By John McHale
WASHINGTON — Improving biodefense countermeasures and cargo security highlight the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) fiscal year 2005 budget request. Electronics will play a major role for the new department, especially in sensors for explosives and radiation detection.
The DHS budget proposal for the 2005 federal fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, calls for $47.4 billion to support domestic antiterrorism efforts. That figure includes homeland security projects in the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Energy, and other agencies. This is an increase of 14.7 percent from the $41.3 billion request in 2004.
The proposed 2005 budget for DHS itself is $27.2 billion, which represents an increase of 15.8 percent compared to last year. The department's budget request is subject to approval from Congress.
The homeland security opportunities for private technology companies have improved greatly from 2003 and 2004, says Michael J. Hershman, president and chief executive officer for the Civitas Group LLC in New York. Hershman and his firm act as a liaison between the government and the private sector on homeland security. There are many more requests for proposals coming out now than there were during the past two years, he adds.
In the Civitas Group report entitled "The FY 2005 homeland security budget request: key implications for the private sector," Hershman and his team estimate that approximately $8.06 billion will be available for contracting to private sector in the 2005 request — a 1 percent decrease from 2004.
Civitas analysts expect private sector opportunities to grow at double-digit rates in DHS operations, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and biodefense-related activities.
Electronics opportunities include explosives detection for airports, purchases of cargo-screening technology, research on bioweapon countermeasures, systems integration contracts, and radiation-detection devices, according to the Civitas report.
The money the DHS requested for biodefense countermeasures is $2.5 billion, a $1.6 billion increase over last year. This money would help develop medical countermeasures against weapons of mass destruction, and improved bio-surveillance by expanding air monitoring for biological agents in high-threat cities and high-value targets such as stadiums and transit systems, DHS officials say.
DHS officials also requested about $411 million for border security activities, including expanding prescreening cargo containers in high-risk areas and detecting people attempting to enter the United States illegally.
A major part of the DHS's efforts to improve border security is the Container Security Initiative (CSI), which focuses on prescreening cargo before it reaches U.S. shores.
The first phase of CSI focused on the top 20 foreign ports, from which the U.S. receives about two-thirds of its container shipments. Phase II expands the program to additional ports based on volume, location, and strategic concerns. Phase III further increases security at the highest-risk ports.
The 2005 budget includes an increase of $25 million over the current program funding of $101 million, to continue Phase I and II, as well as to begin the final phase of CSI.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) targeting systems will help identify high-risk cargo and passengers. The budget includes an increase of $20.6 million for staffing and technology acquisition to support the National Targeting Center, trend analysis, and the Automated Targeting Systems, DHS officials say.
DHS officials have also requested $340 million for the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US VISIT) program, which established new screening procedures for non-U.S. citizens entering the U.S.
Those entering the U.S. who now provide a fingerprint scan also will have their pictures taken. The system will also match these visitors upon exit, verifying they have left the country. Through 2005, more than $1 billion will support this initiative, DHS officials say.
The DHS has also budgeted $50 million for the next generation of radiation-detection monitors. Hershman says some analysts have estimated the value of the program over the next decade to be about $10 billion.
US-VISIT does not make use of futuristic biometrics such as facial recognition, iris scanning, or DNA matching, Hershman says. Biometrics technologies are slow to be adopted because they generate too many false alarms, Hershman says. Only fingerprint technology is viable today, he adds.
The Customs and Border Protection budget also includes $64.2 million for monitoring movement between ports, and $10 million to deploy and operate unmanned aerial vehicles.
The U.S. Coast Guard's budget increases by 8 percent over 2004, and provides more than $100 million to support the Maritime Transportation Security Act to bolster vessel and port security, improve underwater detection capabilities, and increase intelligence gathering.
The budget also would allocate $678 million for the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System initiative — an increase of $10 million over 2004, DHS officials say.
The DHS Science and Technology Directorate budget request includes $988 million for research, development, acquisition, and operations — an increase of $119 million over 2004. Research laboratories affiliated with the directorate's Homeland Security Advanced Projects Agency (HSARPA) are backed up nearly two years for testing, Hershman says. "They are swamped."
In addition to the biodefense initiatives, the US-VISIT program, radiation- detection equipment, and technology, the Civitas report recognized seven other private sector electronics opportunities in the 2005 budget request:
- $61 million for antimissile technology for aviation;
- $60 million for passenger screening systems and $20.6 million for automated targeting systems for cargo;
- $400 million for explosives detection and baggage screening;
- $85 million with $55 million for research and development and $30 million for risk-assessment tools for air-cargo security;
- $65 million for remote video-surveillance equipment;
- $92 million for identification and credentialing systems; and
- $79.8 million for information security, with research in the Science & Technology Directorate to grow from $11 million to $20 million.
Hershman says he was surprised that more is not being spent on improving information security because he says he believes that is one of the biggest threats to the U.S. Terrorists are training to become information warriors and there are big holes not only in the way the government secures its information but the private sector as well, he says. Last year's blackout, he notes, while not a terrorist attack, showed the economic effects such an attack would have.
For more information on the Civitas Group and their report go online at www.civitasgroup.com. For more on the DHS budget request go to www.dhs.gov.