Homeland opportunities abound

The proposed Homeland Security Department should offer a slew of contracting opportunities for information technology vendors, analysts say. Its budget for fiscal 2003 is largely in place with about $1.5 billion set aside for IT, according to an analysis by Federal Sources Inc.

Right now, it remains "a moving target," with lots of "short-term uncertainty," said Bruce McConnell, president of McConnell International LLC, speaking at Federal Sources' executive conference Nov 13.

But the outlook is positive. "We believe, in any case, this is a long-term, good market," McConnell continued. Federal Sources has forecast it to be a mid-tier IT spending agency.

Until the department sets its leadership, vendors should direct inquiries to Steve Cooper at the Office of Homeland Security, whose position seems like an emerging chief information officer function, McConnell said. In fact, many of the people involved in the transition team are likely to end up with permanent roles, he said.

James Loy, in particular, could carry clout as acting undersecretary of transportation for security at the Transportation Security Administration, an agency he joined after retiring as commandant of the Coast Guard in May — giving him extra authority, according to McConnell.

Further, the Coast Guard, along with the Secret Service, will, for the most part, retain their current structures and "brand equity," Jim Kane, Federal Sources' president and chief executive officer, said at the conference.

The department, however, will use an operating rather than a holding management model, Kane said. In other words, it will act as a whole.

To achieve a unified identity from the beginning poses challenges. Accordingly, day-one priorities include enterprisewide e-mail and a Web portal for internal and external users. Officials hope going from fed@fema.gov to fed@dhs.gov, for instance, will support cultural transformation in the mind-set of staff, he said.

On the program front, "there are going to be winners and losers in terms of agencies, programs, 'puts and takes,'" as the department comes together, Kane said.

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