Officials plot homeland priorities

Although the debate over creating a Homeland Security Department is stalled in Congress, officials have quietly drawn up a list of their top priorities to jump-start the agency if and when lawmakers approve it.

Jim Flyzik, a senior adviser at the Office of Homeland Security, said Oct. 23 that the first priority would be consolidating the 58 government watch lists of suspected terrorists into one list.

One of many errors disclosed in the wake of last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was that the names of suspected terrorists had been available on one classified watch list, but the information was not shared with other agencies that might have been able to stop the terrorists before they entered the United States. "How fast we can move depends on the legislation," Flyzik said, referring to the stalemate over labor issues and the bill that would create a new department, moving 22 departments or parts of agencies under its umbrella.

"Right now, we do not have that money in the bank," Flyzik told attendees at the annual Input FedFocus conference in Reston, Va.

Nevertheless, Flyzik and agency chief information officers have been meeting every Thursday to hammer out a plan for the new department. In addition to consolidating the watch lists, he said officials hoped to develop:

* A single portal for the agency.

* Secure videoconferencing for federal, state and local officials.

* Secure Internet expansion so law enforcement across the country can share information.

* A classified collaborative environment.

"This is not about Washington, D.C., and the federal government. This is about a national effort," Flyzik said. "The goal is to get the right information to the right people at the right time."

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