Science and Technology News

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Engineers Work to Restore Electric Power to Puerto Rico’s Citizens



By Gerald Rogers U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

PONCE, Puerto Rico, Dec. 26, 2017 — In an effort to help Puerto Rico's citizens recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Army Corps of Engineers Task Force Power Restoration continues its mission to restore the island’s electrical power grid.

The Ponce laydown yard site is the engineering team’s focal point for amassing an increasing inventory of critical power grid materials, including thousands of wooden, concrete and steel utility poles and hundreds of massive coils of heavy high tension wire. At the warehouse, tons of smaller grid components, transformers, conductors, insulators and electric regulators are among the items housed.

Robert Govero, the Corps'  logistics management specialist working at the laydown yard, stated that when their mission to restore Puerto Rico’s power grid began, it took time to spin up and get these critical materials flowing in mass to the island.

Needed Materials Continue to Arrive

After scouring the nation to obtain needed quantities of grid components, the team has seen a marked increase in the amount of materials arriving to support the mission.

The utility poles, wire coils and other component materials are barged down the Atlantic Ocean from Jacksonville, Florida, to the San Juan port, where they are carefully inventoried and offloaded onto trucks for delivery to Ponce.

Once a request is received through the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the warehouse team quickly assembles the material request onto pallets for pick up.

“We maintain 100-percent accountability of every item, from the smallest electrical component to the 5,500-pound concrete utility pole, until it arrives at the delivery site, is stored and ultimately issued to the workforce,” said Daniel Brown, task force bill of materials accountable officer.

During the last 72 hours, Brown said, more than 70,000 items have been packed up for issue to the workforce.
Hundreds of massive coils of heavy high tension wire arrive at the laydown yard in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Hundreds of massive coils of heavy high tension wire arrive at the laydown yard in Ponce, Puerto Rico, part of the tons of critical electrical components flowing in daily from throughout the nation to rebuild the island’s electrical distribution system, Dec. 22, 2017. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Gerald Rogers

“Last Friday, 20 truckloads of material was delivered to the workforce,” he added.

Speeding Delivery

Plans are underway to stand up a second laydown yard in San Juan to speed delivery and make the process more efficient.

Task Force Power Restoration continues to work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, said chief of engineers, Army Lt. Gen Todd T. Semonite, who visited the team Dec. 21, and spoke about their critical mission.

Semonite said that given the enormous scope of work, the Corps estimates 75 percent of the island’s power grid is tracking to be online by the end of January 2018; 95 percent by the end of February, and any other remaining remote sites completed by May.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Expert to Lead DoD’s Acquisition, Technology, Logistics Reorganization Effort



WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2017 — Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ellen M. Lord yesterday announced the appointment of Ben FitzGerald as director of the Office of Strategy and Design, according to a Defense Department news release.

In this role, effective Jan. 2, 2018, FitzGerald will serve as the central hub within the Office of the Secretary of Defense to lead the reorganization of AT&L, the release said.

Under section 901 of the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Department must disestablish the Office of the USD (AT&L) and establish undersecretaries of defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, and Research and Engineering, as well as the Chief Management Officer, according to the release.

FitzGerald was appointed as a highly qualified expert for a period of five years, the release said.

Breadth of Experience

FitzGerald has a breadth of experience across a range of strategic matters, according to the release. He has served as a professional staff member for the Senate Armed Services Committee, as well as a senior fellow and director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

Additionally, FitzGerald has led and contributed to diverse projects, such as military technology strategy, institutional innovation, United Nations peacekeeping doctrine, transitional law enforcement, the future of urban-littoral combat and the future role of the Marine Corps, the release said.

He also designed and led a variety of war games for military and civilian audiences, ranging from action officers to four-star generals, according to the release.

FitzGerald’s experience working across DoD, the Congress and think tanks, as well as his broad perspective of Congress’ intent for the AT&L reorganization, makes him ideally suited for the position, the release said.

Driving Innovation, Advancing Warfighting Capability

USD(R&E) will drive innovation and accelerate the advancement of the nation’s warfighting capability, while the USD (A&S) will deliver proven technology into the hands of the warfighter more quickly and affordably, the release said.
Working from the reorganization plan previously submitted to Congress on Aug. 1, 2017, FitzGerald will determine how current AT&L functions fit into the overarching objectives of the new structure and whether those functions should transition to R&E, A&S, another OSD functional lead, the military services or be divested altogether, the release said.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Criminal Justice Technology in the News



Law Enforcement News

Standoff With Suspect Over After 2 Officers Are Shot in North County; Vests Stopped Bullets
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, (12/14/2017), Kim Bell
Two police officers, both shot in the chest during a barricade situation in northern St. Louis County, Mo., were saved by their ballistic-resistant vests. The suspect originally was involved in a physical encounter with officers, then fled to a nearby home and opened fire. He was taken into custody.
Link to Article


Scott County Emergency Communications Center to Roll Out New Dispatch System
Quad City Times, (12/17/2017), Tara Becker
The Scott County Emergency Communications Center in Iowa plans to change the way it handles 911 emergency medical calls. The Medical and Fire Priority Dispatch System, which launches Jan. 2, will allow center and Medic EMS dispatchers to use a new protocol system to safely prioritize medical calls for the most appropriate response.
Link to Article


New NIST Forensic Tests to Ensure High-Quality Copies of Digital Evidence
Phys.org, (12/13/2017)
A new set of software tools developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology aims to ensure digital evidence will hold up in court. The federated testing tools are designed to help law enforcement and forensic practitioners with making a copy of the data from a seized electronic device. Both the prosecution and the defense must agree that the digital forensic process did not introduce unseen errors into the data, and that the methods they are using work as expected. The software allows authorities to run tests in advance on their digital forensic software to make sure it will not fail them when a suspect's device arrives in the forensic science lab.
Link to Article


Los Angeles Metro Tests Bomb-Detection Equipment in Subway With TSA
USA Today, (12/13/2017), Bert Jansen
Federal and Los Angeles security officials are testing equipment that would detect concealed explosives and suicide vests. The devices, described in an announcement by the Transportation Security Administration and Los Angeles transit officials, are designed to detect improvised explosives by identifying objects that block the natural emissions from a person's body, according to the TSA.
Link to Article


Lawrence Police Radio System Getting $1 Million Upgrade
Eagle Tribune, (12/13/2017), Jill Harmacinski
Lawrence, Mass., plans a $1 million upgrade of the police radio system to replace the current 20-year-old system. In 2018, police radios will upgraded from an analog system, which relies on antiquated copper wiring, to a digital system.
Link to Article


Fairfield County Program Targets Opioid Addiction
This Week Community News, (12/13/2017), Michael Hayes
Law enforcement in Fairfield County, Ohio, have a program to address an increase in opioid overdoses. Under Project FORT, a Fairfield County Overdose Response Team will be dispatched after reported overdoses in the county. Project FORT uses the expertise of various stakeholders in the county to try to get to the root cause of addiction. The Pickerington Police Department has responded to 81 drug overdose calls this year, compared to 50 calls in 2016.
Link to Article


Lawmakers Approve $57 Million to Build Michigan State Police Facility in Walker
WZZM, (12/15/2017), John Hogan
State lawmakers have approved spending nearly $57 million for a new building to house Michigan State Police headquarters in Walker, Mich. The facility would house the state police post currently in Rockford, sixth district headquarters and a new forensics laboratory.
Link to Article


L.A. Fire Department Used Drones for the First Time During Skirball Fire
Los Angeles Times, (12/14/2017), Hailey Branson-Potts
The Los Angeles Fire Department recently dispatched two unmanned aerial vehicles for the first time while battling the Skirball wildfire in Bel-Air. One had a high-definition camera used to survey the burn area, and the other had an infrared camera to assess hot spots. The City Council approved guidelines for the department's drone usage in November.
Link to Article


Police 'Buy Back' 178 Guns From Public
The San Diego Union Tribune, (12/16/2017), David Hernandez
San Diego police officers and sheriff's deputies recently took 178 guns off the hands of people who no longer wanted the weapons. At the event in Encanto, officers handed out a $100 gift card for every rifle, shotgun or handgun and a $200 gift card for each assault rifle. Police also offered skateboards in exchange for the guns and instead of gift cards.
Link to Article


Corrections News

Prison Smoking Ban Starts Next Year
News Tribune, (12/14/2017), Jeff Haldiman
The Missouri Department of Corrections will ban smoking in its correctional facilities in 2018. The ban follows a court case brought about by an inmate who suffered health effects from secondhand smoke. All DOC facilities will be tobacco-free starting April 1, and the ban applies to staff, offenders, visitors, contractors, etc.; no one will be allowed to possess or use tobacco products inside DOC facilities. A smoking area will be provided outside the perimeter for staff and visitors.
Link to Article


ACLU Objects to Pennsylvania's Protection-From-Abuse Monitoring Proposal
Trib Live, (12/15/2017), Wes Venteicher
This article discusses a proposed Pennsylvania state law that would use electronic monitoring to try to protect people who have obtained protection-from-abuse orders. The proposal, which the state Senate has approved, would allow judges to require electronic monitoring of people with PFA orders against them. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania says the law would hamper the freedom of people who haven't been convicted of any crime.
Link to Article


Duke University Lays Out 9 Recommendations to Make NC Prisons Safer
WSOCTV, (12/14/2017)
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety recently announced a dozen new steps to improve prison safety, including frisking almost everyone who enters the prison, giving batons to officers in medium-security prisons and updating security cameras. A new report from Duke University is encouraging state officials to make more changes to improve prison safety. The study includes nine recommendations that address, for example, staff training, enhancing perimeter security and mounting a cell phone interdiction initiative.
Link to Article


Dutch Police Ground Drone-Fighting Eagles
Digital Journal, (12/13/2017)
Dutch police have discontinued a program to train eagles to take down drones that pose a danger to the public. The birds could be difficult to train, the program was more expensive than first thought and demand for services was low.
Link to Article