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Customs to curtains: So much change for DHS

Monday, February 2, 2009

So not only is Janet Napolitano, the newly-appointed Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, charged with keeping the country safe, she may also have to prove her decorating skills.

In January, the National Capital Planning Commission approved a master plan to develop a new headquarters for various departments in the Department of Homeland Security. I'm sure they won't make Napolitano pick out curtains or review paint swatches (she has far too many pressing matters and perhaps those details have been hashed out anyway, since this project has been in the works for three years), but, I do wonder if this project meshes with Napolitano's efforts to make her department more lean and efficient?

According to a CCN article:

Napolitano said she will be seeking areas where her department can save money but still accomplish its mission. She cited expenses for facilities and vehicle fleets as possible examples. "Are we as lean as we can be?" she asked. "My perception is, overall we're lean."

The new headquarters are slated to be developed from a 176-acre abandoned psychiatric hospital compound into a massive Homeland Security Department headquarters complex in southeast Washington, which will house 14,000 of Homeland Security’s 218,000 employees, according to this article in the Federal TImes.

The General Services Administration, which acquired the property in 2004, has spent $13 million to stabilize the buildings and protect them from further disrepair. But the facilities suffered from years of neglect and will require tens of millions of dollars in fixes.

The GSA has requested $346 million for the first phase, a new headquarters for the Coast Guard, and future phases will construct new facilities for the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

I don't know if that actually translates to being "lean," but I guess everyone has to live somewhere, right?

Good news, bad news

Thursday, January 29, 2009

USA Today is reporting that the first federal evaluation of mass-transit security shows that more than 75 percent of U.S. rail and bus systems are not meeting homeland security guidelines.

The report found that 37 of the nation's 48 largest transit systems are not complying with voluntary guidelines developed in 2007. OK, well if they're voluntary and there are no penalties for non-compliance, why the heck would you comply. They're just "guidelines" anyway, right?

Not such good news for transit systems nationwide — the evaluations come at a time when new DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has pledged to focus on mass transit. Now that will equate to these systems spending some money on security upgrades, I would assume, and who knows where that will come from.

The report also found that 96 percent of airlines are complying the security regulations. Even is it still is "security theater". But those rules are MANDATORY. Comparing the percentage of airports and transit systems in compliance is like comparing apples and oranges, or a bad husband to a good one.
—Rhianna Daniels

Screening stimulus

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Here's an interesting opinion from the Wall Street Journal about the $1 billion included in the economic stimulus package for spending by DHS/TSA — $500 million of that money is earmarked for the TSA to spend on explosive detection systems and other checkpoint technologies.

The author points out that Rapiscan and Smiths Detection are the only manufacturers of these "advanced" x-ray machines (Advanced means better than what is used now at standard airport screening spots, I assume.) But there are other detection systems out there including the much talked about backscatter system from American Science and Engineering, and Brijot has a concealed weapons system. What about ICx Technologies? They play in that space as well.

Smiths and Rapiscan may benefit from this money, but I disagree that it is a "potential boon" for either business. TSA/DHS is entering a new era and the vague language in the stimulus package leaves the door open to spending that $500M on nontraditional technologies. —Rhianna Daniels

AdTech buys Steelbox assets

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Adtech Global Solutions has acquired the IP assets of Steelbox Networks under an Article 9 UCC Foreclosure sale.

According to an AdTech press release the deal "provides AGS with industry leading technology poised to address the needs of one of the fastest growing vertical markets ... the combined entity will now be able to offer comprehensive, industry leading, end-to-end solutions."

(What vertical market is the release referring to? That'll be one of my first questions. According to AdTech, Steelbox has more than 50,000 systems deployed and hundreds of installations in Fortune 500, mission-critical infrastructure environments. Maybe that is it even though it is only mentioned at the bottom of the press release.)

As you may have read, creditors of Steelbox Networks received notice Nov. 11 that Square 1 Bank had foreclosed on the video-switching technology manufacturer and that all employees have been let go and all operations ceased.

Adtech, though, has retained "key Steelbox personnel, including founders and inventors of the technology, Jim Jordan and Bill LeBlanc."

I'm not familiar with AdTech. They say there are a worldwide service organization focused on the development of computer technology solutions to power applications. I'm hope to have some clarity after I speak with the company sometime next week.

—Rhianna Daniels

TSA goes techie with inauguration vlog

Friday, January 23, 2009

I know it's been three days since the inauguration, but mainstream media is still obsessing about it, so I figure I can, too. I wrote a brief article for our newswire this week about TSA's role in inauguration security and today I found this great video (or rather vlog, I guess, in cool-kid techie terms). I must say, I'm impressed that the TSA took the time (or had the foresight) to produce this. My favorite part, of course, is the dramatic score to accompany the footage, but you can't deny that screening that many people is pretty remarkable. See, I can be fair and balanced, too.

Report reveals TSA employees aren't so happy

Friday, January 23, 2009

TSA worker
It may come as a shock, I know, that the guy who screens you at the airport may feel unappreciated. According to a report released yesterday, while TSA employees think their job is important, they also feel unheard, underpaid and unfairly treated. Um, I'm pretty those are the sentiments of a large part of the global workforce, but let's stay on subject.

The report found that only 22 percent of TSA employees think promotions are fair transparent and less than a quarter feel personally empowered in their jobs. But, the part, that security directors should be most concerned about is how employees view management.

Here are the down and dirty results:
* 22 percent said managers and leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce.
* 24 percent are satisfied with the policies and practices of TSA senior leadership and local managers.
* 26 percent said managers lead by example such as being fair, building trust and respect, using cooperative problem solving approaches.
* 26 percent said managers follow up on their suggestions to make services and work processes better.
* 34 percent have a high level of respect for TSA's senior leaders while 33 percent have a high level of respect for their local managers.

Any thoughts on how airport executives can improve the lives of the average TSA worker?

In the land of the bizarre

Friday, January 23, 2009

I'm sure you've all heard this by now ... but CNN is reporting that a noose was found Wednesday on the desk of an African-American supervisor at the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. The agency's director Mark Cooper, said "this type of behavior is 100 percent unacceptable." Well, I sure hope it isn't. In Louisiana it is actually a felony to display a noose in public and the act is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to $5,000.
The news is a bit disheartening especially in light of President Obama's inauguration this week. It's amazing that we as a society can come so far but also fall so short at the same time.

A historic day

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I was visiting with my friends last night and talked turned to yesterday's presidential inauguration. My friend, who I can honestly say probably has never  worried about security in her life, turned to me and said she was very concerned about Obama's safety yesterday. I think many U.S. citizens felt the same. Even though the event was a celebration of the future of this nation, there was also a dark undertone of what might, could or would happen. Thankfully, we can collectively breathe a sigh of relief. But challenges remain.

Here is an interesting article about the day's security plans from CNN.

A bit of news

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Next week, we'll new unveiling a new website with a new vertical search function (like Google but only for security) and our new SDNtvNews channel. It looks pretty good right now and I am excited to show off the finished product within the coming days.

Although we are only in the middle of January now, I just realized that TechSec is right around the corner. For those of you who are not familiar with the event, TechSec Solutions is a conference dedicated to the emergence of IP-based technology in the physical security industry. The educational program of the event is developed by myself and Sam Pfeifle, the editor of Security Systems News. We don't just serve as a media sponsor for this event — we work on it year round with our conference group right here at UP headquarters.

I encourage you to take a look at this year's educational program. I think its the best one we have put together in the five years we have been doing this. And if you don't like it, let me know.


Getting back in the game

Monday, January 12, 2009

I apologize that I've been out of pocket for the last week. I've found out that certain life catastrophes will keep you from blogging (hard to believe, but true.)

And today, my laptop crashed. I'm up and running on a spare now but my e-mail is still fried so I'm not able to look through all my news items for you.

I hope to be slightly back to normal (although by my calculations that might take 3.5 years) tomorrow. But in the meantime here's a sneak preview at Hollywood's newest take on security guards. Enjoy.