Investing in homeland security

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan, former director of the National Security Agency, may have left government work a few years ago, but he is still focused on "toughening" the nation's critical infrastructure.

Minihan, now principal at the Paladin Capital Group's Homeland Security Fund, said the United States is in the midst of a multidecade struggle with terrorism and natural disasters, and must invest in solutions designed to "protect, defend, cope and recover" its critical infrastructure assets.

"The context of the fund is the toughening of the critical infrastructure of the U.S. and its strategic partners...so that when we're attacked again — and we will be — that we'll be OK," Minihan said. "We need to fix the equivalent of a flimsy cockpit door in the" information technology infrastructure.

Paladin's Homeland Security Fund began full-time operations late last year and is still raising funds, Minihan said. It is focused on investing in companies that offer solutions designed to prevent harmful attacks, defend against attacks, cope with the aftermath of attack or disaster, and recover from terrorist attacks and other threats to homeland security.

The fund's most recent investment in is ClearCube Technology, a provider of Blade desktop computing solutions. The Blade, ClearCube's CPU box, is long, thin and sits in a rack removed from the actual computing environment. That provides physical security for the hard drives and helps ease downtime because the Blades can be kept near support personnel, said Michael Frost, president and chief executive officer of ClearCube.

ClearCube has myriad government customers, including the Air Force, the State and Justice departments, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, as well as clients in industries such as financial services and health care.

Minihan said ClearCube's solution deals with the "defend and cope" aspects of critical infrastructure protection through its agile implementation, cost savings, security of the information base and quick reconstitutions in case of disaster.

"We're saying 'no' to 74 out of 75 opportunities that come across our doorstep," said Mike Maloney, also a principal at Paladin's Homeland Security Fund. He added that ClearCube's technology met all the fund's criteria, and that typically the investment process takes about six months.

Minihan retired from public service in 1999 and has spent the past few years focused on three things: serving on the boards of various companies, doing government technology consulting, and helping start-up businesses get off the ground.

He would not comment specifically about a Jan. 2 story in the Baltimore Sun that said the NSA has had two major power outages in the past three years, but did say that Paladin's Homeland Security Fund is looking at power generation solutions.

The nation's power grid is 20 years old and used to operate under the premise that the power-generating entity was high in cost and low in reliability, so that if one source went down, an organization could quickly go through a switching station to get to another, Minihan said. But now, the distribution system is more vulnerable and the power-generating solutions are low in cost and high in reliability, and should be closer to the customer.

"The NSA or any other government agency could benefit form that power generation," he said.

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