Friday, July 23, 2010

Milk security system among projects stemming from rural Ky. congressman's hometown earmarks

A University of Kentucky food engineer stands to benefit from the investment in homeland security as his high-tech "milk-transport security system" nears completion. Fred Payne, who has started a company, TranSecurity Systems Inc. to market his system, began his research with $2.67 million in federal grants from the National Institute for Hometown Security, established by Kentucky Republican Rep. Hal Rogers in his hometown of Somerset, John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. "Other NIHS-funded projects have included research on face recognition, disaster prediction, pedestrian surveillance and trying to reduce the explosiveness of ammonium nitrate fertilizer," Cheves writes.

Payne's idea arose after many food scientists began questioning the safety of the nation's food supply following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Payne and his partners, "including dairy expert Chris Thompson of the UK College of Agriculture, designed a hand-held wireless computer to record a truck's contents and send that information to remote locations; a global positioning system to identify a truck's whereabouts at all times; and secure locks on the dome lid and rear doors, with a key pad to enter access codes," Cheves writes. (Payne, left, and Thompson in Herald-Leader photo by Matt Goins)

NIHS was created when Rogers earmarked $52 million in federal funds for the project, in part to pay for anti-terrorism research at Kentucky universities. Rogers' critics have questioned the decision to establish "his own homeland security agency in a small town with no obvious terrorist targets," Cheves writes, and claim "Rogers is building an empire for himself in southeastern Kentucky using his so-called budget earmarks." NIHS chief executive Ewell Balltrip, a former newspaper editor and publisher in the region, told Cheves that "Politics doesn't have anything to do with what we do," and the organization provides a needed plug for a hole in national security. (Read more)

No comments: