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California Know-How Can Help Security, Davis Tells Ridge

The state's high-tech expertise makes for a good fit with homeland defense, governor says.

February 26, 2003|Richard Simon | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Gov. Gray Davis on Tuesday led a delegation of California business executives to a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to promote the state's high-tech industry in the burgeoning homeland defense market.

"I didn't just come to Washington for a handout," Davis said. "I came with a helping hand" to pitch California's know-how in strengthening the nation's anti-terrorism defenses.

Davis called it his "patriotic duty" to offer California's expertise but acknowledged that companies in the state could benefit from lucrative federal defense contracts, just as they did during World War II and the Cold War.

Davis returned Tuesday to California -- on a $236 round-trip, no-frills Southwest Airlines flight, he noted -- after attending sessions of the National Governors Assn. that began last weekend.

He and many of his fellow governors lobbied the Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congress for more aid to states, especially for bolstering anti-terrorism defenses.

Davis estimated that city, county and state governments in California are spending $500 million a year on security and he expects the state to receive $300 million to $350 million from the $3.5 billion included in a recently approved federal spending bill for state and local public safety agencies.

"It's not enough," Davis said, "but it's a heck of a lot more than we're getting now, which is virtually nothing."

The Democratic governor, who has battled the Bush administration over offshore oil drilling and the federal role in the California electricity crisis, struck a conciliatory role in talking about Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania.

Davis also offered rare praise of the Bush administration for allowing California Highway Patrol officers to act as sky marshals on flights within California.

Joining Davis in meeting with Ridge were representatives of 21 companies, from giant Boeing Co. to small firms, such as one that makes video surveillance equipment.

The Department of Homeland Security's proposed $36-billion budget includes about $800 million for research and development of security technology.

A spokesman for Ridge said it was beneficial to hear first-hand from some of the nation's leading companies involved in homeland security.

Company executives said the meeting was not designed to pitch specific products or services to the Homeland Defense secretary, but rather to make him aware of the capabilities of California companies.

Davis said that while California has made "great progress" in strengthening anti-terrorism defenses, "There's also no question we have a long way to go."

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