Wizards of Oz

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

6.6.08

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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4.6.08

[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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3.6.08

[Liveblog] HD on Steroids

HD_BenRiley

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

MtnRunner_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

Sec_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

VADM_Cohen

"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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2.6.08

[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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