By Sally K. Ride, Ph.D., former NASA astronaut and the first American woman in space.

Today's government agencies face an expanding array of threats that make effective risk management fundamental to their success.

From directing homeland security and managing national transportation systems to running weapons labs and research centers, government agencies oversee some of the nation's most critical activities. Maintaining these operations in the face of natural and man-made hazards is vital to the country's well-being.

Government agencies also house some of its citizenry's most sensitive information - Social Security numbers, health records, financial information and other personal data must be protected. That job grows harder each day as computer hackers become more sophisticated and mobile workers carry vast amounts of information in easily misplaced laptops and handheld computers.

In this environment, all public agencies must strengthen their ability to spot, evaluate and eliminate potential safety and security risks.

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