Homeland Security - what it means to you

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Now that the Senate has approved the much anticipated Homeland Security bill that sets up a new Homeland Security Department flush with a nearly $40 billion budget, one question remains.

How will this bill translate into business for systems integrators and manufacturers of the security industry?

“That’s the million dollar question,” said Richard Chace, executive director of the Security Industry Association, which represents the security manufacturing community.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many in the security industry have been awaiting the impact of new homeland security initiatives. But while some thought security changes and new business for this industry would come quickly, the opposite seems more accurate.

“The letdown is people anticipated and projected this would be a tremendous influx of business immediately and that hasn’t been the case,” said Bill Bozeman, of PSA Security Network.

In the next eight to 12 months, Bozeman predicts that the security industry will finally see new business as a result of Homeland Security.

“Once it goes, it’s going to go on for a period of years,” said Bozeman. “It’s not going to be a one punch deal.”

One of the biggest benfits to the industry is that security is now top of mind, said Steven Millwee, president of ASIS International. “When you look at the opportunity for the private sector, it probably is one of the best times in the world to be in the industry because security is on everyone’s mind,” he said.

With security at the forefront, Jeff Kessler, senior vice president of equity research covering the security market for Lehman Bros., expects Homeland Security will serve as a catalyst on several fronts.

He anticipates that commercial security users will look to see what systems and applications work for the government before adopting them. “As the government begins to fund large security installations … they will be defacto beta tests and reference sites for corporate America,” he said.

And while some may believe that new business will only come to a select few, such as large contractors that already have an in with the government, that’s not necessarily the case, said David Johnson, government affairs director for the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association.

“In the long run the security industry gaining access to this is obviously going to be great,” said Johnson. “Whether it lends itself to the big boys of the industry, at first it may, but that’s what the associations are for. That’s why the smaller guys and medium guys join an association because it puts them on an even playing field.”

Already the NBFAA has assembled a list of all 50 state’s homeland security directors, information available to members.

SIA, on the other hand, plans to help its members tap into additional funds expected to become available for Homeland Security through a government relations firm, American Continental Group, that it recently hired. The group will help craft legislation and assist with appropriation of funds.

And ASIS International is working collectively with the Department of Homeland Security to develop long-term systems for the exchange of information between private security officials and the new department.

“The federal government is not looking to become the expert in everything dealing with security. They can’t be,” said Millwee. “That’s why they’re partnering with ASIS and others to find who are the true experts in security, what is the latest technology that can be effectively implemented for homeland security and who provides that technology.”