Report urges defense to help with domestic technologies

The Defense Department should help the Homeland Security Department develop technologies to fight disasters or terrorism, the National Academies of Science National Research Council said in a report released Thursday.

"Many of the needs of emergency-response personnel could be addressed by technologies developed by the Army and other military services, so [Homeland Security] and [Defense] should partner to answer these needs," committee Chairman John Lyons said in a statement. Lyons is a retired director of the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Md. The report identifies the Army as the service with the most experience in providing support to civilian authorities.

The report, which is based on analysis from March, praised the Bush administration's efforts on homeland security but criticized its lack of planning.

"The paradigm for conducting the overseas 'homeland defense' phase of this war [on terrorism] is well understood," the report said. "However, at home the situation is much different. As of this writing ... no coherent planning paradigm or operational model for homeland security yet exists."

The report added that although a "national operational concept" for emergency response is being developed, no fully approved comprehensive framework exists to pull together the efforts of federal, state and local responders. "While much has been done in homeland security, there is much more to accomplish," it said.

The academy specifically highlights the military's strength in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or so-called C4ISR. "The committee believes that C4ISR is a high-payoff capability that offers great return on investment for the nation," it said, while acknowledging that other conclusions could be reached with more analysis.

The committee recommends that the Army, coordinating with Defense, work with Homeland Security to create a process for collaboration and sharing between the Army and Homeland Security. The panel also recommended assisting Homeland Security in establishing the research, development, testing and evaluation infrastructure to support emergency responders.

The recommendation also calls for finding common areas of science and technology collaboration, with a focus on the development of architecture to enable the integration of the technologies into a system. And finally, the committee suggested establishing a process for joint operations, including training and exercises, shared standards, and systems that can communicate with each other.

The report highlights the different ways the Army and the emergency-responder community acquire technologies. Defense has a "very well-developed" model with formal procedures and management, while emergency responders go through local purchasing agents with varied or no formal procedures.

Defense "had the most experience in coming up with new technologies for security, so they're the logical place to start," said James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But he added that the department may not accept because of past public outcry about its research on a database technology known as Total Information Awareness, or TIA.

The department "will see the letters T, I, and A glowing in the sky in red," Lewis said.