IT poses Homeland challenges

"Homeland Security: Information Technology Funding and Associated Management Issues"

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New money likely will be needed to handle the Homeland Security Department's information technology needs, and based on existing agencies' track records, plenty of management problems will accompany that IT, according to a General Accounting Office report released Jan. 14.

In a study for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, GAO identified $2.9 billion in IT funding at the agencies set to move into the new department — $1.2 billion in fiscal 2002 and $1.7 billion in fiscal 2003.

However, that is not going to be the total amount of IT funding the department needs, wrote Joel Willemssen, managing director of IT issues at GAO.

Other IT needs that are not reflected in those numbers could include multi-agency IT infrastructure — such as secure networks — as well as new intelligence systems and funding for existing agency missions that appear to be related to homeland security but will not be within the department. This includes programs and systems at the Defense Department and at the Federal Aviation Administration, Willemssen wrote.

Several of the organizations moving to the department with "significant" IT budgets also have a large number of outstanding IT management problems and recommendations, which GAO highlighted. Prominent among these are the National Infrastructure Protection Center, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Coast Guard and the Customs Service.

Most of the open recommendations involve information security, enterprise architecture, IT investment, and systems development and acquisition, all of which are basic parts of IT management, Willemssen wrote.

While the rest of the organizations going to the department do not have any specific black marks against them, "most are from parent organizations that, based on our prior work, still face IT management issues," according to the report.

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