Cooper: Fix the appropriations process

The Homeland Security Department's former chief information officer appealed to industry officials to lobby Congress for money to expand information sharing among public- and private-sector agencies.

“With the best of intentions, Congress still continues to impede our ability to share information,” said Steve Cooper, speaking today at the Input SecurE-Biz CxO Security Summit in Washington, D.C. Cooper is now CIO at the American Red Cross.

Appropriations are divided among different programs in various agencies and departments, without any money being designated for information sharing across organizational boundaries, Cooper said.

While they are up on Capitol Hill lobbying for their pet projects, industry representatives should push for funding to improve collaboration across organizations, he said.

If the private sector could educate Congress about cross-organizational collaboration, it would go a long way toward fixing many of the information-sharing deficits the government now has, he said.

Cooper also suggested that the Government Accountability Office and federal inspectors general could help improve cross-organizational collaboration by including recommendations for it in their reports to Congress.

In his new capacity at the Red Cross, Cooper said he is concerned that emergency first responders in America’s 89,000 municipalities don’t yet have access to real-time geospatial and other information on handheld devices. Lacking that capability puts rescue workers and law enforcement employees at a disadvantage, he said.

To give first responders that capability, the technology industry could work through the nation’s community colleges, Cooper said. Community colleges already train 70 percent of police, fire, public safety and public health workers and reach 95 percent of the U.S. population, he said.

Cooper resigned in April after heading DHS’ IT operations since the department’s creation in March 2003. Scott Charbo, CIO at the Agriculture Department, has been nominated to replace him and is expected to start in July.

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