Stevens experts issue report on gaps in NY/NJ port security


Major study goes beyond 9/11 Commission to stress networked operations

HOBOKEN, N.J. "When the FBI named the stretch of land between Port Newark and Newark Liberty Airport as the two most dangerous miles in America, the urgency to improve port security in the New York and New Jersey region became undeniably clear," says Jerry MacArthur Hultin, Dean of the Howe School of Technology Management at Stevens Institute of Technology, and formerly Under Secretary of the Navy. "The time to act is now, before terrorists mount an attack on a major port in the United States."

Fortunately, when the FBI released their statement in May 2004, Stevens Institute was already well under way on a major study of how to improve port security and reduce the terrorist threat. "Based on network-centric principles that served the US military extremely well," says Hultin, the Principal Investigator for the project, "our study makes 10 practical and powerful recommendations which, when implemented, will go a long way in making life safer both here and in ports across the nation."

The report, to be released via the Internet Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. EST, is titled Securing the Port of New York and New Jersey: Network-centric Operations Applied to the Campaign against Terrorism. The research was funded by a major private foundation and is based in large on two high-level workshops at Stevens that assembled more than 60 leaders from business, government and academia in November 2003 and March 2004. The study finds that while considerable progress has been and is continuing to be made, the port and the region are still very vulnerable. However, the researchers affirm, there can be a significant improvement in the efficiency of detecting future threats and the effectiveness of response.

The report uses the concept of "network-centric operations," a strategic concept developed by the US military to increase attack-response and battlefield efficiency, as one pillar of a prescriptive construct. The report contains eight papers that provide analysis of the threat, the current organization and preparedness to respond and prevent attack, network-centric operations, information architecture, overcoming the cultural and bureaucratic barriers, and metrics for assessing progress.

New York City is critical to financial and economic vitality at home and abroad. The financial district, embodied in the Twin Towers that distinguished the New York skyline, was ground zero for the horror of September 11, 2001, a searing event that brought home with live and unforgettable images the absolute need for better security and response to future terrorist attacks. Indeed, that psychological trauma probably has catalyzed those concerned with the security of the Port of New York and New Jersey and the majority of residents to the urgency for action to a far greater degree than in any other region in the United States. "Federal, state and local agencies are working to introduce certain aspects of network-centric solutions," said Hultin. "However, there is a continued absence of national and regional 'architectures' linking federal, state, local and city agencies and offices charged with security responsibilities, and an absence of integrated processes among these organizations."

"Many other challenges remain," he continued, "which can be overcome by the fast implementation of proven methods of network-centric operations. These are solutions that can be put in place without a tremendous burden on Federal or state budgets. Specific omissions include the lack of well-coordinated, integrated plans for prevention and response to attacks; no electronic or cyber 'backbone' linking these many organizations with secure, reliable and redundant communications; and an absence of effective means of responding to multiple events. Even with such deficiencies, New York and New Jersey appear to be better prepared for future catastrophes than many other port complexes in the United States. This makes the region a perfect test-case for network-centric solutions."

Working with Dean Hultin, who was Under Secretary of the Navy under President Clinton, were Dr. Michael Pennotti, an Industry Professor at Stevens' Schaefer School of Engineering and Co-Prinicpal Investigator; Dr. Harlan Ullman, a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Howe School; and Ms. Leslie A. Stevens, Director at the Howe School and Study Director for the research project.

"Port security is a regional problem that does not end at the water's edge," said Ms. Stevens. "Throughout this report, the port is viewed as a complex system that encompasses the physical attributes of the port as well as the related transportation, economic, social and governmental aspects that relate to and which depend upon the maritime aspects of the port."

"Most importantly," said Dr. Pennotti, "the project examined means to deter, prevent, and respond to terror-based attacks by improving command, control, integration and coordination of assets using the Department of Defense concept of network-centric warfare that is, turning data and information into actionable decisions quickly and effectively. We strongly recommend establishing a 'testbed' in the Port Authority to develop an architecture for the region, along with a 'communications' backbone including system/software capability that will put these aims into practical and usable applications for further testing and evaluation."

The Port of New York and New Jersey is unique in the United States and the world: While there are larger ports, none brings together such an amalgam of diverse, sometimes competing, complex, economically intertwined and jurisdictionally challenged interests as does this facility and region.

"The states of New York and New Jersey are not the only states involved," said Dr. Ullman, a columnist and frequent commentator on national television. "Access by sea in and around Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean mean Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are also stakeholders in securing and safeguarding this region. Access by air and land makes Pennsylvania part of the solution to the security issue, along with the many Federal agencies, departments and services stationed in and around the area or with responsibilities for defense and security. The combined population within a 50-mile radius of the port is over 40 million." "The most ambitious and long-term aim of this project and report is to argue for a regional template for protection, defense and response to an attack on ports and their surrounding infrastructure and region," said Stevens. "Yet, the nation is only in the early stages of providing for strong, coordinated, and effective port security. The Department of Homeland Security has drafted a national response plan. But there is still no national architecture in place to link and integrate security assets at the federal, state and local levels. And there are no organized and efficient means of linking the commercial and private sectors whose members are the principal users of the port with governmental decision makers."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on All rights reserved.