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Roadmap for Homeland Security Department takes shape

The Homeland Security Department's top technology leader said Thursday that a "roadmap" outlining the new department's business process and corollary technology support should be released by the end of September.

The Homeland Security Department's top technology leader said Thursday that a "roadmap" outlining the new department's business process and corollary technology support should be released by the end of September.

Steven Cooper told the House Government Reform Committee that his department is making progress in the Herculean task of integrating the operations of the 22 federal agencies that were transferred under Homeland Security's umbrella. The department's directorates are tasked with everything from border and immigration control and intelligence sharing to coordinating nationwide disaster response.

Since the department was created, Cooper explained, his tech team has established basic computing and communications services, including the creation of desktop computer access among the department's component agencies, a Web site and coordinated e-mail system.

"Once we accomplished that, our focus reshifted to our enterprise architecture," Cooper said. That initiative involves mapping the business strategy and processes for the agency and the information technology systems that will support them.

He told lawmakers that the architecture development plans will be disclosed in phases beginning in June, with the release of the current architecture. By August, the department aims to release a "to be" architecture that will detail business strategies and "mission elements" of the department and its directorates.

The roadmap designed to get the department to that point will be released by September, Cooper said. "We've already begun to identify some opportunities" to consolidate redundant business and technology systems. "We certainly don't need the 20-plus human-resource applications that exist" within component agencies.

The department then will seek input from state, local and private-sector groups to continue to refine that roadmap, he said.

While Homeland Security and other administration officials continue to map the enterprise functions and IT systems, they also are working to remedy immediate problems, including the information-sharing gaps often partly blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The department is leveraging existing systems to increase the capabilities for sharing information with state and local officials, he said. The department, for example, is working with the Emergency Response Network of Dallas to provide security information to "first responders."

But some lawmakers questioned whether Homeland Security is successfully tackling cultural barriers to sharing information among federal agencies, such as the FBI.

The department is working with stakeholders in the intelligence community to agree on a vision for how information should be shared, Cooper said. "There are documents that are being circulated for signature that do contain some very specific examples and requirements around the sharing of information," he said.

"To find out now that two years later this isn't done is almost staggering," Massachusetts Democrat John Tierney said.

Former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rossetti, who oversaw an integration effort similar to Homeland Security's, agreed that it is appropriate to reengineer business processes before trying to integrate tech systems. "That's what controls the money, incentives and people and the way that they work," he said.

He urged lawmakers to maintain realistic expectations for progress at the department.