Wall Street operations after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. In addition, he identified issues that organizations should consider as they develop continuity-of-operations plans to mitigate risks.

Dr. Anthony J. Tether, director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Virginia, led a distinguished technical panel that provided a view of the leading-edge technologies that are available to facilitate military operations. Tether demonstrated a small device that could translate English into Arabic. The device is being used today at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to communicate with operation Enduring Freedom detainees.

The theme for the third day of the conference was homeland security. A luncheon address was presented by Gen. Eugene Habiger, USAF (Ret.), president and chief executive officer for the San Antonio Water System, a member of the Texas Homeland Security Task Force and team director for Threat Identification and Risk Management. Gen. Habiger outlined a chilling scenario in which terrorists detonate a small nuclear device in the United States that kills and injures thousands, cripples the federal government and creates panic across the country.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan, USAF (Ret.), former director of the NSA, led a panel on homeland security that presented various perspectives on bioterrorism, counterterrorism and national response. Panelists also discussed the activities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.