Optical technologies are key to securing U.S. military facilities

June 1, 2004
A wide variety of optical technologies are being brought to bear on safeguarding U.S. military facilities, which for the first time have become potential targets for foreign terrorists.

By J.R. Wilson

A wide variety of optical technologies are being brought to bear on safeguarding U.S. military facilities, which for the first time have become potential targets for foreign terrorists. Visible-light and infrared cameras, fiber-optic barriers, and laser-based chemical- and biological-agent sniffers are only a few of the optical technologies under consideration to help protect the nation's military facilities.

Before military experts can bring these optical technologies to bear on base security, however, they are setting large contracting procedures in place to help ensure cost-effective purchasing, standard components, and systems interoperability. Military leaders are also crafting long-term strategies to safeguard bases from terrorist attack.

Traditional military base security largely has been intended to thwart weapons thieves, spies, and saboteurs. After 9/11, however, concern grew about the potential for a domestic version of the 1996 Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, in which 19 U.S. Air Force personnel were killed and 515 people were wounded in the explosion of a bomb-carrying fuel truck outside the U.S. military housing facility.

U.S. military leaders are considering unmanned aerial vehicles to help patrol the perimeters of U.S. military bases to keep watch for potential terrorist attacks.
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As a result, initiatives seek to increase security dramatically — and significantly reorder priorities — at all military facilities. Domestic facilities are incorporating lessons learned with respect to terrorists at overseas bases, along with new doctrine still under development.

There are two basic tracks — one designed to deal with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) threats in a response mode, and the other that looks at an integrated base defense that can detect, assess, defend, prohibit, contain, and capture any would-be intruder.

The IBDSS system

One such effort is the Air Force's Integrated Base Defense Security System (IBDSS), administered by the Air Force Electronic Systems Command (ESC) at Hanscom Air Force Base (AFB) in Massachusetts.

Lt. Col. Don Wussler, ESC's program manager for Force Protection Command and Control Systems, says now that four contractors have been selected to design, develop, procure, install and sustain security systems tailored to each individual facility, most of his office's work probably will be conducted under IBDSS.

"There is a $498 million ceiling on what I can spend for the five-year duration of the current IBDSS contract," he says. "There is no guarantee I'll spend all that in the next five years; that's the maximum I can spend. We did award small-delivery orders — a couple of hundred thousand dollars each — to the four contractors when they were selected. Now we will begin issuing individual awards for specific installs or development projects to whichever of those four wins that particular competition.

"If I run out of ceiling, I'll have to go out and compete a new contract. But five years from now or whenever we hit the ceiling, we still won't be finished improving the force protection capability at more than 200 Air Force, Air Guard, and Air Reserve bases worldwide."

Indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) IBDSS contracts were awarded to teams headed by Northrop Grumman Mission Systems in Reston, Va., ECSI International Inc. in Clifton, N.J., L-3 Communications Government Services Inc. in New York, and Abacus Technology Corp. in Chevy Chase, Md. For each base, the four competing teams will offer tailored proposals to link multiple sensor inputs to present a common operating picture to all parties involved and allow the user to use tactics, techniques, and procedures to counter any adversary.

Similar efforts already have been in place overseas under the Tactical Automated Security System (TASS), the first U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) response to Khobar Towers and the 1983 truck bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 241 U.S. military personnel and seriously wounded 80 more as they slept.

"When DOD and Congress did a study of those, they discovered we really didn't have a tactically oriented security system that could be used in the field to protect troops in bases, from fixed facilities to tent cities," notes Morgan Death, L-3's director of homeland security and IBDSS program manager. "Since 9/11 there has been a new awakening in the U.S. We discovered we did not have a system of capabilities — not a product, but a system. Now that must be done for U.S. bases, as well, as a mandated requirement of homeland security.

Different requirements

"The military — and particularly the Air Force — found different requirements at fixed bases, such as airfields and, perhaps the most important asset protection problem, the flight line," Death says. "We don't have a system of capabilities for flight-line security, and TASS won't do it. Plus, none of it is certified for such high-priority sites as nuclear missile or bomber bases, Air Force One, and so on. But you don't want a different system for every site."

While each installation will be a separate contract with only one of the four, all are required to be fully interoperable systems using common protocols and interfaces. That is expected to lower overall procurement costs, improve maintenance capabilities, and create an architecture that can keep up with new technologies as they evolve.

As existing TASS contracts expire, overseas facilities will switch to IBDSS, which also covers all Air National Guard and Air Reserve facilities.

Security forces install a thermal imager in Southwest Asia to help safeguard U.S. military personnel and facilities.
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Contracts similar to those to be generated under IBDSS were awarded separately prior to the IBDSS down-select on two high-priority facilities — Offutt AFB, Neb., headquarters for the U.S. Strategic Command and home to the largest wing within the Air Combat Command, and Tyndall AFB, Fla., home of the 325th Fighter Wing, responsible for training F-15 pilots and maintenance personnel and providing mission-ready F-15 air superiority forces to the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The first installation under IBDSS will be Andrews AFB, Md., home of the presidential aircraft Air Force One.

Wussler says IBDSS, while an Air Force effort, also is structured to accept work from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or other government agencies. As most U.S. military bases now have some interservice component in residence, experts will deal with those components as the primary Air Force installation is brought under IBDSS.

Not a silver bullet

"IBDSS is not a silver bullet, but it is a huge step in the right direction in terms of putting a contractual vehicle in place that allows us to work with the users, with the Air Staff, to put in place some high-quality physical security solutions at dozens of Air Force bases during the five years of this contract," Wussler says. "It's not a panacea; we're not heavily into CBR detection, for example — that's somebody else's job."

Securing a military facility is more than fences, ID cards, sensors, and radars. It is enhanced training for those specializing in security — no longer does the newest recruit draw guard duty. It is facility-wide training, command and control, communications, and preparedness for any kind of attack, not only preventing and defending but also response and evacuation, as needed. It is working with local authorities — who often provide the bulk of fire and medical response — in a preventive as well as reactive mode. It is working with other local, state, and federal agencies, especially their databases.

Some call it network centric, others disagree. "Probably 99 percent of the fatalities in Iraq have occurred off-base, because we are doing a good job with base protection," Death says. "A lot of the things now part of IBDSS are doing that, including TASS. But now we are trying to expand that out beyond the base so we can do a better job with fewer people, using a more common solution. And do it both overseas and in the U.S."

While agreeing with the need to help the guard on patrol safely identify and respond to any security threat quickly, ESC's Wussler says that is part and parcel of being network centric.

"The picture we supply for our security forces needs to be supplied to other interested parties both on and off a given installation. We need to be able to task our picture to the wing commander without him having to drive over to our base defense operations center. We need to get the feed from the radars to our C2 node without someone sitting at that radar. We are definitely moving in the direction of network centric, in my mind, but I don't claim we're there yet."

Wussler says that also will help defend against attacks in which human guards may be circumvented and an asset attacked without the guard being killed first.

Integrated defense

The two do agree on the most central point, however — fully integrated defense in depth, enabling the entire security force, as well as those responsible for each protected asset, to know not only what is going on at the perimeter, but also inside the base, as far outside the perimeter as 350 meters, and sometimes even several miles down the road.

"That means long-range detection and assessment," Death says. "You also may need to see beyond an exterior mountain or large building, but you can't send a Humvee out every time a cow sets off a sensor. You also have to protect the ends of runways against people with shoulder-launched missiles."

Leaders of each of the four IBDSS contractors have proposed their own integrated solution, with equipment drawn from a variety of vendors — although each solution must meet common protocols and interfaces.

L-3, for example is using Telephonics long-range radars that can see 10 to 20 miles; Lockheed Martin Desert Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); thermal and day/night cameras; unmanned battlefield intelligence centers that can be placed several miles out in high-intensity-concern areas; thermal imagers and day/night cameras at strategic locations that automatically track and follow targets of interest and send images back to the command center.

Closer in, L-3 experts are using radars with ranges of 300 meters that rate 60 times per minute to track people accurately. With every sensor are located cameras that automatically zero in on the cause of the alert.

Wussler says the combination of technology and highly trained people ultimately is the key, yet new technologies are also being brought into play in other programs, from the CBRN arena to Army and Navy efforts, domestic and foreign, to enhance base defenses. The functions, capabilities, and equipment of all those ultimately will be tied into a common security infrastructure.

In addition to its role in IDBSS, for example, Northrop Grumman Information Technologies in McLean, Va., is involved in security-related efforts such as enhanced card-based identification using new generations of smart cards — both contact and short-range radio frequency identification (RFID) — and a variety of biometrics such as iris and hand scans.

Intelligent cards

The Defense Cross-credentialing Identification System (DCIS), on which Northrop Grumman is the development team leader, has begun pilot testing a prototype system that recognizes and authenticates the identity of visitors to military and defense industry facilities. It will accept and process credentials such as DOD's existing Common Access Card and similar, standardized industry identification, including biometrics, from all participating agencies and contractors.

While proponents hope this will bring about a more secure ID system without requiring a complete replacement of existing systems, it also must take into account potential new targets.

New efforts seek to identify and, if necessary, block vehicles attempting to enter military facilities. Paul Brisgone, vice president of ADT Federal Systems Division in Alexandria, Va., says several U.S. bases are being upgraded with new equipment that will involve RFID tags on approved vehicles to enable the gate guard to identify the car and who should be behind the wheel at distances as far away as 300 feet. Once the tag is read, the authorized driver's picture will come up on a monitor so the guard can confirm identity as the car pulls up.

"If there are additional people in the car or the driver is not recognized, the car would be diverted to a side island for further investigation, including a camera that will look under the car," Brisgone says. ID badges could be set to expire at any time by physically turning black (destroying the picture) and removing itself from the cleared database.

Technology improvements

Some of the "new" technologies for enhanced base security are actually improvements in old technologies, such as infrared (IR). Indigo Systems in Goleta, Calif., is working with the Air Force to incorporate long-range, large-format IR cameras, such as 640-by-512-pixel cooled InSb (indium antimonide) technology, working between 3 and 5 microns and combined with a large format, 25-micron pixel pitch and a triple field of view.

"A 1000-by-1000-pixel focal-plane array will be coming, so the capabilities of IR and how it will work into the security infrastructure is increasing, although there remains a lot of education to be done," says Roy Malmberg, Indigo's segment manager for security and surveillance.

Indigo's new Luveo family of cameras covers short- (300-meter), medium- (1-kilometer) and long-range (14-kilometer) capabilities.

"In the visible spectrum on a dead black night, you might see a couple of hundred meters with silicon CCD cameras," Malmberg says. "With true IR technology, based on a photovoltaic cell and a large format, you could see a 6-foot man at 14,500 meters because it is working in the thermal spectrum. The best approach to secure a military facility would be to nest the three camera capabilities, based on the specific geographics of the site."

The majority of U.S. bases require minimal clearance for dependents and other visitors can move about most areas — but do have some areas that fall under various levels of restricted access. But even "open" areas, post-9/11, have come under stricter scrutiny, partly because terrorists often are more interested in a high body count than in destroying a more hardened target.

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