From the battlefield to the front lines of the federal government, ITT Exelis Night Vision (Formely ITT) provides valuable intelligence to aid in the federal government’s critical missions.
THE CHALLENGE: Safety and Effectiveness
Federal agency law enforcement officials face life or death situations every day. Whether they are finding escaped inmates, transporting important cargo or busting a drug ring, the safety of federal agents and those they protect is at stake. Since many operations occur at night or in dark conditions, ITT Exelis for years has provided necessary equipment and training to give agencies the intelligence required to complete missions successfully. Instead of offering off-the-shelf goggles and training, ITT Exelis works with each agency to determine its unique challenges and provide customized, innovative solutions. Whether an agency needs equipment very quickly, requires funding or calls for the creation of a different kind of system, Exelis works as a partner to help meet individual needs. The following are snapshots of how Exelis has used its technology and expertise to provide solutions to federal agencies’ challenges, giving them the upper hand in critical missions.
The U.S. Department of State One of the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) roles is drug enforcement, requiring the department’s pilots to fly planes as low and fast as possible in locations around the world. These operations occur at night, and pilots have to fly extremely close to the ground. Therefore, pilots must be equipped with night vision in order to avoid trees and mountains. Because the DOS needed the most advanced technology available, DOS officials approached ITT Exelis. Exelis helped the DOS upgrade its systems, thereby ensuring the best vision possible for critical missions.
U.S. Department of Energy In an effort to provide optimum security of its facilities and equipment, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) contacted ITT Exelis for its expertise. Specifically, the DOE needed a system that would ensure accurate firing at night. While ITT Exelis had its own technology to offer, the company learned the DOE needed a system with components ITT Exelis was unable to provide. Thus the company brought in partners that could provide the innovative solution the DOE needed. By using the team of Insight (for laser aiming devices for weapons), GG&G (for mounts), Aim Point and EO Tech (for combat optics), ITT Exelis brought together the key elements necessary for the desired night vision package of equipment. In addition, during this process, ITT Exelis discovered that the DOE could benefit from using a better piece of equipment for its night operations. Thus Exelis provided the DOE with a monocular allowing for more versatility and better depth perception. With the new illumination system and night vision technology, the DOE was able to do its job more accurately and effectively.
U.S. Department of Justice The Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization (OLETC), a program of the National Institute of Justice’s Office of Science and Technology, seeks to put market-driven technologies into the hands of law enforcement and corrections personnel. Every year, OLETC holds a Mock Prison Riot in West Virginia, allowing corrections officers to use the best technologies available in training scenarios. Because OLETC recognizes that night vision technology is critical for corrections personnel, the organization included ITT Exelis' equipment in several scenarios of its most recent mock riot. For example, corrections officers were faced with a scenario in which four inmates were missing and were last seen in a pitch-black basement. A team was sent in to conduct a general roomsweep clearing with some officers using night vision goggles and others equipped with only flashlights. Those officers with the night vision goggles found three of the four prisoners, and those with flashlights found only one of the escaped inmates. Exelis was able to help the corrections officers succeed in their critical mission. Along with being included in the mock riot, the company’s night vision equipment is an official part of the curriculum at The National Corrections and Law Enforcement Training and Technology Center (NCLETTC), which provides year-round technology training for corrections, law enforcement and public safety organizations.
ATF - The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) needed night vision for surveillance purposes and did not have time for a lengthy procurement process. ITT Exelis worked to link the ATF with another federal agency that offered the use of its night vision contract to the ATF. As a result of Exelis' innovative solution in partnering the two agencies, the ATF received the surveillance systems it needed in the timeframe that was required.
ONDCP - The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center (CTAC) established the Technology Transfer Program to transfer counterdrug systems and devices directly to state and local law enforcement agencies that may otherwise be unable to obtain new equipment due to limited budgets. The program is geared toward agencies in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. The goals of the technology transfer process are to identify law enforcement requirements, match them with the appropriate counterdrug technologies and transfer those technologies to the selected law enforcement activities. ONDCP and CTAC had received feedback suggesting that officers needed night vision because they were conducting many operations at night or in dark buildings. Because night vision is a critical tool in the fight against drugs but one that many departments cannot afford, the Center asked Exelis to develop a custom-designed kit that the CTAC could offer to state and local police departments through the Technology Transfer Program. The kit contained the most important tools for fighting drugs –a set of PVS-7 bioculars used for surveillance and a handheld monocular used for tactical maneuvers. In addition, Exelis developed a specialized training session for every equipment recipient. In the past two years, more than 900 kits have been granted to agencies. Feedback from law enforcement indicates the equipment and training have given officials the necessary intelligence and tools to fight the war on drugs more efficiently and effectively.
FBI The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had a specific request. The agency needed a monocular for surveillance purposes that could be hand-held or camera adaptable, and it needed to be compatible with the agency’s existing systems. Additionally, the FBI wanted the unit to fit in the pockets of its agents. To meet these special needs, ITT Exelis engineered a system especially for the FBI, making sure each request was met. The FBI continues to use this technology to perform critical missions.
U.S. Coast Guard The U.S. Coast Guard had been forced to go through a lengthy procurement process for night vision, and the organization was not receiving the highest performance equipment –two issues which affected its operations. Thus the Coast Guard approached ITT Exelis to determine how the officials could receive the upgraded technology and accelerate delivery time. ITT Exelis worked with Coast Guard officials to find a quick-response federal procurement process, whereby they would receive the latest, high-performance technology in a fraction of the time it generally would take. Today, the Coast Guard uses updated technology and quickly can acquire additional systems.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SIGHT AT NIGHT
While officers sometimes refer to thermal imaging (heat detection) as “night vision,” the term “night vision” generally refers to image intensification (light amplification). Image intensified night vision is essential safety equipment for law enforcement officers because criminals use darkness as a cover. When officers face criminal activity in the dark or at night, they have to use flashlights or floodlights, putting officers at risk by alerting criminals to the officers’ exact location. Night vision gives officers a critical advantage over criminals by allowing them to see criminal activity without being detected and by giving them time to respond safely. Not only does night vision shield law enforcement officers, but also it significantly improves efforts including search and rescue, surveillance, evidence gathering, foot pursuit, SWAT/tactical maneuvers, weapon firing and K-9 activities.
In light of September 11, night vision is critical for officers, particularly for surveillance and preventing terrorist activity abroad on the battlefield, and at home on the city streets or in rural areas.
The threat under the cover of darkness
The majority of criminal activity occurs at night. The Bureau of Justice Statistics for 1999 reports statistics showing a significant risk for nighttime violent crimes:
• 63 percent of all armed robberies occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
• 66 percent of all rapes and sexual assaults occurred at night.
• 58 percent of all household burglaries occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
• 47 percent of all armed assaults occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
• 41 percent of all violent crime occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Due to heightened criminal activity at night, more officers are at risk, injured or killed at night. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics show that from 1991 to 2000:
• 58 percent of incidents leading to an officer’s death occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Most officers were killed between midnight and 2 a.m.
• 69 percent of officer assaults occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Currently, no organization captures the number of violent crimes in dark buildings during the day, but anecdotal evidence suggests that officers regard dark buildings as a significant vulnerability.
Inadequate funding provides a barrier to officer safety
Due to budget constraints and a lack of available funding, the majority of law enforcement officers, particularly those serving small to mid-sized populations, do not have access to night vision. The most effective night vision technology costs between $1,895 and $3,600 per unit. The problem is magnified because most small to mid-sized agencies do not have the resources to research and apply for available grants. According to the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS), there are more than 18,750 police departments in the United States. While most departments have surveillance camera equipment, the majority does not have night vision, infrared or thermal imagers. Of the 49 state agencies surveyed:
• 12 have night vision equipment.
• 24 have infrared or thermal images.