Homeland watch

DHS spends $2B on private sector

Since 2003, the Homeland Security Department has provided nearly $2 billion for risk-based grants to protect private-sector critical infrastructure and key resources, Robert Stephan, assistant secretary of infrastructure protection, told the Senate State, Local and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration Subcommittee July 12.

The funding includes $445 million this year. The private sector is participating in protection efforts, but there are still concerns about sharing sensitive information, said Ken Watson, manager of Cisco Systems Inc.'s Critical Infrastructure Assurance Group and vice chairman-elect of the Partnership for Critical Infrastructure Security. The partnership is working closely with DHS and the federal Information-Sharing Environment to resolve the concerns, partially by supporting a proposed new category of controlled unclassified information, he said.

Cross-border interoperability

First responders in border states are pressing for radio interoperability with Mexico and Canada. "Since emergencies do not stop at international borders, I ask that Congress take into consideration the additional need for cross-border communications," Leesa Berens Morrison, Arizona's homeland security director, told the House Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response Subcommittee July 12.

Similarly, international treaties add to communications gaps in Whatcom County in the northwest corner of Washington. Treaties allowing Canadian government agencies to review border area radio frequency assignments and licensing have limited the options for improvement, Bill Elfo, the county's sheriff, said at the hearing.

Info sharing for bomb squads

One of the secure, restricted-access information-sharing environments supported by the Homeland Security Department is designed for bomb squads. The Technical Resource for Incident Prevention (TRIPwire) is an online network that gives law enforcement users information about current terrorist bombing tactics, techniques and procedures, with documents, images and videos. TRIPwire has more than 1,800 users, including 566 certified bomb technicians, and has received nearly 4 million site hits in the past year.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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