Homeland 2012

March 1, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Small business must first "decide what they want to be when they grow up," according to advice from experts at the AFCEA International Homeland Security Conference. If entrepreneurs don't take time to think through the vision for their start-up, it is unlikely that they will be able to choose the right partners, network with the right individuals or approach the right government agencies to obtain business, they agreed. Although many government agencies have small business offices to facilitate business development, the onus remains on small business owners to build relationships.

March 1, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Government may have been in the slow lane to accept social media as a viable conduit for sharing information, but agencies are now coordinating their efforts to ensure messages going out to the public can be trusted. Members of a panel discussing its uses at the AFCEA International Homeland Security Conference said the technologies that facilitate ubiquitous communications among the public are merely another change in generations of changes. The key is that the same principles that govern reliable news reports and privacy and civil liberties protections apply whether the public is depending on newspapers, broadcast, Facebook, Skype or Twitter, they agreed.

March 1, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

The National Capital Region, comprising Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, is one of the busiest, most powerful and hence most complicated areas in the United States when it comes to security. Two of the key people in charge of ensuring smooth running no matter the circumstances took time out of their busy schedules to update participants at the AFCEA International Homeland Security Conference. Cathy Lanier, chief of police, Washington, D.C., and James F. Schwartz, chief, Arlington County Fire Department, Virginia, emphasized that cooperation and coordination are essential no matter the size of the municipality or the threats it faces.

March 1, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Recent legislation is opening the doors for public safety organizations to do more in the wireless broadband realm. Experts in the field discussed the ramifications of H.R. 3630 Title VI, which the president signed into law last month, during the first Thursday panel at the AFCEA International Homeland Security Conference. The benefits include improved collaboration among emergency service organizations and additional dollars that will be spent to improve communication capabilities. The FCC currently is putting together the Public Safety Interoperability Advisory Board.

March 1, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

The Honorable Charles E. Allen, former undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), stated that terrorism in the second decade of this century continues, but those groups that organized attacks are a shadow of their former selves. Allen, the initial Thursday speaker at AFCEA International's Homeland Security Conference warned, "We cannot declare victory," and he added that the United States must learn to be more resilient when attacks occur.

February 29, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is rife with opportunities for the commercial sector, according to panelists discussing ways to do business with the department speaking during the final Wednesday session at the AFCEA International Homeland Security Conference. But companies should be aware that the rules of engagement are changing, or already have changed, in a number of instances, so they should thoroughly research upcoming contract awards. Kevin Boshears, director, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, DHS, offered a few examples of the changes.

February 29, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Paul A. Schneider, former deputy secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), kicked off the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference this morning by stating that not enough revenue has been allocated in the U.S. budget to fight all the cyberthreats, which are some of the most critical dangers facing the nation today. The U.S. currently is as unprepared to protect its cybernetworks as it was to protect New York and Washington, D.C., on 9/11, Schneider said. Shortfalls exist in protecting physical infrastructure such as power and water facilities. "When all is said and done, this is just crime using the Internet," he added.

February 29, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

While the general perception is that a cloud is a cloud, that won't be the case for government agencies. Experts revealed more specifics about federal, state and local migration to cloud computing during the first panel at AFCEA International's Homeland Security Conference. Eventually a governmentwide cloud for all services and data may be created, but today, while some services can move to the cloud environment, others will require customized clouds. For example, email services are a good candidate for the cloud, but those agencies that require extra security are likely to create private clouds for data storage and exchange.

February 29, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

In a time when government agencies and industry must tighten their belts, it may be a cloak that saves the security day. While discussing best practices in securing the cloud at the AFCEA International Homeland Security Conference, panelist Tim Kelleher, vice president of professional services, BlackRidge Technology, shared details about his company's approach to stopping cybermarauders in their recon tracks. The technique is called cloaking, and Kelleher used caller ID to describe how his company's solution could improve cybersecurity not only in future environments but in current networks as well.

February 29, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Amazing anecdotes kept the audience entertained during the lunch session at the AFCEA International Homeland Security Conference. The experts spoke about a serious subject: cyberwar. But the stories about their hands-on experiences in learning how to fight cyberwars, how they've fought cyberthreats and what they believe is needed to prepare future cyberwarriors kept conference attendees enthralled. Among the panelists was Maj. T.J. O'Connor, USA, 10th Special Forces Group (A), S-6. While attending the U.S. Military Academy, Maj. O'Connor had some time on his hands that led him to learn how best to defeat cyberattacks.

February 28, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Responding to an emergency is just as crucial-and as technically complicated as-preventing one. Members of the final panel for the DHS 2012 Information Technology Industry Day discussed the importance of communications capabilities to mitigate the effects of a manmade or natural disaster and restore normalcy to an area. Damon Penn, assistant administrator, National Continuity Programs Directorate , FEMA, related that restoring communications so that disaster victims can contact their families can help in two ways. First, family members can pick up victims and take them to a safer location.

February 28, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Members of the two morning panels at the DHS 2012 Information Technology Industry Day hammered home the need all DHS agencies have for information sharing and information security within a mobile environment. In addition to constrained budgets-a topic that all the panelists said was unnecessary to mention yet spoke about extensively-the agencies continue to face slow processes to put these capabilities into place. Among the hurdles that continue to surface are slow certification and accreditation processes, barriers to entrance for industry and exit from contracts for government, and management of authoritative data sources.

February 28, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Although not claiming victory, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made some serious headway in improving cybersecurity, according to panelists discussing the topic at the DHS 2012 Information Technology Industry Day in Washington, D.C. Experts said the threats have not disappeared but rather have changed, and various DHS agencies have been learning how to better handle them. Alma Cole, chief systems security officer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, described today's cyberthreats in a way the other panelists agreed with.

February 28, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Richard Spires, chief information officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), kicked off DHS Industry Day by declaring that it is time to find the balance between the IT needs of individual DHS agencies and leveraging IT throughout the department as a whole. The department needs to take a "shared first" approach to commodities and then look at unique technologies needed by the individual agencies. Although the DHS on the whole has not always completed IT projects on time and on budget, Spires said that the council has set up centers of excellence that help determine how to assist the agencies achieve success.

February 8, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

Protecting any nation's citizens and institutions is difficult under any circumstances, but today's economic limitations make this task even more challenging. Government and business leaders will meet at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center February 28 to March 1 to tackle this topic during AFCEA International's 11th annual Homeland Security conference. Conference discussion topics include cloud computing, cyberwar, procurement, wireless broadband and social media. Small businesses' interaction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also will be explored.