Homeland security gets to local level

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When Anaheim, Calif., launches its new virtual operations center for homeland security in July, top officials will be able to monitor public systems from any PC.

The portal, funded through a grant from the federal Homeland Security Department, will link resources throughout the county including police, fire, computer-aided dispatch and traffic management systems.

The county received $10 million from the DHS Office of Domestic Preparedness to develop the system. The deal is part of a recent trend in which local officials, vendors and federal employees have worked together to plan, fund and develop systems to improve security and communications.

A good sign

Anaheim's success bodes well for other cities looking to improve their public safety communications systems. The Justice Department, DHS and other federal agencies have hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance available to state and local governments for interoperability projects.

Only about 10 percent to 15 percent of jurisdictions throughout the nation have a desirable level of interoperability because of an absence of standards and the slow pace of funding, homeland security experts said.

But with the rise of direct federal funding to high-threat metropolitan areas, city and county governments are embarking on ambitious regional interoperability projects. These eventually will enable first responders and neighboring jurisdictions to talk to each other and transmit data by radio during a major disaster or terrorist incident.

Federal funding supports about 50 projects for wireless communications interoperability in state and local governments, according to market research firm Input of Reston, Va.

EDS Corp., which is working with Anaheim on its homeland security project, won a six-year, $33 million technology outsourcing contract with the city last year. The company provides IT infrastructure support to a wide variety of city agencies including finance, payroll, public utilities, and police and fire departments.

When the IT outsourcing contract was signed last year, EDS agreed to help the city strengthen and expand on its homeland security capabilities, said Debra Winter, EDS' business client manager. 'The city was more ready than many other cities,' she said.

Orange County, which includes 34 cities and nearly 3 million people, had a solid foundation on which to expand its homeland security capabilities. First responders in the county had achieved full voice interoperability years ago, said Tom Wood, Anaheim's city manager.

EDS will implement the Anaheim homeland security project in two phases. In the first phase, EDS will use the federal grant to create a portal to serve as a virtual operations center and link resources throughout the county.

Field management

When it launches in July, the portal will enable top city officials to manage their public safety assets during a disaster or terrorist incident from either a desktop or notebook computer, Winter said. In the second phase, EDS will provide the same asset-tracking capabilities to first responders in the field.

'Bringing the disparate systems together will be a real home run,' Wood said.

Northrop Grumman Corp. is working on a homeland security project further north in California. The company is helping jurisdictions in Santa Clara County breach agency silos so first responders and other agencies can share information during disasters or terrorist incidents.

Eighteen jurisdictions comprising 30 first responders throughout the county are cooperating on the project, said Ray Duncan, Northrop Grumman's Silicon Valley Regional Interoperability Project program manager.

In the first phase of the project, the company will identify requirements for a system that ultimately will provide radio interoperability among first responders and data integration among disparate 911 and computer-aided dispatch systems throughout the county, Duncan said.

The 10-month first phase of the project is worth $1.3 million.

The second phase, which hasn't been awarded yet, will be a proof-of-concept test among several of those disparate systems.

New blood

Local homeland security projects also are drawing companies that haven't traditionally pursued public safety. Affiliated Computer Services Inc. of Dallas, a provider of IT and business process services, is testing a public safety system in Oklahoma City.

The company is negotiating the final terms of a contract it won in January to provide Oklahoma City with integrated computer-aided dispatch and records management as well as mobile data computer systems and radio infrastructure, said Dan Brophy, senior vice president and managing director of information management solutions for ACS' State and Local Solutions.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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