Washington (CNSNews.com) - Homeland security starts with "hometown security," the nation's governors say. When terrorists strike, state and local authorities will be the first ones to respond, and that has prompted the National Governors Association to develop its own homeland security strategy -- separate from the one Congress is working on right now.
In Washington on Thursday, an NGA panel announced a pilot project intended to put local, state, and federal governments on the same page when it comes to protecting America.
"The United States military cannot cover every target," the NGA "best practices" panel said. "The successful homeland security strategy will require federal resources to work with state and local law enforcement as one seamless entity."
As state leaders, the governors say they are in the best position to make sure that "seamlessness" happens.
According to Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, America is fighting against a "networked" enemy, something that demands a "networked" response. That means local, state, and federal security plans must be linked by a common strategy, a common vocabulary, and systems - especially communications systems - that are compatible with each other.
"Since Sept. 11, all levels of government and the private sector have sprung into action," Leavitt said. "But no matter how well intentioned or how well funded these efforts are, it won't make much difference if they're not all connected and communicating."
To help the governors "integrate" homeland security information and systems, the NGA is asking the federal government to allocate a total of $6 billion for the states to distribute as they sees fit.
But the NGA says it's unlikely that Congress will allocate any money as the current fiscal year draws to a close. While there may be an opportunity when Congress reconvenes, the governors believe it could be as late as next March before states receive badly needed homeland security funding.
In the meantime, the NGA announced it intends to proceed with a "pilot" homeland security project involving five to eight states.
Those states - not yet named - will concentrate on three areas, including first responders; law enforcement; and public health.
Information-sharing is a key part of the pilot project, and participating states will look for ways to link multiple databases in the general areas mentioned above.
Also on Thursday, the NGA panel released the second volume of its "Governor's Guide to Emergency Management."
The guide is a reference document for America's 55 state and territorial governors (and their staffs). It addresses the major homeland security issues a governor needs to know about and prepare for - bioterrorism, agroterrorism, chemical weapons, nuclear attacks, and cyberterrorism, to name just a few of the areas covered in the guide.
"With so many open seats, there will be a number of new governors next year - men and women who have to be prepared to deal with a terrorist attack from the moment they step into office," said NGA Vice Chairman Dick Kempthorne, the governor of Idaho.
"NGA will provide every new governor with a copy of this guide within two weeks of their election. The NGA will work one-on-one with these new governors to help them prepare to take on these responsibilities, which have now risen to the top of every governor's agenda."E-mail a news tip to Michael L. Betsch.
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