Info systems on fast track

Agencies across government are speeding up the procurement and implementation of information systems that will assist the homeland security effort.

Information sharing is key to homeland security, and almost every White House initiative in this effort includes a directive to find technology that can help agencies share data. Many agencies already had such programs in the works, but now they are getting more attention and money than anyone expected, officials said at a Nov. 1 breakfast hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

The State Department has been working on its Overseas Presence Collaboration/Knowledge Management System since the beginning of the year. It is intended to bring together almost 40 agencies with overseas staff in a single network, enabling people to share information around the globe in real time, said Fernando Burbano, State's chief information officer.

The timeline for this system was always fairly short: The prototype is due this month and the pilot is scheduled to start shortly afterward in Mexico and India. The plan for the system and the overall State IT strategy was put together in response to the 1998 bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Burbano said.

But Tom Ridge, the new director of the Office of Homeland Security, is looking to the system as a possible solution for information sharing, and that gives the project even more urgency, Burbano said.

The FBI also is accelerating its Trilogy modernization program, which started out with a three-year timeframe. Trilogy forms the basis of all future technology plans at the agency, which is at the forefront of investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks. Until the modernization is complete, the FBI is unable to take advantage of any information-sharing solutions being offered by industry, said Mark Tanner, the agency's information resources manager.

Robert Mueller, the new director of the FBI, started pushing the agency to move more quickly on Trilogy shortly after taking the position in August, and officials were speaking with the contractors about how to do that, Tanner said.

But after Sept. 11, the FBI received extra money and was told to see how fast it could make the modernization happen, he said. The program's new completion date is set for December 2002.

Other agencies' systems may not be as high profile, but they also are getting a push from agency and White House officials as IT is being called into service to help win the war against terrorism, said Doug Naquin, deputy CIO at the CIA.

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