Republican group offers homeland department guidance

The Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of 63 congressional moderate Republicans, urged managers of the new Homeland Security Department to draw upon data sharing and merger successes in the public and private sectors to aid in the department's organization.

In a report to be offered Tuesday, the group provides a list of recommendations-on border security, public health, interoperability, identification and authentication, and science and technology-for managers to follow in the first 100 days of the agency's creation.

"The Republican Main Street Partnership offers this report not as the final word on the evolution of the new department, but rather as our contribution to the ongoing debate that will shape our homeland security efforts, particularly in the new department's all-critical first 100 days," Reps. Doug Ose of California, Deborah Pryce of Ohio, Christopher Shays of Connecticut, Rob Simmons of Connecticut, and TRW Vice President David Zolet, wrote in an afterward to the report.

The group recommends that in the information-sharing arena, Homeland Security Department managers cull from work at the Defense and Justice departments and the Centers for Disease Control to expand data sharing across federal, state and local government agencies.

They also urged the department to sift through technologies and find those that can be used to protect privacy while also providing security. In addition, they suggest that the president sign an executive order to promulgate guidelines governing privacy protection as more information is shared between agencies.

Further, the Republican group suggests the department create a single federal architecture for voice, data and imagery sharing among federal agencies, and they urged that the Commerce Department's Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office receive full funding in the fiscal 2003 budget.

On science and technology, the partnership recommends that the undersecretary of science and technology be granted centralized budget authority over all of the new department's research and development activities in the new agency and that a rolling, multi-year budgeting process be developed for technology solutions to projected threats.

They also urged a chief scientist and scientific advisory board be created to advise the undersecretary on the most promising research and to provide independent assessments of vendor proposals. They also urged for a clearinghouse to evaluate private sector technologies.

With other issues, such as identity and authentication, the report suggests the department examine current identification technologies, including their limitations and recommended that the department create a public forum where people can understand new technologies and be assured these tools will not be abused.

For border security, they group said the department should establish a systems-integration plan for border technology. Further, the group recommended the State Department be directed to begin taking fingerprints of every person who is granted a visa to the United States.

The Main Street Republicans plan to hold a meeting briefing Tuesday morning to discuss the report in more detail. Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., is scheduled to discuss telecommunications security policy at the briefing, among other speakers.