Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead to Linux
Few of us realize that the permanent government runs the country, and that's not necessarily our elected and appointed officials. Actually, one even might say that the permanent government doesn't do that work, at least sometimes not efficiently. The permanent government consists of the long-term civil servants who operate in fiefdoms. When someone gets the blame for the failure of a department, its usually an elected official whose inheritance is his or her agency.
The Dallas FBI worked to put ERN into place. Here's a part of the permanent government that does work and works for the people. Now, they want to share this incredible software solution with the rest of the nation. Will they succeed?
Currently, the Dallas FBI has the ERN system. It has run for three years and uses Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. Look elsewhere, and the remainder of the country lacks such a critical application. When you want to report an incident or a suspicious activity, if it doesn't make it to the ERN system, it falls into a hole.
ERN has a database of strategic contacts that includes local, national and international individuals in both public and private sectors. The dynamic alert and notification system supports broadcast and targeted distribution of information, such as:
10,000 voice calls per minute
30,000 simultaneous inbound hotline calls
3,000 simultaneous faxes
5,000 simultaneous e-mails
5,000 simultaneous text messages
Immediate Web site changes.
And additional notification technology currently is being added quarterly.
ERN provides dynamic and unobstructed information sharing between program partners at every level of government and the private sector. This system even alerts providers to the location of supplies and equipment so offices quickly can assign those critical assets in case of a crisis. Those assets include personnel, equipment and vehicles available in daily-use or crisis-use situations. In other words, ERN can provide immediate dispatch of the country's assets to disaster areas.
Why wouldn't every citizen in the US and across the globe want this system active and operational today?
On June 23, 2004, when Secretary Tom Ridge gave a speech in Dallas honoring the creators of ERN and their founder Jo Banderas, he said:
A girl grew up in Chicago, the youngest child in a family with twelve children. Her cousins and uncles and godparents worked the sweaty, hard jobs of Chicago cops and firefighters, and two of her brothers went away to Vietnam with the Marine Corps. She grew up, married and stayed home to raise three kids of her own. Then she taught herself computers and the technology necessary to use them. Then she started her own company with her son--a company that had software that, among other things, helped talent agencies conduct talent searches.
And this software, this technology with a robust search capability, was the type of technology that the FBI desperately needed after September 11th. On September 12, it took 2 and 1/2 hours to reach 540 local law enforcement organizations in Dallas to stand up multi-agency command posts. We needed a better, faster tool to disseminate and collect information, and connect people. When Art Fierro, Special Agent with the Dallas FBI, called this woman, she took down all the FBI's requirements and redeployed her existing technology to fulfill our country's needs.
The FBI told her that they could not pay her very much money. She said not to worry about the money, the country faced a national emergency and she would do whatever it took to help. Sacrifice on behalf of our country often requires us to forfeit self interest and private goals for the sake of the common interest and public good. For her sacrifice and patriotism, today I'd like to recognize and thank Jo Balderas. I'd also like to recognize Art Fierro for his tireless efforts to help develop this great tool that the private sector can use to communicate with each other and with the Department.
Secretary Ridge went on to describe ERN, which Jo Baldera's company started and which has become part of Homeland Security's information sharing initiative:
One of these solutions is the Homeland Security Information Network Critical Infrastructure Pilot Program (HSIN-CI). A program forged by the strong partnership not only between the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, but also with the private sector, our local leaders, law enforcement and first responders.
It is a cross-agency, cross-sector, cross-discipline, public and private information-sharing and alert notification system. And it is locally governed and administered by knowledgeable, respected domain experts and decision makers from the private and public sectors.... HSIN-CI will provide unobstructed information sharing to the right people--those who need to know and those who need to act.
And it will provide it quickly, with the capability to make 10,000 calls per minute and send 3,000 faxes simultaneously. Notifications can also be sent out by e-mail and text messaging.
In a Department of Homeland Security Press Release, we learn even more:
The [ERN] HSIN-CI pilot program, modeled after the FBI Dallas Emergency Response Network expands the reach of the Department's Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) initiative--a counterterrorism communications tool that connects 50 states, five territories, Washington, DC, and 50 major urban areass to strengthen the exchange of threat information--to critical infrastructure owners and operators in a variety of industries and locations, first responders and local officials. As part of the HSIN-CI pilot program, more than 25,000 members of the network will have access to unclassified sector specific information and alert notifications on a 24/7 basis.
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