The Senate late Thursday evening approved critical funding for counter-terrorism efforts, including $2 million that U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., included in the legislation for an initiative aimed at preparing doctors and emergency personnel to respond to terrorist attacks on American soil.

“As we have seen in the tragic events of this week, the greatest military threat facing the United States does not come from any missile. Rather, it comes from terrorism. That terrorism can be a hijacked airplane or it can be a chemical attack on a water supply, a gas attack on a train system, or a suitcase bomb at a tourist attraction,”Byrd said.

“West Virginia University is developing a Virtual Medical Campus to provide medical preparedness information nationwide,”the Senator added.”This computer network and information system will link doctors and emergency personnel responding to a terrorist attack with specialists who can immediately identify what steps should be taken to protect people living and working nearby.”

The Virtual Medical Campus is the computer network and national information delivery arm of the National Training Center for Homeland Security (NTC-HLS) that is being developed collaboratively by WVU and the West Virginia National Guard.

“The police, fire, and rescue officers at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have shown that they can be on the scene of a terrorist attack within moments. However, had this been a chemical or biological weapon attack, they would need the expertise of doctors and scientists who can analyze the weapon and suggest the best possible response. That is the goal of the Virtual Medical Campus,”Byrd said.”We must be prepared to respond more quickly and effectively to the consequences of a successful attack.”

WVU President David C. Hardesty, Jr., and Dr. Rusty Russell, Director of the Virtual Medical Campus, said they were grateful for Byrd’s continued support of the initiative.

“Teaching and research initiatives at West Virginia Universitysuch as this one that deals with the security of our nationare the hallmark of a land-grant research university,”Hardesty said.”WVU is proud to be in the forefront of this technology that is preparing emergency personnel to respond in times of crisis, and we thank Senator Byrd for his continued support of projects that are making a difference in this state and nation.”

“Senator Byrd’s visionary leadership in obtaining funding to develop the Virtual Medical Campus is instrumental to the national effort to bolster our protection from and response to terrorist attacks,”Russell added.”The funding will enable development of information systems and knowledge to help the medical community and other disaster response communities prepare to protect the lives and health of our citizens in the event of future terrorist attacks.”

The Fiscal Year 2002 Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill also contains $364 million to strengthen national counter-terrorism efforts by helping to enhance the capabilities of state and local jurisdictions to better prepare for, and respond to, incidents of domestic terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction. The legislation, which now moves on to a House-Senate conference committee, also includes $23 million for the creation of a Deputy Attorney General for Combating Domestic Terrorism. This new Justice Department position would coordinate and implement policy to prevent, prepare for, and respond to terrorist attacks within the U.S.