Sifting through crisis info

A Utah congressman's amendment to 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 over

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's

research into how IT can enhance agencies' performance during crises will

focus on several areas, including:

* Human/computer interface technologies.

* Network-based collaboration tools, including virtual situation rooms.

* Rapidly deployable, self-configuring wireless networks.

* Software to assist crisis managers in making decisions in the absence

of complete information.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 bipartisan support

for a measure that could help agencies make decisions during emergencies

and disasters, such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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