DHS secretary discusses department's IT programs

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today indicated that the Homeland Security Department would not meet a deadline of 2012 that requires DHS to scan all cargo bound for U.S. seaports with non-intrusive imaging and radiation detection equipment before the cargo leaves for the United States. Napolitano also told a House panel that DHS would focus on improving intelligence sharing with state and local authorities.

The 100 percent scanning requirement has raised logistical, technological and diplomatic concerns from shippers, carriers, port and terminal operators, and foreign governments. The requirement was part of a 2007 law that allows the homeland security secretary to extend that deadline.

“My initial review is that the 2012 deadline is not going to work and we’re going to have to work on what we do beyond that,” Napolitano told the House Homeland Security Committee.

Napolitano also said she planned to make intelligence sharing with state and local authorities a priority and wanted to focus on the more than 50 state and local intelligence fusion centers around the country.

“We really need to pump up that effort and make them a much more vital part of our national security network in terms of information sharing,” Napolitano said. Until recently, she was the governor of Arizona, home to one of the first fusion centers.

The Bush administration designated the fusion centers as a central node for the federal government’s efforts for sharing terrorism-related information with state and local officials and Congress has designated DHS as the lead federal agency for that effort. The department is in the process of upgrading its platform for sharing sensitive but unclassified information with state and local officials.

“The fusion of information between the federal, state and local levels is what makes the intelligence gathering process critically valuable to preventing threats from materializing,” she testified. “Information sharing is also what makes response efforts effective.”

Napolitano also discussed a series of directives she has ordered to review DHS’ efforts in areas such as border security, risk management, information sharing with state and local authorities and cybersecurity, saying it was critical to involve the private sector in cybersecurity and she had instructed DHS officials to be sure the department was reaching out to private-sector groups.

Other information technology-related programs she touched on included the SBInet border security program, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program and Real ID.


 

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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