Portland, Ore., has spent the last eight months as a testing ground for a secure Internet-based network intended to help government agencies and businesses share sensitive information and coordinate emergency responses.

The technology companies that developed the system, which its backers tout as an emergency broadcast network for the information age, are due to introduce an "open specification" next week, so that other vendors can integrate their technology and bid on the homeland security contracts and grants that are becoming available.

The Regional Alliance for Infrastructure and Network Security (RAINS) is made up mostly of small local startups, who joined together in hopes of making themselves more visible to the federal government and more likely to get a slice of federal spending on security technology.

The spending has not yet picked up momentum, but RAINS has grown and gained support from big companies. Federal officials say the RAINS system in Portland is unique; it allows emergency responders to distribute information and coordinate responses with key organizations, and RAINS Chairman Charles Jennings says that it is still in its early stage.

"There's no benchmark for how to do this, and it's one of very few programs to even figure out what they need to do," says Defense Department manager Jeff Gerald. Although the program has skeptics, Jennings notes that the system is multi-vendor and non-proprietary; government agencies can customize RAINS-Net to suit their needs.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from OregonLive.com (03/26/04); Sickinger, Ted .