Cooper aims for better info sharing

Improving information sharing will be a top priority for the Homeland Security Department in the coming year, the agency's chief information officer, Steve Cooper, said today.

DHS' inspector general released a report concluding that the department has yet to develop a framework for information sharing and could take as long as seven years to completely consolidate its operations. But Cooper said officials have set an aggressive goal to move from 22 information technology networks to one by December.

Cooper, speaking at this year's FOSE conference for government technology, stressed the need for a two-way flow of information that involves civilians, local municipalities, the private sector and academics, in addition to DHS and state agencies. DHS, he said, needs considerable help at the county, city and municipality levels. It also lacks sufficient IT coordination across law enforcement, public works, fire protection, corporate security, and the entertainment and the hotel industries, he added.

Several officials will play pivotal roles in guiding IT improvements, Cooper said, including:

* Frank Libutti, DHS' undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection, who was designated as a business owner with an eye toward promoting the "tangible, viable, visible and value-added" areas of information sharing.

* Pat Schambach, CIO of the Transportation Security Administration.

* Cliff Pearce, CIO of the U.S. Coast Guard.

* Charlie Church CIO of DHS' Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection. Church will also head up IT efforts, Cooper said.

DHS officials will look at existing solutions first before trying to create new ones, he said. In an effort to balance quality, speed and delivery, Cooper said DHS would use "state-of-the-market" technology rather than impractical "bleeding-edge" products and services.

"What we're going to put in place now has got to be real," he said. "It's got to be operational."

However, Cooper added, that will not keep DHS officials from considering emerging solutions.

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