UH chosen to help make travel safer
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will fund research efforts at the university
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has tapped the University of Hawaii to be one of 11 institutions to serve for the next six years as "an incubator of technology" in the area of maritime security issues, according to a visiting federal official.
Retired Rear Adm. Jay Cohen, Homeland Security Department undersecretary for science and technology, told the Star-Bulletin yesterday that the UH's Center of Excellence for Maritime, Island and Port Security will be under the College of Engineering and will receive a grant ranging from $1.5 million to $2 million annually. The center is partnered with the Stevens Institute of Technology at Hoboken, N.J., which opened its Center of Excellence in Port Security last week.
The center, scheduled to open in October, and the institute will help the Department of Homeland Security "develop and adapt technologies so that we can increase the level of security for the traveling public -- tourists and commuters -- and cargo while making it more transparent, less invasive to the extent we can do all these things either to minimize or reduce costs," Cohen said.
All the research work done at these centers will be unclassified. In the summer, students will have the chance to study at Livermore National Laboratory in California or Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
He said the agency is now working on ways to amend its 3-1-1 carry-on bag rule -- 3-ounce bottle; one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; one bag per passenger. "That is not a solution, it's just risk mitigation."
Cohen said his agency is working on a baggage-screening system, based on Los Alamos scientists' research of magnetic imaging, for liquids in carry-on luggage.
Using the MRI and a green, yellow and red rating system, "a screener would see the shape of any liquid container," Cohen added. "If it's green, the liquid has been characterized as not a threat. If it's red, it has been characterized and it could be a threat." That means it could be an explosive or one of the components used to make a bomb.
"If it's yellow that means it hasn't been characterized," and the bag could be held for further examination, he added.
Cohen estimated that the detection system could be operational within a year.
Hawaii is at the crossroads, said Cohen, who left the Navy two years ago and who commanded the nuclear attack submarine USS Hyman G. Rickover from 1985 to 1988.
"Many of us believe that the 21st century is the century of Asia and the Pacific, and tourism plays an important role in the Hawaii economy," he said.
For those who travel, Cohen acknowledged that "security is very high on their priority list."
Cohen, in his 40-minute speech at the Pacific Operational Science & Technology Conference sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Command at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, added: "The day after 9/11, Americans were dying from anthrax delivered in the U.S. mail with a 37-cent stamp. So today because of geo-economics, because of the Internet, biological warfare is the poor man's weapons of mass destruction."