At the request of the Office of University Programs within the Office of Research and Development (ORD) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Research Council convened a one-day workshop to explore specific avenues of university research in advancing the nation’s capabilities for developing new science and technology to anticipate, prevent, and mitigate the effects of catastrophic terrorist events. The workshop was tasked with identifying and discussing topical multidisciplinary and crosscutting research areas where universities can contribute most effectively to the Department of Homeland Security’s mission and to improvements in technology that yield the most cost-effective benefits in detection, prevention, and mitigation of effects. The workshop participants were invited to define this task broadly. The goal of the workshop was to support the creation of a summary report that could be used by the department to help inform the selection of a number of university-based homeland security centers of excellence. This is that summary report.
The day began with an emphasis on the urgency of developing effective means for countering terrorism and terrorist attacks and a focus on the nation’s universities as a major national asset to be harnessed for this effort. Workshop participants were reminded that the National Academies had responded rapidly to the September 11, 2001, attacks by bringing together a group of experts to begin to address how the science, engineering, and health communities could best contribute. The first brainstorming session was held within 10 days of the attacks, and more than 80 relevant academy reports and projects have been developed to date. This workshop is one more important step in that process.
Given the workshop’s overarching theme—How can university research centers of excellence optimally contribute to the issues surrounding homeland security?—participants were urged to think expansively in terms of topics to be considered, time scales for university efforts, and other related issues. The workshop co-chairs reminded workshop participants that university centers of excellence for homeland security will help build intellectual assets, educate and train a cadre of experts, and develop a wide variety of products for use in ensuring homeland security. Key aspects will be interdisciplinary research and the ability to interface with government, industry, and other communities involved in homeland security.
In the course of the discussion, the participants defined and broadened the workshop topics as presented in the task statement and agenda (see Appendix A). There was general agreement among the participants—including the representatives of the Department of Homeland Security—that “specific avenues of university research” involved more than just specific topics of university research. In addition to the study topics around which centers of excellence might be organized, these “avenues” include the basic organization of a university research center, and the connection of the center to the various communities that would support it or use its products. Thus, in addition to identifying “specific topical multidisciplinary and crosscutting research areas,” workshop participants also addressed and discussed these other considerations. Furthermore, the workshop took a broad view of research as encompassing more than research that leads to technology or to the development of products.
The workshop identified and considered three basic aspects of university research centers of excellence for homeland security:
Basic defining topic(s) around which a center could be organized;
Organization of the center, including how it relates to the primary sponsoring university, other university-based partners, and partners in other types of organizations, including industry, national laboratories, and government facilities; and
Connection to user communities, particularly the broader community beyond DHS. According to DHS, the centers have a dual mission of (a) conducting research and developing technology and (b) educating students. To be useful, these “products”—research, technology, and educated graduates—must transition into the larger community. To perform effectively, the centers must understand the needs and cultures of user communities and be responsive to users’ needs.
The workshop also considered the related questions of (1) how long a center should remain in existence (and if, indeed, it makes sense to consider “sunset provisions”) and (2) the relationship of a federally sponsored university center to state and local authorities.
The participants raised, addressed, and challenged the assumption that all university centers of excellence should fit within the cultures, competencies, and communities of top-level research institutions. For example, it was suggested that one or more centers be based in consortia of community colleges, or alternatively that community colleges be included in center-based partnerships or otherwise engaged. In this regard, it was observed that first responders and local security officers are more likely to receive training at community colleges than at major research universities. Ties between research universities and federal departments and agencies are long-standing and have fostered a degree of cultural harmonization that generally does not extend to relationships with state and local law enforcement, firefighting, and emergency medical services personnel and activities.
Identifying Topics for Research Centers of Excellence
Several dozen specific topic areas for research to strengthen homeland security were raised in the workshop, some clearly redundant and others arguably so. These topics fell into three general areas:
Specific technologies, including (a) technologies that terrorists could use and that would have to be countered, such as primary weapons technologies (e.g., chemical, nuclear, or biological weapons), and means of delivery; (b) research on modes of attack, targets (e.g., buildings, bridges, power plants, transportation), and sources of vulnerability of specific targets and of larger arrays that include such targets; and (c) capabilities to be developed for broad or specific applications, such as technologies for sensors and networking of sensors and technologies for data mining and for providing information to first responders and other officials.
Broad areas of function, which could include research related to understanding terrorism, including its origins, operations, and other specifics; identifying, understanding, and taking into account the interdependency of systems, complex systems, or “systems of systems”; and integrating responses to threats and attacks or understanding the psychological and social aspects of how people respond to acts of terrorism.
Broad areas of application—cities, borders, transportation security, critical infrastructure security, ports, hospitals—in all their complexities.
There is clear overlap across these areas. Many individual topics could be put within two or three areas. And as discussion at the workshop made clear, the principle(s) according to which such topic areas might be organized will affect which specific research topics are addressed. The workshop participants did not favor one of these organizing principles over the others, although some participants no doubt had individual preferences. There appeared to be recognition that the final roster of university research centers of excellence for homeland security could well include a few that are organized according to one postulated central principle, and some organized along other lines.
There was also recognition that reality was likely to impose organizing principles unrelated to research topics themselves—for example, regional balance in the placement of the research centers across the nation and also in different types of universities (e.g., balance between public institutions and private ones, or between prestigious universities and emerging schools). There was also some discussion of involving community colleges along with institutions that have graduate, professional, and baccalaureate programs. One participant suggested the involvement of police and fire academies, or similar training schools for first responders, to improve researchers’ understanding of what emergency personnel need to do their jobs and also to expose first responders to potential new tools and approaches.
Of the following specific topics suggested at the workshop, some were mentioned several times (by different participants) in somewhat different forms. Some received more discussion than others; some were mentioned more often than others. In keeping with the tasking, no attempt was made to develop a consensus that sorted and ordered the ideas. Instead, the topics are grouped according to logical similarities. The order carries no other significance; i.e., no prioritizing or rank ordering is implied.
All of the topics are broad. All—at either the broad or somewhat less broad levels shown—could be appropriate to organize a center around.
LIST OF RESEARCH TOPICS IDENTIFIED
Understanding terrorism and terrorists
Roots of terrorism
Terrorist motivations: reducing motivations to engage in terrorism; increasing incentives to other life paths
Study of and outreach to educational systems in Muslim countries particularly to introduce science education
Assessing and countering threats to security
Toxic chemicals: detection, identification, evaluation, response
Pathogenic organisms: detection, identification, evaluation, response
Nuclear threats and response, including detection of concealed nuclear materials
Computer and network security breaches and attacks, to include attacks on SCADA software
Low-sophistication, high-consequence threats
High-consequence attacks (not necessarily limited to WMD attacks; high consequences are not necessarily synonymous with high immediate casualties): identification, prevention, mitigation
System-of-systems analysis, modeling, simulation
Studies that integrate threats, vulnerabilities, consequences, and opportunities for defense
Cities as complex systems with interrelated vulnerabilities
Critical infrastructure security
Making complex systems robust against attacks (as an alternative to hardening all components)
Balancing security needs and other needs that are affected by security measures (e.g., airport throughput; food quality, availability, price; open access to public places and government facilities)
Sources of information and their integration
Integrated sensor networks to include security and other measures to maintain (and understand) system reliability
Biometrics and other means of identification as sources of information
Reactions and responses
First-responder studies: understanding how first responders operate and interoperate; developing methods to help different organizations work better together
Methods for integration of responses across federal, state, and local authorities; “cultural” integration
Applications of organizational theory, communications theory
Integration of responses to terrorism with preparedness for more likely, everyday emergencies
Public health, to include integrating responses to chemical, biological, and radiological weapons attack; exploitation of recent rapid advances in public health
Projecting consequences of various types of terrorist attacks (severity and extent of consequences do not necessarily scale with the severity and extent of an attack)
Psychological consequences of terrorist attacks, and reactions they may engender
Political consequences of terrorist attacks and of long-standing terrorist threats
Collective responses to terrorist-threat-induced uncertainties, to include media coverage and communication, civil rights issues, scapegoating
Broad, long-term consequences of an attack as well as immediate effects
Law and economics
Robotics for homeland security applications, including intelligent robots and robotics networks; autonomous operations
These topics could easily be organized in different ways. For example, “reactions and responses” and “understanding terrorism and terrorists” are both predominantly social-science-based topics. This particular list was arrived at by noting the topics that workshop participants suggested, grouping them in a consistent manner, and observing that some of the suggested topics could be subsumed under other, broader, suggested topics, should one decide to do so.
WORKSHOP DISCUSSION LEADING TO TOPICS IDENTIFIED
The topics listed above were neither suggested nor discussed in anything approaching the order of the list—or any other order, for that matter. Rather, they emerged and re-emerged in the course of the conversation. Some surfaced only briefly, while others were discussed from the beginning of the day to the end. Discussions of individual topics were often intertwined. Often, discussions built on earlier discussions. In other instances, topics re-emerged to be discussed in different contexts. Discussions of individual topics were often intertwined with discussions of other topics, for example, structuring of centers, transitioning of products, and so on.
The following highlights the most relevant portions of the discussions in a generally chronological order.
The question of defining consequences of terrorist attacks emerged early, during the DHS presentations that began the day. It was noted that direct consequences, while better understood than indirect consequences, are not necessarily the most significant. Deaths, injuries, and property damage can be measured. Lingering effects—for example, the effects of widespread salmonella outbreaks on the fast-food industry—economic effects, and psychological effects are less well understood. Such indirect effects could be much larger than direct effects.
In response, it was noted that system interdependencies are similarly poorly understood and potentially very significant. For example, much depends on the electric power grid, which in turn depends on supplies of fuel, such as natural gas, to it. Understanding such interdependencies is crucial to anticipating and planning for the indirect consequences of an attack.
Similarly, it was noted that a focus on acute catastrophic consequences could lead to overemphasizing the development of systems that reduce these (e.g., immediate deaths) but do not support limiting indirect consequences.
One identified approach to protecting interdependent systems was to focus on making the systems robust against attack rather than hardening them against attack. The example of
designing traffic signals to be independent of power grid failures was suggested as an alternative to insisting that the power grid be hardened against all possible attacks. In this example, traffic disruption as a consequence of an attack on the power grid could be minimized.
The subject of identifying and bridging cultural differences among institutions also emerged early and persisted as a theme throughout the workshop. Early on, one participant noted that universities and national laboratories don’t usually have close working relationships with first-responder communities, e.g., police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. Another responded by noting the positive experience at MIT with the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, where students and faculty are enthusiastic about getting into the field and working with the end users.
Somewhat later, the topics of risk assessment, threat assessment, vulnerability, and the role of the social sciences were introduced. One speaker noted that risk communication (and similar topics related to communication) requires attention. Actionable communication to the public is an important aspect of the response to an emergency.
These points led to a return to discussion of the consequences of terrorist acts. It was suggested that a string of low- to moderate-level attacks could have very severe consequences, even if the total number of deaths was low. One speaker offered that he did not know whether the United States could suffer what the Israelis currently suffer and not be profoundly changed, implying that consequences—particularly those arising from sustained attacks—could be far-reaching indeed. Another participant interjected that consequences are a function not just of the event, but also of the way that leadership responds to the event.
These observations were followed by a call for emphasis on “problem-oriented interdisciplinary research” and “system-of-systems analysis” from several participants. One emphasized that “interdisciplinary” should be taken in the most general sense, encompassing physical sciences, life sciences, engineering, and social sciences.
Turning to a more focused topic—in this case sensors—a participant noted that the work needed on sensors goes far beyond the invention and construction of different types of sensors. It is necessary—and difficult—to figure out how, for example, an array of 1,000 sensors of different types, some of which have been destroyed, some of which give false positives, and others of which give false negatives, can be made to provide a single recommendation to a mayor or a police chief. In many cases, the recommendation that would come from an array of sensors would not be sufficient and would have to be combined somehow with recommendations from other, very different sources. Not all of those sources would provide quantitative information.
Returning to the subject of first responders, one participant claimed that not much progress has been made in the last 5 years in giving first responders a real role in identifying technology they need, in coordinating the use of the technology, and in communicating with a range of first responders on technology issues. He also noted that first responders—firefighters, emergency medical services workers, police—see issues that must be dealt with every day as more pressing than preparation for a terrorist attack that might occur some day. They must handle fire, health, and policing problems on a daily basis. It was suggested that progress toward dealing with emergencies caused by terrorist attacks could be made by tying preparation for those emergencies to preparation for similar types of emergencies that have other sources.
Another participant added comments on the issue of access to intelligence information for first responders. Despite recent legislation concerning security clearances for some key people, there is a sense among first responders that much information is being kept from them. It was noted that first responders have a long history of being beleaguered, jurisdictional, and jealous of their prerogatives. During emergencies, squabbling often ensues. In response, it was noted that these same problems existed in the medical community and have been addressed.
A representative of DHS remarked that experience shows that it is often difficult to introduce new technology to first responders after they have left their training academies. It was asked: How do we introduce new technologies into training and education programs?
One participant suggested that the field of terrorist threat assessment is currently scattered among disciplines and departments within various academic institutions. In this view, threat assessment should be approached in a concentrated, integrated manner that brings together the disciplines of political science, economics, psychology, anthropology, history, and so on. A social and behavioral sciences-based program could concentrate on threat assessment, and then on post-attack consequence management, crisis management, and recovery studies.
It was then suggested that threat assessments and vulnerability assessments need to be integrated.
A related suggestion was to concentrate on reducing the incentives to engage in terrorism. Carnegie Mellon University has a center that looks into madrassa education systems, and how to extend opportunities for science and technology careers for Islamic students. Two related problems are understanding and decreasing motivations for following paths that lead to terrorism, and increasing incentives for young people to follow other paths, e.g., studies of science and engineering.
Returning to the topic of networks of sensors, participants noted that such networks must be robust, which in turn requires reasonable security. Practical networks will require, generally, that sensors be low cost. One example that was offered was networks of sensors integrated into the structure of a building. Providing security and encryption for low-cost sensors is a challenge. There are other, related challenges, such as meeting sensor (and other) requirements during construction and ensuring that sensors can operate on very low power.
One workshop participant who had had a long career in both law enforcement and research was asked to comment on the cultural harmonization issue. He likened being in law enforcement to being in a big city hospital emergency room all the time. Reactions have to be rapid; there is no time to give someone something to study and say “come back with results when you have an answer.” If the academic world is to help, he said, it has to be able to interface with this culture, this lifestyle. Universities want to get a grant and come back with results when they are ready; that’s not how law enforcement and first responders operate. That community operates by who it knows well that can help on a short time scale. Emergency personnel will not be interested in basic research, but in work that can lead rapidly to products. Often, those offering to help the law enforcement community have no idea how it really works. Most of the first-responder community is not used to working with people who hold advanced degrees. Medicine is the exception, as is the FBI. That’s another culture gap.
The discussion then turned to biometrics and other means of identification. It was pointed out that it is not enough to identify an individual as being the same one parameterized in a database. It is also important to know something about that person. Is this person who he says he is (i.e., is the ID real or is it fake)? Does this person have hostile intent? These questions need to be addressed.
Beyond the issue of how well techniques like biometrics work is the question of what use can be made of the information that such techniques might provide. If a biometrics technique is 100 percent accurate, how can it be used, and what can be done with the information supplied? This is a system-of-systems issue. What is the use of knowing with 100 percent certainty that a person holding a particular ID card is indeed the person on the card if we know nothing else about that person?
Regarding the application of biometrics and other sophisticated identification techniques at monitored ports and border crossings, it was observed that not everyone who enters the United States does so through official entry points. Making security more robust at official entry points could increase traffic through unofficial entry points. Such outcomes need to be taken into account when deciding how much to invest in better security at official entry points—again, a system-of-systems analysis is required. This approach should also be applied to analyzing the consequences of false positives.
One workshop participant then suggested that rather than focus on technology topics like biometrics, centers might more usefully be defined by topics such as “cities,” or “borders,” or “transportation.” Another participant expanded the list to include “ports” and “hospitals.” Such research topics would incorporate many of the elements touched on in the workshop discussion. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to areas of broad function would serve a number of purposes. It would address dual-use issues, such as how to respond to emergencies other than terrorist attacks. It would also focus attention on basic questions such as how the capacity of a system or the security of a system could be rapidly raised (i.e., “surged”) during an emergency, and understanding how an entire system works in detail and in the aggregate.
The discussion then returned to addressing interdependencies of infrastructures, and then back to the origins of terrorism. One participant suggested that it would be useful to consider how to deal with cultures where little children are taught to hate Americans and Jews.
One participant suggested the following as broad topics around which to organize research centers of excellence for homeland security: (1) risk analysis and risk communication; (2) security and cities in the 21st century; (3) border security; (4) transportation security; and (5) critical infrastructure—the science and technology involved in dealing with critical infrastructure. Another noted that these were all “system-of-systems” topics, a subject evident throughout the entire day’s discussions. Yet another suggested that centers based on these topics could usefully be oriented not just to dealing with terrorist threats, but also to advancing conventional civil missions. Such an approach would enhance the prospects that identified solutions would actually be implemented.
Another participant offered the following grouping of topics: (1) sensor networks, information management, and emergency decision support; (2) detection, identification, and warning of biological and chemical agents prior to clinical manifestations; (3) behavior and psychology of terrorists; and (4) systems studies of large metropolitan areas as multipoint targets.
Another proffered list was (1) cities, (2) ports, (3) borders, (4) communications, (5) transportation, (6) risk assessment and risk communications, (7) hospitals, (8) transportation security, and (9) critical infrastructure. There was some discussion of whether hospitals were really a DHS problem or a public health problem.
The group was reminded that the National Research Council study that produced Making the Nation Safer first structured its panels along the lines of cities and transportation, but then added specialty panels to address such areas as information technology, nuclear and radiological threats, and toxic chemical and biological threats.
One participant brought up the topic of autonomous operations, including the concept that robots, remotely operated vehicles, and so on could take on tasks that were too dangerous for first responders. Another participant returned to issues related to the collective response to terrorist threats and attacks and added as possible topics for research the news media, group conflict, scapegoating, civil rights, and political repression.
Yet another participant suggested law and economics and their potential for study in a homeland security context. Laws affect operations, developments, marketing, and so on. Laws, for example, can be made, and written, in the manner of building codes, to institutionalize elements of protection.
Toward the end of the workshop, the discussion turned to cybersecurity, a topic that had been brought up several times throughout the day. Cybersecurity is a field in which very few people are currently trained. It was noted that in the United States seven Ph.D.s are graduated per year in computer security, as compared with several thousand in microbiology. This area has suffered from sporadic funding and lack of a federal agency with responsibility for it. It was pointed out that SCADA software is often written in India or Europe. Compromising SCADA
software could not only bring down power plants, pipelines, and chemical factories but also damage and/or destroy the targeted systems and other systems that are dependent on them.3
Organizing and Structuring Research Centers of Excellence
Discussion of the organization and structure of research centers of excellence for homeland security followed presentations made by Fawwaz Ulaby and Granger Morgan on their thoughts on models for center organization. In the course of the discussion, other models were suggested and were discussed as well.
First, Fawwaz Ulaby discussed his ideas for a model of university centers that would consist of partnerships among universities, industry, and national laboratories (or other similar national centers). He described such partnerships as being appropriate to centers focused on technology-based R&D with a strong emphasis on producing engineered products (i.e., equipment) that would be made available to users: Universities have strengths in research and early technology development; industry has strengths in applied research, product development, and system integration; and national laboratories bring specialized instrumentation, secure facilities, and great breadth and depth of competence. Following this model, a typical center might be, for example, a consortium of four universities, two companies, and one or two national laboratories.
Granger Morgan presented two alternative organizational models based, in part, on existing engineering-based policy-oriented multidisciplinary programs at Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, Stanford University, the University of Virginia, and the University of California at Berkeley. He observed that successful evolution of these programs is a strong function of the local culture and of institutional realities. His first model (Model 1) was a center that—although managed by a university and perhaps drawing on its faculty, staff, and students—was outside the university’s traditional academic departments and not integral to the core academic activities of the institution and its departments. His Model 2 was a unit integrated into the core academic activities of the institution and its departments. Morgan observed that for many host institutions, Model 1 would be faster and more feasible to establish, could more easily accommodate specific DHS-specified programmatic objectives, and could more easily deal with constraints on information dissemination. If DHS wants sustained production of graduates who will work in homeland security and the benefits of the critical interdisciplinary contributions of a wide range of leading faculty, Morgan said, then Model 2 is superior.
Both Ulaby and Morgan discussed concepts for largely technology-based centers. Each addressed somewhat different aspects of the problem of how to structure such a center. Ulaby’s model took into account the numbers and types of institutions that might be members of a university-led center or consortium, and the general process for drawing on their relative strengths to conduct research, technology development, and product engineering. It focused on how universities could partner with private industry and national laboratories. Morgan’s models addressed the relationship of a research center to the university with which it is associated. He highlighted the two basic missions of such a center: (1) involvement in research, development, and engineering and (2) education.
It was noted by workshop participants that the models described by Morgan and Ulaby could apply equally well to biology-based science and engineering and to work based on the physical sciences and associated engineering.
Other participants broadened this view to include centers with basic orientations in areas other than (or in addition to) natural sciences and engineering. The “products” of such centers might differ from those of engineering-oriented centers. For example, a center that focused on roots and causes of terrorism, or centers that sought to understand social responses to terrorist actions, would produce research results that could support strategic decisions, rather than specific equipment.
National Science Foundation Deputy Director Joseph Bordogna described aspects of currently operating NSF university centers, with the qualifying observation that NSF’s and DHS’s respective needs are not necessarily similar. For NSF, supporting education is a major requirement, and proposals are expected to have an explicit education component. Similarly, partners are viewed as vital components of centers. One type of NSF center is established for 10 years and is reviewed on a 3-year cycle. A center can be disestablished after a review. In any case, NSF support ceases after 10 years. If a center is closed, the university can bid to open another—in a new topic area—through the program. He noted that there are centers for which NSF provides only partial funding. The remainder comes from other federal agencies and from the private sector.
Several participants noted that a “one size fits all” approach to setting up research centers of excellence for homeland security would be unwise, considering the great variety of topics and types of centers discussed in the workshop and the different cultures of different universities. It was observed that overly constraining the form of a center that a university could propose would be a mistake. It would make more sense to issue a broadly worded announcement and to rely on the inventiveness of the proposers to come back with good ideas that could then be judged on their own merits rather than their conformity with some preconceived ideas of how a center should be structured and managed.
It was further noted that centers are more likely to attract the best researchers if they avoid overly constraining what the researchers can do—i.e., avoid specifying too closely the problems to be solved. Centers are more likely to be effective in supporting the DHS mission if they are chartered to challenge assumptions, think imaginatively, and look for effective new approaches to the task of defense against terrorism. This approach is consistent with university research operations.
One participant suggested that DHS consider adding funding to existing university centers to enable them to start working on homeland security problems that are related to the work they are already pursuing. This alternative to establishing entirely new centers would leverage other funding and the work that has already been done to establish such centers.
It was further suggested that, considering the broad range of ideas that were discussed, DHS should expect, plan for, and encourage a range of center types. For example, one or two centers might have an explicit high-technology orientation, while the others might be defined according to some of the other organizing principles discussed above.
As noted above, this discussion touched only briefly on the possible relationships between university departments and centers of excellence. This suggests possible topics for future discussions, such as how the issues that underlie the center topics might fit within existing or future educational curricula at sponsoring institutions—for example, system-of-systems analysis, or balancing security needs and throughput rates at locations such as airports.
The question of involvement of foreign students, faculty, research staff, and institutions was briefly raised, but not discussed. This might also be a useful topic for future discussions, with attention to specifics. For example, the implications of multinational participation could be very different for studies of causes of terrorism than they would be for studies of counters to specific attacks, including those that involve weapons of mass destruction.
Aside from the general observations noted above, the workshop did not delve into the question of how to map suggested topics for study onto suggested center organizations. However, as noted in the next section, some participants did comment that centers that include community colleges or training academies might be better positioned to connect to the first responder community than those based solely at research universities would be.
Connecting Research Centers of Excellence with User Communities and Transitioning Products to Users
The Department of Homeland Security can be expected to serve a wide variety of constituents both directly and indirectly. These include DHS agencies, other federal departments and agencies, state and local authorities, industry, the academic community, and the public. The products of the research centers of excellence will be, generally, (1) science, technology, and technology-based products; (2) knowledge and understanding to support decisions; and (3) trained people. This broad mandate raises issues of interaction with the user community, and of the transition of products to user communities.
The process by which federal departments and agencies develop products for internal use is well developed and well understood. Coordination across federal agencies is also reasonably well developed. These processes cannot generally be applied directly when the users are outside the federal sphere.
Much discussion at the workshop was concerned with inventing and developing products for use by first responders, private companies (particularly those that own important elements of the critical infrastructure), and the public. There are cultural gaps that need to be bridged.
First responders—firefighters and rescue workers and law enforcement personnel—were the focus of a large part of the discussion. Issues include how to harmonize what DHS might develop with what the first responders would use. Funding is an issue, as is setting priorities (e.g., a police department may see a greater need for something like a new patrol car that will be used frequently, rather than equipment to respond to a highly unlikely event like a terrorist nuclear attack). Acceptance is a related issue. Local authorities would not necessarily accept a federal agency judgment regarding what equipment they should have, and they might be reluctant to devote scarce training time to learning how to use it.
Several observed that the federal government does not have a good record of understanding the culture of first responders and working with them accordingly, which has led to ineffective interactions. However, the federal government has much to offer to first responders (as illustrated by the workshop discussion as summarized earlier in this report); closer interaction would help first responders to understand what the federal agencies can offer them and how to have access. It was suggested that programs like the Department of Defense’s Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations provide a useful model to follow, giving potential users an opportunity to “buy into” a technology concept early in a program, and then participate in field trials and prototype deployments.
The market for rescue and law enforcement equipment, while theoretically large, has yet to be demonstrated. This raises the question of how companies might be motivated to invest the funds to engineer, produce, and market such equipment. What inducements could be generated to help transition the output of engineering-oriented centers of excellence into the marketplace? One idea suggested at the workshop was to concentrate on products that are dual-benefit, i.e., that have applications in both homeland security and in other areas that first responders are likely to give more attention to. Emergency medicine was cited as an example. A second idea was to look for opportunities to generate a market, i.e., ways to make a product valuable. Possible approaches might involve some combination of regulation and market-driven incentives, such as those that
created markets for automobile seatbelts and home smoke detectors, both of which have major implications for insurability.
Similar considerations were discussed as applying to education and training. Students enter fields of study—undergraduate and graduate/professional—partly on the basis of career expectations. How positive expectations can be generated for the value of careers related to homeland security needs to be addressed. Skills attendant to firefighting, rescue work, emergency medicine, and law enforcement are increasingly taught at community colleges and other community-based institutions. Some workshop participants suggested that university centers of excellence for homeland security should include partners at this level. The idea of a center run by a consortium of community colleges was suggested. Some participants thought that community colleges lacked the necessary depth and breadth to manage a research center but might be good candidates to participate.
It was also pointed out that first responders are not the only community with which connections should be made by those engaged in homeland security-related research. Much of the nation’s critical infrastructure belongs to private companies and to local governments and authorities. Positive and productive interactions with these communities are necessary if a university center’s work is to be solidly grounded in reality. Good relationships with private and local authorities would also enhance the transfer of the products of the university centers to the people, organizations, and places where they can be of most use.
University centers would be a good place to study how to balance security requirements and other responsibilities of companies and local agencies. One example is balancing security checks and throughput rates for transportation elements such as airports, bridges, and tunnels.
Several workshop participants raised an issue related to government-industry-academia collaborations. Universities prefer to work in an environment of open access to information. Governments and companies often control information: government through the classification of national security information and other restrictions on dissemination, and companies through the general wish to keep proprietary any information that they deem to be competition-sensitive. These are not new issues, but they will likely have to be addressed to achieve effective partnerships for strengthening homeland security.