9/11 report might give IT spending a boost

The recommendations of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, if implemented, could expand the federal government's use of information technology, according to testimony at a House Government Reform Committee hearing today.

For example, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), said the government should set standards for secure identification documents, such as birth certificates and drivers' licenses, as the 9/11 Commission recommended. Its report was published July 22.

"It's an almost ridiculously simple recommendation," Miller said. "A number of states issue drivers' licenses without requiring primary identity documents. I think that's a tremendous problem. We could use biometrics."

John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission, said the group was particularly proud of its ID standards recommendation.

"While some of us were sympathetic to the idea of national identity card, others were sympathetic to privacy issues. We came up with what is as close to a perfect solution as we could get. It's not a national identity card, yet it gives all the security benefits that a national ID would have."

Lehman also said CAPPS II, the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System that identifies potentially dangerous airline travelers, should be implemented. It was put on hold last month by the Homeland Security Department because of data privacy concerns. A department spokeswoman said then that the system would be redesigned.

The CAPPS I system identified six of the 9/11 terrorists, but they were not stopped because government agents were looking for explosives, not those particular people, Lehman said. CAPPS II is not perfect, but it is more sophisticated, he said.

Bob Kerrey, another commission member, said more money is needed to speed up some homeland security projects, such as the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator System. U.S. Visit, which tracks the entry and exit of foreign visitors to the United States, is not set to be finished until 2010, Kerrey said. The project could be worth up to $10 billion.

"There are a number of areas where funding is a problem, particularly in border security," Kerrey said. "2010 is too darn slow."

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