Security duties to be shared

Paul Kurtz says infrastructure protection plans are combined with Homeland Security plans.

(GCN Photo by Ricky Carioti)

Some ongoing cybersecurity initiatives will not shift to the proposed Homeland Security Department.

Paul Kurtz, senior director of the White House Office of Cyber Security, said that Richard Clarke, head of the president's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, probably will continue to report to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice about international risks.

Clarke currently reports to Homeland Security director Tom Ridge about domestic risks.

Although Ridge's position will be replaced by a new cabinet secretary, it's likely Clarke still will have two bosses, Kurtz said last month at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's TechNet conference in Washington.

Planning the new department, Kurtz said, is having only a minor impact on the national strategy for critical infrastructure protection, due for release this summer.

'The strategy is more or less on track,' he said. 'We're pushing toward getting everything together so we can release in August or September.'

President Bush has said he hopes to have the new department established by Sept. 11.

Why wait?

The national strategy is a key administration objective that incorporates private-sector input, Kurtz said. He rejected criticism that the strategy should wait until the homeland security reorganization is complete rather than moving forward in tandem.

'We're trying to do both at the same time,' he said. 'We want a coordinated approach.'

Neither Kurtz's office nor the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board currently is slated to move to the proposed department, although 'much of this is up for discussion,' Kurtz said.

One office tapped for inclusion in Homeland Security is the National Communications System, a multiagency program headed by the secretary of Defense. NCS is going ahead with its build-out of a Wireless Priority Service that gives federal officials and other first responders priority access to wireless communications networks.

'The system is operational today in Washington and New York City,' NCS deputy manager Brenton Greene said. 'It's a limited program now, with national initial operational capability to come along in December.'

Full operational capability by December 2003 would represent the wireless equivalent of the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service, which gives government access codes the first shot at circuits on public switched telephone networks during an emergency, via special software on 5,000 local and long-distance telecommunications switches.

Calls did get through

GETS proved itself in New York following the Sept. 11 attacks. One carrier, AT&T Corp., saw call volume spike by 30 percent, overburdening a system that had lost several main switches. But about 1,500 GETS users made more than 10,000 priority calls, 90 percent of which went through, Greene said.

NCS petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for the Wireless Priority Service in 1995. The commission OK'ed the service five years later, but funding was not available until this year.

The system will interface with GETS for end-to-end priority calls. To minimize the effect on other users, it is designed to take up no more than 25 percent of the bandwidth in any channel, Greene said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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