Homeland strategy won't meet all concerns

Office of Homeland Security

A long-awaited strategy outlining how the Office of Homeland Security expects to use information technology to help secure the nation from terrorist attacks most likely will not address all the concerns of federal agencies and state and local governments, a senior administration official said earlier this month.

The Homeland Security Office's national strategy, due to President Bush in June, should be considered an enterprise architecture for homeland security, which meets the priorities set out in Bush's fiscal 2003 budget request, said the official, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. Those priorities include a description of the current homeland security status, the goal of where the government needs to be and the migration strategy, or "road map," to get there.

In the budget, the administration set four homeland security goals — tightening border security, supporting first responders, fighting bioterrorism and using information technology as an enabler. However, many in Congress and elsewhere have criticized the White House for not releasing a strategy along with the budget.

The outline in the budget for the strategy itself set several far-reaching goals (see box below). But the official said because of the short time frame in which the office had to craft the plan, the strategy will be a first version, open to revisions. The first release "serves a slightly different purpose than we'd like it to serve," the official said. "It's not going to satisfy all of the requests for participation at this time."

That is exactly what state and local IT officials have feared, even though they understand the deadline pressures under which the office is working, said Robert Greeves, policy adviser for the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs, which assists state and local law enforcement agencies.

Those agencies are also concerned that most of the funding requested for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to increase first responders' capabilities is not focused on cyber needs, such as information sharing and communications interoperability, Greeves said.

Integrating all of the stand-alone systems at each level of government, or at least making it possible to access the information within those systems, is a top priority for state and local officials — one they are concerned will not be part of this version of the strategy, said Dan Jarvis, chief information officer for Denver.

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Homeland security goals

Some of the goals set for the homeland security national strategy in the fiscal 2003 budget include:

* Focusing on the long term and not seeking to achieve all goals at once but introducing needed reforms and innovations in stages, according to their importance.

* Making a national plan, not just a federal government strategy, and basing it on the principle of partnership with state and local governments, the private sector and citizens.

* Encompassing the full range of homeland security activities and setting priorities among them.

* Taking into account the existing government institutions and systems for providing homeland security, building those that work well and are sensibly organized, but also planning to improve or reorganize when necessary.

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