Cohen promotes info sharing

HERSHEY, Pa. -- The United States faces a brave new world in which terrorism and technology are merged, former Defense Department Secretary William Cohen said today.

Speaking to the Executive Leadership Conference meeting, Cohen said U.S. officials "got lazy. We dropped our guard.... We made assumptions that no one would dare attack us on our homeland."

Now, he said, U.S. officials must work to integrate systems during a siege rather than making a slow and careful transition.

"We still have people who have access to technology that can bring us back to the Stone Age," said Cohen, a Republican who served as DOD's secretary during the Clinton administration after an 18-year career as a senator from Maine. He's now an international consultant.

Fighting terror will be tough, Cohen said. Officials cannot play defensively all the time and must attack offensively, too, particularly when trying to defuse potential nuclear threats from countries such as Iran, Pakistan and North Korea.

Cohen said another pivotal area is information sharing, not only within the U.S. government but also with other countries. Additionally, he said, U.S. agencies must use technology to get information streaming from the bottom to the top of the decision-making hierarchy so no time is lost in analyzing and dealing with potential threats.

"The greatest nightmare we have to go on is a nuclear bomb going off in one of our major cities," Cohen told the gathering of federal and private-sector information technology executives.

It is a "brave new world where terrorism and technology are merged," he added.

Cohen said he believes the war against terrorists must be won with not only military force but also good policies, information sharing and collaboration with officials in other countries.

Better safe than sorry

HERSHEY, Pa. -- William Cohen may be a former Defense Department secretary and senator, but when it comes to airline travel, he faces the same amount of security scrutiny as any other passenger.

Cohen, who has a titanium hip, described the hassles of being a frequent traveler to reporters today shortly before delivering the keynote address to the Executive Leadership Conference meeting.

He said he no longer waits in line to be singled out by the security guards. Instead, he moves to the line at the security gate that requires extra scrutiny and searches of his carry-on bags.

Cohen, the co-author of the Clinger-Cohen Act, which implemented many of the technology reforms practiced by government officials, said he flies so frequently that he has mastered the routine. He takes off his jacket and his shoes and waits for security guards to glide their metal wands across his body.

He said it's inconvenient but better than the alternative of insufficient security.

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