Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead to Linux

LAMP is at the heart of Emergency Response Network Systems and is saving lives.
A Critical DHS Application

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?

Figure 1. Secretary Ridge and Jo Balderas

Secretary Ridge Lets the Cat Out of the Bag

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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Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

I can't figure out what the software does? All I get from the article is a personel database and a message system. That doesn't seem very special. Every ISP and large company has this capability.

And how would that be related to software that "helped talent agencies conduct talent searches".

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

Your so right. I bet they wonder why they didn't figure that out themselves.

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

This story is nothing but a covert ad for YHD software.

Additionally, Tom needs to stop all the silly rhetorical questions. How many of them end up with, will they do this or will they do that? I suggest he takes a journalism course at a nearby college.

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

I don't think YHDsoftware needs to advertise. If you read the press releases, they contract directly with the government.

I think it's another nice addition to Linux Journal's collection of case studies.

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

Yep. Especially government ones.

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

>>Additionally, Tom needs to stop all the silly rhetorical questions. How many of them end up with, will they do this or will they do that? I suggest he takes a journalism course at a nearby college.<<

As a fellow journalist, his writing is sound. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to use rhetoric to avoid claims of our making assertions. He also uses a formal approach, which you may not like. I would guess that he's written a number of journal style articles.

Finally, how many Linux journalists have a 20 year old book selling for $197.00 on Amazon - used? Look under S. Thomas Adelstein. I'd co-author with him anytime.

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

I don't think so. But then again, do you like to wind surf?

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

Why isn't this story on Slashdot?

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

GREAT STORY! READERS CHOICE: BEST OF THE YEAR! Way to go Heather and Tom.

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

Very Informative!, A small company making good in government, that's gotta make be my favorite success story of the year.

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

Congratulations to Mike and Bonita!

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

Mike is Jo's son, but who is "Bonita"?

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

His fiancee

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

I'm surprised at the number of typos in this. Is the company called YHD or YDH?

Is Mike's and Jo's name Balderas or Banderas?

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

In light of one of the better stories of the year, you focus on three misspelled words. How anal. Get a life!

Re: Linux in Government: DHS Secretary Ridge Gives the Go Ahead

Anonymous's picture

YHD and Balderas

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