Officials tout homeland opportunities

Plenty of business opportunities will arise for the private sector as the new Homeland Security Department gets under way, including a number of pilot projects available for small business, according to a top information technology official.

Steve Cooper, chief information officer for the Office of Homeland Security, told a breakfast gathering Nov. 18 that the federal government and the private sector must work together to provide the best security net for the nation.

"We've got to work together," he told attendees at "Technology and Homeland Security: A Symposium with Public Sector CIOs" in Tysons Corner, Va. "We need to ensure that the right people have the right information at the right time."

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who also spoke at the session, said the new department, which the Senate is expected to approve this week, is the "first step in fostering both cultural change within government and greater partnership with the private sector for addressing the challenges we face from potential terrorist threats."

"There are tremendous opportunities out there for your companies," Davis said at the event, which was sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America and industry partners.

Cooper said the new agency will have to operate in "real time," and to do that, officials will have to rely on existing networks and infrastructures to share information and data about potential threats.

In addition, he said, 90 percent of the critical infrastructure in the United States is owned by the private sector, and that requires an increased partnership between industry and government.

Cooper said homeland security officials are talking about pilot projects that would last three to six months and cost less than $1 million. The projects will have "strings attached," such as requiring several levels of government together.

For example, he said government might seek a project that includes law enforcement tied to public safety, public health, and state and local governments.

And the top priorities for the new department include wireless technology, geographic information systems and knowledge management, he said.

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