Less than a day after the midterm elections that swept Republicans into control of the Senate, Steve Cooper, special assistant to President George W. Bush and CIO of the White House's Office of Homeland Security, is calling for a national network of federal, state and local governments, along with certain private sector industries, to help speed and share security information.

Confident that a Homeland Security bill will now pass in the Senate, Cooper predicted a national infrastructure network could be place within the next two to three years.

Speaking at the Federal CTO Forum 2002 in Washington, Cooper suggested a possible jumpstart to the network could begin with the National Guard's 3,000-node network. Referring to the proposed network as an "information expressway," states would connect to the network through federally-fund "on and off ramps."

Cooper's proposal would have state governments funding intrastate networks with the federal government financing the backbone and interstate aspects of the network.

"What if we take existing networks at all levels of government and the private sector as appropriate and integrate them? The challenges are true standards and interoperability. We can solve those problems," Cooper told the government's CTOs. "We need to get the right information to the right people all the time. This is what we're about in Homeland Security."

A homeland security bill has passed the House but the legislation stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate over labor issues. With Republicans now in the Senate majority, Cooper is preparing his department for a transition into a federal agency.

Cooper said "day one priorities" include agency-wide e-mail capabilities, establishing external and internal portals and conducting an IT inventory of the many agencies that will become the Department of Homeland Security.