On the Perimeter

A Hollywood scenario: The FBI gains intelligence indicating terrorists are targeting a specific federal facility for attack on a given day. Agents dramatically leap into action. They drive downtown and begin to fan out around the target facility.
The agent-in-charge barks out orders: “Secure the perimeter!”
But instead of rushing off to do just that, his fellow agents pause and ask: How do we define the perimeter? Should we deploy technology to secure it? Do we establish an air perimeter to secure, as well? How do we integrate the perimeter security measures that we establish? The questions go on and on.
The scene wouldn’t make for a very lively film—nor is the FBI likely to rush into a situation like that without a tactical plan—but such questions would be valid queries for defining perimeter security, a challenge currently being undertaken by private industry and government alike.
Security task group
The Homeland Security Standards Panel (HSSP) of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), based in Washington, DC, began to examine the problem of developing a common concept of perimeter security last year when it convened a summit on the problem.
ANSI, an industry organization that works on voluntary standardization issues, is working on a final report from its HSSP Workshop on Standardization for Perimeter Security, with expected publication sometime in the third quarter of 2006. Matt Deane, ANSI director of homeland security standards, told HSToday that a task group has been working on perimeter security standards sincethe initial summit in May 2005.
“Following this meeting to exchange ideas and approaches for analyzing standardization in this area, a task group comprising representatives from public and private-sector stakeholders was created to explore the issue further,” Deane said. “The task group discussed the elements that make this a complex issue, such as what we’re defining as the perimeter, how some perimeters are inherently open—like airports—and others are inherently closed—like chemical plants—and how different perimeters have different acceptable levels of security.”
The task group has determined that standards must focus on the outcome and the performance of an entire perimeter security system, using a risk-based approach. Deane noted that the task group is tackling an extraordinarily complex issue and doing so without a specific perimeter security model. As such, the group’s report intends to frame the subject of perimeter security, present challenges to perimeter security, argue the need for a risk-based approach for perimeter security standardization and make recommendations for how to address perimeter security standards.
To approach these topics, the ANSI task group had to start with some common definition of perimeter security. Although they had not finalized a definition at press time, Deane shared a working definition of a perimeter security system being reviewed by the group: “Perimeter security system normally refers to the people, technologies, geophysical features, processes and operations employed to secure a target or security interest from unauthorized access, particularly premeditated attacks intended to injure, damage or misdirect the operations of the target inside the perimeter of interest.”
Furthermore, “perimeter security system” could also “refer to the people, technologies, processes and operations taken to secure a perimeter from unauthorized egress by a threat, e.g., the terrorists or detainees being held in a prison facility or people restricted inside an area of quarantine.”
The ANSI task group also works under the notion that guns and guards along a gate no longer provide an effective perimeter security solution. ANSI has identified cost-effective technologies such as intelligent video motion detectors, infrared night vision, chemical / biological / radiological sniffers, X-ray and portal screening, distributed sensors, and biometrics as elements of effective perimeter security systems.
Providing an ‘ASIST’
One particularly comprehensive system integrating many different sensor technologies has been offered by Northrop Grumman, based on the company’s experience with securing US military facilities in hostile areas. The Advanced Security and Integrated Systems Technology (ASIST) solution provides operators with input from a range of different surveillance and detection technologies, explained Don Collins, senior security solutions manager for Northrop Grumman Mission Systems Sector.
“Basically, ASIST is an integrated security solution to a variety of different applications,everything from airports to ports to petrochemical plants and things of that nature,” Collins told HSToday. “We have taken some security technology that was originally developed for use by US forces, primarily in high-threat environments overseas, and apply that same technology and capability to the homeland security mission.”
ASIST makes use of technologies like video cameras, surveillance radar and thermal imaging, but it also adapts military friendly force tracking capabilities, all in an effort to proactively push the monitoring of a perimeter as far out as feasible to provide maximum time for security forces to react to any threat.
ASIST can track friendly security forces with GPS transponders in their radios through the use of Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade-and-Below (FBCB2), a tracking system originally developed to enable Army units to track their assets. FBCB2 helps the Army to see its forces deploy in nearly real-time and to avoid friendly fire incidents.
“You can track where the good guys are in relationship to the target,” Collins stated. “That gives the commander or the supervisor in the security operations center visibility not only on the intrusions but where his patrols are at the same time. It is all pulled together in a common operating display that we use that has a user-friendly capability.”
ASIST pinpoints intrusions or suspected intrusions and provides any available information on the potential threat. Operators can call up cameras that are active 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to pinpoint the source of intrusions or to study the path of approaching intrusions in more detail.
Collins noted that ASIST also is highly configurable, permitting security forces to gain a common operating picture for both closed facilities with low traffic and open facilities with high traffic.
Open facilities
Airports are among the most visible open facilities with a steady stream of traffic approaching their facilities from both the ground and the air. To date, however, no standards have been defined for airport perimeter security in the United States. To some extent, the identification of best practices in airport perimeter security has been lacking because no two airports are exactly alike. But the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been taking an exhaustive look at the problem.
“We are in the process of pulling together focus groups to develop a list of such best practices that can be shared across the nation’s airports,” TSA spokeswoman Amy Kudwa told HSToday. “That is a priority right now.”
TSA, however, is not responsible for the development of airport security plans (ASPs), Kudwa cautioned. Each local airport is responsible for its individual ASP. TSA examines and approves each ASP to ensure that it meets the airport’s needs, but, ultimately, the airport and local law enforcement are responsible for carrying out the plan, which includes the security of airport facilities and the perimeter.
“Further to that, we have airport security inspectors employed by TSA that conduct spot inspections. We are ramping up spot inspections at airport and airfield access points to ensure compliance with the local security plan,” Kudwa added.
TSA federal security directors at each airport review security plans and can serve as a resource for airports seeking guidance, although their job consists largely of running the screening workforce at each airport.
Local airport authorities, in the development of their security plans, can contract security forces or use perimeter security technologies to meet their objectives. TSA provides airports with additional resources through its review and testing of various security technologies. In the past, TSA has offered grants and conducted pilot programs to test the effectiveness of various airport technologies.
According to Kudwa, TSA has awarded more than $60 million in grants for terminal security since 2002. The agency spent an additional $19 million to evaluate access control technologies under its Airport Access Control Pilot Program. TSA has demonstrated and verified the effectiveness of specific technologies at various airport sites around the nation in recent years.
“We had a series of pilots in ’04 and early ’05 at a number of different airports—like Boise, Newark, Tampa, Providence, Savannah, Fort Myers, Helena, Minneapolis, St. Paul—in which we evaluated a number of different kinds of technologies, everything from fingerprint readers to fiber-optic netting to video motion analysis, anti-tailgating, GPS vehicle tracking systems,” Kudwa said. “We are looking at a number of different things with pilot programs, so we are involved in the process of figuring out what works.”
Closed facilities
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also has been interested in seeing what works when it comes to closed facilities, many of which are owned by the private sector. The department has been reluctant to compel private companies to enforce specific security measures, arguing that regulations do not themselves yield better security.
For example, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff signaled his support for legislation that would provide a general framework for chemical plant security in a speech in Washington, DC, on March 21, but cautioned that private industry must have the flexibility to implement its own security measures.
Chertoff called for “a bill that doesn’t micromanage the chemical industry by attempting to dictate very specific ways in which security has to be achieved, but rather one which takes advantage of the strength of the industry—its adaptability, its initiative and its ingenuity—by laying out a series of performance standards.”
So, in Chertoff’s view, chemical companies would choose perimeter security measures that best fit their needs, and DHS would ensure compliance with the industry’s security plans through verification of their effectiveness. In doing so, DHS and industry would concentrate on the highest risks to establish defenses against any attacks against a chemical plant that could generate the most damage.
“If you look back at the whole history of the way al Qaeda has conducted its operations, where possible, they have always tried to leverage our own technology against ourselves,” Chertoff warned. “They’ve turned jets, commercial jets, into weapons. They’ve tried to use our own chemicals and our own products as means of exploding devices against us. And, obviously, one of the areas we have to be concerned about are parts of our infrastructure which house chemicals which could, if properly ignited, create a huge amount of havoc in a populated area—whether it be because of a large explosion or whether it’s because of toxic inhalation.”
Industry groups such as the American Chemistry Council have been cautiously optimistic that legislative standards could provide some metrics for good perimeter security measures, but they have resisted tight measures that would require any drastic change in operations at specific plants. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) have introduced The Chemical Security and Safety Act of 2006 (S 2145) to provide such guidance, and DHS and private industry have tentatively welcomed the legislation.
“I’m realistic, but I’m optimistic. I think Congress can pass a balanced, risk-based security measure for the chemical industry this year—one that will give us the tools to make sure security is increased, but one that relies ultimately on the expertise and the knowledge of the chemical sector itself to achieve those goals,” Chertoff said.
Proactive perimeter security measures, for example, would help chemical plants to prevent any plans or to mitigate any attacks directed against their facilities. Chertoff imagines a third-party verification system that would test the effectiveness of these measures and report back to DHS, somewhat similar to the way TSA inspectors report on the effectiveness of airport security measures.
National priorities
Although local authorities are almost always going to be the first line of defense for facilities in their jurisdiction, in cases of national significance, DHS and other federal authorities may take direct control of perimeter security measures.
Col. Randy Morris, director of Air Component Coordination Element for Homeland Security at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), helps plan strategies for the air defense of the National Capital Region and for National Special Security Events (NSSE). Events such as the president’s annual State of the Union address receive NSSE designation because they are of great national importance and represent attractive terrorist targets.
“Other national events like the Super Bowl may not rise to level of NSSE designation, but we do go to an increased posture,” Morris told HSToday.
The exchange of timelyinformation becomes key to the perimeter security of the facilities or entire cities involved in such situations, Morris emphasized. Morris is stationed in TSA facilities as part of the National Capital Region Coordination Center (NCRCC), an inter-agency group consisting of TSA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, and NORAD. The US Capital Police often listen in on meetings or receive reports directly from the NCRCC.
The NCRCC’s mission is basically to secure the air perimeter around the seat of the US federal government. So when an incident occurs, such as the entry of a Cessna aircraft into restricted airspace around the capital on May 11, 2005, elements of the NCRCC spring into action.
“We all interact together on an event such as that to find out: ‘What do you know that we don’t know, and here’s information that I have,’” Morris explained. “Capitol Police take a look at it and say, ‘Do we need to evacuate the Capitol?’ as they are listening in. It’s a collaborative effort that we go through to disseminate information.”
NCRCC also shares information with other centers of operation responsible for other elements of perimeter security. For example, many incidents that involve the perimeter security on the ground fall under the domain of the appropriate law enforcement authorities.
“You have the Homeland Security Operations Center and it has a lot of ground local law enforcement and state and local agencies represented,” Morris said. “We keep them in the loop; although they do not have a representative in the National Capital Region Coordination Center, they are provided that same information over phone and computer lines to see what is going on. We converse with them and have open dialogues with them to help them or ask for their assistance.”
Furthermore, an incident that involves hazardous materials may require the assistance of specially trained military forces with the expertise to handle chemical, biological or radiological agents. In those cases, the Joint Forces Headquarters for the National Capital Region may call up civil support teams from the National Guard to assist.
Perimeter security is yet another area where the homeland security community can learn from the defense industry. The US military has developed sophisticated measures for the protection of its installations, which were much more mixed between open and closed facilities prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
When a system like Northrop Grumman’s ASIST is used on a foreign battlefield, it would include weapons that are not permissible in a domestic system. Otherwise, much of the basic surveillance and detection technology can transfer directly to homeland security missions with only light modifications.
DHS is also wise to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” mentality in its approach to perimeter security standards. As seen in both its treatment of open facilities like airports and closed facilities like chemical plants, the department recognizes that the different configurations and the different missions of specific facilities that may be in the same industry may require different defenses. HST

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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