Locals may lack IT for plan

State and local officials called the federal government's release of a Homeland Security Advisory System a good first step to enhance communication, but expressed concern that local agencies may not have the technology to make the system useful.

The system's five threat levels and recommended actions will be particularly important for coordination among the levels of government, state and local officials said. "It gives us the predictability we need to protect our citizens," said Anthony Williams, mayor of Washington, D.C.

"I like it because it has very specific conditions attached to very specific security levels, which we didn't have before," said Tom Canady, an assistant director at the National Center for Rural Law Enforcement and a former FBI agent.

The system shows that homeland security director Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania, is clearly concerned about the flow of information, said Rock Regan, president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and Connecticut's CIO.

NASCIO already is coordinating with the National Governors Association, and their responses will include an information technology component, Regan said.

But there is more room for improvement as state and local agencies try to figure out how to get threat advisory information out, officials said.

"We need to make sure the method the federal government uses to alert communities is one that can be received by every community in the country — rural and urban," said Javier Gonzales, commissioner of Santa Fe County, N.M., and president of the National Association of Counties.

Many county information systems are fragmented and not necessarily designed to address homeland security issues, he said. Those systems often do not have e-mail or fax capabilities.

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