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Homeland security starts at home, former adviser says

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

By Patricia Sabatini, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The Department of Homeland Security in Washington won't be able to protect the country from terrorist attacks unless local government and private entities, including the nation's chief information officers, join the fight, a former senior adviser in the department told a group of local CIOs yesterday.

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"Homeland Security is not a Washington, D.C., thing. It's not this new department that's going to stop terrorism," said Jim Flyzik, speaking at a two-day conference at the Sheraton Pittsburgh North in Mars.

The Homeland Security Department "is going to make sure we never become complacent again," he said. "The real focus has to be state, local and community efforts." It's a local concern, he said, because terrorism is a local problem.

Flyzik, a former CIO for the U.S. Treasury and Secret Service and now a Washington, D.C., consultant, challenged his audience to come up with "the next idea for what should be done to prevent future terrorist attacks."

"We're all in this together," he said.

Some of the major challenges facing Homeland Security, led by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, include teaching some 22 government agencies to share information, tackling cyber security, devising radiological and biological detection devices and getting money to the local level.

The department also is grappling with the fundamental issue of balancing security with privacy.

The war on terrorism "can't compromise basic freedoms of what being an American is all about," Flyzik said.

He said he believes the country is "significantly safer" now than before 9/11.

"We were extremely vulnerable before 9/11," he said. "We can't get back to being complacent again."

Patricia Sabatini can be reached at psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066.

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