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Oil drilling in ANWR moves ahead as part of Senate tax bill

Republicans took a major step forward early Saturday in their decades-long fight to open a piece of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Included as part of the sweeping tax reform bill passed by the Senate in a 51-to-49 vote is a highly controversial provision to allow energy exploration in a 1.5 million-acre swath of ANWR known as the “1002 area,” which lies along the coast. In total, ANWR spans more than 19 million acres.

The drilling provision was seen as key to getting Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, on board with the tax bill.

“Opening the 1002 Area and tax reform both stand on their own, but combining them into the same bill, and then successfully passing that bill, makes this a great day to be an Alaskan,” she said in a statement after the measures passed. “I thank all of the senators who spent time learning about our opportunities and needs, and who joined us tonight in voting for Alaska. We are grateful for their support and eager to take the next steps for this pro-jobs, pro-growth, and pro-energy legislation.”

Drilling in ANWR has become of the most high-profile fights in history between energy advocates and environmentalists. Those who favor oil drilling say only a small portion of the pristine area will be affected, and that exploration can be done safely; environmentalists maintain that opening any piece of ANWR to drilling sets a dangerous precedent, and they contend that an ecologically disastrous spill is inevitable.

The issue has split Republicans. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has previously voted against ANWR drilling, as has Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Both supported the measure Saturday.

There’s also notable Republican opposition in the House, which has already passed its own tax measure without an ANWR provision.

Ahead of Saturday’s vote, a dozen House Republicans wrote to House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to remove ANWR drilling from any tax-reform efforts, arguing that there’s simply no need to drill in such a sensitive area.

“After years of debate, the Arctic Refuge stands as a symbol of our nation’s strong and enduring legacy,” reads the letter, signed by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Rep. Dave Reichert of Minnesota and other Republicans. “Any development footprint in the Refuge stands to disrupt this fragile, critically important landscape.”

Environmental groups vowed to continue their opposition, and a host of lawsuits are expected if the provision is signed into law by President Trump.

“Sen. Murkowski’s big sellout to the oil industry must be stopped. An international treasure and America’s conservation legacy are at stake. We’ve been fighting to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for more than 30 years. We won’t let it end like this,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife.

Lawmakers, Procurement Experts Call Puerto Rico Power Contract a 'Travesty'

 

The Trump administration is distancing itself from a controversial contract aimed at rebuilding the power grid in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, which procurement experts and lawmakers say has dubious origins and contains highly unusual provisions.

The contract in question was valued at $300 million and awarded to a small Montana firm, Whitefish Energy, by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The unusually high labor costs and language that prohibits government agencies from auditing certain aspects of the deal, as revealed in the leaked contract, sparked concern from members of Congress and government watchdogs. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the contract “raises every red flag in the book.”

Both the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Administration have distanced themselves from the contract.

“Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable,” FEMA said in a statement on Friday. “FEMA is presently engaged with PREPA and its legal counsel to obtain information about the contract and contracting process, including how the contract was procured and how PREPA determined the contract prices were reasonable.”

One provision of the document stated “FEMA has reviewed and approved of this contract” and is “an acceptable form to qualify for funding from FEMA and other U.S. governmental agencies,” but FEMA said that characterization is “inaccurate.”

Another section of the contract states “the federal government is not a party to this contract and is not subject to any obligations or liabilities to PREPA” or anyone else party to the document. FEMA said it has yet to provide any reimbursement to Whitefish, adding any applicant for its public assistance grants must abide by federal requirements or “risk not being reimbursed.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at a briefing on Friday the contract was “not something the federal government played a role in” and declined to comment on its propriety until a proper audit is conducted.

Both the process for obtaining the contract and the subject of it are problematic, said Steven Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at The George Washington University and a former associate administrator for procurement law and legislation at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget. Whitefish did not go through a competitive, open bidding process before receiving the contract. The attempt to limit transparency through restricting audits “jumps off the page” and is “highly irregular,” Schooner said.

The contract states that, “In no event shall PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA administrator, the comptroller general of the United States, or any of their authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements of the labor rates specified herein."

Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, said an audit clause used to be standard practice until sometime during the Clinton administration. He added that many contracts today still go out the door without requiring firms to “provide adequate support for costs or prices.” Amey found problematic another clause in the contract, in which PREPA waived “any claims against” Whitefish for any delays in completing work.

The waiver “raises concerns about whether Whitefish or its subcontractor workforce is prolonging the work to reach, and possibly extend, the contract’s $300 million ceiling,” Amey said.

Amey echoed Schooner in noting the contract highlighted the difficulties in negotiating relief contracts after a disaster strikes. Many observers faulted Puerto Rico for reaching an agreement with Whitefish rather than relying on a previously established mutual-aid network of public utilities that typically handle power restoration.

Several aspects of the billing have also raised concerns. A journeyman lineman on the contract, Schooner noted, would make about $228 per hour. Subcontracted journeyman linemen, who will provide the vast majority of the work for the contract, will earn $319 per hour. That provides a significant take off the top for Whitefish, Schooner said, in which “you’d have to be an idiot” to send your own employees to do the work rather than hiring subcontractors. Those employees will also earn a $400 per diem, according to the contract, meaning a subcontractor lineman working eight hours would bill at nearly $3,000 per day.

“That’s a jaw-dropping rate,” Schooner said. “How could somebody have agreed to these kinds of rates?”

Whitefish is also billing the government at an hourly rate for equipment, which Schooner called “unthinkable.”

“It’s so unbelievably nonsensical I don’t even know where to begin,” he said.

The contract initially came under scrutiny after reports surfaced that Whitefish is headquartered in the small town where Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke lives, and that Zinke’s son interned at the company. Interior has denied Zinke had any involvement with the contract, something Sanders said Zinke reiterated to Trump at a previously scheduled White House meeting on Friday.

"Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless," Zinke said in a statement Friday. "I welcome any and all investigations into these allegations, and encourage the Interior Department's inspector general to investigate this matter fully." 

Two House committees, Energy and Commerce and well as Natural Resources, have launched probes into the contract. The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general is also investigating the contract. McCaskill and the chairman of her committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., wrote a letter to the IG requesting he determine whether the contract is eligible for reimbursement under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. Their committee is holding a hearing on the federal government’s recent hurricane response efforts, and McCaskill said Trump administration officials “better be ready to answer tough questions on exactly what is happening with this contract.”

The no-audit clause in Whitefish’s contract, Amey noted, did not apply to the DHS IG or congressional committees.

Schooner praised the reviews underway, calling the contract a “travesty” and suggesting some major changes happen quickly.

“It would be an abomination if it isn’t very quickly terminated, modified or replaced,” he said.

 

A Guide to Looking After Your Body Armor

SafeGuard CoolMAX Carrier

As any Security Operative will be aware, body armor is a wide-ranging term that covers a number of products, and understanding exactly which is best for you can be difficult. Being aware of the different options available to you allows you to better understand how to keep yourself protected. However, even after you have chosen the correct style and level of protection according to the environments you will find yourself in, it can be difficult to know how best to care for your armor. Many overlook the need to keep body armor properly maintained, but unless you do, you cannot be assured of your protection.

While there are specific things to consider when it comes to body armor, it can largely be seen as any other item of clothing- albeit a particularly valuable and important piece. This means that like any clothing it needs to be washed and stored properly to ensure its quality and integrity. Unlike clothing however, any damage or deformity can prove to be deadly, and cannot be ignored. It is imperative therefore that when cleaning and drying a vest you take the time to inspect it for any damage. If it is at all damaged, it should not be worn, ad must be replaced immediately.

Body armor is made of multiple parts: the protective inserts, which are usually made of soft fabrics with an incredibly high strength-to-weight ratio, like Kevlar, and the carrier itself which can be made from a wide range of materials and is designed to keep the protective inserts in the correct position on your body. Both parts of the vest are important, and should be treated with care. However, each has specific requirements that need to be met, and they must be separated before cleaning.

Cleaning your vest is so important for a number of reasons. Firstly, having a dirty vest is simply unpleasant. If your vest is offensive to the eyes or nose, you may refrain from wearing it. This would leave you without protection, which is simply not an option. Secondly, a dirty vest can breed germs and potentially bring about illness. For simple hygiene, a vest should be cleaned regularly. Most importantly, however, is the effect cleaning can have on your protection.

If you allow your vest to become dirty it can inhibit the protection offered by the fabrics inside. Just as extended exposure to adverse weather conditions can disintegrate Kevlar, if it is allowed to get too dirty the fibers within can break down, meaning your protection is no longer guaranteed. However, you must be careful when washing to avoid submerging or otherwise getting the Kevlar damp, as this may also reduce its effectiveness. The carrier can often be machine washed, but the protective inserts should be cleaned with a non-abrasive cleaner and sponge.

The vest must also be dried properly, again to avoid any moisture from settling within the vest and degrade the materials. Unlike machine washing, no part of the vest should be tumble dried. Instead, both the protective inserts and the carrier should be hung out to dry. Following this, a vest should be stored just as carefully, allowing nothing heavy to be placed on top of it, and keeping it flat and unfolded. Following these steps allows for your vest to be in its best possible quality.

The advice listed above is not the result of simply being cautious, and does indeed sound overly careful when it comes to your body armor. However, it is important to follow these steps as you cannot afford to take chances with such an important piece of equipment. Changing its shape in any way means it may no longer fit properly, making it uncomfortable at best, and at worst leaving you with gaps in your protection. Similarly, a damaged vest can no longer guarantee your protection.

Following the steps above allows you to stay safe and comfortable, and means you can perform to the best of your ability safe in the knowledge that your vest will protect you.

JW Fishers exec describes growing international use of remote controlled vehicles by divers

By Chris Combs

Almost every commercial diving company is now employing an ROV in some part of their operation. Most recognize the ROV is not a replacement for the diver, but rather a tool to help make his job safer, faster and easier. Inspecting a site with a remote controlled vehicle before sending someone below, allows both diver and topside personnel to better understand the working environment, nature and extent of the job.

One company successfully using the ROV is Works of Diving Hong Kong Ltd, a member of the International Association of Diving Contractors. With more than 30 years’ experience in the commercial diving industry, co-owners Albert Lam and Tatsushi Kagaya have gained considerable expertise in marine engineering, and extensive knowledge of project management and design. Together they have the capability to execute all aspects of underwater construction, maintenance, repair, and demolition. The company has participated in many of Hong Kong’s big infrastructure projects such as the intake installations at the Lamma Island Power Station and KCRC West Rail, and the Submarine Outfall Installation. They do plant and facilities maintenance work for the Drainage Services Department, and have collaborated with China Guangzhou Salvage on bigger projects. Their extensive line of equipment includes a derrick lighter, tug boats, a full line of commercial diving equipment, underwater still and video cameras, and a JW Fishers SeaLion-2 ROV.

A recent project where the ROV proved essential was the inspection of water storage tank at a local power station. Among the obstacles Works of Diving had to overcome were devising a way to get men and equipment to the top of the 15 meter high structure, and determining how to get inside the huge tank with an opening only ½ meter in diameter. The narrow steel tube leading into the dark interior was a tight fit for an average man, and would have been nearly impassable for a fully dressed diver. The solution proved to be the ROV which was easily lowered through the small opening, eliminating the need to send a person into the confined space. Operations supervisor Andrew Jenner reported, “The SeaLion worked extremely well sending us back some great video of the tank’s interior. It helped make this difficult job so much easier.”

Another diving company utilizing an ROV is INSUB in Chile. Managing director Pedro Bizama Mundaca is an accomplished oceanographer, commercial diver and graduate of the Chilean Navy’s Polytechnic Academy. INSUB offers a variety of services including bathymetric and hydrographic surveys, environmental impact studies, dredging, underwater welding, as well as inspection and maintenance of marine terminals and navigation aids. To assist in these projects the company acquired a JW Fishers SeaLion-2 ROV with a SCAN-650 sonar and single function manipulator. The sonar scans a 360 degree circle around the ROV providing the operator with a detailed image of the underwater environment and helping him guide the vehicle to the target of interest until it comes within video range of the ROV’s cameras. In a recent offshore operation the ROV was put to work inspecting a buoy marine terminal, a floating hull with a rotating head to which vessels can moor. “The SeaLion worked very well on this job” reported Mr. Mundaca. “We were able to examine the submerged hull, chain, and mooring without having to deploy a diver.”

Commercial diving companies aren’t the only ones putting ROVs to work. Entrepreneurs, like Australian Steve Robinson, are also discovering how ROVs can provide unique opportunities and make their businesses more profitable. Steve is in the process of setting up a business to collect rare seashells in water depths of 50 to 300 meters; far beyond the range of sport diving. These are no ordinary shells, but rather unique specimens in high demand by collectors. The buying and selling of these mollusks is a multimillion dollar worldwide industry. To ensure the harvesting of these rare specimens is sustainable, the industry is regulated by the Australian Fisheries Department, EPA, Conservation Council, and a number of other agencies. In addition to attempting to build a profitable enterprise, Robinson also plans on conducting scientific research in the deep waters off South Australia, an area very little is known about. He will be video mapping the ocean floor, examining the health of fish stocks, and looking for signs of subsea resources that could possibly be developed.

To conduct all of these various tasks Steve is building a very specialized underwater robotic system capable of working in the high current of these deep water zones, with the capacity to pick up small delicate shells and deposit them in collection basket. At the heart of the system is a SeaLion-2. Steve says, “the key to this business was finding an ROV able to go these depths at an economical cost, which is why I choose Fishers vehicle. It has all the things I needed like auto depth, auto distance off bottom, and on screen display; and its ruggedly built and easy to field service. It just made sense to go with their system.”

AFCEA International Cyber Committee calls on government to teach citizens how to protect cyber ecosystem

Fairfax, VA, Jan. 27 - As much as 80 percent of the cyber threats the American public faces today stem from poor or non-existent computer hygiene. U.S. adversaries are using this malady to their strategic advantage and systematically degrading the national infrastructure. They are subverting U.S. economic and military superiority; eroding citizens' confidence in the government's ability to protect and defend the nation; and, ultimately, turning back the clock on American prosperity.

These are the conclusions of AFCEA International's Cyber Committee, which are detailed in a white paper now available online. Committee members Robert Dix and Chris Folk authored the paper. It calls on U.S. government agencies to create and lead a national awareness and educational campaign to remedy the situation. Dix is the vice president of global government affairs and public policy at Juniper Networks; Folk is the director of the Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute, National Protection Division, The MITRE Corporation.

"Understanding the '80 percent challenge' and the underlying premise behind it—that we can boost our defenses by routinely implementing computer hygiene—can increase our defense game significantly," the authors suggest. "If we better educate individuals, and if we forge stronger partnerships between citizens and the industry and government sectors, we can raise the cost of attacks to the adversary. We can turn the 80 percent problem into the 80 percent solution.

The need to better educate users to take personal responsibility for their own safety and security in this space is an imperative, they add. "Currently, there is a gap, primarily because users simply don't understand what the cyber threats are, how their information can be compromised or what to do. We can and must change that," Dix and Folk say.

The "we" they are referring to are the numerous governmental and other organizations that are in contact with the public on a daily basis. Their recommendation is to establish a coordinated and integrated nationally led program to articulate the cybersecurity challenges and leverage existing outreach and communication conduits and mechanisms.

"The program would combine very easy-to-understand guidelines and employ solutions underpinned by a set of non-product-specific protective measures and best practices. Further, government and private groups who already engage with their customers and constituents would promulgate these solutions to individuals, groups, businesses—especially small- and medium-size—and non-profits alike," they propose.

The HOME Campaign is at the core of this initiative. The elements—hygiene, ownership, multipliers and ecosystem, or HOME—encapsulate concepts that enable all citizens to learn and employ safe computing habits. They must keep their personal computer systems up to date; protect personal information; understand that owning multiple devices increases the avenues for attack; and recognize their role in protecting networked systems.

"The time and attention of the nation on this topic needs to be addressed today," Dix and Folk state. "Cybersecurity ideas and issues must be demystified. … Users must understand their role in basic computer hygiene. … Users must ask for more secure products. The government can help facilitate and make sure there are stronger policies and higher standards for security, but all citizens must drive these actions."

AFCEA International, established in 1946, is a non-profit membership association serving the military, government, industry and academia.

Xenophobic immigration policy would wreck the U.S. Economy

Written by Walter Ewing, American Immigration Council

The GOP candidates for President are falling over one another to demonstrate who would be the “toughest” on immigrants and who would finally make U.S. borders “secure.”

Leading the way is Donald Trump, who issued shrill declarations during the January 14 GOP debate that “We have no borders” and “Illegal immigration is beyond belief”—all of which is hard to reconcile with the fact that more Mexicans are now leaving the country than coming. Nevertheless, Trump promises to fix many of the nation’s problems by building a Great Wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting all immigrants not legally authorized to be in the country.

Not wanting to be outdone, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has also called for the building of a wall—which has prompted Trump to accuse him of being a copycat. Moreover, while Trump would allow some of the unauthorized immigrants he deports to apply to come back to the United States if they prove themselves to be “very good,” Cruz’s plan would allow none of them to return.

Much of this tough talk may be bluff and bluster; the verbal smoke and mirrors that is so often employed by political candidates in a tough election. But at least some of it may be for real, which raises serious questions about its practicality, social repercussions, and economic impact. Let’s consider just the likely economic aspect of policies that would kick out all unauthorized immigrants and build a 2,000 mile-long wall between the United States and Mexico.

Various sources consulted by CNBC found that it would probably cost about $12 billion to build a Trump Wall along the border —plus $750 million per year to maintain it (not counting all of the Border Patrol agents, helicopters, airplanes, and drones needed to monitor the wall for breaches).

In a 2013 Forbes story, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) aptly described a border fence as “a 14th century solution to a 21st century problem.” It is a “solution” that fails to account for the fact that roughly 40 percent of currently unauthorized immigrants came to the United States on valid visas and stayed after those visas expired.

Nor does it account for the unknown share of the unauthorized who are led by smugglers through ports of entry rather than through expanses of empty desert. In other words, a border fence would have no impact on at least half of the unauthorized immigrants entering the country, and its impact on the other half would be partial at best given the proven ability of smuggling organizations to go under, through, or over the stretches of border fence that already exist.

Leaving the cost of a border wall aside, what about the Trump Mass Deportation Plan? Not surprisingly, the economic damage wrought by the expulsion of millions of people from the country would be massive and would ripple through a wide range of industries. As a January 11 story in Politico describes:

“If 11 million immigrants were rounded up and removed from the country, many of the jobs they do — including restaurant, hotel and low-end construction work — could go largely unfilled, economists say. That would create a large and immediate hit to gross domestic product growth and the effects would ripple out to companies that supply goods and services to all those businesses. There would also be 11 million fewer people consuming goods and services, further driving down economic activity.”

According to a 2015 report from the conservative American Action Forum, the effort to actually remove that many people from the United States, and prevent any new unauthorized immigrants from coming in their place, would be enormous:

“Depending on how the government conducts its apprehensions, it would need to spend $100 billion to $300 billion arresting and removing all undocumented immigrants residing in the country, a process that we estimate would take 20 years. In addition, to prevent any new undocumented immigrants going forward, the government would at a minimum have to maintain current immigration enforcement levels. This results in an additional $315 billion in continuing enforcement costs over that time period.”

On top of that would be the broader economic impact of losing so many workers and consumers:

“Removing all undocumented immigrants would cause the labor force to shrink by 6.4 percent, which translates to a loss of 11 million workers. As a result, 20 years from now the economy would be nearly 6 percent or $1.6 trillion smaller than it would be if the government did not remove all undocumented immigrants. While this impact would be found throughout the economy, the agriculture, construction, retail and hospitality sectors would be especially strongly affected.”

Building and maintaining an ineffective border wall will waste tens of billions of dollars. Mass deportation will result in a smaller labor force, declining levels of consumer spending, and a diminished GDP. This is a recipe for economic catastrophe. And this is what the Trump/Cruz approach to immigration heralds for the United States.

What security personnel need to know about body armor

SafeGuard Armor: STEALTH™

Body armor should be considered a necessary piece of equipment for all Security Personnel. This is not only because of the dangers inherent to their occupation, but because of the myriad benefits a bullet proof vest for example can offer. Protective clothing is more accessible than ever before, and the protection it can provide is unparalleled. This is why it should be considered necessary for all Personnel. However, body armor is a very broad term, and understanding what exactly is available will help ensure the right protection is utilized.

What Protection Level Will You Need?

One of the most important things for any Security Operative to consider is the protection level they will need. Many do not realise that a bullet proof vest is not a ‘one size fits all’ item, and that they are graded according to the threats they can protect against. Ballistic protection is designated by an ‘NIJ Level’, which refers to the testing and standardization performed by the US National Institute of Justice. This institution is considered the world leader in ballistics testing, and it is important that any protective clothing meets their standards.

These NIJ Levels outline what ammunition a vest is capable of stopping; for example, a vest at NIJ Level IIa can protect against 9mm and .357 ammunition, whereas a vest at NIJ Level IV can stop 7.62x51mm NATO Armor-Piercing ammunition, as well as all ammunition listed at lower levels. It is important that the vest you wear is appropriate for the threats you will face; a low level vest will not be sufficient in a particularly hostile environment. Similarly, wearing a high level vest when the only likely threats are from handguns is inappropriate, and will only sap your energy and hinder your movement.

Deciding on the right level of protection can only be done if you understand what threats you are likely to face, as the increased protection levels will increase the weight and bulk of a vest. However, the materials used in a vest are as lightweight and flexible as possible, meaning that if a high level vest is necessary, you will still have a full range of movement and remain comfortable despite wearing additional rigid plates.

What Threats Will You Face?

Of course, bullet proof vests are not the instance of body armor. Being protected means staying safe no matter what the threats are, and while this doesn’t mean you should choose the highest level of protection, you should have a vest that protects you against the likely threats. In close quarters or areas where firearms are simply not available, this may mean edged and spiked weapons.

Many do not realise that a Kevlar vest cannot protect you against edged and spiked weapons. This is because while the soft fabric is incredibly strong, it can simply be cut by a weapon like a knife, penetrating easily. Similarly, a needle or screwdriver will pass through the minute gaps between the fibers, again rendering the vest useless. Therefore, protection against these weapons requires additional materials.

An edge resistant vest will still use the soft fabrics in a bullet proof vest, but with an additional layer of chainmail or plastic laminate that provides a tough surface to stop any edged weapons. Spiked weapons, however, can only be stopped by a tough and solid surface, and in order to keep vests as thin and light as possible, many spike proof vests uses layers of plastic laminate.

How Will You Wear Your Vest?

It is not enough to consider the protection level however, as no vest will protect you properly if it does not fit correctly. Similarly, just as unnecessary levels of protection will only hinder you, wearing the wrong style of vest will prevent you from performing correctly, negating the benefits of a vest. Therefore, you must consider what style of vest is most appropriate for your situation.

Body armor is available in both covert and overt styles, meaning it can be worn under or over clothing respectively. Each style has its own advantages and disadvantages and will be suitable for different environments. For example, a covert vest is perfect for Security Personnel who need to stay protected and discreet. By wearing a vest under clothing complete protection can still be attained, but in a style that emphasises discretion- or, rather, does not emphasise your vest.

On the other hand, there will be situations where it is beneficial for a Security Operative to display their authority. Some feel that the presence of a protective vest helps deter potential attackers and signals a professionalism that some clients find particularly beneficial. Therefore, an overt vest worn over clothing will be ideal in certain situations. Indeed, they can often form part of a uniform, with high-visibility coverings, logos and insignia added to a vest. 

Body armor has to be available to Security Professionals. While an attack may never happen to an Operative, the dangers inherent to the environments they work in means they should be prepared and protected. This is the only way they can feel confident enough in their own safety to perform in their roles. There are numerous options available in protective clothing, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages to certain situations. It is only by understanding the intricacies of body armor that a Security Operative can find the right protection and stay safe.

Using video intelligence to protect critical public infrastructure

Kimbry McClure , Hitachi

By Kimbry McClure

Solutions Architect, Office of CTO

Hitachi Data Systems Federal

Law enforcement and other entities charged with protecting national security are spending more time than ever planning and implementing security measures that ensure national security and improve public safety. This is for good reason: from the energy grid to sporting events to airports, security personnel know these venues are enticing targets for terrorist attacks due to the large amount of people and resources clustered together in one place.

In a world of heightened extremism, lone wolf attacks, and general global instability, it is not beyond imagination to foresee a scenario where a small team of terrorists seizes a U.S. airport. With the prospect of hostage taking and hijackings looming large, the response time for emergency personnel and law enforcement becomes critical. First responders must locate the terrorists and their hostages quickly to coordinate an effective response. This requires enhanced detection capabilities that can seamlessly distribute information to decision makers and emergency personnel to identify and respond to threats in real time. 

To stay a step ahead of attackers, security and emergency personnel need a common operational picture to communicate with civil and federal agency authorities.  This picture is not only essential in coordinating a rescue, but also in securing additional areas of the airport facility that the terrorists have yet to seize as well as collect evidence for both investigative and legal purposes. 

With many entities tasked with restoring airport security, organizations need the right technology to assist them.  An important tool emerging in security today is a video intelligence system that assists emergency responders and officials in reaching their security objectives. 

Not Your Old-School CC-TV Cameras

Many people imagine video surveillance cameras to be a single camera mounted on a wall pointing in a particular direction and transmitting video to a single television. In this scenario, multiple cameras in different locations within the same building work in isolation and only detect motion and images. 

Most people do not realize that video intelligence has evolved tremendously in recent years. Today’s video intelligence system consists of a wide range of disparate sensor data combined into a single portal. The integration of sensor data into one place is a critical development for law enforcement working in time sensitive situations. 

Back in our besieged airport, authorities do not have time to monitor separate video camera, alarm systems, GPS, and other audio, visual, and social media monitoring systems separately. Officials need data from these sensors to be organized in such a way that patterns can be quickly detected to ensure rapid decision-making.   

As law enforcement officials analyze the data received from multiple sensors, a video intelligence system triages the data received.  During the airport terrorist attack, law enforcement is able to discern that the screaming coming from an airport personnel-only hallway is more important to respond to than the traveling high school band playing their instruments in the airport concourse. First responders have the ability to triage behaviors because the video intelligence system has automated the monitoring process on a scale much larger than manpower can provide. 

Automating data collection, organization and storage gives law enforcement attempting to prevent or respond to a terrorist attack a more speedy, meticulous and effective overall security strategy. Authorities no longer have to allocate manpower to spending time searching and investigating each person who is in a facility.  Since different people present various behaviors, some that indicate a higher security risk than others, video intelligence systems flag these behaviors for law enforcement and give them the knowledge needed to make critical decisions. 

Overcoming the Unknown

Adding automation to data collection and analysis provides other benefits.  Criminals and terrorists are constantly changing their tactics. As a result, law enforcement does not always know the behavior profile to match the changing tactics. The integration of a video intelligence system provides law enforcement flexibility to quickly and easily input into the system new behaviors for the sensors to monitor.  Without unified data management, authorities would need to take more time and manpower to update the sensors on what new behaviors to track.  

Authorities may also face uncertainty over which agencies, groups and decision makers need access to which data points.  Today’s homeland security and emergency response strategies involve multiple agencies, organizations and decision makers. These groups require that data be shared in real-time to establish a common operating picture. The video intelligence system overcomes data sharing challenges by creating a single portal to store and view information. As a result, information can be shared with ease between various coordinating entities.

How to Implement a Modern Video Intelligence System

Many in government are concerned about how much value they will receive when implementing new technology systems.  The good news is a modern video intelligence system is not only effective, but also simple to implement. The system’s design focuses on an interface that is integrated into an organization’s current IT systems, including legacy IT.  Therefore, the video intelligence system is built based on customization and flexibility. Additionally, the video intelligence system includes sensors, compute power and on-board storage that can be installed and implemented rapidly. 

Deploying a video intelligence platform gives law enforcement a technological asset that keeps pace with terrorists and criminals today and in the future. By placing these tools under a single management layer, law enforcement can devote more resources to what truly matters: ensuring public safety. 

AJC issues new publication explaining Arab-Israeli conflict

David Harris, AJC

AJC today issued a new publication, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Brief Guide for the Perplexed, written by Executive Director David Harris. The 28-page pamphlet—also available as a pdf online—provides a clear and concise picture of Israel's ongoing struggle for peace and security in a tumultuous region that all too often has denied the very legitimacy of a Jewish state.

Harris, explaining the need for this publication, said, "Unfortunately, some in the media, certain political and intellectual circles, and a number of influential voices on campuses pay insufficient attention to the actual history of the conflict, minimize Arab rhetoric and deep-seated attitudes, and reflexively make Israel out to be the villain of the story. Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict is meant to provide historical and contemporary context to the subject in the hope of promoting a more objective understanding of the policy dilemmas, existential dangers, and obstacles to enduring peace that Israel faces."

The publication covers—among other things—the Jews' unbroken historical connection to the land; the emergence of Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish People; the refusal of the Arab world in 1948 to countenance a Jewish state in the region; the origins of the dual refugee problem—Palestinian and Jewish; the events that led to Israel's control over the West Bank and Golan Heights; the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan; the repeated reluctance of the Palestinian leadership to reach agreement with Israel on a two-state solution; and Israel's justified insistence on taking steps necessary to protect its citizens.

Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict can be ordered from AJC at www.ajc.org.

Continuous diagnostics and mitigation: Improving security through visibility

Wallace Sann, ForeScout

By Wallace Sann, public sector Chief Technology Officer, ForeScout Technologies, Inc.

The number of cyber incidents reported by federal agencies to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has risen sharply over the last decade, from 5,500 in fiscal 2006 to more than 67,000 in fiscal 2014. But the significance of these incidents goes far beyond their numbers. The data put at risk in government breaches includes, but is not limited to, classified national security intelligence, key US infrastructure information and sensitive personal information. Recent breaches at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Office of Personnel Management exposed data on millions of taxpayers as well as tens of millions of current and former federal employees and their families. These incidents not only create national security risks and enable wholesale identity theft, but they can also end the careers of those responsible for security.

The potential exists for a perfect storm. Governmental staff members struggle to maintain increasingly complex IT systems as cyberattacks are becoming cheaper and easier to perform, while our cyber adversaries remain highly motivated, sophisticated and well-funded. Federal Chief Information Officers (CIOs), Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and IT administrators now are working to get ahead of these threats to ensure our national security and to protect the privacy of citizens.

Continuous monitoring and mitigation (CMM) has emerged as the primary vehicle for meeting this goal of privacy protection. The ability to make IT networks, endpoints and applications visible; to identify malicious activity; and to respond immediately is critical to defending federal information systems and networks.

The Evolving Response

The government’s response to cyber threats has been laid out in legislation via the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, or FISMA. In the Department of Defense (DoD), the Defense Information Systems Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command have initiated the Command Cyber Readiness Inspection, or CCRI, program. This program is a comprehensive review of DoD cybersecurity posture for both classified and unclassified information systems, and agencies are using the Comply to Connect initiative, remotely scanning and remediating devices connecting to .mil networks to ensure they are in compliance with security requirements.

The CCRI assessments evaluate all aspects of network security and information assurance programs, including all endpoints connecting either directly or through wireless access. Failure to meet CCRI requirements can result in a network being disconnected from the DoD’s Global Information Grid.

Civilian legislators and regulators have recognized that laws and mandates cannot keep pace with fast-changing technology. Legislation such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and FISMA set out broad, technology-neutral goals for agencies, and requirements for compliance are based on agency needs and the threats they face. This means technical specifications continue to evolve.

As the limitations of reactive, perimeter-based security have become apparent, civilian requirements have followed the lead of DoD, shifting their focus from checklist compliance to effectively measuring cybersecurity. FISMA guidance from the Office of Management and Budget has moved from periodic assessment of static security controls to continuous monitoring of IT resources and activities. This can ensure not only that required controls are in place, but also that the IT environment is being effectively defended. The culmination of this shift is the Department of Homeland Security’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation, or CDM, program.

The CDM enables better real-time visibility of all IT networks and systems. It provides off-the-shelf technology to help agencies in the .gov domain perform continuous assessments of status, threats and activity. The program specifies 15 monitoring capabilities, which can be either performed by agency sensors or provided as a service.

Phase 1 of the CDM program went into effect in 2013 and focused on endpoint security; phase 2, called Least Privilege and Infrastructure Integrity, began in 2014 and focuses on identity and access management and puts a premium on an agency’s ability to see and respond to network activity.

No one product provides complete CDM capability by itself. The key to achieving the goals of the program is the ability to take full advantage of the various security products already deployed in the network.

Leveraging Existing Security Infrastructure

Agencies have already invested in security products to provide defense that is in-depth for their networks. Unfortunately, these products often fall short of their promised value because they operate independently, cannot adequately discover assets they are supposed to protect and do not collaborate. They can provide periodic assessments, logging and alerts, but when working on their own, they do not provide the context, real-time monitoring, information sharing and automated response needed to meet modern security requirements.

Agencies can take full advantage of their installed security infrastructure by implementing a set of network, security and management interoperability technologies that enable information sharing between different security products and management systems. Agencies should look for technology that supports a broad range of third-party networking and security hardware and software, interoperating with many popular vendors and working in a variety of network environments. This not only creates visibility, but also enables automated incident response and mitigation, leveraging existing security investments to achieve continuous diagnostics and mitigation.

By sharing contextual information from various IT security and management products, an architecture of this type helps solve the problem of standalone systems and information silos. It also extends real-time control and automated remediation capabilities to IT systems that before had been limited to collecting, generating, analyzing or storing information without making it actionable.

This set-up not only enforces policies to allow DoD and civilian systems to remain compliant and secure, it also provides operational intelligence and policy-based mitigation. This allows agencies to move beyond mere regulatory compliance and ensure that systems actually are secured.

Adding a Security Platform

Successfully completing a security audit or meeting ongoing regulatory requirements for continuous monitoring requires more than having security products in place. It requires the proper security policy, a trained staff to implement that policy and the technology to bring the products together.

The benefit of a policy-based security platform is that it leverages these elements to help automate regulatory compliance tasks while providing real-time security. It generates high-level compliance reports for C-level officials and frees IT staffers so they can focus on mission-critical activities rather than responding to routine security alerts. The result is proactive rather than reactive security, which reduces costs through common task automation.

A Matter of National Security

Each day, government agencies process vast amounts of information that is vital to national security and sensitive personal information on millions of employees, contractors and taxpayers. The consequences of loss of or unauthorized access to this data can range from identity theft to loss of public confidence and economic or political turmoil. As recent incidents in both the government and private sectors have demonstrated, executives are being held accountable for breaches and a lack of adequate IT security, and response can quickly derail or even end a career.

Both civilian and defense IT organizations must safeguard their information as well as the networks and systems housing it. At the same time, this information must be readily available to those with legitimate needs for it. Federal IT organizations must maintain compliance not only with accepted industry best practices for information security, but also with government regulations and guidelines for continuous monitoring. 

About the Author:

Wallace Sann joined ForeScout Technologies in 2006 and currently serves as ForeScout's Public Sector CTO and Regional VP of Systems Engineering. In this role he provides technical leadership for ForeScout's Public Sector programs and Product & Certification roadmap, while also overseeing the Public Sector Systems Engineering team.  He participates in numerous industry panels and speaking engagements on continuous monitoring, visibility, access control and automation.  Prior to joining ForeScout Technologies, Mr. Sann worked in various capacities with the D.C. Government, Dept. of Interior and Dept. of Homeland Security.  He spent the first 6 years of his career as a Communications Electronics Chief in the United States Marine Corps. Mr. Sann has a B.S. in Information Assurance from the University of Maryland University College.

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