DHS to tie grants to interoperability standards

The Homeland Security Department plans to require state and local governments seeking grants to adhere to technical standards and protocol to ease voice and data interoperability at the state and local level, said Steve Cooper, DHS' chief information officer.

The department wants to promote interoperability, especially in using mobile radio and geospatial data, Cooper told attendees at the DHS' Industry Forum in Washington this week.

He urged industry to devote equal attention to protocol issues surrounding interoperability when responding to opportunities in the state and local market.

"Even more important than technology standards are the processes and procedures related to interoperability," Cooper said.

In his presentation, Cooper reviewed initiatives related to interoperability and information sharing, which he said are among the department's top priorities this year. The purpose of the two-day industry forum is to assist the private sector in doing business with DHS.

Geospatial data is crucial to many departments at the federal, state and local levels charged with domestic security, he said.

The federal government already has provided $8 billion to state and local governments for homeland security purposes, DHS said. President Bush's fiscal 2005 budget proposal contains an additional $5 billion.

Regarding information sharing, DHS is expanding the network that provides warnings and alerts to state and local governments, Cooper said.

The agency is replacing the Joint Regional Information Exchange, an encrypted, virtual private network used for distributing threat information, with a network dubbed the Homeland Information Security Network, he said.

Besides providing information to state emergency operations centers, the new network will offer threat information to the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas as well as to the 56 state and territorial governments, Cooper said. The department plans to connect the additional participants this year, he said.

"The Homeland Information Security Network will be the primary network for information sharing between DHS [and state and local government] in the counterterrorism space," Cooper said.

About the Author

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

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