In the devastating wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, U.S. Senators Ron
Wyden (D-Ore.) and George Allen (R-Va.) are urging the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) to finally put the “Net Guard” into action.
Wyden and Allen are the authors of the National Emergency Technology Guard
(NET Guard) passed as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The law
authorizes teams of local volunteers with science and technology expertise
to assist local communities in responding to attacks or failures involving
communications and information networks.
Wyden and Allen characterize the volunteer teams as the “technology
equivalent of the National Guard.” The DHS has never used its authority to
put such a force to work.
“Unfortunately, as Hurricane Rita proves, it is inevitable that our nation
will face natural disasters. And as we continue to combat global terrorism,
there is the possibility of another terrorist attack,” Wyden and Allen wrote
to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff in a Wednesday letter.
The two senators noted that after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
and Hurricane Katrina, individuals and companies offered their services on
an “improvised” basis.
“The implementation of the NET Guard, however, could greatly increase the
effectiveness of these volunteer experts,” the letter states.
When their measure was incorporated into law three years ago, Wyden and
Allen said they envisioned teams of expert volunteers poised and ready to
repair critical telecommunications infrastructure in the case of a disaster.
“In order to avoid or at least significantly limit communications failures,
such as those experienced on Sept. 11 or in the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina, we urge you [Chertoff] and your department to fully implement NET
Guard as soon as possible,” Wyden and Allen wrote.