Capellas, in a keynote address at the Homeland Security Tech Expo in Washington DC, said the US "either will lead with [technology] as our weapon or fall prey to it, and there are almost no extremes".
While Capellas said the US has the best of technology at its disposal, terrorists also are gearing up their technology at a fast rate. Therefore the government's security efforts must include a strategy to ensure that the US maintains better technology than the terrorists and ensures that its superior technology is put to use, Capellas said.
"I don't think there's any doubt that we have the technology," said Capellas, who became second-in-command at HP behind chairman and chief executive officer Carly Fiorina in May when it merged with Compaq, where Capellas was chairman and chief executive officer. "This is not about, 'Trust me, it's in the labs.' If we were to apply what we have today, we would make unbelievable strides."
Among the initiatives Capellas listed for government officials are to remember the roles of emergency personnel and other people whose jobs are tied directly to immediate response.
"We must put in the forefront that anything we do has to get to the first responders," Capellas said. "Normally when we do this stuff we build the big infrastructures. We eventually drive it down, and it gets to the grassroots level. [That] won't work this time. We have got to simultaneously give power to the grassroots level, drive the first responders and then move it back up."
Capellas also suggested greater use of supercomputing, an area in which Compaq had a large stake, to solve the problems created by the threat of bioterrorism.
"There is no possible way to solve this in a centralised manner; we have got to distribute the architecture," he said.
Capellas also encouraged officials to define core competencies among their personnel and create centres that include pools of highly skilled people who can be easily accessed, and he urged them to create "cross-functional teams", which would facilitate the handover of information from one agency to the next. The teams would take advantage of the multiple "touch points" that exist among the numerous agencies and other entities that must interact in solving security problems.
Capellas praised government officials for displaying a fresh dedication to solving security problems. In 20 years of dealing with the government and its application of technology, he said at no time has he seen a greater will or sense of resolution to come together, interact and collaborate.
The two-day expo, hosted by the US Department of Commerce and the Office of Homeland Security, drew vendors, military officials and government technology professionals.