New strategy details homeland IT goals

Bush's plan sets sweeping agenda

Build a dynamic homeland security architecture

Create smart borders by integrating databases used to track people entering and leaving the country

Use the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board to develop and promote IT security

Create a national incident management system to help respond to terrorist attacks and natural disasters

Establish a national laboratory for homeland security

Eliminate incompatibility among IT systems and remove legal and cultural barriers to data exchange

Create a system of systems to share information among government agencies and the private
sector

Capture information once and use it many times

Develop metadata standards to help integrate databases

Improve public-safety and public-health communications

James Flyzik says the homeland security intranet would carry sensitive but unclassified information, not top-secret data.

Henrik G. DeGyor

Defending against terrorism requires unprecedented information sharing across all levels of government and industry, the president's new domestic security plan says.

'While a lot of the national strategy reflects activity at the federal level, we are engaged at the state and local level, as well as engaging the private sector and creating opportunities for citizens,' said Steven I. Cooper, senior director for information integration and CIO of the Homeland Security Office.

President Bush's proposed Homeland Security Department will have an IT budget between $1 billion and $2 billion through fiscal 2003, said Mark Forman, the Office of Management and Budget's associate director for IT and e-government.

Forman, Cooper and other federal officials spoke about the plan's IT requirements last week at a briefing, which followed the president's release of his National Strategy for Homeland Security.

To promote information exchange among federal agencies, the new department 'would create a collaborative classified enterprise environment to share sensitive information securely among all relevant government agencies,' the strategy said.

The plan also calls for the creation of a secure intranet 'to increase the flow of ... federal information to state and local entities.' James Flyzik, senior adviser to homeland security director Tom Ridge, said the intranet would carry sensitive but unclassified information rather than top-secret data.

The administration has proposed adopting metadata standards for electronic information relevant to homeland security. The government has begun several projects to integrate terrorist-related data maintained by federal agencies.

Cooper said the metadata standards probably would rely on Extensible Markup Language tags to standardize data. The standards likely will be developed by the Architecture Committee of the CIO Council, Forman said.

Once data relevant to homeland security is gathered, it could be used many times, the officials said. Cooper said data mining tools will help agencies identify patterns of potentially criminal behavior. Finding such patterns could help the government track down 'suspected terrorists before they act,' the plan said.

Homeland security officials want to launch pilot projects testing such tools and get results within three to six months, Cooper said. The projects, which each would cost less than $1 million, could include the development of a portal for state and local data and a program to combine federal terrorist databases into a watch-out list.

Balancing act

Cooper said homeland security officials will seek to balance the government's need to gather and conceal information with the public's right to privacy and to know what the government is doing. He declined to say whether the new department would appoint a chief privacy officer, as privacy advocates have recommended.

As the House Select Committee on Homeland Security last week began its deliberations on the homeland security bill, it heard testimony from Ridge recommending close adherence to the administration's proposal. But other House committees that had marked up the bill made significant changes to its IT provisions.

The Science Committee voted to create a post of undersecretary of science and technology to coordinate R&D. It also approved an amendment to establish a Homeland Security Institute'an independent think tank to direct technical and policy analysis proposed by the National Science Foundation. In addition, the committee moved to block the inclusion of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Computer Security Division in the proposed department.

'We think it is better left at NIST, where it can interact easily with the other research divisions of NIST and with private industry,' said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), the committee's chairman.

The Energy and Commerce Committee passed its version after adding provisions for a cyber-security program and an audit team to evaluate existing security practices.

The Government Reform Committee approved changes to the bill that would amend the Freedom of Information Act to protect from disclosure information that industry shared with government. The committee also included a proposal for setting minimum federal IT security guidelines.

The president's strategy is available online at www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/book/index.html.

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