Managing an information crisis

A bill approved last week by the House Science Committee includes a provision to set up a research center to investigate ways technology could help government agencies respond to crises.

Rep. Jim Matheson's (D-Utah) amendment to the Networking and Information Technology Research Advancement Act provides up to $10 million a year during the next five years for a Crisis Management Enabling Technology Center. The center will study technical solutions to help agencies manage the large amounts of information they receive during a crisis. Technology could help process the information needed to make good decisions, Matheson said at the markup hearing for the bill.

The National Science Foundation would lead an interagency group to establish the center in partnership with a nonprofit organization or group. The center also will test how the technologies perform under realistic conditions.

The committee passed the amendment easily as part of the bill Dec. 6, with committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) citing the support of both Democrats and Republicans for a measure that could help agencies make decisions during emergencies and disasters, such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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