Homeland security bill sets new IT agenda in motion

Homeland security bill sets new IT agenda in motion

President Bush today signed the Homeland Security Act mandating a massive government reorganization that will focus billions in IT assets on the task of protecting the country from terrorism.

Bush has nominated Homeland Security Office director Tom Ridge as secretary of the new department and Navy secretary Gordon England as deputy secretary. Steve Cooper, CIO of the Homeland Security Office, likely will get the nod to become CIO of the new department, sources said.

The new department will get off to a quick but somewhat limited start because of the slender funding available for transition activities, due to be carried out during the next 60 days, sources said. Less than $50 million is available for the transition so far. The government now is operating under a continuing resolution that expires Jan. 11.

Although Ridge cannot be confirmed until after the Senate reconvenes Jan. 7, some initial activities will begin before then.

For example, the transition team probably will select a headquarters site for the new department and begin the selection process for the five undersecretaries to oversee the department’s operational branches.

“They will be going over a plan that was 99 percent complete before” the president signed HR 5005, said one source, adding that a key transition effort will be making sure that the activities of the department’s component agencies mesh. All told, the department will absorb 22 agencies that employ 170,000 federal workers and account for $37.2 billion in annual spending.

IT officials of the Homeland Security Office have begun framing an information architecture for the department [see story at www.gcn.com/21_27/news/19899-1.html]. An initial step could be to connect all the department’s component agencies by e-mail.

Transition department planners are likely to act quickly to establish a homeland security portal to link federal, state and local security organizations. Cooper has also said that the new department soon will launch several IT pilot projects [see story at www.gcn.com/21_33/news/20493-1.html].

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