Homeland Security Technology
A new federal agency is needed to rapidly develop and deploy technologies that will limit our vulnerability to terrorism.
On September 11th, our complex national aviation infrastructure became a brilliant weapons delivery system, both stealthy and asymmetrical. The attack was so successful that we should expect this and other like-minded groups to strike again at our homeland. The nation has rallied to improve security at airports, public buildings, and other likely targets. But these efforts have made painfully clear how vulnerable the country is to attackers willing to kill not only innocent civilians but themselves as well. Much must be done in all areas of homeland security before Americans feel safe again. Technology will have to play a critical role. Indeed, technology will be every bit as important in ensuring homeland security as it has been historically in creating military dominance for the armed services. Of course, technology has already been enlisted in areas such as airport security, and technology exists that can be applied to homeland protection. But much work could be done to find additional ways in which existing technology could enhance security and to do the research needed to develop new technology to meet security needs. The United States has no organization or system in place to fund and coordinate this technology development effort, and we cannot expect the effort to organize itself. We need to evaluate carefully what our homeland security needs are, think creatively about how technology can help meet those needs, and put in place a federal entity with the wherewithal to marshal and direct the resources necessary. A survey of the most obvious areas of national vulnerability demonstrates the profound need for accelerated technology development and deployment.
Aviation security. The World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks illustrated the insecurity of the nation’s commercial aviation infrastructure. The insecurity turns out to be even worse than the attacks illustrated. For example, in 1998 and 1999, test teams from the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General gained unauthorized and uninspected access to secure areas in eight major airports in 68 percent of attempts and boarded aircraft 117 times. Even after the terrorist attacks, the Inspector General testified that fewer than 10 percent of checked bags were being screened for explosives before being loaded onto the aircraft.