Oracle advances homeland security agenda

The database maker says that it is supplying the U.S. Department of Defense with software for a new national security system.

Alorie Gilbert
Alorie Gilbert Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Alorie Gilbert
writes about software, spy chips and the high-tech workplace.
2 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Oracle is supplying the U.S. Department of Defense with software for a new system designed to let military officials across the country share information about terrorist attacks and other domestic security threats, an Oracle executive said Monday.

The Defense Department switched on the system, called the Joint Protective Enterprise Network (JPEN), after April, said Keith Kellogg, a retired U.S. Army general who joined Oracle in July as senior vice president of Oracle's Homeland Security Program Office.

During a presentation at the OracleWorld conference here, Kellogg said the JPEN system, which is based on Oracle software, has a $15 million budget next year. The money will go toward adding more users to the system, with the goal of all participation from all domestic military bases. Oracle is uncertain about what portion of the budget has been earmarked for its software, a company representative said.

The Department of Homeland Security has been tasked with assessing possible deployments of similar networks in other agencies, including the FBI, that could link to JPEN, Kellogg added.

Kellogg suggested that a system like JPEN might have helped authorities to react more quickly to the airline hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001.

Ideally, JPEN would connect hospitals, air traffic control centers, nuclear power plant operators, and local fire and police departments, Kellogg said.

Nearing the two-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Kellogg talked about the Defense Department project and gave his personal assessment of the nation's vulnerability to another attack.

Kellogg, who was in the Pentagon when it was struck by one of the hijacked jetliners, said information technology, and its reputed ability to help the government coordinate and act on pertinent data, is the "silver bullet" for outsmarting terrorists.

Yet two years on, the government's IT systems are still woefully inadequate for the "war on terror," he said. As evidence, he cited several recent news reports and a U.S. General Accounting Office report released last month that's critical of information-sharing efforts among federal agencies.

Still, some seeds of change, JPEN among them, are beginning to take root, Kellogg said.

Kellogg joined Oracle after a long military career because of what he described as the software company's commitment to homeland security technologies, as well as its strong track record with the military. Seventy percent of the Pentagon's computer systems run on Oracle database software, he said.

Oracle, which got its start building databases for the CIA, has announced homeland security-related software deals with the Transportation Security Administration among others.

Oracle and other IT companies have been vocal proponents of information technology as a way to help prevent terrist attacks. Just months after Sept. 11, Ellison offered to supply the government with free software for a proposed national identification card plan.