Tenn. Representative Plans Homeland Security Conference in Memphis

WASHINGTON -- Money for homeland security efforts has been coming into Tennessee for years, but U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. says there's no solid sense how prepared the state is for a terrorist attack.

"The fear is ... over the last few years as we've spent this money, we have no idea how prepared people are," he said Thursday. "We know Memphis may own a few more radios, Knoxville may own a few more telephones... The question is, are we better off?"

Ford, a Democrat, is planning a conference in Memphis next month to bring local agencies and experts together, take stock of the state's assets and set a standard of preparedness that will help Tennessee chart what further steps it needs to take.

The conference will draw together the state's regional homeland security directors - who Ford said have never met as a group - as well as bringing in other experts, Ford said.

"These are the kind of efforts that need to take place across the country, and ensure that every local district, every local government, every municipality is ready, or at least has a minimum level of preparedness," he said.

Experts expected to attend the event are:

- Richard A. Clarke, the former White House security adviser;

- Roger W. Cressey, a former White House counterterrorism official;

- Jamie F. Metzl, co-author of a report on emergency responders' preparedness levels;

- Bill Cowan, head of wvc3, a consulting group that specializes on homeland security.