Two birds, one homeland security stone

The private sector should strive to improve economic efficiency and technical security when creating new homeland security technologies, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said today.

Improving America's technological advantage over terrorists should fuel improved business practices that help the economy, Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.) told attendees at the Government Security Expo and Conference, a homeland security technology meeting in Washington, D.C.

"I think technology can improve homeland security and our economy at the same time," Cox said.

While the private sector is finding new ways to screen cargo coming into ports, for example, innovators should also find ways to speed cargo through more quickly, Cox said.

Improved alarm systems at critical infrastructure locations, such as power plants, could help prevent another rolling blackout like the one that hit the Northeast region of the nation in 2003, he added.

Companies could create complementary research groups, one to improve the security of a technology, the other to improve its economic efficiency, Cox said. The two groups could then put their heads together and see where the improvements intersect and how they could improve on each other, he said.

The Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002 (SAFETY Act), is an important tool to encourage the private sector to spend money developing new security-related technologies, Cox said. The SAFETY Act shields companies from prosecution if their products fail during a terrorist attack.

"It's a vital way for people to be assured that if they want to be involved, they won't be unfairly treated," Cox said.

Cox supports the SAFETY Act, as does Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff, who last month said he wants DHS to provide the private sector with more incentives and tools to innovate new technologies.

The private sector needs to be involved in developing new technologies, Cox said. Government data estimates that up to 90 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector.

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