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Ridge Announces New System, Database

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2004 – Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge today announced the creation of a new, unified national emergency communications system and an infrastructure database.

"We will secure real-time, nationwide connectivity between all 50 states and territories," Ridge said during remarks he provided at George Washington University here.

The new system "is driven from the bottom up, from the local and regions and states back to the federal government," Ridge explained, adding it will feature multi-directional information sharing. The first phase of the project cyber- connectivity -- is slated for completion within the next three months, he said.

Ridge said the nationwide communications system was created "because our state and local partners developed it, are comfortable with it, and wanted it." And, the homeland security chief added, a secure videoconferencing system for the nation's governors would be established by July.

The new video conferencing system, Ridge observed, "will allow for greater and much needed dissemination of classified information to those who need it around the country."

Such national information-sharing tools "are critical to our ability to keep our nation's critical infrastructure far from a terrorist's reach," Ridge explained.

Also, he noted, a national critical infrastructure database will be established by December. That database, Ridge pointed out, will be used to identify the greatest points of vulnerability across the nation's infrastructure and the existing levels of security.

Having such a database, he continued, will allow the application of "increased measures of protection, when and where needed."

The 180,000-person Department of Homeland Security was established March 1, 2003, through the merger of 22 federal organizations in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. Ridge was sworn in Jan. 24, 2003, as the department's first secretary.

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