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Best new security products honored at ISC West


LAS VEGAS, Nev.—The Security Industry Association handed out awards for the best new security technology products at last week's ISC West.

SIA opposes proposed DHS cuts


The Security Industry Association today issued a statement opposing the House of Representatives’ proposed cuts in the fiscal year 2012 budget to Department of Homeland Security grant programs such as Urban Areas Security Initiative and the State Homeland Security Grant Program.

GAO report not exactly good news for Pistole's first day on the job

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On the day that John Pistole gets sworn in as the head of the Transportation Security Administration, the Government Accountability Office issued a report that the agency may have considerable difficulties meeting the August 2010 deadline for 100 percent cargo screening.

The report cites that shipper participation in the voluntary screening program has been lower than targeted by the TSA, which means (I'm assuming) that the TSA is having to screen the majority of cargo, rather than having it pre-screened at Certified Cargo Screening Facilities.

These difficulties are likely due to the fact that the TSA can't seem to figuring out what kind of technology it should use to screen cargo:

"There is no technology approved by TSA to screen large pallets or containers of cargo, which suggests the need for alternative approaches to screening such cargo," read the report.

The report also found that TSA has not completed a staffing study to determine the number of inspectors it needs to oversee this screening program. This is going to be yet one more review that Pistole will have to order, along with an evaluation of technology usage, TSO training procedures, and intelligence-gathering strategies.

Overall, the report determined that the TSA will be unable to meet the August 2010 deadline and does not have a contingency plan about what it will do if it can't meet the mandate:

Several of these challenges suggest the need for a contingency plan, in case the agency’s current initiatives are not successful in meeting the mandate without impeding the flow of commerce. However, TSA has not developed such a plan. Addressing these issues could better position TSA to meet the mandate.

Good luck in your new position, Pistole. You're going to need it.

Security jealousy: Port folks get all the cool toys

Thursday, February 11, 2010

When it comes to technological advancements, ports tend to have a lot of the latest and greatest. Many have those mega-video walls in their command and control centers that allow them to track ships as they come into the port, sophisticated land and water radar systems, video surveillance that allows them to see miles, and even robotic cameras to monitor what's happening in the water. I've been fortunate enough to see some of these technologies in action (check out the video from my tour of the Port of Long Beach) and let me just tell you: It's cool. And, I'm sure there's even cooler stuff they don't let us journalists (or the public) know about.

And, it just keeps getting better. Here's an article about some of the newest technologies being deployed at the POLB and Port of LA. These new security measures include a ship that can screen cargo vessels as they come into the port, a radiation detecting helicopter and a dog that can sniff chemical and biological weapons. Cool.

Apparently, the $3-million screening ship is the first of its kind in the world:

It can scan the contents of a ship through its hull as it is being escorted into port. The security ship can transmit the data to shore-based authorities. It also has a submersible rover that can search hulls for explosives in zero visibility conditions.

And even the dog seems pretty cool:

The sheriff's department says he has one of the most highly trained noses ever. He can sniff out chemical agents at lower concentrations than any instruments. He's also the only dog in the sheriff's department with his own badge.

I can almost see all you port folks just salivating over this stuff. If you're nice, maybe the California security guys will let you walk their new, cool dog.

TSA under fire - maybe they need a dose of leadership?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dunno how I missed this one, but here's an article that appeared last week in USA Today about the General Inspector concluding that the Transportation Security Administration is failing to comply with cargo-screening mandates.

On Feb. 9, 2009, the TSA was required per a Congressional mandate to screen 50 percent of all cargo transported aboard passenger planes. The mandate will also require the TSA to screen 100 percent of all cargo transported on passenger planes by August 2010 (TSA officials said that "100 percent of all cargo transported on narrow-body passenger aircraft is already being screened." Read more about that here).

But according to this article, it ain't quite so:

Investigators were able to slip into supposedly secure warehouses where cargo is stored before being loaded onto airplanes and walk around unchallenged, the report says. Inspector General Richard Skinner also found some workers who handle the cargo had not received required background checks or training.

That's obviously not good. No one should be walking around in secure warehouses, but keep in mind that the estimated 12 million pounds of cargo loaded onto passenger planes every day is not actually screened by the TSA. Rather, the TSA is suppose to oversee entities such as airlines, freight handlers and manufacturers to ensure that cargo is properly secured. Once the cargo is screened, it is then suppose to be kept in a secured location until it's loaded onto the plane. But, the report says that the TSA "has not been effective" in making airlines and freight-handling companies comply with security rules for cargo.

In addition to not properly following procedures, apparently the TSA doesn't have enough personnel to handle the new mandates for cargo screening (AND the personnel they do have, are not properly trained).

So does this mean that the TSA is failing in a big way? I think undoubtedly, there's obvious improvements to be made. Even the TSA acting Administrator Gale Rossides says that agency leaders "are in agreement" that the problems should be addressed.

However, it's not like there's very strong leadership there at the TSA. I'm not saying Rossides is doing a bad job, but isn't it time there was actually someone in charge? I mean how long does it take to approve Erroll Southers' nomination? I've heard nothing but good things about the man. (Well, except for that one hitch about running an unauthorized background check on his ex-wife’s boyfriend. But, come on, that was in the 80s - I'm sure we can get over that.) Let's get it together, people. If you want something to get done, you gotta make sure the right people are in charge. You know better.