Weldon: Industry should help link stovepipes

Weldon: Industry should help link stovepipes

Vendors should 'take this city by the neck and shake it.'
'REP. CURT WELDON

The government needs the IT industry's innovation and expertise, Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) told an audience of agency and industry representatives last month at a Market Access International conference.

He joined current and former officials of the FBI, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Postal Service and other agencies discussing information warfare. Weldon called it perhaps the greatest threat to the United States, even more so than weapons of mass destruction.

'Our intelligence agencies all do a splendid job, but their information is stovepiped,' said Weldon, who chairs the procurement subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. He recounted being briefed in 1998 on the activities of a Yugoslav family with close ties to former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

Weldon said the CIA could give him only a few details about the family, but the Army's Information Dominance Center, which has data-mining software, provided an eight-page document on the family's activities in Kosovo.

Thirty-two agencies have separate classified information storehouses, Weldon said. He called it ridiculous and said no corporation would stand for it.

Two big challenges facing homeland security officials are instant profiling of fast-developing threats and integrating the nation's state and local civilian response, especially in telecommunications, Weldon said. Furthermore, he said, current means of reporting disease symptoms to state health officials are manual and too slow.

Here comes the pitch

The United States needs a national data center that can protect patient confidentiality while detecting suspicious patterns of symptoms in a bioterrorism attack, Weldon said.

Private-sector innovators will never have a better opportunity to pitch their ideas to the government, Weldon said. He appealed to industry, saying, 'Take this city by the neck and shake it.'

FEMA deputy director Michael Brown said one of his agency's emergency mobile response units provided communications to the FBI's New York office right after the Sept. 11 attacks. FEMA also is coordinating the World Trade Center debris removal with the Army Corps of Engineers.

When pitching ideas to FEMA, companies should highlight how their plans apply to homeland defense, Brown said.

A. Denis Clift, president of the Joint Military Intelligence College, said the United States must pay attention to the security of global maritime commerce. More than 90 percent of U.S. commerce moves by ships, but most commercial ships are foreign-flag vessels, Clift said.

The threats to sea and land shipping are both physical and electronic, Clift said. Because maritime service depends on the Web for scheduling and logistics, vigilance is needed against attempts to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the United States.

Countering threats from within will require citizens to rethink basic assumptions about immigration and travel, former Defense Intelligence Agency director Harry E. Soyster said.

Leslie G. Wiser, FBI deputy director for infrastructure, said that many of the eight critical infrastructures identified in Presidential Decision Directive 63 belong to the private sector. PDD-63 directed federal agencies to establish protection for the nation's critical infrastructure by May 2003.

An international watch

The National Infrastructure Protection Center recognizes that cyberattacks in particular often cross national boundaries, Wiser said. NIPC maintains relations with cyberterrorism investigators in five countries and wants to expand the program to Germany soon, he said.

Chief postal inspector Kenneth Weaver said that even before anthrax spores started showing up in mail last month, he thought the Postal Inspection Service should be part of Ridge's homeland security team.

Although the anthrax attacks haven't been linked to the network of terrorists that pulled off the Sept. 11 events, Walker said, 'Make no mistake, these are acts of terrorism, plain and simple.'

Besides mailing informational postcards to all households, the Postal Service is using its www.usps.com site to deliver anthrax information to employees and the public, Walker said.

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