The Rise of the Homeland Security Lobbyist
The war on terrorism is spawning a whole new field of Washington lobbyists
specializing in homeland security issues. The growth has been fueled by an expanding
array of legal, legislative and regulatory matters arising from 9/11 and its
aftermath. Several lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. have formed units to focus
specifically on homeland security.
One of them is the law firm of Venable LLP, which launched its group in October.
“Homeland security affects the flow of goods and services in a way that
we are only beginning to understand,” explained managing partner James
L. O’Shea. It imposes “legal and regulatory challenges” impacting
many industries, including manufacturing, transportation, financial services,
import-export, energy, agriculture and health care, he said.
More than two dozen pieces of homeland security legislation have already been
sent to the president, said partner Michael Ferrell. In the pipeline, he said,
are bills to improve security for ports and the maritime industry, chemical
plants, and oil and gas pipelines.
Venable’s homeland-security group “focuses on helping clients stay
abreast of major legislative issues” and helping them “learn to
live and operate under a new set of rules and regulations, which are certain
to have a huge impact on how business will be conducted going forward,”
said another partner, John Pavlick.
FBI Short on Info-Security Specialists
The FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center—established
in 1998 as a focal point of assessment, warning, investigation and response
to terrorist threats or attacks—is having trouble finding enough information-technology
security specialists to protect U.S. telecommunications systems.
“Our dilemma is this,” H. Alexis Suggs, acting chief of the NIPC’s
training, outreach and strategy section, told a recent homeland security seminar.
“Do you hire investigators and train them in IT security, or do you hire
IT security specialists and teach them to investigate? We do the former, because
we can’t afford to hire the IT specialists. Most of them don’t want
to carry guns anyway.”
The NIPC was set up to protect critical U.S. infrastructures, including electrical
power plants, gas and oil facilities, telecommunications, banking and finance,
water supplies, transportation, emergency services and other essential government
operations. Information technology is key to all of these systems, Suggs said.
Realizing this, more and more companies are setting up their own IT security
operations, according to Bryant B. Tow, executive vice president of Olympus
Security Group, of Nashville, Tenn. In 1999, he said, 31.9 percent of corporations
responding to a survey had appointed an IT security officer. In 2001, 48.6 percent
had done so. In 2002, Tow noted, IT security employers expected their staffs
to increase by 14.8 percent.
Immunizing a Building for Chem-Bio Attacks
Can a building be made “immune” to chemical or biological attacks?
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency seems to believe so. The agency
awarded a contract to Bechtel, a major engineering and construction firm, to
demonstrate whether it’s possible to protect the occupants of a large
office building when toxic agents are released in the vicinity.
The first test of the “immune building” will take place in a facility
in the Nevada desert. For the project, Bechtel is teamed with Lockheed Martin
Naval Electronics and Surveillance Systems.
Lockheed’s NE&SS President John W. O’Neill, said the concept
is “fascinating,” even though it’s not clear how much it will
cost or whether any commercial builder would be interested in this technology.
Lockheed’s role in the program is to “provide an understanding
of how biological and chemical sensors work,” O’Neill told reporters
during a briefing in Manassas, Va.
The company outfitted the building in Nevada with chemical and biological sensors.
The goal is to demonstrate that the agent release can be contained to a small
portion of the building — through techniques such as air-sealed doors
or reverse air pressure. In the building’s air-handling system, Lockheed
also built in “ultraviolet scrubbers to try to remediate any release,”
O’Neill noted that the technology is promising, but he is “not
sure the commercial market would pay for an immune building.”
Sharing Information Technology at Airports
Three elements of the emerging Homeland Security Department—the Transportation
Security Administration, Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Customs
Service—are cooperating on a plan to share information technology networks
at more than 100 airports nationwide.
The TSA, which in November achieved a congressionally mandated deadline to
take over security at U.S. commercial airports, needs improved IT services to
do its job, Steven I. Cooper, a president assistant for homeland security, told
a recent conference.
With 44,000 new employees on the job, desk phones, cell phones, computers and
pagers are in short supply at TSA, he said. The problem, however, is that INS,
Customs and other federal agencies already have installed networks at the airports
that would be redundant with a new TSA system, Cooper said. Altogether, the
agencies planned to spend $275 million in fiscal year 2003 on IT infrastructure
To sort out the situation, the Bush administration has established a Homeland
Security IT Investment Review Group, made up of chief information officers for
the agencies expected to become part of the department. This group, Cooper said,
has worked out a plan for the agencies “to establish a common IT infrastructure
where possible ... to share facilities ... and to maximize existing IT investments.”
Department of Homeland Security Trumps FBI?
A report released by the Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security
in the Information Age recommended that the Department of Homeland Security
take the lead in shaping domestic intelligence priorities. The study, co-sponsored
by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, notes that the Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is falling short on its domestic anti-terrorism
“We’re moving from a long era in national security where the threats
and challenges were fixed — we faced the same opponent for 40 years —
to a period of great fluidity and change,” said John Hamre, CSIS president
and member of the Markle task force. Hamre served as deputy secretary of defense
in the Clinton administration.
“Information technology has changed how we fight wars and how we do business.
Creating a domestic intelligence function for the United States will be a major
challenge on many levels and the report works through problems of organization,
intelligence and safeguards for civil liberties that will confront any new Department
for Homeland Security,” said James Lewis, director of the CSIS Council
on Technology and Public Policy.
“The report makes an important contribution by highlighting the need
for a more robust domestic intelligence capability,” said Mary DeRosa,
a senior fellow for the CSIS Technology and Public Policy Program. “We
are uncomfortable with domestic intelligence in this country, because of legitimate
concerns about the potential for government abuse. But our enemies no longer
operate primarily overseas, and we have to adjust to this new threat. We can
increase our focus on domestic intelligence without sacrificing essential liberties,”
FBI Director Robert Mueller, in a recent memorandum to agents, announced plans
to shift the agency’s focus from solving domestic crimes to preventing
Pentagon Seeks to Turn Photos Into 3-D Models
The Unisys Corporation’s Global Public Sector, in Bell, Pa., has received
a $1.23 million contract to conduct biometric research for the Defense Department.
The Pentagon wants Unisys to improve the technology currently used to identify
individuals from a database of two-dimensional photographs.
The contractor will work on converting photographs into a three-dimensional
model with skin texture, expressions and aging, according to Greg Baroni, president
of the Unisys sector. In addition, the team will replicate the movement of real
If successful, Baroni said, this program will enable authorities to make better
use of thousands of photographs already on file. This, he said, will make it
possible for authorities to make more informed decisions about whom to admit
to sensitive locations—such as airliners, military bases and courthouses—and
whom to grant passports and visas.
The team also will study emerging biometric concepts, such as three-dimensional
face and ear recognition. The goal is to integrate biometric technologies in
order to identify office entrants, control access to specific rooms within an
office complex, track activity and movement and provide log-on capabilities
for networks and workstations.
‘Systemic Approach’ Needed in Anti-Terrorism
Despite repeated emphasis on the importance of intelligence sharing, emergency
responders are “still waiting for the adoption of a systemic approach
to providing the intelligence that is so vital to preventing the next attack,”
said retired Gen. Dennis J. Reimer.
A former Army chief of staff, Reimer is now director of the National Memorial
Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City.
“The $3.5 billion to improve the capabilities to deal with man-made disasters
at the local level has not yet made it through the appropriation process and
consequently, not one penny has been provided to emergency responders,”
Reimer said that intelligence is a two-way street, “information needs
to flow from top to bottom, and vice versa.”
However, intelligence is blocked by the constant requirement to classify material.
The intelligence community, he said, has expressed the need for additional personnel
that is properly secured. However, running a security clearance for all the
additional people would unnecessarily slow down the process, he argued.
“A better solution is to declassify as much intelligence as possible
and pass the appropriate information up and down the chain,” he said.
“Quite frankly, emergency responders need to receive appropriate information
in a timely manner and are not concerned about how it was obtained.” He
stressed that there are ways of establishing credibility for this information
without requiring everything to be classified.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism,
which Reimer heads, has been dedicated to preventing and reducing terrorism
and mitigating its effects after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal
Building in 1995. The non-profit organization was incorporated in 1999.
The organization is currently funded by congressional appropriations that direct
it to conduct research into the social and political causes and effects of terrorism
as well as the development of technologies to counter biological, nuclear and
chemical weapons of mass destruction, and cyber-terrorism. The institute’s
Web site is www.mipt.org.