DHS seeks help from vendors

NEW YORK — The Homeland Security Department offers a fertile field for small technology companies that want to do business with the federal government, DHS chief information officer Steve Cooper said today.

The department is moving toward a unified architecture and standardized infrastructure, and is looking for innovative technologies in wireless communications, geospatial systems, collaboration tools and simulation modeling, he told a New York audience at a federal procurement seminar.

Right now, Cooper and his staff are wrestling with standardization issues, he said. One example is whether 14 emergency alert systems should be consolidated in one.

"We really do want to move to one Department of Homeland Security infrastructure," Cooper said. "I mean, the equivalent of one wide-area network across all of our locations — that's not what we have now."

Working under a directive from Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, the department also is looking for a way to make the color-coded terrorist alert system more localized, so that a single city or region could be put on higher alert without throwing the rest of the country into a panic, Cooper said.

"That's the guidance the secretary has given us," he said. "The idea is not to scare people."

Cooper said technology companies have significant opportunities with the fledgling department, which is still working to blend 22 agencies into a single entity.

DHS is looking for interoperable wireless communications technologies to allow easy communication among local first responders in emergencies and to bridge different levels of emergency response, from local to state to federal.

"Don't forget about maritime interoperability. Don't forget about satellite interoperability. We need it all," he said.

Homeland security also needs geospatial information system, he said, preventing attacks or responding to them requires knowing things such as the location of hospitals, a building's floor plan or the positions of fire hydrants.

"As soon as you get a physical location, you need geospatial information," he said.

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