DHS tech execs to work on 9-11 suggestions

9/11 Commission

Information technology officials at the Homeland Security Department plan to examine how they can advance at least four of the 9-11 Commission's recommendations.

Technology plays a role in many items mentioned in the July 22 report, but DHS' Office of the Chief Information Officer will have an especially important part in several efforts during the coming months, said Mark Emery, deputy CIO at the department.

The first is the screening of visitors and immigrants across multiple entities. The commission recommended integrating how the federal government tracks people with the larger network for screening transportation and facilities. Developing the standards and architecture necessary to make that possible is something the CIO's office can help shepherd departmentwide, Emery said. It will also require coordination with other agencies, such as the Energy and Transportation departments, he said Aug. 2 during the Western CIO Forum in Santa Fe, N.M.

Another recommendation to tackle is the development of standards, including the use of biometrics, for issuing birth certificates and driver's licenses. This reaches beyond DHS, bringing state and local governments into the process, he said. The CIO office also will need to continue to work on developing standards for sharing information on those credentials and for allowing state and local officials to access and verify them when a name is flagged.

DHS is "trying to add biometrics to everything," Emery said including credentialing truck drivers, particularly those who transport hazardous materials.

The commission's recommendation on further use of radio spectrum for high-risk, urban and prioritized areas will have to involve Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and others, but the office is already working with other parts of DHS and agencies on pilot tests nationwide. This includes tests in Seattle and Phoenix in conjunction with the Justice Department, Emery said. Setting standards for interoperable communications and driving industry to meet standards will include upcoming requests for proposed solutions for the country's north and south borders, he said.

Emery also cited the problem of sharing sensitive and secure information among all the parts of government. In the coming months, the CIO office will be transitioning the existing Homeland Security Data Network to the Homeland Security Information Network, Emery said. That network will enable federal, state and local officials to share classified information, a step that many have been waiting to take since DHS kicked off the sensitive-but-unclassified HSIN earlier this year, he said.

The CIO office is also getting ready to award approximately 12 grants to public- and private-sector organizations for information-sharing technologies at the state and local levels, he said.

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