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Tighe: "[For] first responders, we do a lot of work in helping communities in general apply what is available [technology-wise] right now. The ongoing central homeland security grants program ... is focused on getting communities what they need ... and helping them with funding and to know what to buy. We've put out standards for personal protective gear. This helps give them a guideline from a national point of view. Eight billion dollars has already gone to states and localities for helping them to procure the training and equipment. ... In between those two things -- HSARPA [DHS's Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency] and the ongoing real-time homeland security grants -- is this project, RTI."
How were the four regions selected?
"They were selected because they have proven track records of effective regional cooperation. ... But they've also done a very good job of demonstrating a willingness to search for and implement technology. ... There is some technology that is not yet at the market but is near readiness that this RTI is going to help through. Really, these four regional efforts are meant to develop models for quicker adoption ... and integrate them into the current system.
"The regions that have been selected already participate in the Homeland Security Urban Area Security Initiative grant program, which is for areas that have a heightened need for robust homeland security programs."
Can you explain more about how the participation in the Urban Area Security Initiative influenced the department's choice of four cities for the RTI awards?
"We had seen a track record of how they [the cities] would apply for homeland security grants and how they demonstrated regional cooperation across jurisdictions and an ability to combine their ongoing response capability with the new capabilities of their [systems]."
Why has only Cincinnati been named so far?
"They have [all] been selected. Cincinnati was fully cooked. ... The others are just finalizing the aspects of the operating agreements and they are all far along."
Has it been hard for state and local governments to find technology products and services on their own? Is that a problem this initiative is aiming to address?
"The assessment of need is part of the program because there is going to be collaboration with the local leadership. The initial part of the program is the assessment phase ... meeting with first responders, medical personnel, state and local leadership, making sure that we receive their guidance. ... And it is beyond the cities. It is a regional approach. ... Cincinnati, for example, is a very significant ... river port. ... The lessons learned from this Regional Technology Integration Initiative are to come up with on two levels -- lessons learned and the best practices to other cities and regions across the country."
How will the success of this pilot program be measured?
"We will have benchmarks, reports, measurable progress and best practices and lessons learned. A sister-city [program is planned]."
How long is the program planned for?
"Roughly two years. It will expand to other communities. So in two years, it won't end, but during the rest of this year and beginning of next year, we will be working in cooperation with state and
local leaders in the assessment phase. The integration phase will span from 2005 to 2006."
How will these pilot locations give the science and technology community an environment to test hardware and concepts?
"This is going to be stuff that is already functioning. It is going to allow scientists and tech experts and engineers to help in analyzing gaps ... and finding and delivering the technology and
implementing the lessons learned. ... This is a $10 million project which includes all four regions. But it is not a new grant-making mechanism. That money will support the integration of scientists and experts into a collaborative evaluation."
What contractors are participating or will take part in the effort?
"It's up to the specific locations. ... We will be working with national labs as well as colleges and universities."