DHS official defends effort to promote radio interoperability

A top Homeland Security Department official said his agency was making "huge progress" in improving its performance despite problems on some crucial fronts, such as the long-delayed effort to develop interoperable radios for first responders.

"I don't want to paint things in [rose] colored glasses, but we are making substantial progress," Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Michael Jackson told the House Homeland Security Committee.

But he promptly came under criticism from panel members for the failure of his agency to finalize a memorandum of understanding with the Commerce Department on how to spend the $1 billion approved by Congress two years ago for promoting interoperability -- a key recommendation of the 2004 report issued by the 9/11 Commission.

"You still haven't produced the MOU," said House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., noting that the deadline set by Congress was Sept. 30. Jackson said he hoped to sign off on the agreement soon, perhaps as early as next week.

"We are joined at the hip with our colleagues at Commerce," he assured Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee Chairwoman Jane Harman, D-Calif, when she questioned him on the matter.

In an interview, Jackson indicated that about 75 cities across the country were in the running to receive grants under the program and that the money was expected to start flowing by the end of the year. Jackson also took some heat for a recent Office of Personnel Management survey finding that department employees had the lowest rate of job satisfaction of any federal agency.

"This is really an indictment and you ought to take it seriously," said Thompson. Jackson said agency officials had formed a task force to boost morale by, among other things, seeking to give workers a sense of mission. "Here's the punch line. It's about protecting the homeland against attack," he said.

He also sought to downplay a finding in a recent Government Accountability Office report that the department was still five to seven years away from jelling as a cohesive agency. He said agency officials were "relentlessly focused on transforming" their sprawling, 208,000-employee department into an "integrated" unit.

On another major issue, Jackson told the committee that by the end of next year the department expected to complete 370 miles of the 700-mile fence authorized to be built along the Mexican border by Congress last year. He explained that much of the fence would be "virtual," consisting of light and sensor systems for detecting border crossings and ground-based radar networks enabling officials to monitor the area visually.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.