Bush: High-tech has made 'incredible difference' in war on terror

President Bush praised U.S. high-tech prowess in helping defend the homeland at a June 13 meeting with about 130 high-tech executives at the 21st Century High Tech forum at the White House.

"Our high-tech gains have made an incredible difference" in the war on terrorism, Bush said in an afternoon address that followed closed sessions with the executives and administration executives, including Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. The sessions addressed homeland security, economic growth and education.

"We are going to protect our homeland in a better way because of technology," Bush said. "I can envision a lot of new technologies that enable us to communicate with first responders and federal, state and local government [agencies] better. All of this is going to require new technology at the FBI and CIA."

Bush said he hoped to streamline government with the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, adding that one of his objectives is to make sure it is a modern organization that works like a corporation.

The federal government is set to spend $53 billion in information technology next year. To government purchasers of that IT, he said: "Make sure the product [you buy] works, please."

It's important to understand that technology is only an enabler, however, said Jim Morgan, chairman and chief executive officer of Applied Materials Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif. Morgan, a forum participant, spoke with reporters after the forum. Applied Materials makes equipment used in semiconductor production.

"The real focus for making IT work is to have good structures and processes in order to apply the technology," he said.

Bush said the nation must be aggressive in expanding broadband Internet access. It would expand economic growth, he said. Smiling, he said the secure teleconferencing abilities at his Crawford, Texas, ranch are good, but could be better.

"It could be in real time," he said. "I'm confident the FCC ... is focused on policy that will bring high-speed access and create competition."

Tommy Thompson, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, talked about the need to use technology to improve the safety of the U.S. food supply, said forum participant John Thompson, chairman and CEO of Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif. Symantec makes cybersecurity software.

There's also an awareness in the Bush administration, Thompson said, that as government becomes increasingly accessible via technology, cybersecurity takes a front seat in the government's list of priorities.

"It is clear there is an understanding of the need for the application of cybersecurity technology to ensure" citizen trust, he said after the conference.

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