Local officials need homeland help

First responders do have an important role to play in the national homeland

security mission, but they cannot do it without help from the federal government,

officials said Aug. 21.

Because of their limited resources and limited reach, most local police

departments will have to rely on others to fill in technical, personnel

and experience gaps, officials said at the Government Symposium on Information

Sharing and Homeland Security in Philadelphia.

Providing timely intelligence information that local officials can use

to prepare for or respond to incidents is the most obvious way the federal

government can help, said Jose Cordero, chief of the Newton, Mass., Police

Department. "We need to have intelligence information that can have meaningful

application in our community," he said.

There also needs to be some national resource that will provide local

officials with real-time access to expert advice during incidents, Cordero

said. And this resource must be available to every local official, not just

those in areas with the most money or the best technology, he said.

The federal government should also help by setting broad technology

standards, said William Casey, deputy chief of police in Boston.

In some cases, such as determining the communications spectrum standards

for emergency communications, only the federal government can legally set

the standards. And for most technologies, only the federal government can

set broad standards that will be accepted by all so "even if we're not all

on the same page, we are at least in the same book," Casey said.

The federal government can also help out by vetting the numerous technology

solutions that industry is offering in the homeland security space, he said.

State and local agencies simply do not have the resources to test new products

to figure out where the middle ground is between cutting edge technology

and products that would truly do what first responders need, he said.

"We don't know where [that balance] is, and we can't test all this equipment,"

Casey said.

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