Homeland Security

Protecting Critical National Assets: Integrated Security Solutions
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Issue Vol. 32.2 Apr-Jun 2017 | Date : 25 Sep , 2017

It is a widely acknowledged fact that at least one recalcitrant neighbour is engaged in fomenting terrorist violence in our country. India, as a fast emerging global power, has to face up to this threat. We have to be eternally vigilant to detect this threat, whenever or wherever it appears and destroy it before it impacts our way of life. To be able to counter this threat we will have to divert some of our precious resources, from social development, to creating security infrastructure, which can anticipate the threat, provide nationwide situational awareness about the terrorist activities, detect the threat in real time and respond with equal or greater violence to destroy the threat. We will also need suitable changes in our legal system to prevent our very generous processes being exploited.

A New Threat Emerging

“In today’s violent world, where the societies at large are faced with uncertainty and feel threatened in leading a normal life, only those nations will prosper, which can effectively counter the new form of threat and provide a secure and well-protected working and living environment to their people. To this end, a widely participative national resolve to stand up to the terrorist threats, backed up by a pragmatic government policy to fight terrorism are the two most essential elements of Homeland Security. While these will get translated into a massive public awareness campaign as well as suitable legislation to enable the government to acquire the physical means to detect and neutralise the threat by sheer deterrence or an overwhelming and violent response to the threat, which attempts to disrupt our public life, a major responsibility will also devolve on private players to initiate actions to ensure their own security as well as that of areas in the vicinity of their assets”.1


Low level violence and minimal militancy, possibly a legacy of our freedom struggle to settle local grievances has been part of our public life since independence. For a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-racial, but truly a secular, newly minted democratic nation, this was part of the ‘growing up’ process. This violence was newsworthy, but did not have a serious impact on public life. With time, militancy became more systematic with better organisation and greater intensity. Burning of public property and violence against some sections of society started to impact public life. In most cases, the demands were political in nature or economic issues impacting a section of our vast populace. With passage of time, this violence graduated to a new level and came to be termed as ‘Terrorist Violence’. In the last few decades, what was entirely an indigenous activity developed linkages, sometimes actively supported by our neighours along with some of the global terrorist outfits. These resource-rich terrorist outfits, with a very strong anti–India motivation and access to adequate talent and destructive technologies, have the reach to create unprovoked violence with a very discernible impact on the social fabric and economic well-being of the nation. These violent interventions had their main focus on destroying as many innocent lives as possible by targeting crowded spaces and public utilities.

The New Threat

While the Indian narrative about violence and militancy was undergoing a metamorphosis to gradually start impacting public life and to reach near the top of our national governance agenda, a new threat emerged, striking at important national symbols and other critical assets. In all such cases, it was amply clear that terrorist strikes were planned, funded, supported and directed from across the Western border. In the recent past, this terrorist threat has appeared at our doorstep at regular intervals, resulting in loss of life followed by extensive media coverage and a intense public outcry to suitably respond to these threats. An important consequence of these strikes is the discovery of relative vulnerability of some of our national and critical assets, possibly the absence of a comprehensive national policy on protecting these assets including non-existence of a single all-encompassing counter-terror authority. Our rather indulgent legal framework, which, on occasion, is exploited by highly paid legal luminaries or the perpetrators are simply let off because of inadequate prosecution also needs an urgent review.

One area, which was relatively untouched was our critical assets, which had security and were not public utilities e.g. military installations and other important national assets. That, however, changed with a completely unprovoked attack on the Parliament, a similar attack in Mumbai and more recently attacks on some military installations; one of which even provoked a surgical strike by the Indian Army.

Countering the Threat

One aspect, which merits mention is the spate of editorials and recommendations of security experts advising continuing with armed response in the future and adopting measures to prevent terrorist strikes. It needs to be stated, at least once, that even with the reckless behaviour of a neighbour, a nation of our size, composition and financial disposition cannot be in a perpetual state of war. Also, such advice which appears after every episode of terrorist violence, either overlooks the need to deploy modern technology to secure critical assets or there is a vague mention of some cameras or some security related equipment, which is expected to provide security. At this stage, it is important to mention that the security related technology, far beyond a few cameras, has reached a state that when used in an integrated manner for ‘any’ given asset, irrespective of the size, it can provide real-time, fail-safe, comprehensive security against all types of threats. The solution, a combination of advanced software and state-of-the-art hardware, when deployed after a detailed assessment of the threat and designed with all technology elements, detects and identifies the threat, internal/external/disasters, raises an alarm within the asset and in the contiguous assets as well and provides a situation report to all controlling headquarters. The real-time calibrated response by a well-trained First Responder Force either neutralises the threat or contains it for a larger response.

Making of a Secure Nation

India has a unique geographical location. With two hostile neighbours, the one on our West actively supports terrorist violence and the other, who may shortly taste the effects of sponsored violence, but, for the present, provides political and diplomatic support to our Western neighbor, thus preventing any international intervention. The result is possibility and presence of terrorist threat in our country at all times. To counter this threat, we need to create a system, which will transform India into a number of interlinked secure spaces, interacting with each other, communicating the situation, irrespective of the ownership, to nominated controlling headquarters, creating early warning and alarm when required, to neutralise the threat at the earliest with the least possible casualties or damage; converting India into a secure place to live, work and do business with. This kind of security infrastructure is not something new. Most Western nations have such systems in place. This kind of security framework will need strong political will to overcome the objections of various interest groups, primarily, within the establishment to respond to a unified control structure and a strong legal framework, which cannot be exploited, to effectively fight terrorism. It will also require a large scale earmarking of resources from essential areas of nation-building towards creating a marginally intrusive but safe and prosperous way of life for our people. It needs to be pointed out that such a transformation, to become a secure and wired nation, will need thousands of crores of rupees in capital expenditure over possibly a decade or more initially with gradually reducing costs as we progress.

Technology Vis-a-Vis Human Resource

Threat Assessment

Assessing the nature and quantum of various types of possible threats, which may include sabotage, theft, industrial espionage, stand-off threat or a frontal assault is the first step in designing an integrated security solution. This assessment by professional security experts considers a very large number of influencing factors to decide the qualitative and quantitative requirement of various types of security. This assessment also outlines the requirements to meet disaster management needs such as special detectors for a chemical plant or specialised equipment such as underwater smart fences for a manufacturing facility located on the sea coast. This assessment results in an outline plan with broad requirements of various elements and approximate time required to install the system. This plan generally forms the basis for an in-principle commercial agreement and is followed by a drill down plan, which includes requirement of ‘all’ elements and a detailed time plan. Professional experts who carry out the assessment also identify the procedures for security routines, detection and evaluation of threat, incident reporting and response procedures.

Elements of a Technology Prime Security Solution

A modern, technology prime security solution has five essential elements:

  • Appropriate Hardware. Depending on the primary task assigned to the security system, appropriate hardware is essential to provide security to any type of asset. Details of the hardware required for a complete security solution are described later in the text. All modern systems have digital components for various tasks. However, it is possible to use, in some cases a mix of analog and digital systems.
  • Appropriate Software. A technology prime security system, like all modern systems, needs an operating system to activate the hardware. Modern software can provide a fail-safe security system in which there is no scope for human error. Software like the Predictive Intelligence can store enormous volume of information, accept new information and generate actionable intelligence including predicting the possibility of a security incident. The system can prompt appropriate action when required, making real-time and error-free decisions easy for the operating crews.
  • Communications. The system needs three types of communications. One system in which various components of the system digitally communicate with each other, with external control systems and generate options/accept instructions for the Operating Crew. The other system is for human communication; Operating Crew, First Responders and Control Room Personnel. The third system is for public announcements warning all concerned about an impending danger or for actions like evacuating an area or a building.
  • Operating Crew. These are the personnel who are trained to operate the system and are trained to trouble-shoot and maintain the system for continued performance.
  • First Responders. Personnel equipped with suitable weapons, transport and communications to respond, in near real-time, to emerging situations. A Control Station can move these responders to any threatened location depending upon the situation.


The above-mentioned elements, when deployed as constituents of an integrated security solution, have distinct roles, described in the following text, which provide an up-to-the-minute, complete and fail-safe security to the asset they are protecting. Major roles performed by these constituents are:

  • Surveillance
  • Access Management
  • Screening and Detection
  • Communications
  • Operational Control
  • Surveillance

“While discussing the security solution for a large hotel, operating from two adjacent buildings, part of a chain of luxury hotels, the Manager, a foreign lady, wanted to know if she would be able to exercise control on both properties because she could not be present at both places. She was advised that she could be out of the country and yet access each and every area of both the buildings and exercise real-time control on deployment of resources, responding to evolving situations and a host of other actions.” Welcome to Internet Protocol (IP) based security solutions. – An interaction with the author.

Surveillance, as a part of an integrated security solution, must allow real time, all-weather and uninterrupted electronic/electro-optic or visual watch over all external spaces beyond the perimeter as well as in the immediate vicinity of an asset/internal work spaces/machinery/office spaces, manufacturing processes and storage spaces. This type of surveillance, of the complete asset, by various methods/technologies, depending on the requirement, possibly, backed up by Video Analytics, where applicable, is the foundation on which the integrated security solution is based2.

  • Video Surveillance. Surveillance through electro-optic devices is truly a force multiplier. A trained crew of few operators can observe an asset with a perimeter of tens of kilometers, open spaces of hundreds of acres and complex manufacturing/work spaces spread over millions of square feet.
  • This surveillance can be a conventional CCTV for a stand-alone asset, which does not have to share information and has a local control. In the participative model of security described earlier, this model may not meet the requirement of sharing information and resources.
  • The surveillance can also be organised as an Internet Protocol (IP) solution which can provide a well-managed access to the users; especially the decision makers who may be far from the asset location. With global access, this system of surveillance is suitable for real-time control from one central location for a number of widely spread out assets, sometimes in different cities/states. In the event of a security related incident or a natural disaster, all decision makers can log-in from anywhere in the world to review the situation as it unfolds, assess the damage and response, move additional resources or take any other decisions to mitigate the impact.
  • Video Analytics. This is a commercially available and an essential decision support element for any integrated security system. Based on some advanced artificial intelligence algorithms, it helps the Control Crew in exercising operational control over large establishments or multiple locations with extensive video coverage presented through multiple screens in the control rooms.
  • Radar Surveillance. Integrated Security Solutions can have radars as part of the surveillance plan for all-weather surveillance at ports, harbours or other high value assets. Radars can be used in a stand-alone mode or as part of electronic-cum-electro-optic surveillance plan.

Access Management

Control of Access. Management and control of access to allow only acceptable personnel, materials and transport entry into any premises and work places in a protected asset is imperative for security of the asset. There is a wide array of technologies available ranging from simple, cost-effective and appropriate for Indian conditions to very complex, expensive and suitable for some very special requirements. An important aspect impacting the selection of access control technology is its contribution to the “operational efficiency” of the establishment.3

Access Prevention. These are the actions taken to prevent unauthorised or forced entry into premises. Effective and visible steps to prevent unauthorised or forced entry constitute the first step in effective access management. Modern technology offers varied choices to detect unauthorised or forced entry, alert the Control Room Crew through the video analytics who can in turn initiate the response to prevent any security incident. Access prevention, being the first act of ensuring security is undertaken at two places, the perimeter encompassing a site and gates, from where the initial access is allowed into the premises of a protected asset.

  • Perimeter. This is the outermost element of the security. A well-thought of perimeter security is indicative of the establishment’s resolve to protect itself. It also acts as a deterrent against any attempt at intrusion.4 Modern technology allows the conventional perimeter to be converted into a formidable defence against any unauthorised intrusion. The perimeter wall or fence has additional equipment in the form of illumination along the entire length including illumination of the prominent approaches as well as area immediately beyond the perimeter, video surveillance along the entire length, including the dead ground along the perimeter, this video coverage will be supported by video analytics to warn the Controlling Crew to enable them to respond to arising situations. In nearly all cases the perimeter has a peripheral road used for patrolling as well as responding to any calls from the Control Room.
  • Gates. These are nominated points of access into an establishment or the site of a manufacturing unit. Some establishments, especially manufacturing units, can be spread over thousands of acres with a very large number of gates. These points of entry can be for labour, office personnel and visitors or for personal transport, heavy duty load carriers, train wagons or any number of combinations. It is imperative that the security system permits entry in a regulated manner, establishes the identity of all personnel entering the premises and records the time of entry, establishes the identity of all transport, scans the transport for safety, establishes the legal ownership of load carriers, safe nature and quantity of the load before allowing entry or exit. It is important that these tasks are done with least possible delay and record of all entry/exit need to be maintained for the designated period. All gates, depending upon the type of entry, also have, as part of the security solution, the means to prevent forcible entry. The equipment to permit controlled entry are:
  • For Employees. Smart Card-based photo identity Card.
  • For Visitors. Entry and exit, including restricting the visit to only the assigned office, managed by any standard Visitor Management System.
  • For Vehicles. It can be a web-based hybrid system, which may include all or some of the hardware, depending on the threat:
    • Driver Identification based on Proximity Card for seamless entry in which the vehicle can continue to move.
    • Under Vehicle Screening System to exclude the possibility of any carry-on attachments.
    • Automobile Number Plate Reader to enable seamless entry for pre-notified vehicles.
    • Boom Barriers/Bollards/Spikes to physically stop a forced entry well before it can cause any damage.
  • Control of Internal Movement. This component of access management controls the movement of employees, visitors and pre-notified, usually tagged critical equipment/classified documents in tagged folders/boxes. This part of access management is gradually becoming very hi-tech. Some of means to control internal movement are:
    • Smart Cards of various styles – the most common and affordable method.
    • Lift control to allow carriages to stop at the pre-determined floors.
    • Fingerprint readers.
    • Hand Geometry Readers (high security areas).
    • Palm Readers (high security areas).
    • Palm Vein Readers (high security areas).
    • Iris Recognition (high security areas).
    • Facial Recognition (high security areas).5

    Screening and Detection

    Depending on the nature of work done in any protected asset, there will be entry/exit of a wide variety of personnel including employees and visitors, different types of vehicles including passenger vehicles, load carriers, railway wagons all bringing in or taking out stores of different kinds including office equipment/other essentials, raw material, in case of a manufacturing units or finished products. An important aspect of all this movement is that no undesirable material should enter the premises and no unauthorised material should be taken out. This process must work at all times. An integrated security solution has a well-developed system of screening ‘all entry/exit’ and detects any objectionable material moving into the premises or being taken out. Technology is available to screen and detect metallic objects as well as even the minutest traces of explosives and other objectionable substances. Suitably placed screening equipment, fixed, table top or hand-held, as a part of access prevention/access control measures can preclude the possibility of any undesirable material entering the premises. A range and depth of technology is available to suit different needs without interrupting the business processes. Obtrusive and somewhat intrusive nature of this activity calls for very efficient processes, which are not offensive to personal sensitivities6.


    A security system to be effective needs the following types of communications:

    • Adequate availability of broadband with an ability to simultaneously transport a large volume of multiple signals and different types of traffic.
    • Internet connectivity.
    • Radio/telephone communication connecting the Control Room crew to:
    • The teams of Responders deployed at different locations.
    • The nominated Decision Makers.
    • The nominated agencies including the Police, the Fire Department and the agencies providing Medical Support.
    • An establishment-wide PA system for important administrative as well as security related announcements.
    • To ensure fail-safe and guaranteed communication some important links may be duplicated to ensure redundancy.

    Operational Control

    Control Room. A control room is the hub from where the integrated security solution is controlled. Like all command posts, this is where all data feeds and communication links are terminated. Besides exercising operational control on the deployed system and other resources, this hub is also connected to the adjacent secured assets and all the agencies, which ensure a seamless operation in countering any type of threat. The Control Room can monitor all surveillance devices, can control entry/exit at all points of entry, plans routine deployment of security staff and deploy responders, wherever required and can raise a general alarm when mass action is required major functions of a Control Room can be summarised as:

    • Video Management through control of all surveillance devices.
    • Control of all external and internal entry and exit points.
    • Manage all communications.
    • Respond to all situations in real time.
    • Provide information to decision makers in the event of a serious security incident.
    • Single Point of Contact with external agencies such as Police, Fire Brigade and Hospitals.


    India, a truly democratic and secular nation with a vast population of multiple religions, races, castes and ethnic groups, is on the verge of a major transformation. Counted amongst the poor nations in the not too distant past, India is set to become an economic powerhouse, which will create millions of job opportunities for the eligible young people, ensure economic well-being of all Indians and provide a high standard of living for everyone. In such a situation, it is important that we stay focused, without any distractions, disruptions or diversions, on the path of development and social growth. Moving on such a path would call for massive financial outlays for creation of world-class infrastructure, enormous expenditure on skill creation and improving our standard of education, providing world-class medical facilities to all citizens and above all, provide a peaceful and prosperous way of life to all Indians belonging to different social strata. While we have chosen to move along this path, one aspect which is beyond our choice is selecting or nominating our neighbours. Geography makes that choice. That we have two neighbours who seem to be averse to accepting a developing India is a geographical reality that we have leant to live with.

    It is a widely acknowledged fact that at least one recalcitrant neighbour is engaged in fomenting terrorist violence in our country. India, as an emerging global power, has to face up to this threat. We have to be eternally vigilant to detect this threat whenever or wherever it appears and destroy it before it impacts our way of life. To be able to counter this threat, we will have to divert precious resources from social development to creating security infrastructure which can anticipate the threat, provide nationwide situational awareness of terrorist activities, detect the threat in real-time and respond with equal or greater violence to destroy the threat. We will also need suitable changes in our legal system to prevent our generous processes being exploited.

    Technology prime integrated security solutions which will create contiguous, interlinked, fully secure, impenetrable spaces spread all over India, backed up by an organisation to conduct anti-terrorist operations by a well-trained force, can make India a safe and secure place to live and do business with.


    1. Homeland Security : An Indian Perspective, Maj Gen AK Mehra, published in Security Today.

    2. Ibid

    3. Ibid.

    4. Ibid

    5. Ibid

    6. Ibid

    Rate this Article
    Star Rating Loader Please wait...
    The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

    About the Author

    More by the same author

    Post your Comment

    2000characters left