Homeland's 1st goal: Be different

Many long-range goals exist for the information technology infrastructure of the proposed Homeland Security Department, but the goal for day one — the first day that 170,000 employees start as members of an entirely new organization — is just as important, said Steve Cooper, senior director of information integration and chief information officer for the Office of Homeland Security.

The day-one IT goal for the proposed department is to provide new capabilities. Otherwise, the organizations that are expected to make up the department should just stay where they are, Cooper said. He was speaking Sept. 18 on a panel before a membership meeting of the Industry Advisory Council.

"We think it's critically important that we have some day-one capabilities that don't exist today," he said.

Many of these new capabilities likely will fall within the intelligence analysis and information protection directorate, particularly in regard to information sharing across the federal, state and local levels. Those visions will have to wait to be fully realized until Congress passes the legislation creating the department and officially defining its structure, Cooper said.

Many other ideas are awaiting the final bill, and that will mean hard work for many people once the legislation is signed, said Ronald Miller, who is on detail to the proposed department's Transition Planning Office from his position as CIO at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In the meantime, several IT capabilities can be started, no matter what the final department looks like, Cooper said. These include:

* Developing a departmentwide e-mail system.

* Creating an internal Web portal that will provide information to all Homeland Security Department employees on the workings of the department, such as workflow and process maps.

* Implementing collaboration tools, including document management systems and Web-based collaboration spaces.

* Identifying technology solutions to give all 170,000 employees real-time access to the subject experts in any area.

That will all take a lot of hard work to put together, but as officials at the Transportation Security Administration have learned during the past year, "there's nothing like a mandate — to make you get something done," said Patrick Schambach, TSA's associate undersecretary for information and security technology.

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