Technology, more than ever

The events of Sept. 11 will change our lives forever. Yet, despite our national trauma, I must reject the emerging contention of some that the world will be a much less desirable place to live for future generations.

To the contrary, the reaction to the terrorist attacks will be to ensure a more secure world so that we can fully enjoy the freedoms others have sought to destroy. More than ever, the government's use of technology will be critical to ensuring that we can work, live and travel without fear of attack.

President Bush has moved swiftly to create a Cabinet-level position charged with coordinating a homeland defense. But this task will require an unprecedented coordination and sharing of the most sensitive and heretofore compartmentalized information of our national security, law enforcement, immigration, customs, transportation, telecommunication and disaster-relief agencies. It will require significantly more capable systems to share and analyze this data effectively.

This is no small task. Even to casual observers, it is clear that the old ways of focusing on stovepipes and protecting turf must be abandoned. While all Americans join together in this time of tragedy, only time will tell if the bureaucracy is ready to join together and focus on protecting the homeland.

To successfully protect our nation, we must focus our superior technological prowess on homeland security and use existing information technology, as well as develop new systems to share and analyze vast amounts of information. The new Office of Homeland Security must be given a meaningful charter to break down the stovepipes and provide the necessary resources to harness and develop the technological tools that will protect U.S. citizens—and other free nations—from attack.

The first priority of the homeland security office should be to work with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the FBI, the State Department, the CIA and others to make sure all foreign nationals entering our country are effectively monitored. We must know who is entering our country, why and for how long, and we must deny entry to those who pose a threat. It may also be necessary for people arriving from certain destinations to "pre-register" with INS and submit fingerprints and/or DNA.

We must also introduce biometric and facial-recognition equipment in airports and crowded public environments such as train stations and stadiums. Although some argue that these "Orwellian" measures will infringe on the very freedom we seek to protect, we must remind them that freedom cannot be enjoyed in an atmosphere of fear.

If we are to succeed in meeting the greatest challenge of our new century, the government IT community must focus its efforts so that the necessary systems are deployed to ensure a fitting legacy to the events of Sept. 11 — a stronger, more secure America. Brubaker is president of e-government solutions at Commerce One Inc. and a former deputy chief information officer at the Defense Department.


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