Working groups study homeland security agencies' IT setups

If Congress approves the creation of the proposed Homeland Security Department, much of its IT infrastructure could be planned extensively in advance.

The White House's Homeland Security Office has formed working groups to map out the architecture for each of the four areas in which the department will focus its efforts: chemical, biological radiological and nuclear countermeasures; emergency preparedness and response; information analysis and infrastructure protection, and transportation and border security.

The working groups are looking at the current IT architecture for each agency that would be assigned to the new department.

'This work will give CIOs a sense of what border and transportation security is today and what commonalities agencies share,' said Amy Wheelock, co-chairwoman of the Border and Transportation Security Working Group and chief of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Investment Branch. "We are collecting the information to create the to-be architecture for the future department, and having the as-is architecture will help us connect the agency on Day One.'

Wheelock last month discussed the working group's progress at an enterprise architecture conference sponsored by Potomac Forum Ltd. and Federal Sources Inc.

The working groups are putting together an inventory on the types of software being used in each agency, Wheelock said.

The Border and Transportation Security Working Group includes representatives from the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Coast Guard, Customs Service, INS, Transportation Security Administration and State Department. It is focusing on four areas:
  • A high-level concept of operations, a graphic representation of border and transportation security functions that agencies conduct

  • An activity tree showing the relationship between agencies' missions

  • A node connectivity diagram showing how border and transportation security agencies share information

  • An information exchange matrix describing in detail the systems that move data between organizations.

For its project, the working group is collecting most of the data from agencies' existing IT architecture work. Customs, INS and the Coast Guard are among the most advanced agencies in detailing their IT blueprints, Wheelock said.

The first set of architecture documents were finished last month, Wheelock said. The working group hired Mitre Corp. of McLean, Va., to help with the project.

'We are at a point where the information is more available than not,' she said. 'If we started with nothing, we wouldn't be where we are at now.'

Wheelock said more pieces of the architecture should be completed by the end of the year.
'This certainly is not a full architecture,' Wheelock said. 'Our goal is to bring a consistent structure to the architecture.'

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