David Fishering, homeland security industry analyst, Frost & Sullivan
David Fishering, homeland security industry analyst, Frost & Sullivan
Despite the numerous speeches and debates over the last year, little focus has been paid to homeland security. As a result, little could be gleaned as to how the candidates would shape homeland security policy and the industry. Now that Barack Obama has begun to build his cabinet and formulate his national security strategy, more can be assumed about the future of homeland security.

President-elect Obama's own positions on homeland security seem to favor building stronger international support to curb proliferation and stop terrorism at its roots. Obama has also mentioned his support for protecting and modernizing our nation's critical infrastructure. Currently these two cornerstones of Obama's stated policies remain very broad and show little in the way of real spending for homeland security companies. There is potential here for ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] and CBRNE [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosive] sensor companies to witness increased spending, but until more of these policies and goals are defined, the potential is unclear.

More promising for select companies has been the selection of Janet Napolitano as the next secretary of Homeland Security. The Arizona governor has been at the forefront of immigration and border issues since 2002. She was instrumental in bringing the National Guard to the border and is a strong advocate of the virtual fence concept. It would not be surprising if under Napolitano, ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] and CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Patrol] receive increases in operational funding. Again, whether we see an increase in the procurement of technology is yet to be seen.

The real wild card here is Congress. The Democratic Congress is expected to increase oversight to all defense and security programs. This will shine the light even brighter on homeland security, an issue already overseen by numerous committees. Along with the GAO [Government Accountability Office], Congress is likely to halt or slow spending on large programs that are not performing. However, we may well see an increase in the number of projects that will be of smaller size and lower cost.

From what we know today, it looks like border, seaport and critical infrastructure security will be the top focus areas for the next administration. Companies that are expected to benefit will be those that can increase total situational awareness for the end-user. This will require companies to unilaterally provide or partner with others to bring command and control, communications, intelligence, as well as numerous sensor systems together into a fully integrated and interoperable solution.