The Defense Department wants to stop buying stand-alone security and force-protection
technologies and, instead, acquire systems that are networked and interoperable,
Much of the technology available today offers “point solutions for specific
applications,” said Lt. Col. Eugene Stockel, the product manager for the
Army’s physical security equipment office.
The Defense Department, however, gradually wants to move away from those point
solutions and buy technologies that organize and network disparate devices into
a “system that provides overall capabilities across the full dimension
of threats—from explosive protection, to chemical and biological [detection]
and intrusive detection,” he told National Defense during a technology
expo in Quantico, Va.
“It’s like saying ‘I [don’t just] want the automobile
engine, [I want] the whole automobile.’ That is where we are headed,”
In the protection of facilities, for example, it is not enough to be able to
determine the presence of an intruder. It is also important to figure out, beforehand,
if the enemy is carrying any weapons or explosives, Stockel said.
On the battlefield, force protection systems are robust for front-line troops,
but the level of protection is much lower for support and logistics personnel.
That is an area, he added, where networked systems can help improve the protection
of a widely dispersed force in a hostile environment.
The Tactical Automated Security System, or TASS, is an example of the kind
of integration the Defense Department increasingly favors. The Air Force began
developing this system in response to the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers
barracks in Saudi Arabia.
TASS is an integrated electronic security system, which can be tailored for
a variety of semi-permanent, portable and covert applications. The system receives,
processes, reports and graphically displays information about potential threats.
A follow-on to TASS, called ETASS expands the system’s capabilities for
area surveillance. Using a variety of sensors, security personnel can see farther,
detect and identify threats outside of the physical perimeter, creating a “virtual
In a demonstration of ETASS at the Quantico Marine Base, Va., an infrared beam,
part of the virtual fence, was tripped as a person walked through it. A blinking
red dot appeared on a map screen, showing where the alarm had been tripped.
A ground-based radar tracked the movement of the approaching person. The location
was sent directly to a thermal imager, which immediately rotated and focused
on the perpetrator. At the same time, a remotely operated weapon system was
targeted to the location.
All this information is displayed instantly to an operator on a three-screen
console. The operator can pass the coordinates of the action along to a small,
unmanned aerial vehicle, which flies over and captures additional data on the
When military personnel are deployed to a hostile environment, perimeter security
becomes difficult. One of the technologies now used in the Central Command area
for Operation Iraqi Freedom is the Force Protection Airborne Surveillance System,
The Air Force Electronic Systems Center Force Protection System Program Office
first deployed FPASS last year.
FPASS consists of a ground control station—computer, displays, recorder
and communications equipment, six UAVs, a remote imagery viewing terminal, interchangeable
payloads of color cameras and thermal imagers for day and night.
The UAVs fly at 300 to 500 foot altitudes and send back real-time video to
the operators. The system can be reprogrammed in flight, according to the ESC.
The airframe is manufactured from damage resistant molded material. It also
can operate from a 100-meter by 100-meter clearing without a runway.
A two-person crew operates the system, which runs on rechargeable batteries
that last for an hour.
This system is not intended to replace troops, officials said. It’s a
surveillance tool that helps detect potential threats.
The Air Force signed a memorandum of agreement to share information on UAV
technology with the Marine Corps. Areas in which the two services were looking
to collaborate included the payload sensors, autopilot and system software—components
that account for half the costs of the system, according to Air Force documents.
Although surveillance capabilities around military bases both overseas and
in the United States have improved, sensor technology meant to detect intruders
still poses hurdles, said a source who works closely with the U.S. Army’s
physical security equipment office.
While sensors used inside buildings are 99.9 percent accurate, the external
ones are plagued by false alarms, said the source, who asked not to be quoted
“If I put a fence sensor up and a raccoon climbs on it, I have an alarm,”
the source said. “With microwaves—if it rains a lot—you get
a nuisance alarm for the first 30 minutes.”
According to the source, a solution to this problem would be to have dual-sensor
technology, or multi-layered sensors, to lower the instances of false alarm.
This type of multi-layered protection would ensure that at least two sensors
would go off consecutively before the signal is sent to the console and alert
somebody to the area of intrusion.
“With any sensor that you have, you are going to have instances of false
alarms,” said Stockel. But, “the technology associated with it and
the discrimination algorithms, [as well as] the ability to process alarms, are
He said current sensor technology provides better early warning and is tailored
to specific applications. “You might have a microwave sensor, or you might
have an acoustic sensor, or you may have a thermal camera or a volumetric motion
detection,” he said. “There are a number of different sensors that
you can employ in different areas. How they report may be unique, and it relies
on the command and control backbone.”
The Army has a number of ongoing efforts. One of them is a mobile robotic platform,
Stockel said. “We will be using that to secure selected installations,”
he said. It could also potentially be developed for tactical environments and
contingency operations, he added.
The Army is also working on access control technology for various installations,
Stockel said. The goal is to reduce the manual labor associated with access
control, according to him.
Stockel’s office is working on an early warning detection capability
called the Battlefield Anti-Intrusion System.
Compared to base perimeter security, waterside protection to this day is probably
one of the trickiest to develop. Water is one of the harshest environments to
work in, said John Girdwood, who works in the waterfront physical security program
at SPAWAR, in San Diego, Calif. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center does
research and development work in waterside security.
“You have salty water or murky water,” he said. “You have
commuter traffic and pleasure traffic. People expect that the waterways are
open to the public.”
The Navy uses special algorithms to detect targets, he explained. Those algorithms
are largely based on proximity. The speed of a vessel, or the presence of weapons
on board help determine whether it has hostile intent, said Girdwood.
The Navy is looking to improve its subsurface swimmer detection technologies,
which the service has had for some time. These include underwater cameras, hull
scanning, commercial sonars, acoustic guidance, and acoustic lens sonar. “We
are looking at alternative sonar technologies,” that can be integrated
with the technology the Navy already owns, Girdwood said.
When it comes to the security of Navy ships stationed in ports around the world,
technology is not the biggest hurdle, said William Smith who works in the Navy’s
“Our own tactics and procedures are the biggest challenge, because the
technology is there,” he told National Defense. “You know what you
are looking for and you recognize the threat. When you find it you have [certain]
procedures to mitigate them. ... Procedures are constantly being refined,”
he said. “Every day, you look and see what you missed [the previous day].”
Standoff Explosive Detection
Standoff explosive detection remains a problem for some military organizations.
To search a vehicle, “you have to go to the vehicle with a dog and the
standoff is how long the leash is,” said Don Lowe a senior operations
analyst with the Air Force’s Force Protection Battle Lab at Lackland Air
Force Base in Texas. “We do not have anything else but the dogs.”
The battle lab evaluates technologies and makes recommendations to acquisition
agencies. If the technology is not mature enough, the lab defines the deficiencies
that need to be solved.
“We look at using technology in different ways that would not have been
used, otherwise,” said Lowe.
Although the lab caters to Air Force needs, it collaborates with the other
“Everybody has the same force protection issues,” said Lowe. “They
may have slightly different applications, but solutions are available to everyone.”
The lab recently recommended that major commands purchase a standoff explosive
detection technology, based on a neutron generator that would allow users to
detect explosives from a safe distance.
“You generate neutrons at a target and when the neutrons go through that
package, they generate gamma radiation,” said Lowe. “Using sensors
you can detect within the gamma radiation certain elements.” The system’s
software can be programmed to identify the materials that are being detected.
“The problem with it is that it takes a little bit of time to do that,”
said Lowe. “The speed has been a critical factor.”
Similar technologies are being marketed for airport baggage screening. (National
Defense, June 2003)
Chemical and Biological Detection
A technology that is on its way to the joint chemical and biological program
office is the Chemical-Biological Aerosol Warning System. CBAWS will most likely
serve as an interim solution for a deployable chemical and biological sensor
capability, said Lowe.
CBAWS consists of an array of remotely deployed, battery operated aerosol detectors
radio-linked to a central base station. The detectors report their aerosol activity
status, GPS location, wind speed and direction, and humidity to the base station
in one-minute updates. The detectors also report the status of attached chemical
and biological agent detectors.
“The difference between this system and the others already out there
is that it is rapidly deployable,” Lowe noted.
“The particle counter acts as a trigger that tells you that there are
particles in the air that could be biological,” he said. When a potential
biological cloud is present, the base station operator sends out a masking alert
and transmits a command for the detectors to physically acquire an aerosol sample.
The sample then is retrieved manually and analyzed for biological agents using
a DNA-based identification device called RAPID, or Ruggedized Advanced Pathogen
Identification Device, developed by Idaho Technology Inc., in Salt Lake City.
RAPID is designed to analyze 32 samples in less than 30 minutes. The U.S. Air
Force has deployed this technology for the past two years.
“We are separating the trigger from the identification piece, and we
are using operational techniques to do the identification vs. using an automated
capability,” said Lowe. “I am pretty confident that some day we
are going to do, all in the same box.”
However, Lowe cautioned that having both the trigger and the identification
capability in one box is very hard to accomplish and could end up in a “big
box that is not deployable.”
A promising biological detection technology developed at the Defense Advanced
Research Project Agency is the Canary B-Cell amplifier, said Lowe. It relies
on cell-based sensor technology for bio-aerosol monitoring and medical applications.
Accurate and speedy identification of biological and chemical agents in a field
environment remains a large gap that needs to be filled, he said.
According to Lowe, scientists have been trying for 25 years to come up with
sensors to quickly identify chemical and biological threats. “What makes
it really hard is that you have a lot of things that look similar to each other,”
he said. “So, when you try to separate what is real from what is not,
it is hard to do that with sensors.”