Congressman calls for synergy between security technology, productivity

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has called on technology vendors to develop products that would assist both safety and productivity.

In a speech intended to send a signal to the homeland security technology community, Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) today told attendees at the GovSec conference in Washington that, "As we introduce new security technology into our productive processes, we should make those processes more productive, too."

Cox added, "Right after September 11 we were asking only that security improvements not slow things down too much." Now, he continued, vendors should focus on security improvements that spur productivity as well.

Cox offered the example of Congress' investigation of the electricity blackouts across the Eastern United States in 2003. "We found the proximate cause of the blackouts was a poorly functioning alarm system at an Ohio power company," he said. "The alarm never went off."

Cox went on to speculate that an improved alarm system could reinforce both the power company's protection against terrorist attacks and against dangerous power failures.

The congressman proposed that technology vendors might divide their product development teams in half, with one group focusing on security improvements and the other on productivity improvements. After each group had devised approaches to the two types of problems, the two groups could then begin to work together to combine the benefits of the technological advances.

In response to questions following the speech, Cox endorsed Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff's efforts to realign the department's resources in tune with terrorism risks rather than pre-existing organizational boundaries.

Also in response to a reporter's question, Cox suggested that the Information Sharing Environment Program office remains in an early stage of development. Energy Department and CIA veteran John Russack recently was appointed head of the office.

Cox said in a one-on-one exchange that he endorsed the office's mission of weaving together the nation's terrorism information resources but did not want to embarrass anybody by citing its apparent lack of progress in his remarks from the stage of the conference.

As for the Homeland Security Department's overall development, "We are finding that the agencies have a long way to go," Cox said.

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