Oregon pushes for DHS dollars

With President Bush's signing of the Homeland Security Department's funding bill, the race is now on for states to submit plans for using the $1.9 billion targeted for local first responders, and Oregon technology companies hope their efforts will be the template that other states can follow.

The language in the bill says the funds will be delivered to a state after the submission of an approved plan, according to Charles Jennings, chairman of Oregon's Regional Alliance for Infrastructure and Network Security (RAINS) and chief executive of Swan Island Networks Inc.

"There is a lot of meaning in those two little words 'approved plan'," he said. "We need to come together quickly to deliver the kind of plan that DHS can approve so we can be one of the first in line for these funds, and perhaps also provide a model for other states that won't be so quick with their plans."

Jennings believes RAINS, a public-private coalition of companies and government organizations, could be a major advantage in pulling together a plan quickly since the organization has already established a basic infrastructure for linking local organizations and sharing data.

RAINS-Net, a program for sharing sensitive information at the local level, which has been 16 months in development, was officially launched in August. It is a "broadly supported" system that could become one of the showcase information technology elements of Oregon's plan, Jennings said.

RAINS is already working with first responders and various cities' mayors, he said, as well as with statewide groups developing strategies for such things as interoperability between radio systems.

The intention is to also meet with Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski to iron out final plans so they can be presented to DHS, Jennings said.

"We are talking days, rather than weeks, in bringing all of this together," he said.

Brian Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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