House studies DHS org chart

House lawmakers are considering shaking up management responsibilities within the Homeland Security Department to help integrate legacy information technology systems, implement policies, improve operations and enhance interoperability. And the idea

appears to have the backing of the department's second in command.

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), who chairs the Select Committee on Homeland Security, said his committee is weighing the idea of transferring the Management Directorate into the deputy secretary's office, which operates similar to a chief operating officer's office.

"It's the only place that the entire department comes together, and the committee's expectation of what the COO ought to get done should rest with that position in the department," said James Loy, the department's deputy secretary, at a hearing earlier this month.

Loy added that he and DHS Secretary Tom Ridge have weekly meetings with

all the top management officials and they do not lack communication with one

another.

Beefing up the deputy secretary's office by including the Management Directorate is a good idea because it gives Loy greater authority in the agency, said James Carafano, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. "It's not so much that they're not cooperating," he said. "In order to integrate things, it would be much more effective."

One area Carafano is concerned about is technology. DHS chief information officer Steve Cooper has done a great job, but his office is understaffed, Carafano said.

"If somebody goes out for a cup of coffee, then there's nobody to answer the phone," he said. "It seems the CIO has become more of an adviser than an integrator, and I think his office needs to be larger. I think the position in the food chain needs to be elevated."

At the hearing, Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) said IT remains a major management challenge for DHS, which is falling short of integrating basic systems to improve daily operations and information sharing among offices.

"I also find it troubling that the chief procurement officer and the chief information officer appear to be organizationally weak and may not have sufficient authority over the hundreds of legacy agency systems and functions for which they are responsible," he added.

In his testimony, Loy said IT remains a top priority, although it's a complex challenge within the department and in the field. Department officials are working on a second version of an enterprise architecture plan and have an ambitious goal of consolidating various networks into one.

Loy said top DHS officials also are working on seven priorities during the next year: information sharing and infrastructure protection, interoperability, integrated ports and borders, new technologies and tools, better preparing states and communities, improving customer service for immigrants and creating a 21st-century department.

Loy predicted that by the department's third anniversary in March 2006, it would have accomplished this framing integration and built cultural support among the 22

agencies.

"If we have played our cards right, if we have led and managed well, if we have delegated well and people are perfectly able to get the job done we asked them to get done — as long as we are clear and provided the resources to do it — I think we will be where we want to be in these seven core theme areas," he said.

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