Engineering Inc. - May/June 2007 - (Page 6)

market watch Security of Nation’s Infrastructure Depends on Engineering Expertise By Joe Salimando W hile the U.S. has gone to war and spent billions of dollars fighting terrorism, more quietly the nation is also spending tens of billions annually at home to protect our critical infrastructure. Over the past five years, the U.S. government’s budget authority for homeland security increased by 49 percent (see Figure 1), and from all indications we can expect to see more spending. Preventing Dirty Bombs Almost anything fits under the rubric “homeland security” in 2007. Think about the 500 worst things a terrorist group could do with enough time, determination, money and evil intent. Now, try to protect against it. That, in a nutshell, is the intent of homeland security. Figure 1 A March 12 article in The New Yorker dealt with what might be our worst shared nightmare—nuclear terrorism. Think about this: n “In the U.S., there are now about 54,000 licensed batches of radioactive materials that can be used in a dirty bomb, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” n “Radiation detectors currently screen about 90 percent of cargo entering the United States from Canada and Mexico, as well as a similar percentage of cars and trucks.” n “America’s radiation-sensing system is, at least for now, detecting radioactive briefcase clasps, manhole covers and chafing dishes.” Here’s just one example why engineering expertise—and inspiration—will desperately be needed to design solutions that actually work. The magazine’s article talked about a proposal to install radiation detectors on bridges and tunnels into New York City. More than 300,000 vehicles use the George Washington Bridge alone each day. But the article cautions, “Without an efficient way to process radiation alerts, a single convoy of banana trucks could jam up traffic for hours.” Banana trucks? Yes. Currently, gas escaping bananas sets off some radiation detectors. Threats Abound Department of Homeland Security Budget 49% Growth in Total Budget Authority from FY 2003 to FY 2008 (billions of dollars) $50.00 45.00 40.00 35.00 30.00 25.00 20.00 15.00 10.00 5.00 0.00 $46.4 $38.4 $35.8 $31.1 $40.4 $42.8 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Fiscal Years 2008 President’s Budget Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security presentation to the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, Feb. 9, 2007 Homeland security nightmares extend beyond “dirty” nuclear explosions in major cities. Consider: n Terrorists have blown up trains in Europe. Meanwhile, passenger and freight trains enter and leave every major American city almost on the hour. n Terrorists have attacked ships—remember the USS Cole. Now consider the list of U.S. cities with a coastline and a port. n In a recent congressional committee hearing, a federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official said his agency had not neglected rail and masstransit security in favor of aviation security. Giving TSA a break, is it realistic to expect anyone to do all three perfectly? n “Cyber defense” and disruptions to the phone/data system also are concerns, evidenced by the fact that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a dedicated assistant secretary for Cyber Security and Telecommunications. n Border security also is a concern, as the thought of terrorists literally walking dirty bombs across U.S. borders doesn’t appear far-fetched. n Remember that the largest terrorist attack here before Sept. 11—in Oklahoma City and by a U.S. citizen— featured something really easy to obtain: a truckload of fertilizer. A large proportion of U.S. commerce moves over a handful of bridges and through a small number of airports. AdditionAdditional Resources The Civitas Group LLC Homeland Security Research House Committee on Homeland Security HSToday Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Government Affairs U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Homeland Defense Journal www.homelanddefense  eNGINeerING INc. maY / JUNe 2007

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Engineering Inc. - May/June 2007

Table of Contents
From ACEC to You
News & Notes
Market Watch
Legislative Ac tion
Interview with Congressman James Oberstar
Port Security
Water: Managing our Precious Commodity
Engineering Excellence Awards
“Smart” Concrete
Business Insights
Members in the News
One on One

Engineering Inc. - May/June 2007