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23/11/2004 | Anticipating al-Qaeda: DHS science and technology czar says new software for ports could have also countered Castro

Martin Edwin Andersen

The Department of Homeland Security efforts to improve maritime domain awareness include technological breakthroughs that, had they been available 40 years ago, might have let U.S. policymakers better anticipate, and thus counter, moves by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Dr. Charles E. McQueary, DHS undersecretary for science and technology, said last week.

 

McQueary also said that a maritime security policy coordinating committee—whose members include representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard as well as the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State, Commerce and Justice—is reviewing all current U.S. government maritime policy initiatives and attempting to “ensure inter-agency integration and alignment.”

McQueary made his comments in a speech, “Identifying Needs and Coordinating Transportation Security Research,” given Nov. 17th at the 7th Marine Transportation System Research and Technology Coordination Conference held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

The former president of General Dynamics Advanced Technology Systems said that a software program developed at the National Visualization Center—a joint venture between DHS’ science and technology (S&T) directorate and the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Richland, Washington—shows “great promise” in anti-terror efforts as security officials sift through massive amounts of information relating to the country’s seaports, looking for patterns.

The promise for fighting current security threats, McQueary added, was shown when researchers “put 40 years of Castro’s speeches in this thing and, indeed, found that had this capability existed back in the ‘60s, when Cuba was going through its upheaval, you could have predicted, based upon the speeches that were being given, that Cuba was well on its way to nationalizing the oil industry within the state.”

By sifting through the speeches, McQueary said, “What came out of it was Castro has this way of talking more and more freely about what’s about to happen, and so if you play close attention you will get a predictive mode.”

Maritime domain awareness, he explained, is critical “to be able to distinguish between activity that is normal in the maritime environment from that which is not, so that we are positioned to best assess potential risks.”

“Right now, with limited sensors and intelligence capabilities, our decisionmakers have difficulty considering all the information that is presented to them,” McQueary said.

“Intelligence agents, such as software programs that can detect anomalies in the midst of an abundance of data, are a primary means for improving situational awareness,” he added.

McQueary explained that his directorate, the smallest within DHS, “mobilizes the intellectual capital of the engineering and scientific communities to develop fresh and effective approaches to homeland protection.”

S&T’s mission, he added, “is to apply the nation’s research and development, testing and evaluation capabilities to develop the technologies and solutions needed to defend against the methods and tactics of the terrorists.”

McQueary also told the group that the Bush Administration is preparing to release a joint national security/homeland security presidential directive explicitly directed at port security later this month.

The directive, which he said was nearing a final review stage, “will integrate maritime security programs and initiatives on federal, state and local government levels into a comprehensive and cohesive national effort.” (See PSN’s Nov. 17 story, “Breaking News: Presidential directive on maritime security to be issued later this month.”)

A senior steering group within the maritime security policy coordinating committee committee, McQueary added, is chaired by Homeland Security Deputy Secretary James M. Loy and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale. The steering group’s task is to “develop a coordinated approach for all maritime domain awareness related activities” and prepare a “national plan” to improve such awareness.

Kirk Evans, the director of the science and technology directorate’s mission support office within the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) is to chair the technology working group within the steering group, McQueary added.

Martin Edwin Andersen can be reached at Mick_Andersen@portsecuritynews.us

Copyright (C) 2004 Port Security News

Port Security News (Estados Unidos)

 



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