DHS aims for private sector

Working with DHS site

During the next two weeks, the Homeland Security Department will launch a major campaign to reach out to the private sector, said Richard Cooper, director of science and technology in DHS' Office of the Private Sector.

Officials plan to focus on several areas. The most basic push will be to interact more with the companies and organizations that run a large part of the nation's critical infrastructure. Officials want to learn about the challenges to securing those infrastructures and what DHS can do to help, Cooper said. He spoke Feb. 11 at the first meeting of the Homeland Security Leadership Alliance in Baltimore.

Officials in Cooper's office and DHS' Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate will travel to meet with representatives of associations, regional groups and individual companies, he said. The private sector must be involved in the plans that DHS and local governments are developing because "when it comes to responding to an attack or an incident, it's going to be the private sector that takes the hit," he said.

Sharing threat information with the private sector is another goal, and in two weeks DHS will outline a vision for how to make that happen, Cooper said. For example, officials are working on how to share sensitive information needed by companies and institutions but not the general public. Part of this will be accomplished through a Web portal for businesses, he said.

DHS will also hold a series of industry forums around the country, starting with one March 8 and 9 in Washington, D.C. At those conferences, DHS officials will share information on a variety of topics, such as critical research and development areas and the liability protections created in the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act. Each conference will include orientation sessions to help private-sector representatives understand how to work with the department, and DHS will also upgrade the "Working with DHS" portion of the department's Web site, Cooper said.

Reaching out to small businesses is a challenge for agencies, and DHS plans to use the mechanisms already in place to find ways to get those companies involved in homeland security, particularly using the national and local chambers of commerce, and trade and professional associations, Cooper said.

"They've got the network. Let's leverage that network to reach" small businesses, he said.

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