Byrnes Job

By eweek  |  Posted 2004-01-14 Print this article Print

What do you bring to the table? And what are you going to do at Microsoft? BYRNE: A while ago when Microsoft and I first started talking about this it started to line up in my mind that throughout my career, both in the New York City Fire Department and then at FEMA, Ive always had an appreciation for how the larger organization or structure supports what the guys are doing on the ground. And at this point, especially in the last two years, I was fortunate enough to work with Secretary [Tom] Ridge and within the administration to help work on policy that is in the process of changing for the better the way we view public safety in this country.
Public safety historically has been developed locally, developed in unique ways for the localities, and its created over time an incredible amount of diversity in the local areas. The challenge, with the types of events that were facing now—and not just terrorism events but large natural disasters—is that we find that local resources are not sufficient to meet these requirements. Although this is not new, we see it more. So we end up starting to look at public safety for the entire country as a combined system that needs to integrate and work better together.
And its through the leadership of Secretary Ridge and the administration and in the national strategy for homeland security where that is expressed in terms of the establishment of a national incident management system. And to take that diversity and to get it to where theres a unity of effort, and a system and a process that will allow it to work better together. Looking at that and looking at that major shift in public safety for the country, technologys got to be there to support it. Technologys got to be there to help make it happen. The guys are still going to have to do their job everyday, but the technology should be there to support it. And looking at Microsoft—and when I was thinking about this, I did some background reading, reading some of the speeches given and the background on the company and the direction its taken, and in particular Bill Gates book "Business at the Speed of Thought." There were a couple of sections of that book that just grabbed me and made me realize that this company understands the direction that public safety is taking and that the types of technology they want to use is going to really help make things happen. In particular, theres a section on bad news must travel fast. I cant think of a business where thats more important. When a buildings coming down we need to get the word out fast, or if theres an extra threat that a response is going to reveal itself, we need to get the information up to the guys. Theres another section about when reflex is a matter of life and death, and that is this business. It is a matter of life and death. And our information systems should be designed to support that. At the end of the day, if our technology doesnt get the information to a police officer doing a traffic stop or that firefighter entering either a hazardous material incident or a building on fire, if that person doesnt have every piece of information we can possibly get to them then were not doing our job. And I believe that being here; Im going to be in a position to help make sure that that happens. Are there any particular Microsoft products that will play a bigger role in this? Or are you making specific versions of the products that are targeted to this community or maybe doing some prepackaged solutions that will target this community? BYRNE: The things that have caught my attention so far, and lets be clear I just started here and Ive been focused on policy and operations, but the use of Web services and .Net and what Ive read about and talked to the people here at Microsoft about the concepts of trustworthy computing and applying that to the business of public safety. Reliability takes on new meaning. Security takes on new and more important meaning. These things are important for our businesses in the country, but they really are just as important if not more so when lives are at stake. RICHEY: Let me add to that. One difference between probably our strategy and where it may part ways with other large IT vendors is that our future product roadmap is really driven around Web services and our ability to drive across legacy systems in a scalable, repeatable and affordable way. Thats at the heart of our strategy with homeland security because if you try to build out a national response system and connect all these huge legacy silos that have to connect when an operational commander at DHS is on-site in downtown New York and has to access all these huge databases in order to make well-informed and best-informed decisions, were a far cry from being at that point. And Secretary Ridge has made public speeches about that. He says its really a 10-year window. That aligns pretty interestingly with our product roadmap in the sense that our future is based on not taking all that stuff in those silos and dumping it into a huge data silo and then figuring out how to pull it out and what to do with it. Its exposing those legacy assets to Web services and doing analytics and business rules on top of it to pull that information out when you need it, at the right time to any device. OK, I see the parallels with Microsofts products strategy. RICHEY: Another area were different is Microsoft has hired two operators sitting at the top of their homeland security strategy, not IT guys. Thats a huge difference. And let me define operators: Im not an IT guy either. Mike was a firefighter, was a captain in the New York City fire department and then an operational guy for FEMA on the ground at 9/11 directing that operation. My background is I was a Coast Guard officer for 21 years, at sea, doing counter narcotics interdiction, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement. So we both make decisions together as a team across the national enterprise from an operators perspective. Were operationalizing the homeland security goals with the power of Microsofts technology and our partners. Next page: Is Windows secure enough?


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