Not sitting still

Not content to wait for federal guidance, many states are pushing ahead with information technology projects that cover a range of ongoing business concerns while also trying to accommodate homeland security needs. Among them:

* Colorado has focused on organizing geographic information systems. The state's experience with bioterrorism threats and lessons learned from the emergency response to the Oklahoma City bombing show that it's important to have coordinated GIS data, according to Bob Feingold, chief information officer for Colorado.

The effort to pool statewide resources has just begun, he said. It includes the establishment of an informal governance process for GIS across state agencies and local governments, as well as a plan to inventory databases.

Other efforts include detecting and protecting against cybercrimes, an initiative begun since Sept. 11, and planning for stronger security for the state's information systems to ensure better disaster recovery and continuity of government processes.

* Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker wants an $11 million investment for a statewide Public Safety Radio Network that will improve readiness and coordination for emergency responders and state government operations by linking mobile state employees across a single wireless network. Planning for the project began in 1996 and half of its 250 radio towers are already installed, but Schweiker is pushing to complete the project sooner.

* Texas has established a State Infrastructure Protection Advisory Committee to determine how organizations will work together to share information on potential threats. It will also provide assurance that information given to first responders is credible and the systems used to provide that information are secure. A priority "is to develop cyberthreat exercises to test our preparedness for any incidents, to continue to improve the security of our agencies and universities, and to improve relationships with various state, federal, local and private entities," said Carolyn Purcell, Texas CIO.

* Ohio officials plan to complete a radio network that will eventually cover 97 percent of the state and carry all of the government's voice and data wireless communications. They also intend to build a secure virtual private network that state agencies can use to communicate and that will be separate from the more public network that links to institutions such as schools and libraries.

Some of the state's homeland security plans depend on the availability of federal funds and the spending constraints that come with them, said Gregory Jackson, Ohio CIO.

* Wisconsin's Domestic Preparedness Task Force meets monthly to address

issues of homeland security and has an extensive justice information sharing program with IT as its core, which is considered "the enabler to a true integrated system" for the state, according to Bonnie Locke, director of Wisconsin Justice Information Sharing.

In addition, the state has been awarded a preliminary $19 million in federal homeland security funds, which will be used to equip first responders. About $3.5 million of that will go toward a statewide health alert network.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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