A delegation of Israeli homeland security companies is in the US this week looking to take advantage of America's surging interest in the industry to build on the 20% increase in exports of HLS products last year. "Homeland security covers such an enormous range of services given the need to protect our air, land and water borders," said Gerald Gordon, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority which, together with the Israeli Export and International Cooperation Institute, organized the US-Israel HLS Technologies Conference in Fairfax County, Virginia. "We don't have the sufficient experience to cover everything and Israel has to be the first place to look for these." Gordon said that while Congress has in the past been interested in US-led programs, it recently loosened its policy and is increasingly looking to get input from its allies, namely Israel and the UK. Last year alone, the US government had procurements of $39 billion in homeland security, a level that Gordon said was expected to at least be maintained in the next few years. While the Fairfax County EDA hosts conferences for delegations from other countries aimed at helping companies set up offices and do business in Fairfax, Gordon said the current event has an added dimension. "Because of the close alliances the US has with Israel, the conference takes on a second layer in how to tap into government contracts," he said. The EDA said the 18 companies participating in this week's conference will have the chance to meet US contractors and systems integrators to assess the federal market place, present business plans to leading investors, and highlight Fairfax County's strong homeland defense industry. Kicking off the conference, the group met Tuesday with former governor of Virginia James Gilmore III, who currently serves as chairman of the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction and last week announced his intention to seek the presidential nomination of the Republican party. With its close proximity to Washington, DC, Fairfax is considered one of the leading locations for homeland security activities in the US and is home to much of the US Department for HLS and and many largest US companies in the market. In addition, 20 Israeli companies have offices in Fairfax and in the last few months Nice Systems, Magal Senstar, Camero and Arocon have either set up or expanded their facilities in the county. The Israel Exports Institute, meanwhile, will be looking to the conference to give the local homeland security industry a further boost this year after finishing 2006 with $1 billion in exports, up 20% from 2005. IEE chairman David Arzi estimated that exports would increase a further 15% this year to reach $1.15b. The IEE said it represents around 600 homeland security companies and is preparing to host dozens of foreign delegations from the sector this year. Among these, an international group with representatives from the US, Singapore, Kenya, Canada and Belgium, is scheduled to participate in a seminar on February 8 entitled "Behind the scenes of Israeli security."