Homeland Security sets three-pronged data-sharing plan

Watch your step

The path to a successful IT project is strewn with potential pitfalls: budget cuts, new policy mandates and requirements changes -- to name a few. As agencies prepare for the new year, GCN looks ahead and identifies some possible perils as well as management and IT priorities expected for 2004.

Steve Cooper, Homeland Security CIO

Henrik G. de Gyor

The Homeland Security Department inherited a hodgepodge of networks, and CIO Steve Cooper has pledged to unify them by next December.

DHS has three data-sharing goals: cross-level, first-response and classified.

To share data among agencies at the federal, state and local levels, 'we need a network as fast as we can get it,' he said at a recent meeting sponsored by Input of Reston, Va.

For sharing domestic defense data, the department in April began using the Joint Regional Information Exchange System, a network originally created by the Defense Intelligence Agency to share information for protecting U.S. military installations.

The JRIES pilot, run by the department's Information Assurance and Infrastructure Protection Directorate, links about 80 organizations across the country, system architect Mike Kushin said.

JRIES 'rides over the Internet,' he said. It uses a Microsoft SharePoint portal and SQL Server database as well as Groove Workspace collaboration software from Groove Networks Inc. of Beverly, Mass.

Cooper also has announced plans to build regional information sharing networks'patterned after the FBI's Dallas Emergency Response Network'for first-response organizations. The regional networks would be linked via an umbrella network dubbed DHS Infonet.

The department plans to provide start-up funds for regional networks in Atlanta, Indianapolis and Seattle, he said.

The Dallas portal uses its own proprietary software, ERN Systems, developed by YHD Software Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas.

Sharing classified data

Finally, DHS plans to solicit bids shortly for the Homeland Secure Digital Network, for sharing classified data within the department. HSDN 'will be the only network environment for classified information,' Cooper said. 'This will run internally within DHS and serve as a gateway to external partners.'

The network, which is intended to operate at the secret and possibly top-secret levels, likely will be linked to existing classified networks operated by the CIA's Intelink Management Office.

'I would see at some point these networks peering and connecting,' IMO director John Brantley said.

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