Homeland connection a priority
- By Diane Frank
- Jun 12, 2002
Department of Homeland Security
Exactly how the proposed Homeland Security Department would work with state
and local first responders is yet to be determined, but creating the connection
is a priority, experts told the House Government Reform Committee June 11.
Part of the Bush administration's plan for the new department would
bring under one organization all agencies that provide grants, training
and other assistance to first responders. That would enable the administration
to exercise all its resources for communications, training and information
sharing, said Bruce Baughman, director of the Office of National Preparedness
at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA, which would lead the emergency preparedness and response section
of the new department, already is developing a streamlined process to get
grant money to first responders and develop communications and training
programs, Baughman said.
Because all homeland security incidents will happen in some locality,
a priority for the department's funding should be placed on establishing
the structure and technology at the state and local levels to share information
and expertise, testified Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), ranking member on
the Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence.
A single structure will make it much easier to coordinate the exchange,
whether it is investigative information coming into the new department or
warning information being sent to first responders, said Rep. Mac Thornberry
(R-Texas), co-sponsor of a House bill to create a Homeland Security Department.
"You have one phone number to call, rather than a phone book," he said.
Harman said that any action taken by Congress likely will have to include
a mandate for information sharing between federal agencies and the state
and local responders because the administration's proposal does not include
realigning the major sources for information — the FBI and the CIA.