Israel and US seek sleeker homeland security solutions

In the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US and subsequent terror-related events around the world, the most urgent task confronting the US and allied governments was the need to develop integrated security management systems for dealing with homeland security.

With this in mind, a joint US-Israel foundation, the US-Israel Science and Technology Foundation (USISTF), invited Israeli and US companies to submit applications for a pilot project to test and demonstrate an integrated security management system for use in homeland security.

The invitation was followed by a meeting in Washington, DC on 10 March 2004, at which environmental and security managers from the US and Israel discussed collaboration and pilot programme studies on environmental and security management systems. The meeting was hosted by the USISTF.

A wide range of major institutes and companies from the private and public sectors in Israel participated, including the Standards Institution of Israel (SII) and the Israeli environment ministry. The Israelis met representatives of leading organisations in the US, including the White House Office of the Federal Environmental Executive and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, as well as the various standards bureaux and their umbrella organisation, the American National Standards Institute.

The purpose of the Israeli-US project is to develop a comprehensive system that takes into account every factor related to security threats to all types of large facilities in the two countries.

A demonstration study of the combined quality/environmental/safety/security management systems approach will be conducted using pilot case studies in Israel and the US. The objective will be to attain a significant, documented and measurable security and response improvement at a facility. This high security risk facility could be a post office, hospital, laboratory, refinery, port or other place where people congregate and where hazardous materials may be found.

The pilot case studies will be result in a set of guidelines and tools for the wide-ranging implementation of integrated security management systems across industry, business and in the public sector. By the end of the project, it is hoped that enough data will be generated to provide public and private authorities at installations around the US and Israel with guidelines on tightening security at strategic facilities.

"The meeting took place just at the right time," says Michael Wolf, director of SII's standardisation division. "I went into the meeting sceptical about the possible success of this type of meeting and came out with a feeling that this could be an important project for US and Israeli companies."

Israel has considerable experience in systems integration for security. The US has not been confronted with this issue in the same way until recently; its relative inexperience provides an ideal area for collaboration between the two countries. Wolf explained that the US is seriously concerned about homeland security and how to manage security within organisations and companies.

Co-operation is being conducted through the US-Israel Science and Technology Commission (USISTC) and its sister body, the USISTF. The latter's mission is to fund projects that will establish broad-based guidelines for security enhancement through the application of a management systems approach. It wants to use the ISO (International Standards Organisation) 14001 environmental standard as a model for a management system for homeland security. The ISO 14001 standard lists the requirements for an environmental management system and it applies to those aspects over which the organisation has control.

The common factor in both systems is the idea of prevention. An environmental management system relies heavily on modifying processes and procedures to minimise the generation of pollution. The philosophy is similar for security. The processes and procedures are modified in order to minimise the risk of a potential attack.

The USISTC sets the objectives for the USISTF's policy and programme in such areas as biotechnology and telecommunications, as well as homeland security.

The USISTF is a non-profit foundation based in Washington, DC and is the implementing body that disperses the funding for the programmes. The two bodies were established by the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and US President Bill Clinton to promote co-operation in high-technology between the two countries.

"We have initiated a programme where we are adapting to homeland security the models that were set for management systems approaches for quality assurance and environmental management systems," says Dr Marc Siegel, programme director at the USISTF. "There is a series of management standards and they are written in the same way so that they are compatible". Dr Siegel is a licensed environmental management system officer.

Siegel adds that a new safety and emergency preparedness standard has been established, which, in common with the environmental standard, works on the 'plan-do-act-check' model. The concept is intended to establish a system of steps that should be taken in order to analyse the risk and vulnerabilities; prioritise them; develop a plan of how they should be dealt with; and formulate emergency plans and education schemes for the employees in the organisation.

The USISTF has asked US and Israeli teams to submit joint applications for funding. The successful applicants will work together in designated teams and will also establish a test site where they will display their concepts. The groups that qualify for funding will be expected to compare notes and guidelines.

Funding applicants need to identify pilot sites and preference will be given to studies that take place in parallel in the US and Israel (for example, a joint project between one or more US and Israeli ports or between one or more Israeli hospitals). The desired result will be a significant, documented and measurable security and response improvement at high-risk public and private facilities.

The USISTF has established four working groups that are using the existing standards for quality, environment, and safety and emergency preparedness. These groups are drafting guidelines to be given to the successful applicants as a starting point for their projects. The working groups will also monitor the progress of the pilot schemes, develop a final version of a security standard and develop guidelines on how the standard should be implemented.

By the end of the programme, the US and Israeli participants hope that enough data will be generated to provide guidelines to public and private facilities in both countries, so that any new methods can be implemented and facilities made more secure. The next step would be to go to the ISO and develop a standard for security. Israel and the US would gain an advantage by setting a joint standard; the project has already generated a high level of collaboration between the two countries and has brought together the US and Israeli communities that have to deal with these issues.

The project is in its initial stage - the hope is that setting a joint standard in security will be as successful as it has been in the environmental area, where companies that have gone through this exercise have been able to make their plants or facilities more efficient and profitable. For example, the Israel Air Force went through the ISO 14001 process for environmental management and was able to increase the efficiency of its operations.

So far, considerable progress has been reported. One of the working groups met in Israel in August 2004 to complete the drafting of a security standard; also, guidelines were finalised to enable the pilot schemes to start working. This standard will be used as an initial benchmark for the pilot schemes. Agreements have been finalised with four hospitals - two in Israel and two in the US - and an additional joint pilot has been agreed between a petroleum facility in Israel and a similar facility in the US.

By the end of January 2005, pilot projects in the US (at two major hospitals in New York and Baltimore) were underway and preliminary assessments made. As soon as these pilots have been completed, in-house projects will take place at seaports, airports and commercial facilities such as skyscrapers and shopping centres. "Progress is rapid," reports Dr Siegel. "The pilot projects have been well received at the locations where they are being conducted, and the participants are pleased with the results so far."

Joe Charlaff is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem focusing on homeland security issues

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