Knowles creates anti-terrorism task force

Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles created a 25-member state Task Force on Homeland Security on Monday that includes mayors of several cities and members of key industries to oversee Alaska's anti-terrorism concerns.

The governor also proclaimed Sept. 11 as ''Patriot Day'' and has asked Alaskans to observe a moment of silence on Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

Knowles joined with President Bush in ordering state and national flags to be flown at half-staff and the governor asked for a moment of silence and prayer at 8:46 a.m. Alaska Time to commemorate the first attack on New York City.

In creating the task force, Knowles said he was responding to a call by Bush for states to take greater responsibility for their own security concerns.

Knowles leaves office in December, but a spokesman said the panel is expected to be a fixture in state government for the foreseeable future.

The task force includes the mayors of Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Valdez and includes representatives from several state and federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Alaska.

It also includes Kevin Meyers, executive vice president of Phillips Alaska; David Wight, president and chief executive officer of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.; Richard Strutz, president of Wells Fargo Alaska and representatives from the state's public utility, telecommunications and hospital industries.

The panel will formulate plans to react to terrorist threats, including the ability to inform the public of imminent dangers, and streamline the state's security oversight, said Drew Dix, deputy commissioner for the state's Office of Homeland Security.

The panel will also attempt to identify the added cost of providing security in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on businesses and government, Dix said.

Knowles created the state's Office of Homeland Security by executive order after the Legislature turned down a request this year.

The office includes two state employees who report to Dix and is funded by $146,600 originally appropriated to other state agencies, said Knowles' spokesman Bob King.

Alaska faces a budget shortfall estimated between $600 million and $900 million next fiscal year depending on the average price of oil.

Lawmakers gave Knowles authority to spend federal funds for homeland security programs but approved only about $1.8 million in state funding from a $46.7 million request. That funding was to pay for costs incurred by state agencies immediately after the terrorist attacks.

Members of the task force are being asked to pay their own costs for travel and meeting expenses, King said. The task force will hold its first meeting in October.

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On the Net:

Alaska Homeland Security: http://www.state.ak.us/local/pr101701.html



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