- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

Amid the multitude of procedural reviews, agency restructurings and policy changes that have constituted much of our government's post-September 11 response, we seem to have adopted a dangerously ironic aversion to solutions that could help achieve our ultimate goal a more secure society. Throughout all of the re-examinations, inquiries and funding proposals, both Congress and the Bush administration have exhibited an inexplicable avoidance of the deployment of readily available security technologies.

Affordable and available technology-based solutions, used by private industry, could immediately be rolled out to validate the identity of workers at our nuclear facilities, control access to the underbelly of our airports, and eliminate much of the cost, human error and management challenge associated with the "labor-only" solutions. The Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) program to train 30,000 federalized passenger-screeners and 27,500 baggage-screeners for 429 airports is one example.

The irony, of course, is that every day new technologies are deployed to resolve far less important matters. Businesses compete feverishly to be the first to market with an application that will achieve the promise of productivity; meet some long-awaited expectation of reliability, or hit the price point that wins market acceptance of a technology-based solution for one of society's many challenges. Today, American society's most pressing challenge is to secure facilities and other assets that terrorists could exploit to injure our citizens. The technology-based solutions needed to secure vulnerable, high-risk facilities are available and affordable right now.

So, why is the government spending billions of dollars and extending our exposure during months of recruitment and training for guards when proven technology is at the ready?

I believe there are two primary reasons. The first is bureaucratic inertia. The shock and real trauma suffered on September 11 demanded an immediate response. Without the opportunity, or processes, to quickly identify, procure and deploy technology-based solutions, the government turned to the one solution it knew increasing the number of bodies guarding the front door.

Once the "solution" was under way and an implementation deadline set, the TSA moved full-speed ahead. Almost immediately, media and political pressure began to build to ensure that the established program criteria were met 60,000 new guards in place and trained by Nov. 19. This pressure created momentum that could not be stopped, nor would it allow for simultaneous consideration of any system-wide, alternative solutions.

The second reason for our failure to use available technologies for this urgent task has more to do with the psychological comfort we take from the physical presence of a human providing security. Unlike technology-based security, labor-based security is something we are used to and something we understand. It doesn't matter to us that the person guarding our workplace, or apartment building, or nuclear facility, might be having a bad day, or might be distracted, disinterested or irresponsible, or that the guy wearing the uniform is himself, one of the bad guys. We take comfort in seeing the physical presence of a person assigned to secure our facilities. Increasingly, this is a false and dangerous sense of comfort.

We need to change our feelings about security. Our government needs to make this change urgently. Is there a role for well-trained guards to protect our important and most vulnerable assets? Absolutely. By working with the range of available, technology-based solutions, including smart cards, biometrics, particle blasters, secure portals and other solution components, security personnel can perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

At public-airport checkpoints, these technologies can relieve guards from the unreasonable standard of focusing equally on every person passing through the portal and would allow them to deal with the exception the suspect traveler without creating a "pedestrian traffic jam." Working with identification-validation technologies, fewer security personnel would be needed to control restricted employee access areas, thereby saving money, or allowing the extra personnel to be redeployed. Security software can integrate biometric identification with today's programmable, secure portals, allowing authorized personnel to verify their access credentials anywhere within a networked enterprise. The list of possible applications is very long, very effective, very affordable and very available.

I fully appreciate the challenges facing TSA and other agencies in their attempts to meet our post-September 11 security imperative. I would urge, however, that in so doing, we not be distracted from pursuing the best solutions by setting unrealistic deadlines or be overly concerned with the scrutiny of media and politicians. We must not rely on labor-only solutions. Our goal of achieving a more secure society demands that we take the time to organize and deploy today's best available security technologies for the defense of our homeland.

Joseph R. Rosetti is chairman of Rapor Inc.

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