A search for solutions
- By John x_Zyskowski
- Dec 02, 2001
To bolster homeland security, a groundswell has formed in the nation's
capital to spend large sums of money on information technology. That raises
several serious issues.
But equally important as the funding is the strong political will that
has mounted behind many of these initiatives. Often, will is a far more
precious commodity in Washington, D.C., than money. Large supplies of it
will be crucial if agencies are to buck a tradition in which cooperation
has been lacking and instead begin to share information and resources using
the kinds of technologies discussed in this special report.
Before giving in to the impulse to throw money at the problem, we should examine the implications of doing so. In the eyes of Faisal Hoque, chief executive officer of Enamics Inc. -- a company that helps organizations align their technology investments with their
business objectives -- the government faces a situation similar to the one businesses confronted during the dot-com craze a couple of years ago.
At that time, business leaders felt great pressure to join the so-called
New Economy, and the price of admission was mastery of new technologies
that promised to innovate their businesses. However, without a road map
showing how these technologies would align with — or against — corporate
strategy, the results were predictably mixed, according to Hoque.
Now the stakes are dramatically higher as the government seeks to adopt
technologies that can help it wage a more effective fight against terrorism.
But absent a clear understanding of what information is needed for this
mission, where some information might already exist and how to facilitate
true cross-agency collaboration, the government can expect mixed results
from technology investments, at a potentially perilous cost.
The new federal Office of Homeland Security could be the key. The office
doesn't need to supply the money or the people to deploy agency systems
or to micromanage them. Instead, it needs to provide a unified vision of
how the parts can work together without unnecessary duplication. The office
should be given the clout and resources to do this important job.
The office also can help with other difficult issues. Among the technologies
proposed for possible roles in homeland security are several that have drawn
the attention of privacy advocates. National identification cards, expanded
use of Internet wiretaps and facial-recognition scanners installed at airports
are just some recent ideas that have privacy implications.
The Office of Homeland Security may be able to help inform a much broader
discussion by presenting information and proposals for debate so acceptable
choices can be made.