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This article was Originally Published on May 01, 2002 in Volume: 1  Issue: 2

Technology Key to Security

Sept 11 drove that home in a way none of us will ever forget. And those stakes, as we know now, aren't confined to restoring a sense of physical safety here in this country.

By Phillip A. Odeen

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[I] appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about this issue, homeland security, that matters to every one of us: The stakes, of course, could hardly be higher. Sept. 11 drove that home in a way none of us will ever forget. And those stakes, as we now know, aren't confined to restoring a sense of physical safety here in this country.

We also must restore a larger confidence in the future that lifts our spirits. To the extent people feel safe, they feel confident - and we all know how critical consumer confidence is to generating jobs, growth and GDP. Even now - more than five months after Sept. 11 - we're at a point early enough in this process that the focus is less on finding answers than on asking the right questions. And that's my objective today:  To think through this new challenge and new threat - and to set out a framework for securing America, for defending our country and the ideals it stands for.

So let me start by posing three questions we can focus on today: 

Are we going to have to choose between security and civil liberty - or is there a way we can safeguard both?

Are the steps we take to be more secure going to be a drain on our economy, or can we find a way to sustain - and maybe even strengthen - productivity?

And finally, how can we prepare ourselves to defeat this threat - to pre-empt attack when possible, and respond and speed recovery when that's necessary?

I know this is a concern - and a cause that animates all of us. I also know when the issue is homeland security, my company feels a special challenge. My point today isn't to present a TRW commercial, but simply to give you a sense that - whether it's the surveillance systems we provide the U.S. intelligence community - or the work we do for a customer managing the national blood supply. The baggage-screening security project we just won this month for the Jacksonville Airport, or our efforts in systems integration such as building 911 systems for major cities across the country. A lot of what we do every day at TRW touches on the kinds of technologies we'll need defend ourselves against homeland attack. 

We focus on the transformational technologies - systems that respond to challenge by changing the rules of the game. And that's critical - because the terrorists who struck us Sept. 11 changed the rules of the gameâ?¦ forever.

Look at how they mounted their attack. Our open society offers lots of entry points - features we like, and even love. Freedom to travel and freedom to trade, open access, open opportunity to people of all nations, creeds, colors and religions.

And that makes homeland defense something qualitatively different than the traditional national security challenge.

To put it in terms of a question:  How do we defend against an enemy who uses our freedom and our openness against us? 

In this effort, technology will be key. Just look at any one of what the president and the director of homeland security have identified as the four focus-points of the homeland security challenge:  Intelligence. Border security. The bio-terror threat - and the needs of first-responders.

From systems that make everything from air and train travel safer�  To safeguards that allow global commerce to continue� To securing our ports and other points of entry, the mail and other forms of information and package delivery�  Ensuring safe access to public facilities - and even the security of our national borders:  In every case, we in industry will be tasked with developing technologies that have as little negative impact as possible on privacy, convenience, ease and speed of movement.The challenge here is using technology to find out what we need to know in the least intrusive way possible. If you look at it in terms of the two great goals of the American system:  We've got to safeguard security - without sacrificing liberty.

To the extent we're framing out this issue, there's an economic angle to the challenge, too:  A sense that all this additional security will sap our productivity, slow the economy down and generally hurt our competitiveness. It's not surprising that the first things we think of when the issue is change are cost and inconvenience. But the fact that things must be different doesn't mean they can't be better. The changes we make don't have to hurt - and they might just help.

Take the issue of customs clearance along the Canadian border, for instance. It's easy to imagine how congested it would get if we took our customs procedures up a few notches as a result of the terrorist threat. Indeed, this happened immediately after Sept. 11. You can visualize the 18-wheelers lined up a mile deep - and the look on those truckers' faces - and the costs incurred.

But why does it have to be that way?  What if we changed our mind-set - what if we looked at customs clearance not as a function that has to happen 50 yards from some imaginary stripe on the ground dividing one country from another - and looked at a 50-mile zone on both sides of that line: A virtual border, in which the customs function could be staged to manage security and ease the flow of commerce? Surely we could build a system that would safeguard our security - and our productivity.

Or consider the same sort of new thinking applied to port security around the country. U.S. ports handle about 6 million shipping containers a year, inbound and outbound. That's 16,000 a day. If that kind of volume makes it impossible to search manually every container coming into this country, maybe the technology community can develop a system that scans them as they're off-loaded. And if steel containers can't be scanned, maybe we can develop durable fiberglass containers that are scan-able. You see where I'm going: We're at the very beginning of this process - we literally have no idea what kind of creative solutions American ingenuity will bring to the homeland challenge, and how they might actually increase security and facilitate the flow of goods and people to and through this country.

If technology can help on the homeland security front, it's also a key tool as we wage the War on Terror beyond our shores as well. One of the lessons learned in the two post-Cold War conflicts the United States has been involved in - both the Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan - is that technology and information triumph over bulk.

You saw both the technology and the tactics of this new sort of warfare on display in Afghanistan, with the emphasis on small Special Ops teams, on pilotless drones and laser-aided targeting - in our ability to find the needle in the haystack, and hit it - and the accent on speed, stealth and surgical strikes. 

If that's the nature of the challenge - now let's look at the nature of the threat.

I can't even begin to cover all the aspects of this issue or anticipate what the experts might say. But I can put in place a framework to help us focus on the problem.

On one side, we've got attack pre-emption or prevention - which has two dimensions:  Gathering data on the threat - and connecting the dots to make that data into information we can act on. On the other side of the framework, we've got response and recovery - again two aspects:  the counter-attack, whatever shape that takes - and the recovery effort:  Everything you do after you've been hit to save lives and restore order.

Clearly, our goal must be to create as much space as possible on the pre-emption/prevention side of the line - to discover and defuse the "ticking time bombs" President Bush warned about in [the] State of the Union [address]. But the cold, hard truth is, we also must be prepared to cope with the homeland threat in terms of response. If you can't stop a specific attack, you want to counter it, contain its consequences, and speed the recovery.

Let's look at this framework in terms of practical fact - with some real examples of what we are doing now, and what we'll have to do to meet the homeland security challenge on all fronts. Let's start with pre-emption and prevention.

The first objective is early warning - information timely enough to let us stop an impending attack before it hits home, by rolling up the terror cells preparing to inflict it. We know that requires not only effective human intelligence - the province of the FBI, the CIA and the military intelligence community - but we'll also need superior technical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissanceâ?¦ both airborne and spaceborne.

The technology may be complex, but objective is simple:  We need to see, to know, and to understand. We've got to collect information - and connect the dots in time to thwart an attack.

When terror is the enemy, time is the high ground. We need time - as much time as possible between the moment our intelligence community tells us the terrorists have set an attack in motion, and the time the event takes place.

That's why my company is working to push forward "speed-of-light" weapons:  ground-, air- and space-based laser systems that will give us the ultimate in rapid response. When time is of the essence, speed of light response can spell the difference between defending against an attack - and stopping that attack before it begins.

This isn't Buck Rogers:  Right now, a system called THEL - that's the acronym for Tactical High Energy Laser - can shoot down multiple Katyusha rockets. If you can respond at the speed of light, it gives you more of a very precious commodity:  Time. And in the war against terror - time can save lives.

Now, let's cross the line to the other side of our framework:  To the capabilities that will allow us to respond to any attack that, in spite of our best efforts, does take place. My focus today is on the response we make here at home - the emergency effort we undertake to save lives, to contain the threat, and restore calm.

Here, the key is coordination:  The integration of information and operations across a range of government agencies at different levels, sharing information and resources using a wide array of technologies.

That's the nature of our networked world today:  strength doesn't come from any single solution, but from systems integration - from a collective capability that makes the whole greater than sum of its parts. The biggest challenge is overcoming our own information straightjackets.

To see how serious this systems integration challenge really is, think back with me to the first moments after the plane hit the Pentagon [on] Sept. 11, and the challenge faced by the first responders to the scene.

You had DoD officials, obviously. But within minutes, you had other federal players as well:  The FBI. The FAA. The Department of Transportation. You had state agencies:  Virginia's National Guard. The state police. You had local responders, from Arlington County Fire and Police and EMS teams. And they put out the call to their counterparts in neighboring counties, bringing in fire and police and EMS elements from Fairfax, VA, and across the river in Washington, DC.

That's an alphabet soup of agencies - federal, state and local:  16 different groups of responders, just counting up the ones I've named�. All of them intent on a single goal - saving lives. But could they talk to each other on a single network? Could they coordinate their response, to put the right capability in the right place at the right time - real-time? 

It shouldn't really surprise you to know they didn't have one single, seamless system to coordinate their efforts. In fact, the local police ended up talking to one another over a single, publicly accessible frequency - with all the chaos and cross-talk that comes with that.

There must be a better way - and there is. Sometimes you get to systems integration by building a new network from scratch. Sometimes the right answer is one that ties together existing, separate systems into a full, flexible, functional network. There is no right way. We've got to be open to both approaches - and all manner of others in between - that meet the need for interoperability in crisis response.

That said, I want to offer a couple of qualifications. First:  technology is a tool - not a silver bullet. All the integrated technology in the world isn't worth much unless we also think through the human integration issues - the command and control, "who's-in-charge" issues, so that the inability to contact one key person doesn't break the chain of command, and bring the entire effort to a standstill. Governments at all levels are going to have to work out protocols and procedures and a pecking order for emergency situations - before the moment of crisis. This may well be the most difficult challenge.

On one level, creating the kind of systems integration I've been talking about today poses a cultural challenge to the United States - a test to the system of government we've grown used to for more than 225 years now. A country like the United Kingdom has a tradition of national systems and national programs - and an acceptance of action by a national authority. In the U.S., that's different:  Here, our tradition of federalism makes national solutions difficult, if not undesirable.

None of which means we have to abandon federalism to fight terrorism. Far from it - one of the strengths of the American system is it enables so many different approaches to meet public needs and advance the public good. Instead of arguing over a national I.D. card, for instance - what about building a device that allows any police vehicle in any jurisdiction to scan any state driver's license, and read the information on it?  If we have inter-operability - we don't need absolute uniformity. We get the capability we need, without abandoning a governing system that's served us so well for so long.

What I'm trying to underscore is the change in mind-set we need to make our mission a success. Government agencies will have to learn to do things differently - breaking down many of the walls between governing entities, and between government and private industry, that presently limit information sharing and coordination.

We can't just let localities go their own way. The federal government has to play a key role, even when it comes to issues relating to local response.

This isn't a matter of dictating what to do from Washington - it's a matter of setting standards that will allow interoperability while preserving freedom of action at the local level. All of us know better than to put our faith in some all-knowing central authority: it doesn't work in government - or in business. And in addition to setting standards, the federal government needs to provide funding, as they've begun to do in the current budget. Each municipality and each state is going to have to increase spending on homeland security - but even now, it's clear states can't do it alone. In fact, the federal government should tie those two roles together, making its funding contingent on stepping up to common standards. That's how federal funding works in areas as diverse as education, health care policy and welfare reform - the feds set the standards, provide the funds, and leave states and localities free to determine the best way to get to the goal. There's no reason the same formula can't be followed to facilitate and focus the homeland security effort.

In addition to government-to-government coordination, to bridge the space between private and public sectors, we'll need to develop new modes of cooperation and communication where public safety and public security are concerned. We need to build a private-public partnership - with an accent on information-sharing in particular - to make homeland security fully effective.

Take the experience of two public-spirited companies in responding to the crisis on 9/11. AT&T maintains more than 200 shipping containers of emergency response telecommunications equipment, ready to be loaded onto planes and flown to a disaster scene - ready, round the clock, to be sent anywhere in the country.

That's terrific - unless, of course, the FAA orders all civilian aircraft grounded, as they did on 9/11. When that happened, AT&T had to improvise Plan B:  finding ways to get its gear to New York and Washington without access to commercial air freight - hitching rides for some critical containers on military transport planes - and sending others hundreds of miles by truck or train. The same thing went for AT&T emergency personnel, whose deployment routines called for flying to disaster sites by commercial aircraft. Two enterprising AT&T employees in Denver - determined not to miss their deployment - hopped an Amtrak train headed East. It took them two days, but they got to Ground Zero, and joined the emergency effort already in progress, or take the commitment Home Depot makes to respond to all kinds of crises and disasters by sending in construction materials, supplies and equipment. On 9/11, Home Depot had emergency command centers set up in New York and Washington within 90 minutes of the first attack, and had ordered 20 of its New York and Washington stores closed to the public - so that they could preserve a dedicated inventory supply for the recovery effort. Within a week, they had delivered more than 300,000 emergency items to Ground Zero, everything from custom saws and air compressors to hard hats and duct tape.

But even so, in the first moments after the attack, the only way the head of Home Depot's response team could communicate with FEMA - the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or, for that matter, any of the half-dozen other public agencies is was in contact with - was through a single military radio channel FEMA had assigned Home Depot for emergency situations. When you're facing an event of the magnitude we saw Sept. 11, one radio channel is an awfully thin line for all the communicating and coordinating that needs to take place.

Clearly, what Home Depot and AT&T achieved in that moment of crisis was impressive - and also enterprising:  I think we can all agree. But improvisation - no matter how successful - is no substitute for robust response pre-planning and clear lines of communication and information in time of crisis.

And that really brings me full circle - to the ideas I want to leave you with today.

First, we can use our technology to protect our liberty. In fact, when it comes to the balancing act between security and civil liberty - technology can help us have both.

Second, the steps we take to secure our homeland don't have to drain productivity - they can strengthen our economy and make us more competitive. The key is taking a step back from business as usual - and thinking our way to new solutions. 

And finally, the best way to secure ourselves is to approach homeland security as a process:  To prepare ourselves to prevent and pre-empt attack, but also to respond to - and recover from - any event that does take place, with as little loss of life and as rapid a return to order as humanly possible.

We all know what's at stake. We all know we've got to succeed. And I think we all know that, ultimately, our most powerful weapon in this war is American ingenuity:  The best talent, the best technology, applied to the task at hand.

Phillip A. Odeen, non-executive chairman and interim CEO of TRW, Inc., and a member of the board of directors, delivered these remarks to a February meeting of the Executive Club of Chicago.

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