Homeland Security network starts

Regional Information Sharing System

Today's launch of the Homeland Security Information Network represents an important step for cooperation among federal, state and local agencies, officials said.

The network expands the Joint Regional Information Exchange System (JRIES), a network that many states have been developing with the Defense Intelligence Agency for the last several years. By the end of the year all 50 states, the top urban areas and the Homeland Security Department will be connected through this secure network, said DHS Secretary Tom Ridge.

Going from JRIES to the new network is "one of the most exciting things that has happened, because we will have a direct link," said John Hager, assistant to the governor of Virginia for commonwealth preparedness, one of several state homeland security advisors at the launch. "We've been encouraging this for a while."

The new network should fit in well with the law enforcement information sharing networks already in place throughout the states, such as the Regional Information Sharing System, Hager said.

"This is another system that doesn't necessarily replace those systems, but is complimentary," he said. "What matters to me with this concept of intelligence sharing is the cooperation that's engendered by this opportunity."

First responders can use the network for real-time collaboration, Ridge said, speaking at the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Joint Operations Center. "It is an important capability, but one that can be expanded and improved," he said.

The network rollout has two phases. The first, to be finished by this fall, will focus on connecting more than 300 state and local government entities and more than 5,000 officials. The second, scheduled for completion by year's end, will collaborate on training and enhance the network to handle classified information up to the secret level.

In the future, more cities, territories and other U.S. entities will be included -- even the private sector, Ridge said. "It will be both user friendly, and will be used by more of our friends," he said.

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