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First Plenary Meeting of the ANSI Homeland Security Standards Panel

New York, Jun 17, 2003

Nearly 200 professionals, experts and creative minds from the standards and conformity assessment community gathered for the first plenary meeting of the American National Standards Institute Homeland Security Standards Panel (ANSI-HSSP), June 9-10, 2003. The two-day meeting was hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD.

In his welcoming remarks, NIST Director Dr. Arden Bement emphasized the need for a comprehensive, consolidated program to develop a “standards infrastructure” able to serve the needs of the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “Both government agencies and the private sector have important roles to play in developing this infrastructure.” Dr. Bement added that NIST was pleased to be asked to collaborate with ANSI “to facilitate coordination and interoperability among the many homeland security standards solutions being proposed.”

ANSI chairman Dr. George Arnold emphasized the inclusive nature of the ANSI-HSSP and its ability to capitalize on existing knowledge of work that has been completed or that is currently underway within the wider standards-setting community. “To make our work comprehensive, we must make every effort to solicit participation from sectors and groups outside the traditional standards system,” explained Dr. Arnold. “This panel provides a forum in which industry and government can work together to identify existing standards and, where new standards are needed, help to accelerate the timely development of new standards by the appropriate organizations to meet the nation’s homeland security needs."

Dr. Holly Dockery, director of standards—state and local interaction of the DHS's Science and Technology directorate, gave the assembly an overview of the current structure and progress of the DHS. The mission of the department, she explained, is centered on prevention of terrorist attacks, reducing vulnerability, minimizing damage and assisting in recovery. Dr. Dockery noted that the need for standards was explicit in the original strategy for the creation of the Department.

According to Dockery, the DHS is looking to the ANSI-HSSP to act as a “portal into the U.S. standards development community,” to provide a method to manage and track all the standards work that is underway, and contribute to an evolving “next generation approach” so that efforts move swiftly forward without excessive time or resources spent “playing catch-up.” To launch the work of the ANSI-HSSP, Dockery proposed an initial approach to the group that begins with capturing the “low-hanging fruit” -- i.e., identifying certain solutions or standards that exist and can quickly be applied to problems or needs of the DHS.

David Karmol, ANSI vice-president of public policy and government affairs, gave a brief presentation on the history, structure and progress of the ANSI-HSSP. He acknowledged the Panel’s co-chairs, Dan Bart of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and Mary Saunders of NIST, and the more than 30 members of the Interim Steering Committee who have been planning and coordinating Panel activities since April.

Phil Reitinger, senior security strategist at Microsoft Corp. and a member of the interim steering committee, introduced some of the information technology issues surrounding critical infrastructure protection (CIP), demonstrating that CIP is an interdependent area – between industries as well as between government and the private sector. Because nearly 85% of CIP is owned by the private sector, this relationship takes on significant weight. From an IT and cyber security perspective, “we are increasingly dependent on CIP and CIP is increasingly dependent on IT,” he remarked.

The nation’s CIP is a complex “system of systems,” according to DHS representative John Cummings. Risk assessment in this area is a major focus for the DHS, and “an enormous undertaking.” Cummings cited the National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets, which identifies a clear set of national goals and objectives and outlines the guiding principles that will underpin DHS efforts to secure the infrastructures and assets vital to our national security, governance, public health and safety, economy, and public confidence.

In the area of countermeasures for security technology and systems, Dr. Bert Coursey discussed a sample timeline for the development of a new homeland security product. Coursey, a member of the DHS Science and Technology directorate, touched on research and development, commercial product testing, and quality assurance – all of which have significant standards and conformity assessment roles. Radiation and radioactivity detection equipment, bioassay and x-ray inspection were also cited as examples of areas with an urgent need for standards.

John Vitko, DHS director of biological countermeasures, explained that the mission of his area of focus is “to deter, detect and mitigate possible biological attacks on this nation’s population, infrastructure or agriculture.” In his presentation on countermeasures for public health, Vitko gave an alarming explanation of how a biological attack differs from most other threats, in that it is not immediately seen, felt, or known, and is on an emergency timeline not handled by the typical first responders.

Mary Saunders, chief of the NIST Standards Services Division, closed day one of the meeting with a presentation on the related applications of certification and accreditation with regards to homeland security. Conformity assessment activities might include the verification and validation of products and systems, establishment of measurable levels of protection, and verification of personnel competencies. Certification and accreditation needs cross nearly all elements of homeland security, and will most likely follow the lead of standards needs and solutions once they have been identified.

Co-chairs Mr. Bart and Ms. Saunders closed day one of the meeting encouraging the full participation of all attendees in the following day’s break-out sessions.

On June 10, Panel members divided into break-out groups to tackle the four broad categories that were discussed the previous afternoon. Coordinating committees on critical infrastructure protection, countermeasures for security technology systems, countermeasures for public health, and certification and accreditation were each led by a facilitator to help generate and guide ideas, and a representative from DHS was on hand in each group to offer the government’s perspective.

The groups produced a wealth of information, ideas and jumping-off points that will be compiled into a comprehensive homeland security standards database. “Moving forward, we will be working with DHS to identify the top priority topics and schedule workshops to address them in the shortest possible timeframe,” explained Mr. Bart.

Dr. Dockery expressed her appreciation to ANSI and to the co-chairmen for their leadership of this effort, and to all the participants for their many contributions and assistance in addressing the urgent standards and conformity assessment needs identified by DHS. “Having this invaluable resource will go a long way in helping DHS address its mandate.”

ANSI will continue to communicate with interested parties to enlist their support in addressing the priority standardization needs of DHS, to ascertain their willingness to assume the role of sector coordinator, and to advise them of future scheduled meetings.