Homeland Security Collaboration
(Updated June 2016)
The reality of life in Israel has forced the country to defend its homeland against constant terrorist
threats. As a result, the Jewish state has become a world leader in
designing techniques and technologies for homeland security
and counter-terrorism. Both the Israeli government and private Israeli firms work with the U.S. government to develop technologies
aimed at thwarting terrorism and safeguarding citizens in both nations.
- Aviation, Port & Border Security
- Science, Technology & Cyber Defense
Aviation, Port & Border Security
Israel's vast expertise in protecting its borders and
ports from terrorism, and the technologies developed as a result, have
been put to use in the U.S. with stunning results.
In 2004, to protect the U.S. border with Mexico, the Bureau
of Customs and Border Protection began operating Israeli-designed
unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles as part of the Arizona Border Coordination Initiative. The Hermes 450 drones,
made by Elbit Systems, are part of a Department of Homeland Security
initiative to prevent Mexicans from crossing illegally into the United
States. The drones also will be useful in locating people who get into
trouble in the desert and need to be rescued.
In November 2005, U.S. National Guard leaders
visited Israel to forge a new relationship on Home
Front Command. The delegation signed two letters proposing to exchange
ideas, to train in each other’s country and to
expand their expertise about responding to natural
disasters and terrorist attacks.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and
airport officials from around the United States have been working with
world-renowned security experts at Israel Ben-Gurion
International Airport in order to learn how to efficiently improve
In March 2010, the United States and Israel signed an agreement to increase
aviation security cooperation. The two allies will conduct drills reviewing
procedures in case of attacks and share codes that send immediate alerts
if passengers try to commit acts of terror.
At Boston's Logan International Airport, Israeli security experts have
been on the ground training police personnel and first responders to
more effectively safeguard passengers and prevent future terrorist attacks.
One technique the Israeli's taught is called behavior pattern recognition,
which in essence trains one to be able to point out a suspicious person
within a large crowd. "We developed a layered security approach
with the best in the world to try to understand how to deal with terrorism
and defend our facilities," said Thomas Kinton, chief executive
of the Massachusetts Port Authority
and Logan Airport's director of aviation at the time of the 9/11 attacks.
At the Laguardia, Newark and JFK International airports
in the New York City area, a security
and anti-terrorist technology has been put in place to help protect
one of the busiest transportation hubs in the world. The system was
developed by Verint, an American company with extensive operations in
Israel, and was approved for use by the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security. The port of Beaumont in Texas has also installed the Verint security system.
In May 2011, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
joined with the Port of Miami in implementing the NICE Situator, a video
security and response system created by Israeli-based NICE Systems,
to help protect the millions of travelers and commercial goods that
pass through their ports every year. The NICE Situator greatly improves
video monitoring equipment and enables officials to view real-time,
multi-layered information on an intuitive map-based interface system
that can track personnel, passengers, objects and airplanes. The technology
also allows for officials at LAX and the Port of Miami to streamline
their security operations and enhance their situational awareness and
"LAX is a major airport for one of the world's
most populous metropolitan areas, and as such we encounter many daily
operational challenges, from the ordinary to the unexpected, many of
which require real-time response and impact," said Jacqueline Anna
Yaft, Deputy Executive Director of Operations and Emergency Management
for LAWA. "LAX will use NICE Situator to achieve its vision of
taking operations and incident management to the next level by improving
situational awareness and automating our response plans."
In February 2014, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security secured Israeli firm Elbit Systems for a $145 million contract to upgrade and secure the U.S. borders. The contract calls for the company to deliver surveillance equipment, such as radars and cameras, mounted on fixed towers to help agents detect and track “items of interest” along the border.
The contract with Elbit bypassed numerous American defense contractors. “It is odd to go offshore for this work, but in extraordinary circumstances, one really wants to employ the best,” said Mark Amtower, a government contracting consulting firm.
Science, Technology & Cyber
In an effort to improve both nations' homeland security
efforts, the United States and Israel signed an agreement in May 2008
to increase their science and technology cooperation. The agreement
covers a broad ranges of areas. Washington and Jerusalem will increase
their information and personnel exchanges so that experts from both
nations can learn from each other. They will also work to enhance the
security of physical and online infrastructure. The two nations will
also conduct research together in order to better protect themselves
against the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological attacks.
Already a major innovation has been created through
the agreement on joint research and development of security technologies.
With the additional help of the U.S. Binational
Science Foundation (BSF), Professor Ehud Keinan of the Technion
Institute in Israel and Professor Phillip Sawson of the Scripps Research
Institute in California invented
an explosive testing device that is both cheap, efficient and small.
The device, no larger than the size of a pen and costing only $25 per
unit, can detect minuscule amounts of peroxide bomb-related substances
by performing a quick, on-the-spot chemical test. The terrorism fighting
tool is already being used in numerous fields.
Additionally, the U.S. and Israel are working together
to reduce the threat of attacks on computer networks worldwide. The
collaborative efforts put in by Israel, the U.S. and a slew of other
technologically superior countries will help ensure that each nation's
online infrastructure is secure from terrorist threats and hacking.
In June 2016 the heads of Israel National Cyber Bureau (INCB) and National Cyber Security Authority signed a cyber defense cooperation agreement with officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This agreement reiterated the pairs commitment to mutual security, and calls on both sides to facilitate the sharing of important information and develop tandem cyber-defense infrastructures which will make communication easier and safer.
American observers from FEMA and the National Guard often travel to Israel to participate in Israeli
homeland security drills.
In 2005, FEMA and the Israeli National
Emergency Authority signed a formal
agreement to conduct joint-training drills and exercises both in
Israel and the U.S. and the results of this collaboration are already
showing. Andrew Slaten, FEMA's director of the Office of International
Affairs, noted that FEMA has a "very long and active relationship
with Israel's Home Front Command. It's a great opportunity" to
learn from them.
In January 2010, Israel conducted
a large-scale bioterrorism drill, dubbed "Operation Orange Flame 4", to simulate a smallpox
outbreak caused by a terrorist attack. Representatives from more than
thirty countries, including the United States, came to Israel to view
the two day drill and participate in a conference on emergency and disaster
In May 2010, Chief of the National
Guard General Craig McKinley and Army Major General David Sprynczynatyk,
the adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, traveled to
Israel to observe the IDF's Home Front Command exercise simulating a
major bioterrorism attack. Code named "Turning Point 4", the
simulation tested situational preparedness, command-level assessment
and even community response. "The greatest value of my being here
is seeing how the communities position themselves, how they're organized
and how they're prepared to react to a disaster," General Sprynczynatyk
said. "I'd give anything for all of our communities back home to
have the same level of capabilities that we're seeing here.
Sources: Jerusalem Post (December 22, 2004);
Bloomberg Technology News (February 27, 2014);
“ Israel and the US Sign Operative Cyber Defense Cooperation Agreement,” IMRA (June 21, 2016)