TSA could be model for Homeland

The approach the fledgling Transportation Security Administration is taking to information technology could serve as the vision for the proposed Homeland Security Department, according to Patrick Schambach, TSA's associate undersecretary for information and security technology.

This month, TSA issued a $1 billion statement of objectives for its IT infrastructure that emphasizes managed services, a relatively new procurement strategy in which an agency pays a company for technology solutions that meet a particular problem.

The statement came a week after President Bush unveiled his plan for a Cabinet-level Homeland Security Department that would house several existing agencies, including TSA, the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Chief information officers at those agencies and top IT policy-makers at the Office of Management and Budget have begun working on the department's enterprise architecture.

"I think the success of the IT function is absolutely critical to the success of the department," FEMA CIO Ronald Miller said in a June 24 interview with Federal Computer Week.

On a smaller scale, TSA faces the same challenges.

"We have a major focus on being an IT-enabled organization," Schambach, who is also TSA's CIO and chief technology officer, said June 25 at E-Gov's Homeland Security 2002 conference in Washington, D.C.

Bush established TSA in November when he signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, mandating improvements in securing the nation's transportation systems. Since then, the agency has been building its organization from scratch.

"I expect all of our applications to be Web-enabled," Schambach said. In "this day and age, not to do this would be insane."

TSA's Information Technology Managed Services (ITMS) task order will cover the full range of IT and telecommunications services that support desktop management, enterprise architecture development, cybersecurity and related operations, according to the statement.

The ITMS vendor will provide desktop/local area network, a backbone network and a data center/network operations center, according to Schambach. TSA's infrastructure will include laptops, personal digital assistants, cellular and IP phones and land mobile radios, he said.

"Basically what I'm trying to do is buy brains as well as seats," he said.

TSA officials are also looking at security technology initiatives, including smart cards, biometrics and intelligent screening.

FEMA has several of its own projects under way, including two of the cross-agency e-government initiatives highlighted by the Bush administration, and the Coast Guard has just awarded its Deepwater contract, a multibillion-dollar procurement for the replacement of ships, aircraft and the systems that connect them.

"The Department of Homeland Security makes it more compelling to do the things we're already doing," Miller said. "We are moving in the right direction."

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