SAIC to vendors, competitors: Come on in, the water's great

ORLANDO, Fla.'Federal and state officials researching homeland security systems can get close-up looks at a center in McLean, Va., established by Science Applications International Inc.

SAIC's Public Safety Integration Center, opened in January 2003, was dubbed 'a permanent, use-based trade show' by its manager, Robert I. Desourdis Jr.

Speaking at a homeland security conference sponsored by the American Quality Institute of Pittsburgh, Desourdis said the company hopes eventually to showcase products and systems from 2,500 vendors'including competing systems integrators.

To date, 350 federal and state officials have visited to see the various emergency response and homeland security systems demonstrations. Some 250 niche product vendors have explored, and 60 of them sent their products to be installed, Desourdis said.

The idea for the center grew out of a plea from Steve Cooper, the CIO of the Homeland Security Department, Desourdis said. Cooper had told vendors the department wasn't interested in being its own integrator of single-function products, but wanted to buy finished solutions.

'So we wanted to avoid the Home Depot or Lowe's approach to security,' Desourdis said, referring to the giant houseware stores where people can buy everything from foundation blocks to faucets.

One example of the center's output is a training exercise game for agencies who respond to detonations of weapons of mass destruction. SAIC developed the game in conjunction with the National Guard, Desourdis said, and now it is available for free to any government agency. Visitors can also touch and feel an emergency operations center simulation, complete with satellite links.

Products aren't limited to IT, he added. It includes, for instance, an Israeli-built air purifier that can be hand-cranked in a power outage.

Desourdis said the center has a plain-Jane appearance, to more realistically imitate what could be built under a typical governmental budget constraint.

'It is designed to be middle-of-the-road, not a rich, multimillion-dollar facility,' he said.

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