FEMA focuses on enterprise architecture

Federal Emergency Management Agency

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency's new chief information officer said his top priority is developing an enterprise architecture program for the agency and integrating it with the Homeland Security Department's blueprint.

Barry West, appointed FEMA's CIO in October 2003, said such a program was nonexistent when he started, but having one would help the agency align its information technology strategy with business processes. Essentially, an enterprise architecture provides a road map to guide investment decisions, he said.

"Those CIOs who don't have it listed as their top priority are making a mistake. They don't have their act together," he said, adding that architectures are now required by the Office of Management and Budget.

West hired an enterprise architect, who will start next month. He said he was also tagged by DHS CIO Steve Cooper to serve as the managing partner in the departmentwide enterprise architecture initiative. DHS officials unveiled the first version of an enterprise architecture last October to help them assess current back-office operations and develop solid business cases for programs, applications and systems.

Other top priorities for West include providing technology support for disaster recovery and response, including upgrading systems that process claims and supporting a DHS geospatial management office. He said his agency is evaluating various information-sharing systems and technologies to see how they can better serve the agency before and during crises.

Another priority is implementing cybersecurity measures, including deploying technologies and training and certifying employees. He said FEMA officials are planning firewall upgrades, vulnerability assessments and penetration testing of systems, along with awareness training. He hopes to have 33 percent of FEMA's systems certified and accredited by year's end. Another priority is developing an IT strategic plan for 2004 and through 2007.

West spoke Feb. 12 at the Washington, D.C.-area chapter of the Association for Information and Image Management International, a global industry membership group that focuses on enterprise content management.

He said a CIO's responsibilities these days include understanding emerging technologies, politics, business and how to sell what you're trying to do internally and externally.

West also represents FEMA on the DHS CIO Council. He commended Cooper for urging his agency CIOs to work as a team, something that West, formerly the National Weather Service's CIO, said he hasn't seen in other federal departments.

Formerly an independent agency that was folded into DHS a year ago, FEMA was renamed the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate. However, officials have permission to still refer to the agency as FEMA.

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