Jacobs School co-sponsors Homeland Security forum

    A San Diego policy forum co-sponsored by the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering was held on May 3 at La Jolla Hyatt Regency Aventine. The forum featured academic and corporate leaders. John Kubricky, director of the Office of Systems Engineering and Development in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was the keynote speaker.

    Kubricky described the infrastructure and daily operations of the Department of Homeland Security in his speech. In its first year of operation, the department has involved the work of 22 agencies and about 180,000 employees, including the top scientists and engineers of the nation, according to Kubricky.

    “With the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, President Bush envisioned an organization that engaged entrepreneurs and tapped Americans’ spirit and experience in science and technology in the war on terror,” Kubricky said. “It’s the expertise of industries, universities and our national labs that will make it possible to … produce the counter-measures needed to protect the nation from major threats from terrorism.”

    Kubricky highlighted the various technological mechanisms used to improve safety in air, land, sea and cyberspace. For example, biometric technology is currently being used in 115 airports and 14 seaports, and air monitoring for biological agents takes place in 31 U.S. cities, according to Kubricky.

    Kubricky also stated that the department allocated over $8 billion in overall security funding since March 1, 2003, representing a 900-percent increase in federal funding of direct homeland security grants.

    According to Edward Furtek, UCSD associate vice chancellor for government and community relations, UCSD and San Diego State University began collaborating with local legislators and groups shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to explore possible responses to security threats.

    “We realized that while San Diego brings considerable … intellectual and fiscal resources to our nation’s war against terrorism, many of these same aspects … also make San Diego an attractive target,” Furtek said. “Fortunately, San Diego has a robust, forward-looking public health and safety infrastructure, built around the concept of an all-hazards approach.”

    In April 2002, UCSD and San Diego State began to develop the San Diego Regional Network for Homeland Security, an organization dedicated to increasing cooperation between the public and private sectors to prepare San Diego for natural or deliberate disasters.

    “We’ve tried to respond to one of the most important lessons of Sept. 11, and that is that homeland security is not just a national issue,” Furtek said. “It is also a local issue … and demands a local response based on regional collaboration.”

    Frieder Seible, dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering, highlighted the contributions of the Jacobs School to homeland security research and development. After Sept. 11, the school identified over 40 projects that had direct relevance to homeland security, including cyber security and development of infrastructure facilities, such as the sensor networks on the Coronado Bay Bridge.

    Current homeland security projects at the Jacobs School include a first-responder communications system with the technology to manage casualties and the development of infrastructure to mitigate blast impacts.

    “It’s the coordination amongst all the constituents which really makes San Diego a very unique region for a living laboratory for security research and development,” Seible said.

    Other speakers at the forum included Mark Koro, director of government affairs at QUALCOMM, and D.P. Lee, director of San Diego Homeland Security.

    UC Regent Peter Preuss, founder of the UCSD Preuss School and the Preuss Foundation for Brain Tumor Research, concluded the forum with positive remarks about future research and development in homeland security.

    “San Diego developed into a major research center, with major Washington funding, doing major innovative work, which then translated … into commercial development,” Preuss said. “I think we are all very eager to learn much more in the future and hope that our community and our country are producing the systems and the people to keep us safe.”

    Several Preuss School students also attended the event.

    “I had no idea UCSD was so federally active,” Sonlong Nguyen, a Preuss School sophomore, said. “Normally you just think that you’re just going to school to learn, but you’re researching how to protect the world, and that’s kind of scary, from my point of view.”

    Other cosponsors of the event included the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholar and the San Diego Regional Network for Homeland Security.

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