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Breaking Down Barriers To Homeland Security

More than two years have passed since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In that time, the U.S. government has undergone a massive overhaul to meet the challenges of combating an elusive foe. A key part of this restructuring was the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, charged with coordinating the efforts of myriad federal, state and local agencies to locate, identify and neutralize terrorist threats on American soil.
By Henry S. Kenyon, Maryann Lawlor, Cheryl Lilie

Janet Hale, undersecretary for management, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), outlined upcoming improvements for the organization’s enterprise architecture, noting that a single wide area network will be in place by late 2004.

More than two years have passed since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In that time, the U.S. government has undergone a massive overhaul to meet the challenges of combating an elusive foe. A key part of this restructuring was the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, charged with coordinating the efforts of myriad federal, state and local agencies to locate, identify and neutralize terrorist threats on American soil.

However, many hurdles remain before intelligence data can be shared seamlessly across multiple jurisdictions. Communications between agencies remain disjointed, and important information still has difficulty reaching law enforcement and first responder organizations rapidly and efficiently. Identifying and dismantling these impediments was the focus of AFCEA International’s third homeland security conference titled “Breaking Down the Walls,” held February 24-26 at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Washington, D.C.

Janet Hale, undersecretary for management, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), opened the conference by sharing some of the practical issues that had to be resolved when the new department was formed. The first version of the enterprise architecture was put into place within the first four months, and she emphasized that, while it is not perfect, improvements will be made for the second version. Because the commercial sector supports the architecture, the department is looking for its input. By the end of 2004, a single wide area network will be in place, she shared.

Hale also outlined the next steps for the Homeland Security Department. Strengthening vertical information sharing, protecting the critical infrastructure and establishing overall information sharing will be the priorities, she said. During the next three to four months, the department will have secure communication connections in place with each state government. The DHS also has issued a request for proposal for a secure data network.


Panelists discussing local and national level homeland security developments over the past year are (l-r) James Lee Witt, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Frank A. Guglielmo, senior vice president, homeland security division, Perot Systems Government Services; James W. Hagy, sheriff, Frederick County, Maryland; Dr. Robin White, executive director, Center for Homeland Security and Counterproliferation, The University of Tennessee; Dennis R. Schrader, director, Maryland Governor’s Office of Homeland Security; and Charles L. Werner, deputy fire chief, Charlottesville Fire Department, Charlottesville, Virginia.

The conference’s opening panel covered the progress that has been made in securing the homeland during the past year. James Lee Witt, president of James Lee Witt and Associates, said that in his former position as the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency he saw first-hand the communications and information-sharing problems emergency personnel face.

Panelist Frank A. Guglielmo, senior vice president, homeland security division, Perot Systems Government Services, said that during the past year, he has seen an alignment of the government agencies that were folded into the DHS. He recommended that government personnel confer with industry representatives so that industry can develop innovative solutions that meet government technology requirements.

In addition to finding security solutions, the federal government should create a homeland security doctrine, noted Dr. Robin White, executive director, Center for Homeland Security and Counterproliferation at the University of Tennessee. The debate about doctrine will affect how local governments carry out their responsibilities as well as how the federal government can help local jurisdictions.

Karen Evans, administrator of e-government and information technology, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), rounded out the day’s deliberations, explaining that the OMB is working on the fiscal year 2005 budget but is asking agencies to look toward fiscal year 2006 as well. The office is trying to change the way it works with agencies so agencies can adequately prepare a budget before discussions begin with the OMB.

Information security is one of the OMB’s top priorities, and Evans pointed out that agencies should make it their first priority as well. “Don’t build new projects on top of infrastructure that is not secure,” she stated. She added that agencies should look holistically at their information technology systems, and a well-articulated enterprise architecture plan is every agency’s best friend.

Wednesday’s session began with a keynote speech by DHS Deputy Secretary Adm. James M. Loy, USCG (Ret.), who highlighted the organization’s achievements in the past year. These include continuing to work on guidelines for a baseline communications system for interoperability between government agencies and first responders, securing U.S. ports and developing an integrated cargo screening system. Adm. Loy noted that the department has launched pilot programs to streamline the application process for immigrants and is using methods such as e-filing to speed visa processing.

Applying U.S. military techniques and systems to homeland security missions was the topic addressed by the second keynote speaker, Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, USAF, commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command, and commander of U.S. Northern Command. The general noted that the United States’ military is adept at playing “away games” but that more attention must be placed on “home games”—protecting the nation’s borders. He stressed that although the military’s primary mission is to stop terrorists before they ever reach American shores, the armed forces also must work jointly with federal and state agencies.


Explaining that the U.S. military is experienced at projecting power overseas but not close to home, Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, USAF, said that the services must work jointly with federal, state and local agencies to protect U.S. borders. Gen. Eberhart is commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command, and commander, U.S. Northern Command.

The general cited a recent exercise, UNITED DEFENSE 04, as an example of increased military and civilian government partnership. The event involved federal and state agencies across Texas and Alaska in simulated natural and man-made disasters. This type of exercise permits organizations to acquaint themselves with each other and to prepare for possible contingencies that might arise in the event of a crisis. Gen. Eberhart closed by sharing his belief that the war on terrorism resembles the Cold War and that it may take a similar amount of time and capital to win. “Unless we make that commitment, time will work for the terrorists,” he warned.

Wednesday morning’s panel addressed breaking down barriers between state and local organizations. Andy Mitchell, deputy director, DHS Office for Domestic Preparedness, explained that the department is not a law enforcement agency. Its responsibility lies in helping state and local governments coordinate homeland security activities. He noted that preventing terrorist acts is the main goal, but the success depends on the ability of many organizations to share and use intelligence at many levels.

Panelist Suzanne Peck, chief technology officer for the District of Columbia, described how the city has created a push-to-talk radio system for first responders. By placing 10 towers across the area, the city government eliminated radio dead spots. The city also has completed DCNET, a 5-gigahertz synchronous optical network that connects 350 locations across the region with national and state assets and a wireless network. This capability allows police to access a variety of high-bandwidth applications, such as real-time streaming video, from aircraft.

The first afternoon panel examined the perception that homeland security and homeland defense are separate interests with conflicting goals. Panelists described efforts to establish databases to collect and share vulnerability assessments between participating organizations. The use of a training and technical assistance center (T/TAC) as a collaboration tool was hotly debated. According to Bill Spalding, chief information officer for the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, a T/TAC involves a number of major partners from the U.S. Northern Command to the DHS. He noted that the system will provide variable levels of security, maximizing its utility for state and local users.

Wednesday’s final session assessed security efforts for critical infrastructure protection. Jon MacLaren, director of the physical target section of the DHS’ Infrastructure Protection Division, noted that his organization is studying how 1,700 private infrastructure assets impact the country’s economy. He added that the DHS is receiving data from the private sector about how these firms interact with other business sectors. Dr. Ronald L. Booth, director of security programs at CH2M Hill, added that critical infrastructure such as water utilities must be strengthened against a variety of computer-related threats ranging from terrorism to vandalism.

The conference’s Thursday session began with a speech by Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti, USMC (Ret.), undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection, DHS. He stated that information sharing is key to infrastructure protection and includes partnering with the business community in ways never done before. Gen. Libutti indicated that he has been tasked as the business manager of information sharing for the DHS. Although not yet outlined, this role will be key in how the department interfaces with the private sector.

Panelists at the first morning session discussed the new model of government that is emerging from the DHS management agenda. Strategies in human resources, finance, communication and procurement met approval from all panelists and were suggested as models for other agencies. Randall A. Yim, managing director, homeland security and justice/national preparedness, U.S. General Accounting Office, noted that DHS procurement differs from previous ventures under the U.S. Defense Department because the DHS does not own the critical infrastructure and must stimulate change rather than demand it.

Thomas Reinhardt, chief of staff, Office of the Undersecretary for Management, DHS, said that among the department’s successes are its consolidation efforts. He reported that the number of financial operations have been scaled down from 23 to eight, and of the 3,500 service requirements, the final contracted amount was down to 519. Despite these reductions, the mission has been maintained, he said.


Discussing ways to share information better among federal, state and local bodies are (l-r) David Jerome, principal, Booz Allen Hamilton; Andrew T. Mitchell, deputy director, DHS Office for Domestic Preparedness; Suzanne Peck, chief technology officer, District of Columbia; Kevin Beary, sheriff, Orange County, Florida; and Dale Watson, principal, Booz Allen Hamilton.

With 95 percent of goods entering the United States through maritime ports, protecting U.S. ports is critical to homeland security. Port priorities in national security measures was the topic addressed by a panel including Chet Lunner, assistant administrator, Office of Maritime and Land Security, Transportation Security Administration. Lunner spoke on seeking consistency and a free flow of commerce by implementing security performance standards. Robert B. Auslander, director, Americas international logistics and global import-export compliance, Dell Incorporated, agreed that standards are needed but said there must be a level of rationalization and flexibility to remain efficient. Safe cargo that is stopped at a port because of a slight error in paperwork is an example of inefficiency, Auslander said.

For Carl Nielsen, director, import operation and policy division, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the greatest challenge for the FDA is getting products from foreign retailers to the consumer. Acknowledging that the agency regulates approximately 25 percent of port commerce—including blood, food and drugs—he said the first priority for the FDA is to determine the point of origin of a container. Nielsen stated that cargo that comes from another country through Canada and then into the United States will be listed only as coming through Canada. “The information is out there,” he said. “We just need to integrate it.”

Thursday’s luncheon speaker Steve Cooper, chief information officer, DHS, outlined his priorities for the department. His first priority focuses on two-way information sharing down to the state and local community level. Cooper intends to establish one network by December 2004 and one infrastructure by December 2005, based on the current Joint Regional Information Exchange Network. Varying levels of access to the network will be role-based and on all personnel’s desktops. Cooper told industry officials that he will need their help to accomplish his goals.

Don Upson, founder and partner, ICG Government, and former secretary of technology, Commonwealth of Virginia, moderated Thursday’s panel on the legislature’s perspective on the Homeland Security Department’s functions and funding. Jeff Ashford, staff assistant, and Michelle Mrdeza, staff director, both of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, U.S. House of Representatives, are responsible for checking the President’s Appropriations bill line by line to look for oversights. They determine what is or is not working and what may be missing, and make amendments as needed. With regard to funding for the U.S. VISIT program, an effort to improve visitor monitoring at borders, Ashford stated that after looking at the program’s criteria and enterprise architecture, they approved less than what the president outlined.

With Steve Cooper’s proposed “one network—one infrastructure” concept in mind, top industry representatives discussed the challenge the concept brings to industry. James F.X. Payne, senior vice president and general manager, Qwest Government Services Division, questioned whether integration to one network might limit business opportunities and noted that Congress can be influenced by certain industries. This would lead to a single company obtaining work, while others are shut out. DigitalNet’s senior vice president of operations Norm Lorentz disagreed, saying that limiting the project to one company is not necessary as long as the mission is stated clearly enough to allow an allocation of resources. However, he noted the current process needs to change so companies of interoperable components can work together.