For homeland-security technology to be most successful, it will have a dual benefit of helping prevent terrorist attacks while also addressing other government or commercial needs, said speakers at a symposium on homeland security and information sharing in Philadelphia this week.
A former top CIA operative describes dual-benefits solutions as IT systems designed to help prevent future terror attacks that also address other government needs. "Securing our nation against terrorist threats could actually make us stronger," said Ruth David, former CIA deputy director for science and technology.
Among the dual-benefits solutions envisioned by David, CEO of the think tank Anser Institute for Homeland Security: border-control systems to restrict weapons and potential terrorists could also speed legitimate trade into the country; technology aimed at hunting down terrorists could be employed by police to capture criminals; medical surveillance solutions that uncover the use of biological weapons could also detect diseases such as SARS; a national warning system for terror threats can be applied to natural disasters; and communications gear distributed for use when a terror attack occurs can be used for other emergency-responder events.
A practical benefit of these approaches is that the homeland-security system gets wider support from the other agencies in government that would benefit from the technology.
Venture capitalist Gary Ralls, general partner at Tiburon Asset Management LLC, offered his own twist on a dual-benefits solution: government and industry working in tandem to develop technology that has a homeland security and commercial applications. For example, handheld devices that give border agents information about foreigners entering the country could be adapted for nurses to provide data about patients. Mixing capitalism with homeland security, Ralls suggested, could prove benefit government and business, and help build broader confidence in the U.S. population. "Alliances offer people hope," he said.