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Area Colleges Answer Call for Security Innovations

Area Colleges Answer Call for Security Innovations

Excerpted from the 7/5/2002 edition of the Potomac Tech Journal on-line

By Tania Anderson

Area universities are setting out to develop technology solutions for homeland security through new tech-based projects or by re-focusing current research into anti-terrorism.

The projects — many of which were under way before Sept. 11, but are now getting more attention — range from developing a broadband communications system for emergency response efforts to detection of biological weapons.

University officials say they feel a civic duty to contribute to the homeland security effort, but they concede that the best way to get federal research dollars is to focus on technological and scientific solutions that fit into homeland security.

“Because of the events of 9/11, we recognize that research problems relevant to national security are receiving more funding,” said Nariman Farvardin, dean of the Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. “Researchers are more alert [to the idea] that upcoming research funding opportunities are going to be more focused on national security.”

Soon after the attacks last fall, Maryland’s top researchers and educators formed a council in an attempt to understand all the university’s research activities and programs that related to counter-terrorism.

The council discovered that the university had a unique technical expertise in building safety and fire protection devices, and also information security, biological weapons and emergency communications systems. In addition, the school launched a study of harbor and ship safety related to detonation calculations.

“The total amount of money for research is increasing, but the number of researchers is not,” Farvardin said. “We will begin to see that acquiring research funding, so long as you’re in the right area, is becoming even easier than before.”

The new Office of Homeland Security, which is expected to become a $37 billion cabinet-level department by the beginning of next year, may allocate only a small amount of its budget for research grants. The American Association for the Advancement of Science predicted this week that the R&D budget would be only $2.3 billion.

The National Academies, which advise the government on scientific and technical matters, also released a report this week urging the federal government to take advantage of scientific and engineering strengths to detect and respond to terrorist attacks.

Some of the report’s research recommendations called for advances in biology and medicine to fight pathogens, new approaches for making intelligent electric-power grids, and new data-mining and data fusion technology.

July 5, 2002

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