Boeing Frontiers
June 2003
Volume 02, Issue 02
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Cover Story

An IDS unit's vision: Turn data into knowledge to help safeguard a nation

a passenger prepares his bags for explosives examinationIn its short life, Homeland Security and Services' crowning achievement has been to fulfill a major airport security contract issued by the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration. That mid-2002 contract called for a Boeing-Siemens team to install electronic detection and imaging equipment in more than 400 U.S. airports and to train more than 25,000 Transportation Security Administration employees.

Oh, and by the way, those tasks had to be completed in about seven months.

Executives at Homeland Security and Services, a division of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, see this systems-installation work as an initial step in incorporating network-centric operations into national-security measures. The connection between explosives detection systems and connectivity might not seem apparent. But the activities and goals of Homeland Security and Services mesh with Boeing's plans to provide customers with network-centric solutions that open new areas of business potential—and support and grow the company's traditional platform-based programs.

"Our mission is to turn data into knowledge, and get the right information to the right person at the right time," said Rick Stephens, vice president and general manager of Homeland Security and Services.

So what exactly do explosives detection systems have to do with network-centric operations?

Stephens said HS&S views the EDS installation contract as proof that Boeing can flawlessly execute large-scale systems integration programs. The explosives detection systems now screen each piece of baggage checked on a U.S. flight—a tally that averages 1.6 million each day—without delaying flights that carry an average of 1 million passengers daily.

"We did something that a lot of people said wasn't possible," he said.

And certainly, in the post–Sept. 11 era, efforts that improve air travel security help the airline customers of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The top priority of the Boeing-Siemens team was to restore confidence among the traveling public in the commercial aviation system. Strengthening air transportation security supports air travel growth, which boosts airlines and BCA.

The next step for HS&S, Stephens said, is to connect data from the airport screening devices with other information so potential security threats can be identified and addressed without impeding the flow of traffic.

"The EDS contract was about installation," Stephens said. "Now our challenge is, with our aviation industry secure, it can be made more so if you tie in information from the EDS machines with passenger information to determine which bags and passengers require further screening. What you want to do is to move haystacks to find needles. You don't want to stop every person at an airport and create an environment that stifles people and commerce. But you want to stop those who might be 'needles in the haystack.'"

Ultimately, HS&S envisions further strengthening homeland security by connecting air traveler data with information from other transportation methods. Each year, 11 million trucks and 2.2 million rail cars cross the United States from Canada and Mexico, and more than 10 million sea containers arrive by boat. That creates numerous opportunities for potential security threats.

"The challenge that the Department of Homeland Security has is how do they sift through the millions of transactions that occur every day and determine what to worry about and what not to worry about," Stephens said. "But by taking information about airports, trucks, rail, ships and seaports, and creating a common situational awareness so you know what's happening around you, patterns can be detected and issues can be identified—that's a good thing."

This capability involves coordinating data from various sources, and integrating hardware that collects the information, equipment that disseminates it and software that stores it and "connect the dots." Boeing may not claim to have the expertise in manufacturing components of detection equipment as L-3 or InVision do, nor does it claim to specialize in hardware manufacturing or database deployment that competes with the likes of Cisco, Oracle or IBM. What Boeing does have is an expertise in large-scale systems integration. That skill, one of the core competencies of Boeing, enables HS&S to pull together these elements. Stephens said he sees Boeing not only being better equipped to bring to market the skills that exist within the company, but also using innovation that draws on the best of the best from industry, academia, and the government. "We're not bashful about reaching across our business units," Stephens said. "We had to reach out to them to deliver the EDS program. This is a large-scale systems business because we're talking about how to provide information to ensure the security of the United States, as well as providing the tools to do so."

—Junu Kim


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