Better intell, info sharing top transportation security wish lists

Four top federal officials say they want technologies that can help decision-making at high-volume areas such as ports and border crossings.

SAN DIEGO – The winter gift-buying season is still a month away, but four top federal transportation security officials are already drawing up their wish lists for technology improvements to keep the country safer.

Technologies that aid decision-making in high-volume environments are especially hot this year, the officials said at the Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness Conference and Exposition. The Homeland Security and Justice departments are sponsoring the three-day conference, which ends tomorrow.

Ports need better intelligence and particularly maritime domain awareness, said Peter Neffenger, captain of the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach and sector commander of the Coast Guard. That means getting an accurate picture of the number, kind, names and cargo of vessels that use the port to set a baseline for anomalous behavior.

The Coast Guard would also like to augment the Automated Identity System, a system of VHF transponders on vessels, to provide ports with the ability to see all vessels at any given moment, much as the Federal Aviation Administration tracks planes, Neffenger said.

Law enforcement personnel protecting U.S. land borders would benefit from having real-time biometric, name-based verification of identities of people crossing the border, said Adele Fasano, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a component of DHS.

The need is crucial because the busiest land border crossing in the world, San Ysidro, is only a few miles south of San Diego, Fasano said. Frontline officers need integrated tactical intelligence delivered quickly to the right people to keep traffic flowing, she said.

Border guards also need better protection from weapons of mass destruction and improved interoperable communications equipment, Fasano said.

The United States must develop a network that allows all ports – land, sea and air – to share information, said Michael Aguilar, deputy assistant administrator at San Diego International Airport. For example, he suggested that the Port of San Diego should be able to communicate with the airport, which is situated across the street.

Technology that recognizes human behavior patterns would also be a boon to ease the load on border workers, Aguilar said.

Ports need new detection and diagnostics equipment particularly for rail environments, especially after the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid earlier this year, said Joe Foster, program specialist in the Office of Systems Engineering and Development in DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate.

Technologies to increase throughput of travelers are essential, Foster said, particularly those that remove the need to screen everyone crossing the border.

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