EDITOR'S DESK: 'He did his job'

Tom Temin

It's a wonder Steve Cooper stayed as long as he did. The recently departed CIO of the Homeland Security Department was a brave soldier in two wars. First was the official war on terrorism. Much more difficult were the internal battles for control that still mark the messy formation of DHS itself.

Cooper struggled to gain any authority over the big (read: big-budget) fiefdoms that formed DHS. He had limited access to then-Secretary Tom Ridge. Cooper did gain greater budgetary control last year, but never quite enough to solidly launch and steer major departmentwide initiatives.

Cooper's situation differed little in many respects from that of other department-level CIOs. The difference was the enormous visibility of and expectations for DHS. Everyone wanted data sharing, a comprehensive network, clean enterprise applications. But few sacrificed much of their own turf to help it happen. Cooper meanwhile navigated deftly among contractors salivating for DHS dollars, politicians always eager to meddle and fellow appointees angling to make their marks.

Through it all, Cooper always maintained a positive public face, an upbeat demeanor, patience and candor that made few able to dislike him. He rarely let despair or frustration show, and then only to individuals in unofficial settings.

His tenure was by no means a failure'more an unfinished opus. He had a clear and comprehensive vision for how the department should work from information, acquisition and architectural standpoints'a vision he helped establish as the baseline for how people think about the department. That's saying something. Still, Cooper might have helped himself with more attention to detail.

In a final interview with GCN, Cooper likened himself to Snoopy, who imagined his epitaph as, 'He was a good dog. He chased sticks.' Added Cooper, 'I did my job.'

The reality is Cooper did much more than chase sticks, and the job he did was one of enormous importance and complexity.

If DHS ever builds its planned global network monitoring center, they should name it for Steve Cooper.

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