The war on terrorism is of a war of a different kind. There are no frontiers in 21st century national security. Distinguishing clear lines of responsibility between foreign and domestic security is a thing of the past.
Rather than adapting technologies to stay apace of evolving dangers and changing tactics, we need to get ahead of the terrorists and develop “overmatching” security systems that protect the public, safeguard their liberties, and leave travel and commerce unencumbered.
Developing technologies that leap ahead of the terrorists requires vision and strategy, and a good strategy requires hard choices. It begins by establishing criteria for selecting the most crucial technological investments. At the conceptual level these could be the following:
Technologies that can contribute to building a true national system that addresses all the challenges of terrorism from intelligence and early warning to domestic counterterrorism and response.
Technologies that are most flexible and which contribute to addressing a wide range of threats from kidnapping to extreme scenarios.
Technologies which call for unprecedented innovation and with which terrorists can not compete.
System Integration Technologies: One of the highest priorities for technological innovation ought to be simply getting the most out of the resources that are already available. That means adopting a new approach to counterterrorism operations as well as the enabling technologies to support it. This approach is often called “network-centric” operations.
Many of the technologies required to facilitate network-centric counterterrorism operations are already widely commercially available, including information technologies that facilitate passing high volumes of secure digital data, create ad hoc networks, integrate disparate databases, and link various communication systems over cable, fibre-optic, wireless, and satellite networks.
Biometrics: Identity is the linchpin of virtually all security and investigatory systems. There has been increased interest in using biometrics for identity verification, especially in the areas of visa and immigration documentation and government-issued identification card programs. The Indian Aadhar identification card pursues this principle.
Data Mining and Link Analysis Technologies: We live in a world that is becoming increasingly awash in commercial and government information. The trail of the terrorist, however, is often indistinguishable from a mass of bills, license applications, visa forms, census records, and telephone lists. Traditional law enforcement investigation techniques often begin with the identification of a suspected individual, followed by the laborious process of seeking out information related to that individual. As more and more information becomes available, this task becomes more and more problematic.
Technology, however, now has the potential to turn this challenge into an advantage. Rather than trying to narrow the scope of information that has to be looked at, data mining and link analysis technologies work best by exploiting larger and larger amounts of information.
While the technology to conduct data mining is rapidly maturing, it is currently limited by its capacity to handle nonstructured formats; i.e., those that are a mix of text, image, video, and sensor information. In addition, future algorithms will also need to incorporate the knowledge of human experts into their derivation of patterns.
Non-lethal Weapons. One of the most significant challenges in the war on terrorism is that its battlefields are often the everyday world, where civilians and terrorists often stand side-by-side, where as much attention must be given to safeguarding lives and property as to disrupting, apprehending, or incapacitating terrorists. Non-lethal weapons may offer the military and law enforcement a new range of options for taking the battle to the terrorist without endangering others.
Non-lethal weapons are discriminate, explicitly designed and employed to incapacitate personnel or materiel while minimizing fatalities and undesired Research by the U.S. military suggests four areas of non-lethal weapons development that show particular promise. They are:
Calmatives and malodorants for controlling crowds and clearing facilities, developed and applied in accordance with treaty obligations in the Chemical Weapons Convention; Directed-energy systems beyond the vehicle-mounted active denial system (VMADS): high-power microwave (HPM) for stopping vehicles or vessels and solidstate lasers for advanced non-lethal weapons applications; Novel and rapidly deployable marine barrier systems; and
Unmanned or remotely piloted platforms and other sensors for nonlethal weapons applications, including intelligence collection and assessments.
Two potential technologies definitely fit into the category of an aggressive technology acquisition. They offer two possible breakthroughs which could significantly reshape the nature of competition between terrorism and counterterrorism.
Nanotechnology: As a counterterrorism tool, nanotechnologies are in their infancies. Current research areas include materials, sensors, biomedical nanostructures, electronics, optics, and fabrication. Materials which have been modified at the nanoscale can have specific properties incorporated into them.
However according to a RAND report, there are numerous future applications for nanotechnology, though most face at least some technical hurdles. They include nanofabricated computational devices like nanoscale semiconductor chips, bio-molecular devices, and molecular electronics. While there are counterterrorism applications for all of the research areas, sensors are the most promising. Nano devices offer the opportunity for fast, cheap, and accurate sensors and detectors, and markers that can be used for a wide range of forensic activities.
Directed-Energy Weapons: Active defenses such as directed-energy weapons could provide counter terrorism protection for critical infrastructure. Directed-energy weapons include a host of technologies, including lasers and microwave radiation emitters. These weapons can inflict casualties and damage equipment by depositing energy on their intended target.
Compared with conventional weapons, which rely on the kinetic or chemical energy of a projectile, directedenergy weapons can hit a target with subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves that travel at speeds at or near the speed of light. They generate very high power beams and typically use a single optical system both to track a target and to focus the beam on the target in order to destroy it.
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Lasers: The most mature form of directed-energy weapon that can counter airborne threats-form intense beams of light that can be precisely aimed across many kilometers to disable a wide range of targets, from satellites to missiles and aircraft to ground vehicles. Additionally, the laser beam can be redirected by mirrors to hit targets not visible from the source, all without compromising much of the beam’s initial power.
Such systems could evolve to provide active defenses against a wide array of potential threats from artillery, rockets, mortars, missiles, and low-flying unmanned aerial vehicles to improvised explosive devices. For example, these weapons could be deployed at airports to defend planes from attacks by shoulderfired missiles (and by makeshift rockets and missiles) during takeoff and landingthe times when aircraft are most vulnerable.
With most airports located in or near major urban centers, directed-energy weapons could help to address the near impossibility of providing adequate, credible security zones around airports. Furthermore, they could defend coastal airports from attacks launched from a commercial or private ship loitering offshore-a potentially ideal platform for launching precision strikes.
It remains to be seen how government and the private sector apply their energy and imagination to turning these technologies into potent anti-terrorism tools. There are several serious obstacles to be overcome.
Research and Development Trends. The September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington seem only somewhat to have affected research and development trends in the United States, and, indeed, it appears that the same trend is holding true for other nations as well. American research and development efforts have been affected only “on the margins”. For example, the newly created Department of Homeland Security has a science and technology directorate with a research budget of about $800 million. While that seems like a great deal of money, it is a small fraction of the $90 billion the U.S. government spends on research.
In turn, government research represents an increasingly less significant portion of the total research and development effort. In the 1960s, about two-thirds of U.S. research was federally funded. Today, two-thirds of researchabout $180 billion-is funded by the private sector. For example, American software and semiconductor companies spend about $10 billion, which is about the same amount as the entire research budget for the US space program.
The balance of investments for research and development does not bode well for counterterrorism technologies. Most of the cutting-edge research in related areas, particularly with regard to information technology and biotechnology, is in the private sector where development pro¬grams are largely driven by potential markets and the profits to be made in the security sector seem to pale in comparison with other commercial opportunities.
In part, this challenge can be addressed by making the counterterrorism community a more attractive customer for the private sector. Legal incentives such as indemnification for products may help-as would broadly accepted international standards for the application of technologies, particularly in the areas of biometrics. Moving to open and non-proprietary information architectures that make it far easier to adapt commercial technologies to law enforcement needs would also be of great benefit.
A significant next step would be initiating a serious dialogue to determine what a future international counterterrorism security technology development regime might look like. It would require, among other things, a technology clearinghouse so that partners know what technologies are available for transfer; a method of setting stan¬dards so that technologies are understandable; interoperable and transferable means for industry-toindustry dialogue; predictable export control requirements; and acquisition mechanisms such as joint development programs, licensing agreements, and something comparable to the foreign military sales program. Any of these or other initiatives that serve to create a more uniform and dependable market for counterterrorism technologies would serve to make it a more attractive target for the private sector and, in turn, stimulate the responsiveness of private research and development in support of key law enforcement needs.
BARRIERS TO INNOVATION
Even if private research and development can be better teamed with government efforts and focused on the terrorism challenges of the 21st century, the traditional barriers to innovation in law enforcement technologies will remain. These challenges include four areas.
Cost: The expense of new technologies includes both the cost of procuring a technology and the opportunity cost of adopting that technology as compared to other uses to which resources might be put. Technology Risk: This includes the everpresent risk that “big bets” will fail. The technology may not perform as expected or adequately address the tasks for which it was adopted.
Human Factors: New counterterrorism technologies can face a plethora of obstacles that have nothing to do with fiscal costs or technical specifications. For example, data mining and biometrics have raised an array of concerns about the protection of civil liberties and safeguarding of proprietary commercial information. Non-lethal weapons face legal barriers.
Additionally, institutional cultures may have difficulty adapting to new technologies, and new systems may present significant training and leader development challenges. Systems integration, for example, can enable law enforcement agencies to share information with others, but a number of concerns might make them reluctant to do so.
Unanticipated Costs: Any new technology will bring unintended consequences. The introduction of nanotechnologies, for example, has raised concerns about the potential consequences of unintentionally introducing new compounds into the environment. New technologies can also bring unexpected liabilities and adverse public reactions.
Perhaps the best means to satisfy these concerns is to address potential policy issues that may serve as barriers to the adoption of new technolo¬gies before new capabilities are introduced. Policy development that anticipates technological development represents a largely unprecedented challenge to law enforcement. More often than not, law enforcement’s approach has been to take years to develop the procedures that govern the implementation of new technologies, largely waiting for commercial technologies to mature, threats to evolve, and legal precedents to be established. This process will not serve for the challenges of the 21st century, where policy innovation must match, or indeed exceed, the speed of technological progress.
The terrorist threat against the free world is serious and enduring. We need to jointly develop the means and the technologies needed to meet this threat. The obstacles to creating an arsenal of counter-terrorism technologies that are practical and affordable and overmatch the threat of 21st century terrorism are daunting. Creating a vision of these future technologies, implementing initiatives that broaden the market and make it more predictable and dependable, and developing policies that will help to overcome the barriers to innovation are essential steps to harnessing technology to the future needs of law enforcement.
This report is culled from a talk delivered at a Exhibition Conference held at the Dubai World Trade Center by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., a Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation USA.