Homeland security depends on new technologies, Ridge says

White House Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge on Tuesday said the high-tech sector is making instrumental contributions to the Bush administration as it cultivates a national homeland security strategy.

Homeland security efforts will depend on technologies such as biometrics, next-generation detection devices designed to find traces of chemical or biological agents, dashboard electronics to ensure efficient border crossing for trucks and other vehicles, simulation software, and advanced encryption-standard codes, Ridge said during a dinner speech at the Electronic Industries Alliance's annual conference.

Such advances are "more proof that the market doesn't need the government's permission to meet the needs of America," Ridge said. "This entrepreneurial spirit is a potent weapon against terrorism. ... Our homeland security effort must tap into this energy."

The administration is increasing partnerships with the private sector in its anti-terrorism efforts, Ridge said. President Bush's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board is creating "model government-industry partnerships" to harness the intellect of all sectors, he said.

The administration also is working with the National Cybersecurity Alliance to empower businesses and private citizens to fortify themselves against cyber attacks. The alliance is an online education campaign launched in February and includes high-tech associations and companies such as AOL Time Warner, Apple Computer, AT&T, Microsoft, Symantec and WorldCom. Government agencies participating in the alliance include the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, the National Infrastructure Protection Center, the Defense Department and the General Services Administration.

Ridge also said federal laws such as the anti-terrorism bill enacted last fall are helping to integrate technology into the legal process to bring it into the 21st century.

He said technology underlies all four of the administration's homeland security efforts-- border security, information sharing and information technology, bioterrorism, and the "first responders" to emergencies. Interoperable communication systems, national surveillance networks on diseases and entry-exit visa systems all depend on innovation from the private sector, he said. The administration has allotted $15 billion for information technology in its proposed fiscal 2003 budget, with $4 billion of that going for IT security.

"We worry about physical security, but we'd better worry about cyber security" as well, Ridge said.

The administration's e-government agenda also will help provide a base for homeland security efforts, Ridge said. The White House Office of Management and Budget is spearheading 24 e-government initiatives, including e-authentication, a one-stop disaster-relief portal and information-sharing technologies. Ridge said the national strategy his office is preparing is due out this summer.

"Yes, it is a new world, but it is a world in which technology is suited to play a very critical role," Ridge said.