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Companies seek financial relief for increased security costs

Corporations seeking to shore up defenses against future terrorist attacks are looking to Congress to help reduce their financial burdens.

In particular, firms are getting behind legislation introduced in the spring by Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill. The bill, H.R. 2970, would provide tax relief for companies as they make improvements to both physical and information technology security.

Companies aren't necessarily seeing costs rise in terms of new products or new spending, but rather for insurance and risk assessments. The median increase in property insurance was 28 percent from 2001 to 2002, according to a report released Wednesday by the Conference Board and ASIS International. For critical industries, such as energy and telecommunications, the increase was 37 percent. Liability insurance jumped 40 percent for critical industries during the same period.

Tax relief is the kind of short-term fix firms need until insurance premiums come under control, said Don Walker, chairman of Security Services, USA Inc.

According to the study, which polled more than 330 firms nationwide, corporations have modestly increased spending on overall security since Sept. 11, 2001. The median increase was 4 percent. The seemingly small jump could be the result of increased funding for security during the past decade, said Marene Allison, director of security for Avaya Inc., a Basking Ridge, N.J.-based communications firm. She noted that several firms boosted spending after the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

Additionally, there are substantial regional differences in spending. For instance, firms in the Northeast-mainly from Boston to Washington, D.C.-increased security spending by 9 percent, compared to 3 percent in the rest of the country, the report said.