Israel plays key role in global homeland security business

More than three years after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, homeland security has become a burgeoning industry. Dan Inbar, chairman of an Israeli research and consultancy firm, Homeland Security Research Corporation, estimates that in the next 15 years the worldwide turnover of the industry will reach US$200 billion.

The security industry faces many challenges over the coming years. New technologies, new systems and new strategies will evolve to provide a proper response to an increasingly sophisticated terrorist threat. The answer to the need for maximum security lies in the integration of technologies. For example, perimeter protection systems need surveillance technologies such as CCTV. Shlomo Nir, chief executive officer of Controp Precision Technologies, maintains that "the ability to quickly identify a potential threat is vital to prevent it from becoming a real threat".

Speaking at a homeland security conference held in Tel Aviv in December 2004, Barry Bogage, executive director of the Maryland/Israel Development Centre, said: "We sent over Maryland’s top eight homeland security officials to Israel this summer to examine homeland security technologies, techniques and whatever else we could learn. We want to see what is being used in Israel and what is being developed." Among the officials dispatched was the chief security officer at a port complex, who showed an interest in technology that examines shipping containers to detect explosive devices. The Maryland police showed an interest in bomb detection techniques and how suicide bombers are profiled.

The Maryland/Israel Development Centre is a partnership between the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and Israel’s Ministry of Industry and Trade. Due to its direct proximity to Washington, DC, Maryland has suffered from several terrorist attacks — in particular the 11 September attack on the Pentagon. Israel, with its extensive experience in fighting terror, is regarded as a key player in the growing market for security equipment. The Globes newspaper, Israel’s equivalent of the UK’s Financial Times, estimates that more than 200 companies — mainly start-ups — are active in the security equipment field.

Homeland security products include skyscraper rescue platforms; cellphone tracking devices; rescue systems; transport security; chemical detection; and scanners to check containers for explosives. Among Israeli successes in selling to the US market is Nice Systems, based near Tel Aviv, which sold its Smart Video Solutions to help protect the Statue of Liberty. Also, the Federal Bureau of Investigation purchased an information analysis engine developed by ClearForest, which is also based in the greater Tel Aviv area.

Controp Precision Technologies Ltd, manufacturers of surveillance cameras, is among the Israeli companies that have won contracts in the US and were singled out for special mention at a recent meeting of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Controp’s cameras are used in the US Army’s high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (Humvees) for protecting US forces in Afghanistan.

Controp is a privately owned company that specialises in the development and production of electro-optical and precision motion control systems, not only for combat but also for homeland security. Controp products were used as part of the security operation at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and its surveillance systems are also used by the US Army and US Navy.

Several Israeli companies have been instrumental in acting as brokers for US companies wishing to do business in Israel. One of these is the Trendlines Group, a marketing consultancy and business development firm formed in the US more than 25 years ago and now operating in Israel. Among their clients is Israel Aircraft Industries, which is Israel’s biggest exporter of homeland security equipment. Trendlines’ main focus is helping clients in the US market to identify, qualify and negotiate with strategic partners.

Trendlines has been involved in homeland security for a number of years. It also represents several US organisations in Israel, including the State of Maryland. Todd Dollinger, managing director of Trendlines, explains that his company helps companies based in Maryland to locate customers in Israel, as well as assisting Israeli businesses to find investors and strategic partners in Maryland.

Dollinger explained that the main drive behind Israel purchasing from the US is the US$2 billion dollars a year in state aid that Israel receives from the US. However, a very large percentage of this subsidy is actually spent in the US. What draws US companies to buy in Israel? Dollinger comments humorously that Israel was known as the ‘Land of Milk and Honey’ but has since become known as a "land of very advanced technologies".

The Washington-based Commonwealth Group Ltd is a government relations and corporate consulting firm that represents companies around the world (including in Israel) that are interested in obtaining a share of the US homeland security market. Christopher T Cushing, president of the Commonwealth Group, says that a large percentage of this business comes from sources other than the DHS, including the Department of Energy and the Department of Justice. He adds that there is a strong interest in, and a positive bias towards, Israeli technology.

A further US$25 million has been earmarked for the establishment of co-operative programmes between the UK and Israeli governments for the development of advanced technologies and prototype equipment for combating terrorism. Under the agreement, the two governments will equally share the funding of anti-terrorism research and development (R&D).

US-Israel co-operation on airport security

Another interesting aspect of inter-government co-operation between the US and Israel is in the field of airport security. The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) referred to Israel specifically in a statement that revealed Logan International Airport as the first US airport to enhance security with an innovative behaviour pattern recognition (BPR) programme based on 30 years of Israeli airport experience. Massport, which owns and operates Logan, has trained members of the Massachusetts State Police to identify hostile intent by observing and interviewing passengers and others in the airport’s terminals, roads and parking garages. This represents the first time that the Israeli airport security model has been adapted for a US airport environment.

Logan has also integrated a scheme, unique among US airports, that places an emphasis on monitoring suspicious people. After the 11 September attacks, Logan hired Israeli security expert Rafi Ron, president of Washington-based New Age Security Solutions, to draw up a new security programme. The most innovative — and controversial in some people’s eyes — aspect of this programme was the training of Logan’s police force in BPR skills and in identifying suspicious mannerisms.

An additional factor that will greatly facilitate mutual trade in the homeland security field between Israel and the US is the continuing co-operation between the standards institutes of the two countries. The Israel Standards Institution (SII) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have been working together to set a joint US-Israeli standard for homeland security.

Such a standard would allow US industry to ease into the Israeli market, because the standard would be identical and would facilitate co-operation between US and Israeli companies in the development of new products.

Collaboration between government and industry in Israel exists at several levels and mainly comprises financial assistance from the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Participants receive a grant of 66 per cent of the R&D costs from the government. Support is in accordance with the ability of the companies to implement their results in the marketplace.

On another level, Eran Sela of the Security & Safety and Aerospace Division at the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute explained that the government is one of the biggest end-users of homeland security products. The Israel Export Institute, partly state-owned and partly privately owned, is the main organisation facilitating trade opportunities, joint ventures and strategic alliances between international businesses and Israeli companies. The Israeli government defines the needs for special projects such as locating suicide bombers. It also provides special funding to companies for R&D for that purpose and thus becomes a client of this technology. Homeland security is basically a spin-off of military technology that has been supplied to the Israeli armed forces. The companies involved in the defence arena are also involved in homeland security.

Another example of co-operation is the extent to which Tel Aviv promotes Israeli homeland security companies worldwide; for example, by assisting in trade shows and hosting delegations to Israel. The government has provided support to at least 65 per cent of these companies, large or small.

Magnet, a programme for financing R&D, defines a unique market area in homeland security and puts together several companies into a consortium. An example is US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US VISIT), a major programme to track foreign visitors entering and leaving the US via air, land and sea ports of entry. Through Magnet, the Israeli government selects companies offering specific technology needed for this operation and assists them financially.

The intimate relationship between government and local industry in Israel is unique due to the high level of security threats facing this country. The basic framework of this relationship, whereby the government assists industry in financing R&D, could be emulated in other countries. As other governments face mounting security threats, it would be a natural step for them to follow Israel’s example and increase public security as a result.

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

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