State, Local Heads Want Fed Funds for Terrorism Fight

State, Local Heads Want Fed Funds for Terrorism Fight

State and local governments will be seeking several billion dollars in federal grants and aid to help them with emergency preparedness, disaster prevention and other homeland security initiatives.

The National Association of Counties is lobbying the federal government to provide at least $3 billion annually in anti-terrorism block grant assistance to county and municipal law enforcement and public safety agencies, said Jeff Arnold, the group's deputy director of legislative affairs.

The request for the unrestricted grant was made Oct. 26 to Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge on behalf of the nation's more than 3,000 counties. It was based on a study by the International Association of Emergency Managers in Falls Church, Va., a professional organization composed of city, county and other local emergency management directors.

A parallel effort is under way at the National Governors Association of Washington. The NGA mailed a survey to its members in October that will be used to determine how much they are spending for critical infrastructure protection, said Ann Beauchesne, the association's program director for emergency management and physical infrastructure protection.

The survey results will be used to help get funding for states from the administration and Congress, she said.

Unlike federal agencies, state and local governments grappling with homeland security don't have a direct line to appropriations, said industry observers and company officials. Some of this funding is likely to go toward contingency planning, knowledge management, information sharing, datamining and information security, they said.

"The private sector does a lot with contingency planning. If there are best practices that the states can use, then I certainly see a role [for the private sector] in that way," Beauchesne said.

Costis Toregas, president of Public Technologies Inc. of Washington, a nonprofit technology organization supporting U.S. cities and counties, said governments will be looking to the private sector to apply technology to problems that, before Sept. 11, they didn't know existed.

Homeland security should be seen as "a great market opportunity" for integrators, Toregas said. But integrators and technology companies "have to be quick ... and have some investment in the front end to have a competitive advantage," he said.

Cathy Pomanti, vice president of the state and local consulting practice at KPMG Consulting Inc., McLean, Va., said there is a strong likelihood Congress will approve block grants, because Ridge has called for a national ? instead of a federal ? system for homeland security.

Thirteen states have appointed directors of statewide security, and more are likely to make similar announcements in the coming weeks, according to the NGA. In some states, the statewide security directors are current appointments who are being asked to take on extra duties; in other states, appointees are filling the new positions, according to press reports.

In Georgia, for example, Georgia Public Safety Commissioner Robert Hightower has been tapped to head the state's homeland security task force. California has appointed George Vinson, a former FBI agent, to serve as California's special adviser on state security.

Some large urban counties also are appointing homeland security directors, Toregas said.

In response to a request from the Bush administration this month for the private sector to assist state and local governments, systems integrators have been meeting with these governments' officials to discuss how they might improve information sharing among agencies and provide other services.

"Any time a new government organization is created, it offers new opportunities [for integrators] because of our experience [providing solutions] in the public sector," KPMG's Pomanti said.

The most glaring challenge facing federal, state and local government is to find a way for agencies to share information, according to industry officials.

"One of the primary challenges the Office of Homeland Security and the state and local government agencies face is the agencies have evolved to work autonomously. They weren't created with processes in mind that encourage or enhance information sharing," Pomanti said.

KPMG handled the integration for the Pennsylvania Justice Network implemented during Ridge's first term as governor. The network links the FBI, 16 state agencies with criminal justice responsibilities and various cities and counties throughout the state.

The company is deploying a similar integrated criminal justice project for Washington, company officials said.

Homeland security initiatives offer states unique opportunities to define how they will share information across the entire "enterprise" of state government, said Steve Rohleder, managing partner of U.S. government services for Accenture Ltd., Hamilton, Bermuda.

Rohleder said Accenture has developed a blueprint that shows state and local officials how technology can be used to link agencies within a particular government. States that Accenture has shared its blueprint with include California, Florida and Texas, he said.
"If states are to move in the right direction, they need to establish a knowledge management
[mechanism] or a virtual agency that emphasizes sharing of information," he said.

Government may need to modify traditional procurement regulations to swiftly implement homeland security solutions, Rohleder said.

"I know you could have a pilot up and running in 30 to 60 days to show how this could work across government," he said, referring to knowledge management and information sharing pilot programs.

Rohleder cited a prototype for a knowledge management system that Accenture has developed for the State Department.

"The overriding purpose [of the pilot] is to demonstrate the capability of connecting 40 disparate agencies in a highly secure environment to share information and collaborate on problem solving," he said.

Robert Campbell, a senior partner at Deloitte Consulting, New York, said the opportunities on the horizon are not necessarily new, but are existing initiatives that have taken on a new sense of "immediacy and intensity" since Sept. 11.

Deloitte Consulting is noticing increased activity in several areas in which the company is already heavily invested. For example, the company is discussing bioterrorism tracking with state and local health departments and identification issues with state motor vehicle administrations, he said.

"It's a little too early to give a clear and precise picture of how the market is going to evolve," he said. "These states are only weeks into their initiatives. and the [federal] Homeland Security Office is only a month old."

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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