Four companies are first to get Safety Act protection

Four companies received limited legal liability protection from the Homeland Security Department today for an anti-terrorism product or service. The protection was granted under the Safety Act, part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

The Safety Act limits the liability of sellers of qualified anti-terrorism technologies if a terrorist attack occurs and the sellers' products or services fail through no fault of their own.

The four companies are Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles, Michael Stapleton Associates of New York and Teledyne Brown Engineering Inc. of Huntsville, Ala.

When companies apply for protection under the Safety Act, Homeland Security officials determine if their technologies merit liability protection and what level of insurance the companies should be required to carry.

"It was critically important for us and for the department to get approval [for protection] so the technology can be used to help save lives," said Terry Kees, vice president of homeland security systems at Lockheed Martin. "Without it, we would have to consider the liability implications of its use."

Some industry executives have said that without the limited liability provided by the Safety Act, their companies could face financial ruin if their technologies failed because of a terrorist attack.

Kees said Lockheed Martin has several other applications for Safety Act protection in the works, including one for a knowledge management application.

Penrose "Parney" Albright, assistant secretary for science and technology at DHS, said 19 Safety Act applications are being reviewed and 91 pre-applications are being reviewed. Companies that submit pre-applications get feedback from the department that could identify shortfalls in the information supplied by the company early in the application process.

"We're up and running," Albright said. "Now it's time for the marketplace to respond, to bring these technologies forward and deploy them."

According to the department, the application takes 60 to 110 hours to complete. When the form was first published in October, industry executives complained that it could take hundreds or even thousands of hours to fill out, and that the department was asking for too much company data, including extensive financial records.

Department officials said today that they have already responded to industry concerns by expanding their guidance on how to fill out the application and cutting down on the amount of financial information required.

The financial data initially requested "wasn't absolutely necessary for evaluation of the technology's effectiveness. Why require more than is necessary to do the job?" said department spokesman Donald Tighe.

Kees said the application process was about six months long and that it took about 500 hours to fill out Lockheed Martin's application. She said the process involved "great interaction between us and the department," including a conference call so that department officials could clarify some information about the risk assessment platform.

Lockheed Martin received protection for its automated, threat-based risk assessment platform, an integrated computer system that provides near real-time, terrorism threat analysis.

The platform enables information sharing between private industry and the government through continuous, independent auditing of compliance with policies governing access, use and distribution of information, according to the Homeland Security Department. The platform is used in CAPPS II, the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, which identifies potentially dangerous airline travelers.

Northrop Grumman received protection for its biohazard detection system, which is used by the U.S. Postal Service at Postal Service and mail-sorting facilities nationwide. The system detects trace levels of DNA from anthrax spores and other biological agents as mail is processed on high-speed sorting equipment, according to the department.

Michael Stapleton Associates received protection for its SmartTech system and explosion detection services. The SmartTech System is a two-way, high-speed video/audio system designed to allow off-site bomb technicians to view suspicious items in real time during X-ray screenings and provide immediate guidance in handling those items. The additional use of dogs trained in explosive detection, training programs and radiation detection equipment increases employee security, according to the department.

Teledyne Brown Engineering got approval for its WaterSabre, a remotely operated, high-pressure water jet cutting system designed to investigate and aid in the neutralization of explosive devices. The system discharges a high-powered water stream that can cut through containers, allowing technicians to see inside a container or potential explosive device without getting hurt.

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