Bill would boost CIO's role at DHS

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) favors DHS reorganization.

J. Adam Fenster

'You need that kind of strength at the top in DHS, of all departments, when you are trying to pull together 22 different agencies.'

'Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas)

The systems chief of the Homeland Security Department could see a boost in status and influence under a new proposal in Congress.

The House Homeland Security Select Committee is considering a bill to reorganize the department, folding the activities of the Management Directorate into the office of the deputy secretary.

Under the reorganization, departmental CIO Steve Cooper would report to the deputy secretary, Coast Guard Adm. James Loy, rather than to undersecretary for management Janet Hale.

The move would help the CIO more effectively forge an integrated enterprise architecture for the department and coordinate other IT functions, committee members said.

The reshuffle would get DHS' component agencies 'singing off the same sheet of music,' said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the select committee's Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science, and Research and Development.

'The reason I am in favor of this is that I am disappointed that the integration of these 22 agencies is taking so long and going so slowly,' Thornberry said.

He said Congress would need to pass a bill to effect the reorganization because some of the positions involved were established by the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

The subcommittee chairman said DHS senior management staff, such as its CIO, chief financial officer and chief procurement officer, currently are on the same level as senior officials in the department's other directorates, which hampers their ability to manage.

Integration problems
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'You have to get the management people above [the other officials], whether you are talking about financial or IT systems or management,' Thornberry said. 'I think there is consensus that there is some frustration [among committee members] at the difficulty of integrating the department.'

The select committee's ranking minority member, Jim Turner (D-Texas), endorsed the reorganization plan.

'Having a person in the role of a chief operating officer, which would be Adm. Loy, is a good concept,' Turner said. 'It's a concept that obviously works well in business. You need that kind of strength at the top in DHS, of all departments, when you are trying to pull together 22 different agencies and make them function together.'

Thornberry and Turner said select committee chairman Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) supports the plan and would likely include it in the DHS authorization bill the committee is drafting. A committee aide said Cox favors putting the Management Directorate under the deputy secretary.

DHS officials did not respond to several requests for comment on the proposal.

Jim Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies of Washington, said elevating the department's CIO to report to the deputy secretary would yield several benefits.

'The deputy secretary position is the key position for thinking about how to glue DHS together,' Lewis said. 'Appending the CIO to the deputy makes a lot of sense. It is the deputy's job to make sure the trains run on time inside the department.'

He added that the reorganization indirectly would give the department's CIO more power. 'In some agencies the deputy is sort of a fifth wheel, but not when you have a strong deputy as in this case,' Lewis said.

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