As New York continued to dig through the rubble of the World Trade Center, governments at all levels looked for lessons that might be salvaged from the nation's tragedy. How might other jurisdictions build the electronic framework to respond to the demands of a changed America? The Center for Digital Government, the knowledge-management and research division of e.Republic, and Government Technology magazine hosted a homeland security teleconference with a panel of local, state and federal officials weeks after the attacks. Reflecting the intense interest in government's response, hundreds of attendees listened in and asked questions.
Panelists were quick to point out that, although America's focus and concerns have changed since Sept. 11, much of the technology used to respond to the emergency was already in place. "Like a lot of other people, we found out how good our Y2K plans and contingency planning were," said the OMB's Tony Frater, adding that agencies are being asked to look at places where weaknesses were found and correct those conditions. "One of the critical things we need to do is be integrated in our response to things."
The Government Information Security Reform Act, passed in 2000, should help governments do that, according to Frater. Under the legislation, federal agencies were required to report to the OMB and Congress about the security of their systems. Along with analyzing those reports, Frater said there would also be a focus on what Tom Ridge, director of the U.S. Office of Homeland Security, referred to as "data integration."
"We are thinking in terms of both geo-spatial data and various decision support systems, knowledge-management systems and how we can distribute our decision-making capabilities to ensure we have the best information available," he said. "I know we've gotten requests from a number of state and local governments about how we can do a better job of integrating federal, state and local government information assets."
Coming from the federal sector, this kind of outreach to other government entities comes as a welcome sign to state officials who have advocated for more systems integration and standards. Utah is a state that's been ahead of the curve thanks, in part, to a governor who has been a strong advocate for digital government. In addition, the state is playing host to the 2002 Winter Olympics, an event that poses as many threats as it does economic benefits.
According to Chief Privacy Officer Al Sherwood, the state budgeted an additional $40 million in security costs. Data sharing with the FBI has increased, he explained, and one project is under way to link the state's GIS data layers to the Olympic command centers. "Data integration becomes difficult at the state level, unless it's going on at the federal level as well," he said. "FirstGov and other initiatives are great opportunities to do more on that."
Sherwood said GIS data on bridges, power plants, refineries, storage tanks, hospitals and other sensitive facilities must be available for planning and operations. "The area we need more coordination in is the coordination of GIS information," he said. "What we need to do is make this information available to our command centers." And some GIS data has been removed from the Web, he added, to avoid making it too easy for terrorists to find targets. In preparation for the Winter Games, local law enforcement is cross training with the FBI, and crime analysts have access to one another's databases. Sherwood added that Utah had its Web site hacked and defaced prior to Sept. 11, raising awareness and inspiring the state to launch additional security measures.
Sherwood was appointed to the privacy post in the summer of 2001. He said that when he first embarked on his mission under the direction of CIO Phillip Windley, his focus was on creating effective privacy policies and protections. "How I spend my days now is a whole lot different than