New department could reshape federal data sharing

New department could reshape federal data sharing

The president's proposed Homeland Security Department could set new rules for interagency information sharing, speakers said today at a hearing of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy.

The need to share information more efficiently has become a centerpiece of the administration's quest for homeland security. Agency officials testifying today cited the lack of clearly defined IT requirements as a key barrier to sharing information. Agencies and the administration have been criticized because so many details about the Sept. 11 terrorists and their plans were never brought together to form a clear picture.

George H. Bohlinger, executive associate commissioner for management at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said many companies see the government 'as an unresponsive bureaucracy' that fails to take advantage of available technology.

'I don't think the problem at this point is in procurement,' said Mark Forman, the Office of Management and Budget's associate director for IT and e-government. 'I think the problem is in the requirements area.' Until missions and roles are clearly identified, he said, agencies do not know what technology is needed to fulfill them.

Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) said many companies run into a dead end because the current Office of Homeland Security lacks clear authority. The new department could help resolve that, he said.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), a member of the Select Intelligence Committee who was briefed at the White House today about the president's plans, said the new department would not be a magic bullet but an enabler for information sharing.

'This topic is absolutely essential to the homeland security effort,' she said. 'This is a critical piece.'

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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