State, local officials praise Bush plan
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Jun 10, 2002
State and local government officials are applauding President Bush's proposal
for a Cabinet-level Homeland Security Department, which would better coordinate
defense efforts and put a spotlight on technology programs and projects.
Under the White House proposal, at least 22 existing agencies and offices
— and likely more — would be housed under the one department. Several,
such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Critical Infrastructure
Assurance Office and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, have strong
relationships with state and local governments.
"If I had to look at it from Kentucky's perspective, right now, when
we interact with many of the agencies, we actually go to multiple places
for either information or requirements that the states may have," said Aldona
Valicenti, Kentucky's chief information officer. "I think having that focused
in one area will certainly make it easier from an interaction, there's no
doubt about that.
"When we talk about information technology, that tends to be one infrastructure
that we're talking about, and when you're talking to multiple agencies,
that is not always well understood," she continued. "It would appear to
me if and when this is centralized in one Cabinet-level position and one
agency, hopefully the technology issues would be better focused."
Valicenti, a past president of the National Association of State Chief
Information Officers and still a member of its executive committee, said
the group has been following legislation calling for the creation of such
a department. She said the White House proposal, which she said is "a step
in the right direction," sounds similar to what Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.)
Bryan Gold, a spokesman for Public Technology Inc. — the technology
arm of the National Association of Counties (NACo), the National League
of Cities and the International City/County Management Association — said
the change could make it easier for municipalities to deal with one central
agency than having to contend with several programs scattered throughout
the federal government.
"You've got it under one umbrella instead of having to hunt and peck,"
he said. "It casts the projects and programs and what people really need
to know in a much brighter light because...it could be buried three or four
layers deep in another department."
Edwin Rosado, NACo's legislative director, said technology is going
to be "key" in this new department.
"They're going to have responsibilities that range from border and transportation
security, information analysis and infrastructure protection, preparedness
response, bioterrorism, nuclear/chemical threats, and technology is going
to be able to provide them the increased communication that they need to
be able to get decisions done quickly and take actions faster," he said.
"Not only that but be able to help to provide whatever new critical telecommunications
infrastructure may need to be developed."
Rosado said that is critical for the protection of America's 3,066 counties,
75 percent of which are rural.
"And it's important that those rural areas be protected just as much
as the urban ones," he said. "We have a lot of critical infrastructure,
a lot of big possible, potential targets — dams, bridges, etc. — that
are located in remote areas."