Report: Use Commercial Software To Improve Homeland Security

The federal government should use commercially available software packages to improve homeland security, particularly port security, according to a recent market research report.

The U.S. Customs Service inspects less than 5 percent of inbound commercial shipments reaching the United States, and federal officials fear that stopping a potentially lethal payload “will be harder than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.” Said Mark Dixon Bunger, an analyst with Forrester Research, a Boston-based information technology market research firm.

“Instead of hampering business trade with ineffectual legislation and more bureaucracy, the feds should create an infrastructure that accomplishes security goals while actually facilitating commerce-like [they] did with the national highway system” Bunger wrote in a report released June 27. To that end, Bunger recommends making networked trade software mandatory.

“Establishing a database is easy-getting users to keep it up-to-date and accurate when it’s not in their own short-term interest is the hard part,” he said. “The government should accelerate trade data capture by mandating  the use of existing commercially available [applications] from vendors like Vastera and NextLinx-and require all-electronic customs documentation.”

He also counsels the need o create “virtual fast-track lanes” for secure shipping.

“Security fears mean that shiploads of manufacturers’ critical parts imports can be quarantined miles offshore if just one container on the same ship lacks proper documentation,” Bunger said. “We need a new class of port-to-port, secure ships that only accept precleared containers-without destroying the efficiency of volume traffic.”

Bunger said that the government could contract with Federal Express and Shelton, Conn., software maker Global Logistics Technologies to make that happen.

Federal officials also must “rethink” their defense against ubiquitous weapons of mass destruction, Bunger said.

“Troops can never eradicate terrorists’ weapons stockpiles, because their arsenal consists of freely available technology and civilian infrastructure”, he said.

Federal officials should use a variety of sources to hunt for terrorists and their weapons, including probes in space, Bunder said.

“The government will tap analytics vendors like digiMine, HNC Software, and SAS Institute to spot suspicious patterns not only in shipping manifests, but also across data from other freight modes, passenger records, and of course, images from Earth-orbit satellite data,” he said.

Bunger also recommends defending borders by “ignoring them”.

Inspection must move far offshore-all the way back to the port of origin,” he said. “But that requires rigid certification of deckhands and dockworkers in foreign ports and a communication network to keep them synced up.”

“These trustworthy inspectors won’t just stop terrorists-they’ll snare human traffickers, drugs, and counterfeit goods in the same nets,” he added.

Source: New Technology Week


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