(Third in the BorderLines' series on the Border Security Industrial Complex.)
Contracts with the Department of Homeland Security are spewing billions of dollars into private industry, largely to companies that also rely on Pentagon military contracts. In this new variation of the military-industrial complex a new revolving door is now in full swing.
Tom Ridge Leverages DHS Experience and Contacts The first DHS chief Tom Ridge recently got a new gig as senior adviser to the San Francisco-based Building Protection Systems Inc, where he will have the responsibility of advising the corporation on the marketing of its Building Sentry One product line. BPSI’s Sentry One products are among the thousands of newly manufactured systems and technologies developed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, forming a major part of a new DHS/DOD industry complex underwritten by government contracts and grants. Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania governor who was appointed by President Bush to direct the newly created DHS, has parlayed his government service into a lucrative career in business since he stepped down as DHS chief in 2005. Soon after leaving DHS he became president and CEO of Ridge Global, a global strategic consulting firm. Ridge also is president of Thomas Ridge LLC. In 2006 Ridge Global entered into a $480,000 contract with Albania to help the country “develop an overall homeland defense strategy. According an AP report, Ridge's "main priority" was "to help Albania meet its goal of joining NATO in 2008." It wasn’t until after the media outed Ridge’s relationship with Albania that the former DHS chief filed the required foreign lobbyist report with the Justice Department in 2008 – two years after the one-year contract with Albania had ended. He also joined the corporate boards of Vonage, Hershey, HomeDepot, and Exelon (the country’s largest nuclear plant operator, including Threee Mile Island). In April 2005 Ridge also joined the board of Savi Technology, described as the primary technology provider for wireless cargo-monitoring for DOD. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed-Martin. Homeland Safety Against Counterterrorism Liability BPSI, now advised by Ridge, recently announced that its Sentry One toxin detection technology has recently received the DHS stamp of approval. According to BPSI, Sentry One is the “first complete building protection system which has also received full SAFETY Act designation from the Department of Homeland Security for protecting buildings and public gathering places from an airborne chemical or radiological targeted terrorist attack or accidental release.” What does this Safety Act designation signify? Fundamentally, it means that Sentry One is protected by the Safety Act of 2002, which was rushed through Congress after the Sept. 11 events to spur industry investment in counterterrorism and security technology. It fosters this development not through government contracts but through government guarantees – guarantees against liability if the technology fails. The Safety Act also spurred the creation of a firm whose sole purpose is to provide liability advice to homeland security industries. That’s Safety Act Consultants, whose motto is: “We help organizations protect themselves from catastrophic liability following a terrorist event.” Safety Act Consultants explains the Safety Act this way:
“The SAFETY Act is a little known and often misunderstood Federal Law enacted in 2002 as a part of the Homeland Security Act. This law grants unprecedented statutory immunities, liability caps, affirmative defenses for things used to identify, protect against, stop, mitigate, respond to or recover from, a terrorist event. These can include products, technologies, services, facilities, designs, advice, actions, software, hardware or other methods, procedures or strategies used in helping prevent, respond to or recover from. a physical terrorism or e-terrorism act.”
BPSI’s Mike Welden, referring to the Safety Act approval, said: “This elevated designation is another example of the expert validation that BPSI’s systems keep earning. We are absolutely pleased that the DHS has issued BPSI technology full designation. It is a clear indication of the trust in our technology that lives will be saved during certain acts of terrorism and as a result our customers will truly benefit from the extended SAFETY Act liability protections.” said Mike Welden of BPSI. Revolving doors swing both ways.
In late July the White House announced that it was nominating Rafael Borras as the new undersecretary for management at DHS. Borras comes to DHS from URS Corp, which is a major DOD, DHS, NASA, and DOE contractor.
Among other things, “URS modernizes weapons systems, refurbishes military vehicles and aircraft, trains pilots and manages military and government facilities. We also plan, design and construct hangars and government buildings, provide logistics support for military operations and help decommission former bases for redevelopment.”
Photo: Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge