October 5, 2006

October 5, 2006 | Backgrounder on Department of Homeland Security

Homeland Security Technology, Global Partnerships, and Winning the Long War

Countries have limited financial, human, and other resources available for homeland security. Winning the long war to disrupt transnational terrorist net­works will require international collaboration in researching, developing, and sharing homeland secu­rity technologies. By facilitating greater cooperation, spreading research and development (R&D) costs, and taking advantage of synergies, the United States and its allies can extend the impact of their homeland security programs, entice businesses and entrepre­neurs with larger numbers of potential customers, and take advantage of the continuing international­ization of the global market for security technologies.

Whither Washington?

The U.S. government spends considerably more money on developing homeland security technolo­gies than is spent by any other national government. The Department of Homeland Security Appropria­tions Act of 2006[1] allocated approximately $6 billion for homeland security technologies, primarily for applying technologies rather than conducting basic research. Major projects include introducing detec­tors for finding smuggled nuclear matter, consolidat­ing data networks, defending against biological terrorism, and upgrading border security controls under the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program.[2]

Homeland security R&D spending totals about $4 billion annually, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) manages approximately one-third of that amount.[3] The Homeland Security Act of 2002[4] charged the DHS with coordinating federal efforts to produce and deploy the best available technologies for homeland security missions. The Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate's R&D budget for fiscal year 2006 was almost $1.4 billion. Half of this total goes to developing countermea­sures against chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-explosive weapons. Other large S&T programs are for developing technologies to defend commercial aircraft from surface-to-air mis­siles, to track nuclear objects (the core mission of the newly established Domestic Nuclear Detection Office), and to secure cargo containers.

The S&T Directorate researches, develops, and tests homeland security technologies. The DHS awards grants to universities researching new homeland security technologies; has established Centers of Excellence at several American universi­ties;[5] and funds technical and organizational initia­tives among federal, state, and local emergency responders, such as the Regional Technology Inte­gration initiative.[6] The DHS also works with pri­vate-sector industry and academic institutions to adapt technologies for use by federal, state, and local officials and emergency responders.[7]

Other federal departments and agencies also serve key roles in researching and developing home­land security technologies, especially the Depart­ment of Defense (DOD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the national labo­ratories run by the Department of Energy. For example, the Advanced Portal Security system developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency endeavors to identify concealed containers of chemical and biological agents by rapidly detecting chemical and biological agents on people and inside envelopes, small containers, and packages. The HHS's Bioshield works to provide incentives for the private sector to develop and manufacture vaccines against biological agents, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory jointly run the Bio­logical Aerosol Sentry and Information System (BASIS) to develop ways to detect airborne biolog­ical weapons attacks.

Several efforts are underway to coordinate inter­agency efforts to research and develop homeland security technologies. The Homeland Security Council establishes general guidelines for all U.S. homeland security policies.[8] The director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Pol­icy advises the President on homeland security issues. The Technical Support Working Group (TSWG), operated jointly by the State Department and DOD, oversees interagency R&D programs designed to develop and deploy counterterrorism technologies. Its executive committee has represen­tatives from the Departments of State, Defense, Jus­tice, and Energy. The DHS also participates in TSWG contract solicitations. Although the TSWG works with a broad range of private-sector actors, they reside predominately in the United States and a few select partner countries. In addition, TSWG efforts focus primarily on meeting members' imme­diate operational needs by adapting commercial off-the-shelf technology.

More recently, the White House established a new national organization to lead the development and acquisition of technology focused on detecting smuggled nuclear material. Created in April 2005 pursuant to Homeland Security Presidential Direc­tive 14,[9] the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) commands a budget of approximately $500 million and a staff of nearly 200 from the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and Energy and the FBI. In July, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and DNDO Director Vayl Oxford announced over $1 billion in new investments to strengthen nuclear detection. A Cabinet-level Interagency Coordination Council informs the R&D investments of the new office to reinforce government-wide returns. Additionally, the DNDO is responsible for designing an inter­agency-approved "global architecture" to guide the strategies for deploying nuclear detection capabili­ties overseas as well as domestically.[10]

Allied Action

Other countries spend much less than the United States spends on homeland security S&T programs.[11] Although the European Union launched a Security Research Program in March 2003 to fund homeland security R&D, the pro­gram focuses on enhancing protection of critical transportation infrastructure (e.g., railroads, ports, airlines, and information networks) and not on developing new capabilities for emergency responders.[12] In addition, European homeland security projects remain highly fragmented, with different EU bodies and member country agencies having disparate authorities and competencies. These problems raise the specter of a growing capa­bilities gap in homeland security technologies that would compound U.S.-European disparities in other defense areas.[13]

Individual countries have also made contribu­tions to advancing homeland security technologies. For example, some European governments main­tain centralized clearinghouses of technologies and best practices designed to enhance rail security in addition to conducting centralized research and test­ing of promising defense technologies.[14] European countries are also on the cutting edge of investigat­ing the application of biometric technologies.[15]

Several European governments have made a spe­cial effort to cultivate niche capabilities in areas rel­evant to homeland security. For example, during Operation Enduring Freedom, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Italy agreed to send their specialized chemical and biological detection units to supple­ment U.S. defenses.[16] More recently, the Czech government created a Chemical, Biological, Radio­logical, and Nuclear (CBRN) Center of Excellence. In April, the U.K. Ministry of Defence stood up its Counter-Terrorism Science and Technology Centre. The Underwater Research Center in Italy is leading a series of technology tests to develop enhanced port, harbor, and vessel security through capabili­ties such as underwater autonomous vehicles and sensor networks.

Nevertheless, European governments generally devote modest resources to capabilities and tech­nologies relevant to homeland security. Although the demand for homeland security technology in Europe is expected to grow to over 874 million euros (almost $1.2 billion) in the next 10 years,[17] the U.S. government still invests 50 percent more in science and technology R&D than Europe invests.[18]

In contrast, global private-sector spending for homeland security R&D has experienced exponen­tial growth-a trajectory that analysts expect to continue. According to one projection, interna­tional commerce in antiterrorist equipment and consulting services will soar from $46 billion in 2005 to $178 billion by 2015, with the United States accounting for half the market.[19] This figure is even larger if spending on technologies devel­oped primarily for military or law enforcement purposes (some of which can contribute to home­land security) and private-sector spending for crit­ical infrastructure protection are included.

Cooperation Across Borders

The United States maintains strong bilateral R&D relationships with several countries. Israeli- American security cooperation is an important example of a successful relationship. The Israelis' decades-long struggle against terrorist attacks has led them to develop innovative countermeasures. For instance, they first used x-ray machines to in­spect airplane luggage and pioneered placing air mar­shals on every commercial flight of their national airline. More recent Israeli inventions include guns that shoot around corners, laser units that can de­tect explosives from distances of hundreds of feet, and computer software capable of translating dog barks into English-language commands.[20]

In 1995, the U.S. and Israel established the United States-Israel Science and Technology Foun­dation (USISTF), a bilateral initiative to increase technology sharing. In June 2005, USISTF spon­sored a conference in Jerusalem that brought together top executives of large U.S. corporations, influential American government officials, and other key U.S. homeland security players with leaders of the Israeli defense and security indus­tries.[21] Israel has also shared counterterrorist tech­nologies with India, Turkey, and other countries.

Most U.S. efforts in this area remain ad hoc and focused on a few traditional key partners such as Britain and Canada. For example, a 2004 memorandum of agreement signed by then-DHS Deputy Secretary James Loy and British Home Secretary David Blunkett created a cooperative S&T framework in critical infrastructure protec­tion and other homeland security sectors. The memorandum established formal exchanges of scientists, engineers, and other specialists work­ing in this area. It also set criteria for harmoniz­ing standards and guidelines for homeland security technologies.[22]

Canadian-U.S. cooperation in homeland secu­rity technology R&D is perhaps even more exten­sive. In June 2003, the DHS and Defence R&D Canada launched a Public Security Technical Pro­gram to pursue S&T solutions across many home­land security dimensions. On June 1, 2004, the two governments signed the Agreement for Coopera­tion in Science and Technology for Critical Infra­structure Protection and Border Security, which provides a framework for joint security S&T projects in these two areas.[23]

Outside of strong bilateral research programs with countries like Great Britain and Israel, formal initiatives are much less robust and are largely holdovers from the Cold War and a long-standing relationship with NATO. Even with NATO, coop­eration has always been modest. NATO tradition­ally considers developing, equipping, training, maintaining, and financing military capabilities to be primarily national responsibilities.

In terms of developing NATO capabilities for homeland security and consequence manage­ment, the Conference of National Armament Directors (CNAD) and its subordinate bodies play an important role. The CNAD consists of national armaments directors who meet regularly to iden­tify opportunities for allied collaboration in researching, developing, and producing military equipment.

The NATO Industrial Advisory Group (NIAG) enables the CNAD to solicit industry advice on how to promote public-private and transnational cooperation in defense production. For example, the NIAG is currently coordinating private indus­trial involvement in NATO's Defense Against Ter­rorism program. Such cooperation has already yielded new technologies to defend against impro­vised explosive devices.[24]

The NATO Research and Technology Organiza­tion annually sponsors over 100 cooperative activ­ities among alliance members and partners, primarily in the area of basic research.[25] Allied Command Transformation has the lead responsi­bility for implementing defense innovation within NATO, including encouraging experimentation and advanced technology demonstrations.[26]

NATO's WMD Centre, created in 2000, supports NATO initiatives to address the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) across the 46 countries involved in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), including the seven Middle Eastern coun­tries participating in NATO's Mediterranean Dia­logue.[27] Moreover, NATO this year appointed a Counterterrorism Technology Coordinator after standing up the new NATO Counterterrorism Technology Unit.

After 9/11, the NATO heads of state and gov­ernment adopted a Civil Emergency Planning (CEP) Action Plan at their November 2002 Pra­gue Summit, listing over 50 action items designed to assist EAPC governments' civil pre­paredness against CBRN agents. In their summit declaration, NATO members expressed their commitment to "enhance our ability to provide support, when requested, to help national authorities to deal with the consequences of ter­rorist attacks, including attacks with CBRN against critical infrastructure, as foreseen in the CEP Action Plan." The plan's objectives include improving interoperability among NATO mem­ber and partner countries by setting common minimum standards for equipment, planning, training, and procedures.

The Prague Summit participants also approved a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism (PAP-T),[28] which contains several provisions designed to enhance technology cooperation in homeland security among EAPC members. Summit partici­pants also agreed on a program of Nuclear, Biolog­ical, and Chemical Defense Initiatives to improve defenses for NATO troops and citizens against such attacks. For example, they launched a NATO-wide Disease Surveillance Initiative to monitor unusual disease outbreaks, alert alliance leaders about biological outbreaks, and fuse data with other information sources. They also established a coor­dinated stockpile of materials for chemical and biological defense. This NATO Biological-Chemi­cal Defense Stockpile allows member governments to pool their resources (e.g., vaccines and protec­tion gear) by identifying and sharing national supply inventories, rapidly moving needed materi­als, and sharing information on improving medical treatment protocols.

In May 2004, NATO launched a Programme of Work for Defense Against Terrorism to strengthen the protection of allied populations and troops from terrorist attacks. The program consists of priority armaments projects, each led by a member country, designed for specific ter­rorist threats. NATO has also reoriented its sci­ence initiatives into the Security Through Science program to focus investments on improved counterterrorism and antiterrorism capabilities across NATO.

Outside of NATO, U.S. cooperation with friends and allies in homeland security S&T is much less robust. At present, such collaboration occurs largely at industry-sponsored events, such as the annual International Asia Homeland Security Exhibition and Conference, attended by law enforcement representatives and counterter­rorism experts.[29] However, certain formal coop­erative institutions do exist, such as the trilateral U.S.-Canada-Mexico Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which use trade regulations to enhance their ability to share tech­nology and mitigate the risk of terrorism to North America.

Shortfalls and Shortcomings

The DOD's June 2005 strategy document for homeland defense states:

The Department of Defense seeks to improve the homeland defense and homeland secu­rity contributions of our domestic and inter­national partners and, in turn, to improve DOD capabilities by sharing expertise and technology, as appropriate, across military and civilian boundaries.[30]

Although the United States and its allies partici­pate in a number of ongoing domestic and interna­tional programs, they have yet to develop a strategic vision or comprehensive mechanism to promote the sharing of international technology for homeland security. Unlike processes for sharing defense technologies, which emerged over decades of cooperation among allies during the Cold War, the sharing of homeland security technology remains in its infancy. A 2004 General Accounting Office report found that the DHS had made little progress in crafting a comprehensive long-range plan for developing CBRN countermeasures. It also concluded that DHS R&D coordination with other federal agencies remains suboptimal.[31] Unlike the DOD, the DHS has not developed an explicit inter­national science and technology strategy.[32] Con­gress has also expressed frustration over how slowly the DHS has certified and deployed new technologies.[33]

While bilateral arrangements serve a purpose, the DHS needs to widen and deepen its level of technical cooperation with foreign countries. Thus far, it has focused overwhelmingly on promoting the transfer of homeland security technologies among domestic U.S. entities. The DHS has estab­lished an international affairs office, but the office has failed to reduce the fragmented nature of the department's foreign-oriented activities.

The lack of a technology clearinghouse that highlights specific technologies and explains what the technology is and what missions it can perform hinders progress in clearly defining and creating a strong security technology develop­ment regime. Establishing a technology clear­inghouse would enable partners to know what technologies are available for transfer; provide a method of setting standards so that technologies are understandable; create an interoperable and transferable means for industry-to-industry dia­logue; establish predictable export control requirements; and construct acquisition mecha­nisms such as joint development programs, licensing agreements, and something comparable to the foreign military sales program.[34]

Another challenge is that programs in NATO, potentially the United States' most important partner, have developed slowly. NATO programs lack funding and dedicated test facilities and training ranges.[35] In addition, significant problems (such as concerns about protecting privacy and intellectual property) continue to impede transat­lantic security cooperation against terrorists and other unconventional threats.[36]

Finally, NATO does a poor job of leveraging research and development in the private sector. Assistant Secretary General of NATO Marshall Bill­ingslea has pointed out:

Across North America and Europe, there are tens of thousands of large and small companies, universities, government insti­tutes and-in some cases-garages and hobby shops of inventors, all of whom have something to offer the fight against terror­ism. The inventiveness and creativity of our private sectors is one of the greatest assets NATO nations have in the fight against ter­rorism. We need to do a better job of tap­ping into that creativity.[37]

To date, however, NATO as an organization has developed mechanisms to engage the private sec­tor, but member states have done little to make use of that potential.

Options and Ideas

The DHS's most urgent task is to develop an international science and technology strategy to improve the coherence of the department's foreign efforts, including the sharing of critical homeland security technologies.[38]

Domestically, the DHS and DOD should build cooperative partnerships. A report by the Board on Army Science and Technology explained how the Army could support homeland security and made recommendations for the Army that would "ensure a high level of interoperability between emergency responders and the Army."

Expanding these recommendations across the DOD spectrum would create a laudable framework for DHS-DOD technology collaboration and shar­ing. They include working together to "determine appropriate planning processes necessary to deter­mine which…science and technology programs should be shared and how best to go about doing this."[39] Programs covered in the report range from communications for emergency responders to nuclear, radiological, and explosive threat detec­tion technologies.

The DHS and DOD should collaborate on exper­imentation, testing, review, and standardization of technologies. To support these efforts, the DHS and DOD should form a joint forum at the assistant secretary level.

Internationally, the DHS should:

  • Use NATO.NATO could use its Security Through Science program and Partnership for Peace Trust Funds more creatively to support homeland security technology R&D by EAPC members and Mediterranean Dialogue part­ners. Holding "reinforced" sessions of the North Atlantic Council and organizing infor­mal special consultative groups among NATO experts and policymakers to address CEP initi­atives could also bolster transatlantic collabora­tion in researching and developing homeland security technologies.[40

  • Apply lessons learned. The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP) is an inter-national organization that collaborates in defense scientific and technical information exchange and shared research activities for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It is one of the world's largest collaborative science and technology forums. The international com­munity could apply many of the TTCP's prac­tices to multinational S&T homeland security projects.[41]

  • Establish a clearinghouse.Establishing a database of homeland security technologies is especially urgent. The DHS clearinghouse would describe existing technologies, their capabilities, and their possible missions. A technology clearinghouse would enable part­ners to know what technologies are available for transfer; provide a method of setting stan­dards so that technologies are understandable; create a forum for interoperable and transfer­able means for industry-to-industry dialogue; establish predictable export control require­ments; and construct acquisition mechanisms such as joint development programs, licensing agreements, and something comparable to the foreign military sales program.[42]

  • Consult with the State Department on pro­posed technology exports.Congress should mandate consultations between the State Department and the DHS on proposed technol­ogy exports that have a significant homeland security purpose. U.S. export controls should distinguish among technologies that have a predominantly military, law enforcement, or homeland security application. The laws and regulations will also need to balance the bene­fits of sharing American homeland security technologies against the risks of foreign actors employing them either against U.S. defenses or for inappropriate commercial purposes. If a proposed technology transfer would pro­mote the security of the United States and the recipient and is unlikely to be wrongfully acquired or used, the transfer should be gov­erned by the Department of Commerce's Export Administration Regulations rather than by the more demanding provisions of the U.S. Munitions List, which are administered by the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls in the State Department.

The United States also needs either to broaden foreign involvement in the TSWG or to establish equivalent multilateral mechanisms for accessing the advanced technologies and innovative thinking found throughout the world. These efforts should extend beyond NATO cooperative initiatives to, for example, countries in South and East Asia.

The Way Forward

Ultimately, any real progress in strengthening global partnerships through sharing and jointly developing enhanced homeland security technol­ogy requires taking a hard look at duplicative investments and even whole programs. Pursuing this goal together with an investment strategy that reinforces itself would have a force multiplying effect. Improving international S&T cooperation will require investing the necessary funds, but cre­ating a successful strategy will first require a sub­stantial investment in careful thought.

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Pol­icy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. Jonah J. Czerwinski is Senior Research Associate and Director of Homeland Security Projects at the Center for the Study of the Presidency. Richard Weitz, Ph.D., is Senior Fellow and Associate Director of the Center for Future Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow