The Globe is reporting that the cargo ship bears the name Osama. It's been registered in Syria. And it's steaming toward Los Angeles.
That's the mock scenario playing out on a bank of giant plasma screens lined up for a demo here at Raytheon Co.'s Naval Integration Center on Narragansett Bay. The vessel has been tagged as suspicious based on data culled from shipping records. Raytheon engineers are using software to track its course. And they're combing databases tracing its history, ownership, and sister ships heading for US waters.
Athena is part of a larger push by Raytheon, the nation's fifth-largest military contractor, into homeland security. With the growth in spending expected to slow in the second half of this decade at the Department of Defense, its top customer, executives of the Waltham company have set their sights on capturing more business from the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies that fund new programs protecting
air and sea ports, borders, railroads, and highways.
But the company's homeland security revenue is still tiny compared to its defense revenue. And Raytheon is playing catch-up to other contractors who have moved faster to retool existing programs to address homeland security requirements.
Project Athena, which seeks to foil both terrorists and drug traffickers, was deployed for a 45-day field demonstration at the Port of Buffalo this fall. Raytheon is now using feedback from the US Northern Command on the Buffalo trial to refine the system's ''anomaly detection and response" capabilities as it prepares for deployments at two other US ports this winter and spring. Thus far, Raytheon has won $8.5 million in contracts from the Pentagon's Counter-Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office for Athena, but it's positioning itself to compete for much larger orders when the opportunity arises.
At the same time, Raytheon is readying a bid next month for a contract estimated to be worth up to $50 million to supply technology for the Homeland Security agency's Advanced Spectroscopic Program that seeks to scan cargo trucks for radioactive materials. The company's homeland security programs, bringing in $67.9 million last year, still represent only a small fraction of the more than $20 billion Raytheon rings up in annual revenue. But expanding the homeland security business has been identified as a priority for the company.
In building a homeland security franchise, Raytheon will be vying with some familiar rivals. Lockheed Martin Corp., the largest US military contractor, jumped to a headstart by modifying its Deepwater program, a joint venture with Northrop Grumman Corp. formed in the 1990s to help modernize Coast Guard ships and aircraft. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Lockheed and Northrop refocused part of their efforts on new homeland security missions like coastal protection.
Tapping the homeland security market has been complicated for all contractors by squabbling among government agencies over funding responsibilities, making it hard to plan their programs.
In this uncertain environment, Raytheon is limiting its own up-front investments and capitalizing on its existing capabilities. To track container ships and protect coastal installations, the company can draw on communications and command-and-control technologies it already has developed for programs like the Navy's DD(X) destroyer and the Army's JLENS system to fend off cruise missiles attacks. While Raytheon has acquired simulation software for Project Athena, the heart of the Athena system uses sensors, cameras, radars, public databases, and satellite imagery originally rolled out for military programs.
Project Athena is a networked system that can be installed at shore sites or quickly assembled at remote command posts. It integrates information from a variety of sensors and data banks to track container and tanker ships and other maritime activity. Software programs crawl through thousands of online shipping records to identify suspicious ships based on their ownership, history, registration, or destination. Once they are identified, Athena operators can track targeted ships through aerial or satellite surveillance and alert defense authorities to a potential threat.
As it expands, the system will also track activity in and around coastal airports and in air space over the ocean, working on the premise that a hijacked plane could attack an oil tanker, or a terrorist on a ship could launch a shoulder-fired missile at a passenger jet. Similarly, alternating between wide-area views and zooming in on specific targets, it will seek to keep tabs on smaller boats, coastal industrial plants, rail installations, and ground vehicles traveling on roads near ports.
Raytheon executives demonstrated the system for Rhode Island political leaders last month, stressing their expertise in networking electronics systems and integrating surveillance with intelligence. Governor Don Carcieri, senators Jack Reed and Lincoln Chafee, and congressmen Patrick Kennedy and Jim Langevin were among those gathering here to mark the opening of the Athena Fusion Center.
Political clout may become increasingly important for Raytheon as homeland security budgets grow and the company vies for bigger contracts with rivals such as Lockheed Martin, which also is pursuing a role as systems integrator.
While Raytheon has yet to crack the top 10 list of contractors for the Homeland Security department -- it ranked a distant 37th in fiscal 2004, the most recent year for figures were published -- Homeland Security officials welcome the company stepping up to the plate.