DOD offering homeland expertise

It is not the Defense Department's job to push technological solutions on local emergency workers or the 22 federal agencies that make up the Homeland Security Department, but DOD certainly can use its experiences in information sharing, collaboration and networking to serve as models for the new department, according to a panel of military experts.

Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg Jr., director of command, control, communications and computer systems for the Joint Staff, said DOD can serve as a reference in tying together disparate systems based on its decades of work connecting overseas combat commands that include representatives from all military services.

DOD is attempting a similar feat with Northern Command, which is responsible for ensuring homeland defense capabilities and supporting civilian authorities when directed by the president or secretary of Defense. The only difference now is that instead of bringing together the various military services, the focus is on connecting Defense systems and staff with the federal, state and local government agencies that also have homeland security missions, Kellogg said.

"The best way to do it is [with information technology]," he said, but getting it done is not a technological issue, "it's organizational and cultural."

"We need to sort out everyone's roles. The most important part of this is local participants," Kellogg said during a Dec. 10 panel discussion at the E-Gov Homeland Security conference, sponsored by FCW Media Group, in Washington, D.C.

Leading that effort is the Homeland Security Department, which is attempting to create a connected culture and identify technologies, such as Extensible Markup Language, that can tie systems together, he said. XML facilitates information exchange among applications and systems because it enables agencies to tag data and documents.

Ultimately, the new department's systems must include built-in security, redundancy, interoperability and be based on open standards, Kellogg said.

"I can't imagine using one system," he said. "We need to design for growth and upgrades... and start as simple as possible. Ninety percent of an organization will never change...but the 10 percent you can change is how you integrate information...and IT is the key to tying that all together."

When the audience asked if that meant making DOD systems like the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network available to the Homeland Security Department, Kellogg said that was not the answer.

"It's too hard," he said. "We still have governors without security clearances. We need to use [commercial off-the-shelf products (COTS)] and work our way up." He said that means starting at the unclassified level because that's where all the players can most easily share information.

Peter Verga, special assistant to the secretary of Defense for homeland security, agreed and said DOD could not afford to duplicate its systems to cover the entire nation, but that the department can provide support. He noted that DOD officials are working with Steve Cooper, chief information officer for the Office of Homeland Security, on the new department's architecture initiative.

Kellogg said his main concern is that the agencies will end up using incompatible technologies — the same problem they are trying to overcome. But he added that recent conversations with Lee Holcomb, director of infostructure for the Office of Homeland Security, have led them to a "common consensus" on using COTS products and open architectures, and attempting to replicate best business practices.

Jack Pellicci, group vice president for business development at Oracle Corp., said the Homeland Security Department and DOD must "think big, start small, scale fast and deliver capabilities." The retired Army brigadier general added that speed is essential and if a problem can't be solved in two Internet years — six months — then another solution should be found.

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