Industry offers Homeland advice

The recently announced Homeland Security Department should look to the private sector for possible models on the massive enterprise integration initiative it faces, according to a panel of industry experts.

Speaking June 11 at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's TechNet International 2002 in Washington, D.C., Donald Zimmerman, chief executive officer of Synergy Inc., said that he had recently concluded a study of successful firms and identified some similar characteristics in their enterprise implementation strategies.

Based on that information, Zimmerman said the Homeland Security Department should:

* Be guided by a concept of operations.

* Be process-based.

* Have a standards-based architecture that is independent of any vendor.

* Maximize its use of commercial off-the-shelf products.

* Have a rapid acquisition cycle.

* Realize that competition is necessary. Don't have a single vendor, but don't have 10 either.

* Exercise rapid prototyping and development that establishes pilots and test beds in three months or less.

Alan Harbitter, chief technology officer at PEC Solutions Inc., said there were some staple technologies that could make such things happen, including enterprise application integration, biometric authentication and Web services — namely data standardization on Extensible Markup Language.

Ronald Richard, a member of the business advisory board and former chief operating officer at In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital arm, said that there also was a need for better language machine translators, as well as data mining and data linkage tools. He added that those technologies and others already were helping personnel at FBI and CIA headquarters, but the key would be getting them into the hands of people in the field at those agencies and in the new Homeland Security Department.

To make that happen, information security and funding concerns must be addressed, Harbitter said.

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