TSA takes novel e-gov approach

For its e-government projects, the Transportation Security Administration puts the government before electronic.

The agency begins work on any e-government effort by focusing on the strategic rationale for the program before it thinks about what technology the agency might need, said Sara J. Hebert, TSA’s e-government director.

This approach is apparent in the organizational set-up of the e-government team within TSA. Hebert doesn’t report to the CIO; her boss is TSA’s director of strategic management and analysis, Lana Tannozzini, who is on the same level as CIO Patrick Schambach. Most agencies locate their e-government offices in their IT organizations.

The guiding principle for each of her team’s initiatives is its end goal, Hebert said. “If you haven’t solved the right problem, you haven’t delivered the value,” she said. “I view the goal of e-government as a means of identifying shared needs within the organization and finding processes that will meet those needs.”

As an example, she noted that in any given organization, five or six offices carry out a function such as case management—in TSA, those might include the real estate, legal, aviation operations and investigations offices—but only one of them calls it case management.

One of TSA’s goals has been to reduce the number of separate applications devoted to similar activities across the organization, Hebert said.

“By looking at what they are trying to accomplish, we can build a tool that meets their shared needs,” she said.

TSA e-government officials completed their strategy and technology outline a year ago. It relies on what Hebert called constituent relationship management. Under this approach, the e-government team has formed groups of stakeholders drawn from inside and outside the agency to define the needs each e-government program will meet.
Some have an outside focus and some an inside view. For instance, one group is comprised mainly of image influencers, such as trade associations that interact with TSA and some very public organizations within the agency, Hebert said. But another group is almost completely inward-focused and made up of security administrators from offices across TSA.

Agencywide apps

The agency’s e-government approach has led to the creation of several applications for agencywide use, she said.

One is the Performance and Results Information System, which helps TSA officials with incident reporting. PARIS maintains profile information for TSA-regulated locations—such as airports, seaports, bus terminals and border checkpoints—and helps inspectors carry out checks of such facilities.

“We specifically built it to be broad enough for several uses. We didn’t want it to be limited to aviation,” Hebert said. TSA inspectors currently use four modules of PARIS and another is on the way, she said.

TSA’s e-government team also has developed a case management system, a legal information and knowledge system, a contact list application and an inquiry management system.

Next on TSA’s e-government agenda is the launch this month of an alert notification system that will let security and other management staff send critical messages to TSA employees in the field via wireless LAN and e-mail.

The alert system will use Oracle Mobile Gateway technology.

“The core data model we are using is Oracle11i, a part of the Oracle E-Business Suite,” said Darrell Gaskins, e-government lead architect with TSA contractor Deloitte Consulting of New York.

Hebert estimates that the agency has spent about $14.5 million so far on services provided by the vendor:
  • $3.5 million on strategy, planning and operation support

  • $4.5 million on platform development

  • $6.5 million on application development.

The key effort has been integration, Gaskins said. “The important thing is that all the applications share data, so we don’t have data stored in different places,” he said.

TSA also is using Documentum from Documentum Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., for its content management system and to develop a document management system. The content management function is used on the TSA and Homeland Security Department Web sites, while the document management system is still being developed, Gaskins said.

The agency uses the Oracle9i Enterprise Suite to develop Java applications and Oracle Marvel for rapid app development, Gaskins said.

“Other people view e-government as a system; I see it as an approach,” Hebert said. “I think it is solving a business problem from a constituent view with the aim of a shared solution.”

About the Author

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