Homeland defense funds flow to states

Homeland security officials in search of useful technologies want them 'faster, cheaper, lighter and simpler,' retired Marine Corps Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm said today.

The first three attributes aren't easy to achieve, and the last is 'really hard to do. You never get to 100 percent of the requirements'it's too long and expensive,' said Wilhelm, homeland security director for nonprofit Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio.

Battelle held a briefing today in Arlington, Va., on its homeland security work.

For one thing, officials must avoid single points of failure, such as putting all their homeland defense investments into airport security, which might not be the next terrorist target, he said.

The Homeland Security Department's single hardest job, Wilhelm said, is interagency coordination. The department's Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency is beginning to winnow multiple technologies to find effective tools'the simpler, the better, he said.

'The pass-down [of federal] funds for homeland security are beginning to hit the states,' Wilhelm said. About 80 percent are going to first responders with 20 percent being retained by the states, he said.

Battelle showed off two homeland defense tools that got their start from federal funding and have reached the commercialization stage:

  • The $15,000 Compaq iPaq-based Product Acoustic Signature System, a flare gun scanner developed by the Battelle-run Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, measures ultrasonic signatures of containers of liquids ranging from jet fuel to tequila. The PASS scanner with a Velcro-attached iPaq has been used in Iraq and also by tax officials in the United States. 'The main client is DHS,' the lab's Todd Samuel said.

  • Starlight, a Microsoft Windows knowledge visualization tool, manipulates up to 60,000 simultaneous text records that have been converted by Perl scripting into Extensible Markup Language. Starlight presents them as different-colored dots and shapes on a rotating 3-D sphere. An analyst can cluster them in different ways to show the most common terms in the records, the time linkages, data associations, terrain images and other characteristics. Starlight, developed with government funds and available only to government and intelligence users, costs about $13,000 per server plus $2,500 per client to license third-party components, said Battelle's Brian Kritzstein. The tool requires a dual-processor Intel Xeon server with 2G of RAM and dual-monitor video cards with 256M of memory.

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