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// by Homeland Security Today

Spinning the ‘smart shirt’

Scientists are weaving new technology into an old item of apparel, giving it a dazzling array of possibilities that could save lives in the future.

Imagine a shirt that monitors your body’s vital signsin combat conditions, detects bullet wounds and can sense the presence of chemical weapons to automatically seal, clean and decontaminate itself.

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Food without Fear

Long haunted by the threat of agroterrorism, authorities have been strengthening defenses against the danger to Americans’ food—but some knowledgeable experts question how effective those efforts have been.

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Mission Stress

The National Guard has a vital mission to fulfill in homeland security. But it also has a vital, and growing, role in the overseas war on terror. Both demand people and resources. Can the conflict be resolved?

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NorthCom’s Tough Choices

The founding of the US Northern Command was a step in the right direction—but two years later, national authorities have to make some serious decisions about taking homeland defense into the future.

 

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To COTS or Not?

When it comes to security, the question of whether to go with commercial off-the-shelf or your own software becomes serious, and the stakes can be high. Every solution has its advantages—and its vulnerabilities.

 

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Our first birthday

This issue marks the first birthday of HSToday. That may not sound terribly significant in the grand scheme of things, but for a startup publication, it’s a major milestone. Keep Reading

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Russia’s homeland security—and ours

On Sept. 1, 2004, almost 1,000 children and parents in Beslan, Russia, were assembling in the courtyard of their school to celebrate the first day back after summer. Without any warning, a truck carrying almost 40 terrorists appeared. The terrorists, brandishing automatic weapons, surrounded the parents and students and ordered them into the school. Those who were too slow to enter the building were either shot or thrown through the windows. Keep Reading

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When and how tooutsource grant writing

Grant writing tends to be a profession that most people just stumble into. There are few degree programs that include grant writing in the curriculum, and even those that exist have not led huge numbers of people into the field. Those who find themselves in the position full time tend to have landed there as a result of a desire to work in the nonprofit or public sector—and have a knack for research and writing, if not a painstaking attention to detail. Keep Reading

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New directions for DHS

Editor’s Note: On March 16, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff gave a speech at George Washington University in Washington, DC outlining his plans for the future and providing basic direction for the department. Given the significance of the speech as a foundation for his and the department’s future actions,we provide excerpts here. The entire speech is available at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website athttp://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=4391.

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Setting Up Screening

The new Office of Screening Coordination and Operations will consolidate many programs into a single body. Advocates see more effective protection—critics see Big Brother.

Checking into the backgrounds of aliens and others who want to fly planes or transport hazardous materials is brisk business in homeland security. Recognizing that background checks at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), spread across various offices, essentially call for the same effort regardless of the program, the White House has proposed in the FY 2006 budget combining the work into an Office of Screening Coordination and Operations (SCO) within the Border and Transportation Directorate.

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Anthony Robbins, Silicon Graphics

President, SGI Federal, Senior Vice President of North American Field Operations, Silicon Graphics Inc.

In the 1990s, at the height of the tech boom, Anthony Robbins watched his friends in Silicon Valley go into hot, high-stakes startups and dot-coms, rocketing to fortunes in new, untried fields.

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Top HS execs agree: The long-term trends are up

Homeland security spending, particularly in the procurement and research and development accounts, promises to increase in coming years, benefiting industry even as the pressure from the federal deficit grows.

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Rough Ride on the Rails

While the president’s proposed FY 2006 budget substantially boosts homeland security funding, rail and surface transportation security remains an orphan—yet again.

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Solving the Southern Cargo Question

The real issues of securing the trade that flows through the US-Mexican border aren’t being addressed—but there are some tough measures that can be taken. Two experts on Mexican-American trade provide their views of the actions necessary to both make security a reality and let trade flow.

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Laser Danger in the Cockpit

Are lasers on their way to being the next terrorist weapon of choice? The events of late last year and early 2005 have alerted authorities to the need to take action.

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Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex: Lone Star Protection

When two chemical containers collided andspilled in a warehouse in the tiny north Texas town of Ferris on Aug.26, 2004, their contents included cyanide. At least 12 people wereinjured and the town of about 800 people in Ferris, located 20 milessouth of Dallas, had to be evacuated.

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All quiet on the homeland front

We have no special access to classified intelligence or inside information. Still, it feels like the moment in an old war movie or western when one guy turns to his buddy and says, “It’s quiet—too quiet.”

It has been quiet, very quiet, on the homeland security front. We had an incident-free election and the special security events of the inauguration and the Super Bowl. The chatter has supposedly died down, at least from what we can learn publicly.

Some developments are encouraging. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in February, James Loy, the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and the heads of the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research all pointed out the defeats suffered by Al Qaeda and the jihadi movement at the hands of America and its allies.

All also warned, though, of Al Qaeda’s desire to deliver a blow directly to the United States, preferably through a weapon of mass effect (WME), like a chemical or radiological bomb. An operation as intricate and elaborate as Sept. 11, 2001, may be beyond the diminished capability of Al Qaeda or its clones at this point. But from a terrorist perspective, a WME event would be a home run, reversing the growing sense of Al Qaeda’s reduced powers and growing weakness.

Against that backdrop, the creation of the new Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) proposed in the 2006 fiscal year budget makes eminent sense, and we hope it can be effectively implemented.

Indeed,we were very encouraged by the entire FY2006 budget, which provided homeland security with the highest-level percentage increase of any function in the federal government.

Change the alert level

All things considered, it may seem contradictory to make this suggestion, but perhaps only at first blush: It may be time to lower the alert level to blue, or guarded, risk.

Back in November, during a press conference, Loy called yellow, or “elevated risk,” “the new normal.”

That’s too bad, because elevated shouldn’t be normal, nor should it become such. On the contrary, guarded risk seems to represent the real state of affairs right now.

Under blue conditions, federal agencies are supposed to check their communications with emergency response or command locations; review and update their emergency response procedures; and provide the public with any information that would strengthen its ability to act appropriately. This seems to be the actual state of affairs as this article is written.

Going down to blue would also lower the cost of security for businesses and state and local government.

Furthermore, as was shown by the targeted orange alerts that were put in place in the fall of 2004, specific areas—for example, New York, Washington and, perhaps, Los Angeles—could remain at yellow, while less likely targets could be reduced.

It’s very dicey for authorities to reduce the alert level; after all, the person who makes the suggestion will take all the blame if an incident occurs. But lowering the alert level is not a call for complacency. Vigilance must be maintained, counterterrorist efforts must be active and the war on terror needs to continue. A blue state is a condition for planning, exercising and preparing.

Nonetheless, ratcheting down a notch seems to be realistic and feasible, and might go some way toward restoring the credibility of the alert system as a whole, which has been battered by cynicism and growing disbelief. We’re faced with “crying wolf” syndrome. If the system remains elevated for too long, no one will pay attention when it really needs to be raised. HST

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The growth of Grants.gov

As development professionals know, the success of online grant submittals to federal agencies has—and continues to be—spotty, at best. Grant administrators have been looking forward to the day when all online grant submittal programs are a tool, rather than headache. When that day arrives, websites will create mechanisms for institution-wide control and monitoring of grant awards and requests, allow for authorized users to download certain information into Excel and other common software applications and streamline the grant research, proposal development and submittal process.

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Ending the nightmare scenario

A new office funded in the 2006 homeland security budget will have responsibility for eliminating the dreaded threat of a nuclear or radiological weapon on American soil.

 

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