Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Homeland security market steady

Posted by John McHale

At the GovSec show in Washington last week many of the exhibitors felt the market to be strong and growing but not a boom like it was perceived to be when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

We thought it might be stronger market as well when we launched Homeland Security Solutions magazine and a show of the same name. It turned out that while there was a lot of buzz instead of targeting technology development, most funding was spent on overtime and other "boots and bullets" costs, which were a much more immediate concern.

Over the last few years we and from what I saw last week the industry has learned that homeland security is different than defense. Whereas primes, subcontractors, and the media originally foresaw the DHS as a Department of Defense (DOD) like entity it was in fact quite different.

Jerry Buckwalter, Northrop Grumman's vice president of homeland security told me about a year ago that When DHS first came on the scene it was a top-down approach with the federal government expected to provide all the money.

"Well it's changing and the local communities and states are realizing that if they are sitting around waiting for federal grants they will probably never see them," he said. "They need to aggressively pursue the programs themselves. They're realizing homeland security begins close to home" - and they are gaining the political will to do what they need to do for their communities.

Bruce Walker, also a vice president of homeland security at Northrop Grumman echoed similar things this year. He said they are working a great deal with local first responders on information sharing, perimeter security through the Land Ports of Entry program, and setting up wireless applications with the first being New York City last year and London this year.

There is a wealth of electronics content being developed for homeland security applications. Some of it is leveraged from the military like unmanned systems and infrared technology and some of it is being developed initially for public safety applications.

Buckwalter explained to me last year that "public safety is a different concept than managing warfare." There are many constraints and limitations, and public will is involved - "that's why technology transfer doesn't always work from DOD to DHS." The technology is fine, it is the policies and procedures, congress, etc., that get in the way. There is pretty much a COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) mindset all the way now; it is just a matter of how to manage costs, he said.

While our homeland security coverage is limited at Military & Aerospace Electronics we do focus on it through stories on the Coast Guard's Deepwater program, the DHS counter-man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) program, and coming in July a Special Report on sensors for perimeter security in military and homeland security applications.

Be sure to check it out.

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