Homeland goes interstate route

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers

If you're having a hard time envisioning what the national strategy for

homeland security would look like, try using the interstate highway system,

built more than 50 years ago, as an example.

That's what Steve Cooper, senior director of information integration

and chief information officer for the White House Office of Homeland Security,

told attendees at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers

in St. Louis on Oct. 28.

Cooper said that Lois Clark McCoy, president of the National Institute

for Urban Search and Rescue, told him several weeks ago that "national"

wasn't the best term to describe the homeland security strategy and suggested

another description: an "interstate communications expressway."

Cooper said that "national" conjures up a hierarchy, while "interstate

isn't politically charged to anybody."

In essence, an interstate communications expressway means linking networks

with each other to create a "network of networks," he said. "So . . . we

really don't have to start from scratch."

He said the "communications expressway" would be different from the

Internet.

"A lot of what we need to do for homeland security needs to be secure.

The Internet's not. But the reality is that an awful lot of what travels

over the Internet is lost. It never gets there," Cooper said.

"We would envision something along the lines of a virtual private network

or some type of secure type of network," he continued. "And we will use

portions of the Internet, but we will encrypt information and we will add

capabilities so that what travels across is secure in and of itself as it's

transmitted."

Cooper said the federal government would help build the "on-ramps" to

an interstate communications expressway, but that state and local governments

must have systems adhering to certain national standards and be architecturally

compliant.

However, Georgia Technology Authority CIO Larry Singer said that to

develop an interstate communications system, states must have a strong intrastate

system, requiring a collaboration between government and industry.

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