Editorial: An impossible dream?

In "Man of La Mancha," Don Quixote dreams the impossible dream and goes on to tilt at windmills. We wonder if Steve Cooper can relate.

Cooper, the Homeland Security Department’s first chief information officer, announced earlier this month that he is leaving the post. During the past two and a half years, Cooper focused on creating an enterprisewide infrastructure to help merge 22 separate federal agencies into a unified department.

To many, that task seemed then -- and still seems today -- like an impossible dream.

Nearly everyone agrees that integrating all of those organizations is a bold task. Earlier this year, Ruth David, president and chief executive officer of Analytic Services (ANSER) and a former deputy director for science and technology at the CIA, said DHS officials are attempting to do something that has never been done before. "Name an industry merger of 22 corporations that has been successful," she said.

Despite his qualifications for the job, Cooper faced turf battles that most observers underestimated. Some have even suggested that the DHS CIO post may be one of the worst jobs in government right now because of the difficult tasks facing the agency and the amount of internal bickering.

Cooper’s departure, among the numerous other changes in DHS' leadership, creates an opportunity to identify more manageable goals.

One obvious step is for the CIO to report directly to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. That relationship would give the post the stature it deserves and the muscle it needs.

We hope that Chertoff finds a CIO he trusts and that DHS' leaders will put aside impossible dreams to focus instead on achievable tasks.

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