NET Guard would be a volunteer expert force

A force of volunteer technical experts from the public and private sectors would have made a big difference after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by rapidly restoring telecommunications and computer networks, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said last month.

Wyden, who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, held a hearing last month to assess support for the creation of such a group, which he called the National Emergency Technology Guard, or NET Guard.

'The nation's technology leaders tell me they can contribute most effectively if they have organization and a clear chain of command,' Wyden said.

Speakers from both the public and private sectors voiced support for NET Guard, which Wyden said would be similar to the National Guard and could be called on in times of emergency.

Joe Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told the subcommittee that the government needs to make centralizing information a priority.

'We have plenty of capacity, but we lack the technology,' he said. 'It would be helpful to draw on the brainpower of industry so we can do a better job of maintaining the massive amount of information and resources we may need.'

Allbaugh said he would like to see the NET Guard serve as a database of IT brainpower and train state and local responders.

John Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said his agency is conducting an effort similar to NET Guard.
'The National Coordination Office for Information Technology Research and Development will be developing a repository/database of nongovernment people that have offered their expertise to help federal agencies counter terrorism,' he said. 'Content information and relevant expertise will be available on a password-protected Web site.'

Marburger said he supports a national volunteer organization of trained and well-coordinated IT professionals.

He told the subcommittee that NET Guard should develop expertise on a wide variety of technologies, such as satellite phones and landlines, IT disaster recovery procedures and the protection of invisible infrastructure such as radio spectrum, Global Positioning System satellites and wireless communication systems.

Wyden said NET Guard could be created without legislation as a cooperative effort among federal, state and local agencies and the private sector.

'It is a matter of having a central clearinghouse of information so we can recognize the technical needs of the government and match those needs with the expertise and resources the private sector can provide,' said Lisa Wade Raasch, Wyden's communications director. 'This way we can deploy resources in a timely fashion because in a disaster time is so critical.'

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