Governor James E. McGreevey issued an executive order today designating New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) the state's Homeland Security Technology Systems Center. The order indicated that NJIT will immediately begin serving as the state’s homeland security consultant for technology evaluation. The university will develop prototypes of integrated homeland security systems for testing, demonstration and training.
The NJIT center will focus on areas already identified by the federal government as vital to national security: intelligence and warning, border and transportation security; protecting critical infrastructure and key assets, emergency preparedness and response and defending against catastrophic threats and domestic counter-terrorism.
NJIT’s work for the state will be directed by Donald H. Sebastian, PhD, vice president for research and development and director of the university’s Homeland Security Technology Systems Center. Sebastian says the work is a natural fit for NJIT.
“NJIT has served the state by providing objective, science-based evaluation on complex issues including brownfield’s development, transportation congestion, aircraft- noise abatement and child-safe handgun technology. Our core strengths in communications and information technology, sensor-based systems and advanced materials will provide essential resources to partner with research centers across the state to meet the challenge of securing our state and nation from terrorist attack.”
Robert A. Altenkirch, PhD, president of NJIT, said the center will be an important catalyst in enhancing the local Newark economy. “New Jersey is a perfect test bed for virtually every aspect of homeland security,” Altenkirch said. “We expect that many companies will wish to be close to the seat of action where large-scale systems tests will be conducted and performance standards set that will affect the technology-buying patterns.”
NJIT, in collaboration with the State, will draw on the resources of state agencies, New Jersey colleges and universities, including Rutgers University-Newark and UMDNJ among others, and military installations and private sector firms engaged in relevant technology development programs.
The center is not designed to conduct basic research, but its activities should serve to sharpen the focus of research efforts in the state’s universities, military bases and private-sector labs that are working on homeland-security technologies. NJIT is engaged in a number of projects that will feed into the center’s test bed. One example is NJIT’s recent partnering with StratCom International, a company headed by Lt. Gen. James A. Abrahamson, USAF-Retired, who directed both the U.S.’s Space Shuttle program and the “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative. StratCom International, along with NJIT’s technological expertise, is developing stratospheric airships for homeland security and telecommunications.
The unmanned, stationary platforms, intended to hover 12 miles above the ground, will be 25 times the size of Goodyear blimps. The airships will be equipped with sensing devices to provide surveillance coverage over a surface area of 500,000 square miles. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has recommended the stationing of 10 airships to cover securely all U.S. continental borders.
Another example of NJIT’s research agility is its development of a technology capable of monitoring and detecting concealed explosives and biological agents that may pose a threat to people, buildings, mass transportation or other environments. A team of professors is exploring the use of terahertz (THz) electromagnetic radiation to detect and identify explosives and biological agents by means of a spectroscope. Terahertz radiation occupies the far-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. THz technology is an attractive method of detection because of its ability to detect the composition, size and shape of materials through the characteristic transmission or reflectivity spectra in the terahertz range. In essence, these materials appear as different "colors" to the THz radiation. Explosives and biological agents can be detected even if concealed in clothing, sealed packages or suitcases, because THz radiation is transmitted through plastics, clothing, luggage, paper and non-metallic walls.
Data watermarking, intrusion alarm systems and distortionless data hiding are some of the techniques also under study at NJIT’s Center for Wireless Networking and Internet Security. NJIT researchers are also working on methods to predict and intercept on-line intruders. Researchers are developing detection systems to recognize the onset of an attack, start the search for a remedy and provide an early alarm, quickly triggering a defensive shield.
NJIT researchers are also investigating the limits of making the integration of communications between incompatible groups (fire, police, medical, etc.) dependent upon a single physical command and control center. Such centers are vulnerable to a planned act of sabotage. If there is any strong technical conclusion from the events of 9/11 that researchers have found, it is the requirement to develop an integrated communications capability that can react as a virtual system with no need for the people involved to be in a single location. A virtual command center can be created and those involved in an emergency should be able to operate from wherever they happen to be at the start of the crisis.