- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

A Reston security company is expanding its technology along the U.S. border to pick up the Amber Alert emergency system for missing children.

New Technology Management Inc. this month started linking the Amber Alert emergency system in Arizona to the state’s border-security databases.

The Amber Alert is the broadcast system that reports missing or abducted children to state and local law officials. The system, although nationwide, is operated by each state, which makes sending information across state lines a slow and arduous process.

“It’s satisfying to know that what we do does result in getting the bad guys,” said Lurita Doan, New Technology founder and president.

New Technology created a database that sends information on missing children simultaneously from broadcasters and law enforcement agencies to the border patrol through cell phones, pagers, faxes, e-mail, PDAs or other wireless devices.

The new Amber Alert project in Arizona is expected to be operational by January.

“It’s the kind of work I like doing,” said Mrs. Doan, who generally spends two days a week at border sites. “I’m not interested in putting another printer on a government desk. That’s not our purpose.”

Mrs. Doan, who previously worked with government contractor Unisys Corp., and has a strong background in UNIX programming, started her company in 1990 out of the bedroom of her Washington home. She has since moved with her family to Great Falls and relocated the firm to Reston.

“I wanted to offer more customized security solutions for clients, which my managers didn’t like, so I decided to start my own company,” she said.

Her big break came in 1993, when a $2 million Navy subcontract for security systems was available for a last-minute bid. The only problem was Mrs. Doan, then 40 weeks pregnant, was due to give birth that week.

She put together a security system for an aircraft carrier in two days and was asked to demonstrate it on a land-docked carrier in Norfolk.

With ambulances on hand, Mrs. Doan pulled off the demonstration before going into labor several hours later, delivering her second daughter, Alexandra.

“When the Navy saw that I was willing to hold the baby in to get the job done, they knew any job with my company would get done,” she joked.

The company later won a $17,000 contract for border-security work in 1997 because it was the only firm to attend a bid meeting in Arizona, Mrs. Doan said.

The smaller contracts have helped the company dominate in the market for border security.

New Technology won $134 million in contracts in 2002 and forecasts sales to reach $212 million by the end of the year. Mrs. Doan would not discuss profits.

The company brings in about 90 percent of its sales from government agencies, with the Homeland Security Department, the agency in charge of the nation’s borders, as one of its top customers. About 80 percent of the company’s 150 employees work onsite at border locations.

The company tries to modify its border technology for use by other agencies that seem unrelated.

For example, New Technology altered its border identification system to act as a financial-checking database for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The database pulls information from other agencies, such as state income-tax records, Social Security and credit history agencies, to determine how much of a subsidy should be given to an applicant for low-income housing.

The company also uses its border-security systems in Arizona to protect endangered bat species. About 1,000 Mexican long-nosed bats migrate annually to reproduce in caves at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Thunder Mountain Evaluation Center, a Defense Department program at Fort Huachuca, spent $100,000 for New Technology to set up infrared fences, warning alerts and monitors for the program, mainly to discourage spelunkers from disturbing the bats.

“We try to link any new systems we create to work with existing databases at the sites,” Mrs. Doan said.

She pushed the idea of hooking up Amber Alerts to the border databases in Washington state’s pilot program.

In July, Washington’s broadcasters association and law enforcement agencies tested an Amber Alert project that sends out messages to police officers, state agencies, broadcasters and border guards in several states.

“The company was an important part of the whole project, in addition to getting the border patrol on board,” said David Kirk, manager for the digital government-applications academy in the state’s Department of Information Services, which handled the project.

New Technology also ironed out minor glitches in the Web site the agency maintains, he said.

With the success in Washington, Mrs. Doan negotiated with the Arizona Broadcasters Association to hook up the state’s Amber Alert with border guards in the state.

The company is installing the new databases for free in Arizona with the expectation of contracts from other border states like Texas and California, Mrs. Doan said.

Art Brooks, president of the Arizona Broadcasters Association and chairman of the Arizona Amber Alert Committee, said the border patrol is a key component in rescuing abducted children.

“If an abductor took a child and tried to race across the border, we knew we would need to alert border-patrol guards immediately,” Mr. Brooks said. The first few hours are the most critical in a child abduction.

Arizona’s Amber Alert has been activated three times this year. While none of the recovered children was heading toward the border, Mr. Brooks said it is only a matter of time.

“We feel more confident about the program knowing that we have covered the borders as well,” he said.

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