Ridge: Terrorist Threats Spur Tech

NEW YORK — Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and Governor of Pennsylvania Tom
Ridge said today ongoing terrorist threats would continue to drive science
and technology innovation in the United States and in the process make a
better and stronger country.

In a keynote address before more than 300 attendees of the InfoSecurity Conference here, Ridge said collaboration between business and government, especially in emerging
areas such as biometric technology or radio-frequency identification (RFID),
would stimulate the economy while helping form national security strategies.

“In the process of dealing with these realities, we will become a better and
stronger country,” he said of the government’s efforts to stay a step ahead
of terrorist threats and the technical advances it brings.

Ridge, who was sworn in as the first Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief on Oct. 8, 2001, was charged with developing and
coordinating a comprehensive national strategy to strengthen protections
against terrorist threats or attacks in the United States.

“We all know how resistant the world is to change,” Ridge said, referring to
the task he undertook shortly after Sept. 11.

While integrating multiple government agencies, managing 180,000 employees
and merging 22 separate departments under a unified system was a monumental
task, Ridge said knowing how to manage risk was the first step in
implementing an overall strategy. The same fundamentals that are applied to
any organization, he said.

The former secretary also spoke of the realities of security, in both
business and in the physical sense, that the U.S. has found itself dealing
with.

As an increase in real-world applications for emergency technology and with
the government’s need to counteract advancing threats, Ridge continued to
link both private and public sectors.

“When it comes to developing code, developing software to solve some of our
cyber-security problems, the intellectual mass is not in government, it is in
your world — the private-sector world,” he said.

Ridge, who left his job as DHS chief in February, ushered the
department through several pilot programs involving technologies developed
outside the government.

The RFID pilot programs, including programs that use tags to secure shipping containers from tampering, and those that use both RFID and biometrics to track workers entering secure airport facilities, are an example of both industry and government developing technologies the can have mutually
beneficial applications.

He told attendees that RFID technologies protect
Americans from terrorism, as well as goods coming across U.S. borders from
abroad.

“How we go about inspecting those trucks, [crossing borders] developing
security protocols at the borders, is critical to our ability to keep
commerce going and people working,” he said. “That [RFID] technology will
facilitate commerce, not reduce it.”

Ridge is on the board of directors of Savi Technology, a leading RFID
solutions provider based in Silicon Valley.

Ridge also predicted the nation was gradually moving toward a national
identification card and called for the integration of the capabilities of
state and local government and the private sector to speed its
implementation.

“Proper use of biometrics preserves privacy; it does not invade privacy,” he said. “You’ve been giving biometric information all your lives.”

In fact, the move seems imminent, as the U.S. State Department announced
recently that Americans holding U.S. passports issued after October 2006 will carry embedded radio frequency
identification chips inside the documents.

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