Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."



About ten days ago some of my Twitterati friends were declaring the impending apocalypse of H1N1 (aka swine flu). Now that Mexico has gone several days without a death from this virus, the variety of interpretations has been vast: from BBC News's quote of the World Health Organization's Director of Global Alert and Response that the spread is "not sustained" to GMA News's alarmist declaration that this virus "... could mutate and come back with a vengeance".

Now Mexican authorities are downgrading their death toll by nearly 50% -- to 101 suspected deaths and just 19 confirmed. While tragic, these numbers are about equivalent to the fatality statististics seen in seasonal (non-Type A) influenza, which claims more than 30,000 lives annually. The single fatality in the U.S. was a 23-month old toddler visiting Texas from Mexico City (where 22,000,000 citizens suffer from the worst air pollution in the world -- compounded by the thin air at a base elevation of nearly 7,000' (2,200m) above sea level).

The best pundit of all has turned out to be Randall Munroe, who (in his brilliant comic xkcd) says "Twitter is great for watching uninformed panics unfold live."

While I do not correlate Twitter-spread misinformation with yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, I do believe a higher level of personal discretion is important. Do your own research, exercise your own personal hygeine (one of the positive by-products of this past week) and maintain sufficient supplies in your home to ensure your own local resilience: Awareness + Preparedness + Capability = Resilience.

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Sensor Fusion in Baton Rouge

The Melton Valley-SensorNet project has come to Baton Rouge, Louisiana - home to the greatest concentration of chemical refineries, barge traffic and storage facilities in the United States. We showcased our project in conjunction with the Baton Rouge Area Mutual Aid System (BRAMAS) conference to the HazMat chief from Baton Rouge Fire Department, as well as representatives from Army Research Office's Chemical Sciences Division, regional FBI and other first-responder representatives.

Oak Ridge National Lab has developed an ingenious sensor mash-up that integrates real-time sensor data with response plans/policies, meteorological data, and predictive models in order to inform First Responders and other decision makers. The sensor package shown above is a chemical sensor developed by SeaCoast Science, Inc. of Carlsbad, Calif.

In this video, Magnus Oding of Scan Pacific Northwest, LLC of Mukilteo, Wash. launches the sensor via a pneumatic line thrower along the levee in downtown Baton Rouge. These sensors, when integrated with the communications architecture developed by Oak Ridge National Lab (that correlates space-time information with real-time sensor readings and predictive dispersion models), will provide enhanced situational awareness to any decision maker who has to make high-consequence, time-sensitive decisions to protect people and property.

Web 2.0 capabilities merged with sensing capabilities and predictive models create a next-generation "toolbox" for emergency management and disaster response.

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DHS S&T Summary

It was a good week at the Reagan Building & International Trade Center, where I was a guest of MountainRunner (as one of his invited "bloggers") covering the Dept of Homeland Security Science & Technology Stakeholders' Conference. It was a great chance to meet several 'blogfriends in person, as well as several new faces like Dr. Amy Zalman (who aptly noted the unspoken theme of "persistent surveillance" at this week's show) and Jonah Czerwinski (whose several posts can be found here, along with others related to "Technology for Homeland Security").

'Bloghost MountainRunner was featured prominently in a Sharon Weinberger piece at WIRED's Danger Room, and Michael Tanji's ThreatsWatch post raises the excellent consideration of management process to govern capability development. My own posts, tagged "liveblog", are here.

I was most surprised to note that, while Undersecretary of Homeland Security (Science & Technology) Jay Cohen is the former Chief of Naval Research, the bulk of the technical content presented at this week's conference comes from the Department of Energy. DoE representatives dominated the agenda (particularly the plenary panel discussions, where one panel was fully dedicated to DoE National Labs) as well as the exhibit floor (where booths featured Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Battelle, National Nuclear Security Administration, Nevada Test Site and hometown big-wig B&W Y-12).

My conclusion? While U.S. Northern Command is the "Executive Agent" for DHS S&T's experimentation campaign, the preponderance of technical and research content is driven by the Department of Energy.

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[Liveblog] "The Cavalry"

Under Secretary Cohen introduced the six "B" thrusts (Bombs, Bugs, etc.) by describing the key interoperability challenges of a diverse homeland security enterprise.

Noting the U.S. founding fathers' intent for an inefficient and confrontational form of government to prevent tyranny (something Under Secretary Cohen tells the Hill, and the Hill tells him), he said that DHS is five years old -- and implored us to compare to the maturity of our own five-year-old kids or grandkids. He went on to note that Goldwater-Nichols (the landmark act that united the armed forces of the U.S. military into a joint force) is 23, and we're still not wearing purple uniforms.

The graphic above shows the escalating challenges of a major crisis: from the local sheriff to county police, state troopers, National Guard, federalized National Guard, to the "cavalry": U.S. Northern Command. As local First Responders are overwhelmed, the next higher tier has to provide relief.

NORTHCOM is Cohen's "executive agent" for experimentation, and said that "NORTHCOM is for DHS what U.S. Joint Forces Command is for the Dept of Defense." This is an interesting parallel, because there were some of us on the USJFCOM staff (after 9/11, when we lost the geographic area of responsibility to focus on force providing, training, integrating and experimenting) who believed that NORTHCOM was the ideal command to assume the "Force Provider" role.

During my first visit a few years ago to Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, headquarters of NORTHCOM, I was amused to see the logos of NORTHCOM's service components -- the commands that train, equip and provide the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to the Combatant Commander for joint missions. The logos were for Forces Command (Army), Fleet Forces Command (Navy), Air Combat Command (USAF), and Marine Corps Forces-Atlantic (USMC).

The irony? Those are the very same component commands under USJFCOM. So if NORTHCOM is to DHS as USJFCOM is to DoD, then how does the President reconcile two of his Cabinet departments if both DoD and DHS have competing needs -- and the same jar of force structure to draw from?

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[Liveblog] DHS S&T, Day 3

The third day of this year's DHS S&T Stakeholders' Conference (East) begins with a compelling keynote address by Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, México's Ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador Sarukhan noted our shared security concerns, and the strategic rationale for the strong relationship between our two nations. President Bush's first trip abroad as POTUS was to México, and recently Secretary Chertoff and Secretario de Gobierno Terrazo signed a binding agreement in New Orleans to share science and technology.

Ambassador Sarukhan described our strategic relationship as driven by trade, that NAFTA is a good thing -- enabling a quadrupling of U.S.-México trade (now nearly $350B/year, making México the U.S.'s third largest trading partners). Technology will soon allow efficient, paperless customs clearances and non-intrusive inspection means along the 48 ports of entry along the U.S.-México border.

His three strategic priorities:

How do we foster common prosperity while ensuring common security?

How do we secure the border while ensuring it is pliable and flexible to the free flow of goods?

How do we stop the loss of our own constituents' 'hearts and minds'?

Ambassador Sarukhan: "There is no more important relationship to the future prosperity of the U.S. than with México.... Our two societies need to be co-stakeholders to move forward."

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[Liveblog] HD on Steroids


Another impressive gizmo at the Reagan Bldg: 17 Megapixel large-screen displays projecting HD video, showing ZenPundit-like power. So the image on the screen (here, former mentor and ONR Program Officer Mr Ben Riley from DoD/AT&L) looked sharper and more crisp than the real life view.

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[Liveblog] ANTARES


Überblogger "MountainRunner" checks out Future Concept Inc.'s "ANTARES": Advanced National Tactical Awareness Response Emergency System. This system is a fully interoperable communications system, with SATCOM, UHF, VHF, and a variety of customizable comms capabilities, optimized for community first responders (fire, sheriff,etc.).

After stopping by the Government of Sweden's sponsored information sessions, we were joined by David Axe of WIRED's Danger Room 'blog. Along with Dr. Amy Zalman and Bob Buderi, this brings our Blogger total to seven.

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[Liveblog] Cool Conference Gadget

Stephanie demonstrates the "Cool Conference Gadget" of the week: nTAG's interactive identification tag. Instead of a paper nametag, some conference participants received a personalized digital nTAG. This nTAG, in addition to having the participant's contact information, also has an iPod-like interface with the conference agenda, local restaurant information, and "polling" features to allow realtime feedback on speakers and topics.

The nTAGs also have an 802.15 interface for exchanging contact information with other participants (akin to my Palm "beam" function), for logging your presence at various panels and sessions, and for the realtime polling feedback noted above.

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[Liveblog] Secretary Chertoff


Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff provides the second keynote at today's DHS S&T Conference.

His priorities for DHS where technology is a key enabler:

1. Protecting against dangerous people (with nearly 5 million people entering the U.S. each year, border agents have mere seconds to decide and act). Biometrics can link collected intelligence from overseas (e.g., at compromised terrorist safe houses) with incoming personnel at ports of entry, creating a deterrent for terrorists who seek to cross borders.

2. Keep dangerous things out of the U.S. Radiation portal monitors are being deployed to scan *all* inbound cargo for fissile material. Explosive detection devices that screen baggage are being enhanced through millimeter wave technology.

3. Smart acquisition that considers all elements of a system. "Technology only works in the context of the system in which it operates.... It is only in the whole system that these gizmos and gadgets can make a difference."

4. Integrating DHS as a unified entity. DHS is seeking to consolidate its seven national networks into a single system supported by a cybersecurity initiative.

In closing, Secretary Chertoff said, "We will continue to build on the technology and ingueniuty of people like you to allow trade and travel to proceed safely and securely.... Our greatest strength as a nation is ingenuity and creativity enabled by freedom."

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[Liveblog] Cohen Keynote


"Our mission is to make the nation safer, and to keep the nation safe." The Honorable Jay Cohen kicks off the plenary session of the DHS S&T Stakeholders' Conference by describing his four "Gets" (Get people, financial books, organization and content right) and now six "B's": Bombs, Borders, Bugs, Business, Bodies and Buildings. "It's all about product to help our first responders!"

"Our adversary is very patient and focused. Will we have done enough to make -- and keep -- the nation safe?"

The panelists seated to Admiral Cohen's left are representatives from the National Labs, including Associate Lab Directors ("VP" equivalents) from Oak Ridge, Savannah River, Sandia, Brookhaven and Los Alamos -- plus the Lab Director from Pacific Northwest.

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[Liveblog] DHS S&T, Day 2

Day 2 of DHS S&T Stakeholders' Conference, featuring a full day of plenary sessions. The Honorable (VADM(ret)) Jay Cohen, Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Science & Technology, will open with a keynote address, and Secretary Chertoff will speak later in the morning.

Panel discussions will include various "partners": Dept of Energy's National Labs, Community First Responders, Capitol Hill, International Partners and Federal Agencies.

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[Liveblog] IED Neutralization

Final presentation of the day: "Training Session 58" by Mr. Tom Donaldson, Senior VP at Applied Energetics (née Iontron), talking about directed energy weapons to "neutralize" threats. Most compelling example: Laser-Guided Energy (LGE), ionizing the air through femtosecond laser pulses, focusing the induced plasma into narrow channels (<200μm), can produce a precise conductive path for a number of operational applications (e.g., area denial, vehicular incapacitation, explosive detonation). Impressive....

Videos are on the company website here.

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[Liveblog] Science Fiction Authors

Proof positive that DHS is not constraining the sources of its input for shaping its research agenda: "Training Session 53" at this week's DHS S&T Stakeholders' Conference features four science fiction writers who provided their "far-future" perspective in support of national and homeland security.

This is a repeat performance by several of the writers, including Arlan Andrews and his cohorts in SIGMA. Last year's session was profiled last year by MountainRunner. This year's big dialog was about the threat of diminished resources (particularly water) and future teenagers who will be able to hack proteins in a basement bio lab.

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[Liveblog] TechSolutions

Mr. Greg Price is DHS S&T's Director for TechSolutions, the Department's "clearinghouse" for rapid prototyping in support of First Responder requirements. In addition to their own research into emergent capabilities that can support those on the front lines of homeland security and disaster response, TechSolutions also hosts the FirstResponder.gov website so that police, fire and EMS personnel can push their capability gaps to DHS for solution development.

Admiral (ret.) Jay Cohen, Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Science & Technology and the former Chief of Naval Research, brought this concept from the Office of Naval Research when he took the reins at DHS S&T two years ago. As a former ONR-sponsored "Science Advisor" in direct support of the operational forces, I've seen firsthand the immense value of engaging those with the greatest need to create lasting solutions.

From vital sign monitoring tools (akin to the Star Trek "Tricorder") to biometric identification devices, a low-profile breathing apparatus, and man-portable chem-bio detectors, TechSolutions offers solutions to serve our First Responders -- and has the charter and the budget to make a real difference.

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[Liveblog] DHS & VMASC

Dr./BG(ret) Mike McGinnis, Executive Director of the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) in Suffolk, VA, spoke on the theory and modeling of infrastructure interrelationships at one of this morning's two dozen "training sessions" at the DHS S&T Stakeholders' Conference. Mike is an old friend from my USJFCOM days, and it is great to see how far VMASC has come from traffic modeling at an amusement park to pioneering research in seven "clusters" (including military/homeland security, social science, enterprise engineering and computation/artificial intelligence).

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[Liveblog] DHS S&T

I've checked in to the Ronald Reagan International Trade & Conference Center in DC's "Federal Triangle", and will be liveblogging the Dept of Homeland Security's Science & Technology Stakeholders' Conference. Expect to see MountainRunner, Selil and other noteworthy 'bloggers over the next few days.

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Terror vs. the Marines: Beirut

At 6:22am local time in Beirut (4:22am GMT) on Sunday, October 23rd, 1983, a yellow Mercedes-Benz delivery truck (taking the place of a hijacked water delivery truck) approached the U.S. Marine Corps compound near the Beirut International Airport. Marines from the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (1/8) were deployed there as part of an international peacekeeping force (Multinational Force in Lebanon) to oversee the withdrawal of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon the previous year.

The flatbed truck turned onto the access road toward the Marine compound, circled a parking lot, and accelerated toward the sentry post. Since “suicide bombing” was a relatively new development in the post-kamikaze age (perfected by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka in the previous few years), force protection measures pale in comparison to today: there were no “Jersey barriers” obstructing direct access into the compound, the only barricades were sewer pipes behind a raised gate, nearby perimeter fencing was simple barbed wire, and “Rules of Engagement” for the sentries were so restrictive that they could not load and raise their weapons until the truck had already crashed into the lobby of the four-story cinderblock barracks building.

Nearly 12,000 pounds of explosives were detonated by the driver, lifting the building from its 15’ circumference footings and causing it to collapse into rubble. 241 U.S. servicemen died that morning, including 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel, and 3 Army soldiers – the deadliest single-day toll for the Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.

Almost simultaneously with the attack on the Marine Barracks, an identical attack was made against the barracks of the French 3rd Company of the 6th Parachute Infantry Regiment, killing 58.

In 2003 a U.S. District Court judge declared that the Islamic Republic of Iran was responsible for these attacks, since Hezbollah was entirely dependent on Iran in 1983. Just last month (September 2007), the same District Judge ordered that Iran pay $2.65 Billion to the families of the killed servicemen.

Today, 1/8 continues to proudly serve our nation as part of 2nd Marine Division under II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF). They are currently under the able leadership of LtCol Mike Saleh, USMC, deployed to Al Anbar Province in western Iraq as “Task Force 1/8”.

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Duty and Service

The blogosphere has been replete with dialogue on "service" and "duty" -- and the perception of grass-roots activism within the State. Noteworthy bloggers who have recently addressed this topic, in addition to my post last week, include Dave D. at Small Wars Journal, General of the Hordes Subudei Ba'adur, Purpleslog at D5GW, as well as both Chirol and Younghusband at ComingAnarchy. Even TIME magazine has made "The Case for National Service" a cover story topic.

Interestingly, there has been a good deal of honest (and sometimes contentious) replies to these posts. Some admit their personal lack of service, while others see the resurgent public interest in community service as a lack of confidence in "central governments". Could it be the looming anniversary of 9/11 (and last week's KATRINA anniversary)? Or the impending U.S. presidential election and a definitive change of administration?

I'm curious what visitors to Oz think. Care to comment?

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Be Prepared

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a number of online courses related to Homeland Security and Civil Preparedness. Anyone with an interest in the National Response Plan, and the soon-to-be-mandatory-for-communities National Incident Management System (NIMS), can take self-paced courses online through FEMA's Emergency Management Institute. The courses are free, short (no more than two or three hours each), and passing the online final exam gets you a certificate with "Continuing Education Units" (CEUs).

I'm spending my evenings this week at the Anderson County Emergency Operations Center for their in-residence offering of "ICS-300" (Intermediate Level Incident Command System). It might be interesting to someday pursue formal "certification" in Emergency Management through the International Association of Emergency Managers.

On the topic of community preparedness and protection of "intellectual property" and symbols, there is an interesting legal battle brewing between the American Red Cross and Johnson & Johnson over the "red cross" symbol. On August 8th, Johnson & Johnson filed a civil complaint against American Red Cross over the licensing of products bearing the Red Cross symbol to third parties. Read the respective press releases here (Red Cross) and here (J&J). Personally, why an $11B (yep, that's a "B") company cares about a couple million dollars in retail sales by a predominantly volunteer and philanthropic organization is beyond me ...

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