Group: Comment period for protection plan too short

The Homeland Security Department is not giving enough time for the public and for industry members to comment on its draft National Infrastructure Protection Plan, according to OMB Watch, a Washington-based government watchdog group.

The department released the 175-page document Nov. 2. It offers a comprehensive plan for involving private-sector owners and operators of infrastructure in 17 distinct sectors, such as water, power, food and transportation, in the nation's homeland security.
DHS allowed 15 days for requesting a copy and 30 days for public comment, until Dec. 5.

However, that may be too little time. "The time constraints on viewing and commenting on it do not allow for substantive public review or response," said OMB Watch in a press release. "Given the extensive nature of the report, as well as the importance of the subject matter, it seems clear that additional time should be allotted to allow for greater public input. "

OMB Watch said in the release that DHS rejected its request to extend the comment period by 60 days.

Several IT executives also are critical of the limited time allowed for comment.

The protection plan has "a tight time frame," said Peter Allor, director of intelligence for Internet Security Systems Inc. of Atlanta, and director of operations for the IT Information Sharing and Analysis Center, which was set up to work with DHS for information-sharing with the IT industry. "It will be a challenge to have to work within those constraints."

Several IT industry leaders are asking for an extension to Feb. 5, 2006, according to Larry Clinton, chief operating officer of the Internet Security Alliance, a nonprofit organization fostering IT security.

Both Clinton and Allor are members of an executive advisory board of the newly formed IT Sector Coordinating Council. The council was formed at DHS' direction to represent the IT industry in policy discussions with the department.
Membership in the coordinating council is open to executives in companies in the IT industry, who are invited to sign up at the group's Web site.

Initial working groups are focused on administration, strategy and coordination with federal planning. The coordinating council will hold its first meeting in early 2006 to approve a charter, governance and structure, a news release issued Nov. 14 said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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