Eye on the States

With homeland security, all intelligence is local

Thomas Davies

Former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill once said all politics is local. When it comes to homeland security and tracking potential terrorists within the United States, the same observation holds true: All intelligence is local.

While exact numbers are not available, a reasonable estimate is that more than 90 percent of data that has value for homeland security intelligence will originate at the local level. This puts state and local government on the front line, not just as first responders in case of an attack, but also for intelligence gathering and analysis.

In its efforts to protect the country, Congress acted quickly to provide federal agencies with enhanced funding. But keeping the bad guys out is only half the problem, and actually may be the least manageable half. What may be more essential is identifying potential terrorists and monitoring them once they are here.

Although federal grants to support domestic intelligence gathering have yet to begin, state and local governments are not waiting. According the CJIS Group Inc., a Crawfordville, Fla., market research firm, there has been a significant increase in pre-requests for proposals by state and local governments for capabilities to carry out their intelligence collection and management responsibilities. They are using whatever funds they can find to modernize their infrastructures to support homeland security.

One area of immediate attention has been the records management systems in the states. Some, such as Florida, are moving forward with ambitious plans to modernize criminal history records by replacing outdated systems with modern relational database architectures. Arkansas is enhancing its record management system with new hardware, software and integration capabilities.

The states also are taking a hard look at their requirements for enterprisewide, mobile, interoperable communications. More states, such as Kentucky, will acquire wireless voice networks for information sharing among many agencies with law enforcement responsibilities, such as the state police, emergency response, transportation and natural resources.

As state and local governments respond to a new federal Department of Homeland Security, they will issue RFPs on behalf of their own homeland security departments. For example, the Missouri Office of Homeland Security is procuring an automatic syndrome surveillance system for public health. It will be a centralized database for statewide communication of public health risks, such as disease outbreaks, and it will interface with other agencies, such as health and law enforcement departments.

This is just a peek at what's down the road. To keep on top of where things are headed, look to public safety and law enforcement agencies in highly vulnerable jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles, Denver and Washington, to blaze the trails. Widespread use of advanced surveillance systems, portable data devices for officers on the streets and facial recognition software for scanning individuals applying for driver's licenses will all appear soon.

In the short term, the traditional suppliers of software, hardware and telecommunications technologies are benefiting from the increased spending. Companies such as Oracle Corp., Printrak, Microsoft Corp., Unisys Corp. and Motorola Inc. are capitalizing on their installed customer base. But newer niche companies, such as Identix Inc. and Visionics Corp., both leaders in identification technologies, are also beginning to win key awards.

Once the underlying infrastructure is in place, content management and search technology companies will benefit from the requirement to access and manage the content enterprisewide on a real-time basis. No government agency or organization wants to find itself ? as the FBI did ? unable to conduct a simple Web-based search for a critical piece of intelligence.

Thomas Davies is senior vice president at Current Analysis, a business intelligence and analysis company in Sterling, Va. His e-mail address is tdavies@currentanalysis.com

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