President Mark Tinker was invited to contribute perspective and knowledge to the March issue of Government Security News. Below is an excerpt from the article.
Exploiting modularity for effective border security
Perimeter security and border security are rapidly converging. What were once two very different schools of thought are now, in today’s threat climate , more similar than ever.
Throughout history, the U.S. has leveraged the fact that it shares only two land borders on a continent surrounded by three oceans. The advent of rocketry made the world a bit flatter, in that threats of significant consequence could rapidly penetrate our borders. In a sense, border security at that point in time was dominated by reducing reaction time to incoming ICBMs and adopting the strategy of mutual assured destruction.
Today, in the post-9/11 era, the threat profile has expanded and intensified. Now, threats range from the nightmare spectrum of smuggled weapons of mass destruction to drugs. Furthermore, our geographic isolation is no longer a leverage point, as the threats are not only knocking on, but walking through our proverbial front door everyday utilizing land (tunnels, vehicles, pedestrians), air (ultra-lights), and water (boats and shallow submersibles) as delivery mechanisms. The result is that our national border has taken on the characteristics of an extremely large perimeter, requiring perimeter-style solutions for security.
As for all perimeters, there is no onesize-fits-all solution. Perimeter security solutions are tailored to the asset they protect and the local environment. Similarly, securing our borders will require the proper implementation of the human, physical and technological resources necessary to effectively secure each localized section of the border.
But, there must also be an “irregular warfare” component of any border security solution that quickly adapts and reacts to changes in the threat profile. Thus, system requirements will vary significantly in space and time along the border of a country as large as the U.S. The good news is, today’s technology allows for easy integration of modern and future security components.
One essential technology that can serve both the permanent and adaptive missions on our nation’s perimeter applies landbased, unattended seismo-acoustic ground sensors. These sensor systems have recently experienced significant leaps forward in performance.
Since Operation Igloo White during the Vietnam War, seismo-acoustic sensor systems have been evolving with technology. These unattended ground sensors, known as UGS, have the advantage of being versatile, relatively inexpensive, not requiring line of sight to their targets, able to look in all directions, all the time, and mostly, if not completely, invisible. They are useful for applications in many environments, and are limited principally by their detection ranges and false alarm performance. Most improvements have capitalized on advancements in power, communication and computing. However, until recently, the sensor itself has largely remained unchanged as an inertial (mass on a spring) system that was not specifically designed for tactical threat monitoring, but for petro-energy exploration.
Next generation seismo-acoustic unattended ground sensor systems maintain all of their past benefits, and now are capable of much more. In addition to being able to automatically classify targets in the air, on or under the earth, and on or in the water — and to do so from very significant ranges — they are also able to determine bearings to their targets. In fact, a small buried sensor array can detect, follow and classify multiple targets at the same time, do so automatically, and if necessary cue other system elements (sensors, cameras, aerostats and UAVs) or command centers and/or operators for appropriate actions. This new sensing capability leverages advancements in computational power and advanced signal processing.
For the perimeter of any fixed asset, the security solution will be the integration of modular components, with security element selection driven by the nature of the environment at each perimeter point, whether it is a gate, a frontage road, dense woods, open desert, a rock cliff or something else. Similarly, border protection will be most effective if designed and implemented with a modular approach, which leverages rapidly evolving technology markets tuned to the shifting natural environment and threat profile characteristics associated with each point along our nation’s perimeter.