David Stone | Another View: Security is a public-private concern

 

David M. Stone

Much progress has been made in homeland security over the last five years, but we still have a long way to go. There is an endless list of operational requirements and no lack of bright ideas and innovative technologies. But with a tight federal budget and a costly 'global war on terror,' some new and creative means of funding must be found if we are to implement additional and often expensive homeland security related measures.

One place to begin is by adding a proposed $5 'security user fee' to the cost of an airline ticket to ensure research and development funds are available to enhance aviation security. This fee is long overdue, having been rejected by Congress despite administration efforts. Due to budget constraints, R&D funding is often sacrificed to meet rising personnel costs.

We also need to consider user fees for the costs associated with implementing container screening and other security initiatives at our nation's ports. With transportation users absorbing these costs, the silver lining is reduced government involvement, resulting in quicker implementation of innovative security technologies. User fees for transportation security are needed immediately, and Congress should seek to make it a priority issue.

It is also worth noting the growing involvement of investment banks in leasing critical infrastructure. This leads to additional resources for security and safety initiatives. Two prime examples are the Chicago Skyway, owned by the city of Chicago, and the Indiana Toll Road, owned by the state of Indiana. The governments involved not only received an influx of needed cash, but taxpayers also benefit from the more immediate improvements on these roadways without an increase in taxes. This model is working in the marketplace. With creative thought and strong security oversight, these types of leasing arrangements provide a means to deliver sorely needed resources to our ports and airports.

The bottom line is this: Rather than relying primarily on the government to pay the cost of homeland security'and then shouting partisan chants that 'not enough funding is being provided''we need leaders who are receptive to both user fees and increased investment banking involvement in our critical infrastructures.

Unfortunately, too much focus has been placed on attaining federal homeland security contracts instead of dealing directly with private-sector companies or local governments that have security responsibilities. These entities are often the real customers for technology rather than the federal government. And they have significant resources to fund their requirements and expedite implementation.

Companies that focus soley on selling their products to the federal government are making a mistake. Those that focus on partnering with government while realizing the private sector is the real customer will be much better rewarded.

There is one major contribution that CIOs, managers and officials in government can make to expedite the implementation of security technologies without pouring more federal money into the mix: Accelerate federal efforts to set standards.

It took far too long after 9/11 to get a biometrics standard for airport security programs. Only when the standard was issued could an airport director choose which type of biometrics (facial recognition, iris scan and fingerprinting) made the most sense for their facility. Government's inability to move promptly on homeland security standards has hindered the private sector in delivering a number of technologies and processes that would make us all more secure. If government professionals can accelerate the development and dissemination of standards, they will be making an important contribution to our nation's security.

Retired Navy Rear Adm. David M. Stone was assistant secretary of the Transportation Security Administration and is currently president of the Alacrity Homeland Group in Washington. He also serves on the boards of various companies.

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