Walker: Homeland security plan could resemble year 2000 effort

Walker: Homeland security plan could resemble year 2000 effort

The same kind of federal leadership and oversight that made the year 2000 effort a success may be needed in the homeland security plan, Comptroller General David M. Walker said Friday in testimony to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

Walker outlined a framework for how federal officials might organize a homeland security plan, hours after President Bush named Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to head the newly created Office of Homeland Security (see story at www.gcn.com/vol1_no1/daily-updates/17155-1.html).

The comptroller general said any such plan must:

  • Provide 'clearly defined and effective leadership' and 'the ability to marshal the necessary resources to get the job done'

  • Be based on 'a comprehensive assessment of national threats and risks'

  • Articulate clearly the roles and responsibilities of the many federal, state and local agencies and private-sector organizations that will be involved.

  • As a model of the kind of effort that the Office of Homeland Security might conduct, Walker described the 'massive mobilization' that federal officials led to ensure that computer systems would function after the year 2000 date change. Federal leadership was key to that effort's success, he said.

    Despite many efforts to reduce the threat of attacks on information systems, however, 'progress has been slow,' Walker said. He added that 'independent audits continue to identify persistent, significant information security weaknesses that place virtually all major federal agencies' operations at high risk of tampering and disruption.'

    Walker's testimony followed by one day a 218-page General Accounting Office report evaluating existing federal programs to combat terrorism and protect the nation's critical infrastructure.

    The GAO had scheduled the release of the report, Combating Terrorism: Selected Challenges and Related Recommendations, before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The report recommended, among other actions, the development of a strategy 'for combating computer-based attacks that more clearly defines specific roles and responsibilities of organizations involved, interim objectives and milestones for achieving goals, and related performance measures.'

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