DHS ready to help local authorities

The Homeland Security Department's chief information officer and his staff could be busy in the coming months if they act on the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission.

Mark Emery, deputy CIO at DHS, said information technology officials are exploring ways the CIO's office can carry out at least four of the commission's recommendations:

Screening visitors and immigrants across multiple jurisdictions. The commission recommended integrating systems that federal officials use to track foreign visitors with other systems used for screening buildings and modes of transportation. The CIO's office would help develop the necessary technology standards and architecture, Emery said, speaking last week at the Western CIO Forum in Santa Fe, N.M.

Establishing standards for issuing birth certificates and driver's licenses. Developing standards that include biometrics means DHS officials will need to work with state and local government officials, Emery said. DHS officials would like to add biometrics to everything, he said, especially to credentials for truck drivers who transport hazardous materials.

Expanding the assignment of radio spectrum for use by first responders in high-risk urban areas. Following through on this recommendation will require a cooperative effort by lawmakers and officials at the Federal Communications Commission, Justice Department and DHS, Emery said. The DHS CIO's office already is involved in radio-frequency pilot tests in Seattle and Phoenix, he added.

Sharing sensitive and secure information. In the coming months, the CIO's office will move from the Homeland Secure Data Network to the new Homeland Security Information Network-Secure Emery said. With that network, federal, state and local officials can share classified information. He said the CIO's office will also soon award about a dozen grants to public- and private-sector organizations to develop technology to help state and local agencies share information.

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