Governors form homeland division

The National Governors Association announced Oct. 16 the formation of a Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division, a move the group said would better help state governments design and implement defense, response, and recovery plans.

The new division is a reorganization of sorts, shifting efforts and studies done previously — on emergency management since the 1980s and domestic terrorism preparedness since 1996 — from the natural resources division.

Internally, the move signals a natural response to the issues of homeland security and emergency management since Sept. 11, said Ann Beauchesne who is heading the new division. From the governors' perspective, the move means "homeland security is not going away" and that it's a top priority for them, she said.

The new division will focus on prevention of and response to natural disasters, as well as agricultural, biological, chemical, cyber, nuclear and radiological terrorism. It will also closely monitor the creation and organization of the proposed federal Homeland Security Department and its interaction with state and local agencies.

Beauchesne said the division is presently working on an initiative announced last month. It involves a pilot project including about eight states that would focus sharing information with the federal and local governments in three areas — justice, public health, and homeland security/first responders.

She said she's working on a paper outlining the initiative, which will be explained in greater detail by Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt when he briefs newly elected governors in mid-November. Leavitt is heading the initiative for NGA.

In addition to the pilot project, the NGA — whose membership includes the governors of the 50 states, three territories and two commonwealths — last month announced the formation of a task force to improve driver's licenses.

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