Sunday, May 6, 2007

Another Delaware Blogger in the News

Justin Kates, who blogs from the University of Delaware and about his avocation -- combining amateur radio and homeland security work -- is a subject of a story in the News Journal this morning.

The story, 19-year-old heads state's ham radio emergency corps, is part of a News Journal investigative series on Delaware's use of federal Homeland Security grants.

I am interested in this series. I do a fair amount of work with the state's Homeland Security agencies. Geospatial data is a key element in the information systems that support crime prevention and investigation, emergency management and Homeland Security. And it is the case that some of the federal grant funding that Delaware receives is helping to support the maintenance of important geospatial data sets.

In my view not enough federal Homeland Security grant funding is being used for geospatial data, of course, but that will be the subject for another day.

I was also interested in the story because I know Justin, not only as a fellow blogger but as a skinny, bright kid several years ahead of my eldest in school. I used to see him at school events and I still see his sister, who is between my two girls in age.

The News Journal questions why we have a 19-year old in charge of the Delaware Communications Corps. That may be a fair question. It is true that Justin Cates is a mature young man, and I have no doubt about his passion and intelligence. But it does seem unusual.

On the other hand, we do have a tradition of organizing ourselves on an ad-hoc basis. Our fire protection is handled (and very well) by a large number of mostly volunteer fire companies who carefully guard their autonomy, but generally work well together to help protect our safety.

My own Delaware Geographic Data Committee owes its existence in part to legislation that enables it, but more to the fact that I say, and a sufficient number of GIS leaders in state and local agencies say, that it exists.

This isn't necessarily a bad way to do some things. An informal, collegial organization can be quite effective. There does come a point, however, where that organization must become more formal in order to continue to be effective.

The question is: what parts of the Homeland Security effort have reached that point?

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