DHS CIO wants 10 percent more

The Homeland Security Department's office of the chief information officer is requesting a 10 percent bump in next year's budget to improve information security, bolster the department's information technology infrastructure and establish two new centers of excellence, according to the deputy CIO.

According to the proposed fiscal 2006 budget, the CIO's office would get about $303.7 million, which is an increase of $28 million from the current year's $275.3 million level.

Mark Emery, DHS deputy CIO, said the increase would help improve redundancy and reliability for around-the-clock operations of systems that provide three levels of security, sensitive but unclassified, secret and top secret.

Funds would also help improve information security. DHS officials recently received a failing grade for certifying and accrediting systems, annual testing and security training as required by the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, which requires an annual independent evaluation of agency information security practices.

"We kind of expected an F," he said during an executive luncheon sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council in Washington, D.C. "We're not proud of it. It's not even a gentleman's F."

But he said the department has improved. In 2003, one-third of DHS' systems were certified and accredited, and the current figure is two-thirds of all systems. The number of employees trained in information security also rose from 14 percent to more than 85 percent during the same time. He said they are on their way for complete inventory of all the department's systems.

Additionally, the increased budget in the CIO's office will help create two new centers of excellence, one for metadata solutions and another for solutions engineering.

The 2006 budget includes $2.5 million for each center. The metadata solutions center would help identify metadata and establish common metadata standards for electronic information. The engineering solutions center would basically "operationalize the technical reference model of our enterprise architecture," Emery said.

The centers of excellence are a way to build in-house skills around some core areas, such as enterprise architecture and the workforce.

To accomplish those goals, officials need to gather data experts in certain programs, create a central place where experts can make decisions about standards, develop a common language for information sharing, make departmentwide decisions and reach out to other departments, he said.

"What we're really trying to do is stop acting as single organizations ... and act as one department," he said.

About $6 million is earmarked for the department's smart card initiative. The CIO's office is working with the department's chief security officer to provide common credentials for all employees.

Emery said the department is also focusing on improving customer service within the department and externally and improving procurement operations.


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