Homeland transition team will set IT plan

The White House is bringing in IT chieftains from across government to figure out how to merge the disparate systems of the agencies slated to become part of the proposed Homeland Security Department.

Steve Cooper, CIO of the Office of Homeland Security, will lead the group, which is part of the broader Transition Planning Office. Ron Miller, CIO of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Regina Fletcher, an IT specialist from the Federal Aviation Administration's IT Acquisitions Office, earlier this month joined the team.

The team likely will have to work closely with the Office of Management and Budget, which has set up an investment review process of its own to oversee the consolidation of systems within HSD-bound agencies.

Miller said the systems team in the Transition Planning Office eventually would consist of five or six people. A spokeswoman for the Coast Guard said her agency expects to detail someone there in the next few months.

'The systems team will be working with other teams in the office to shape the systems requirements and capabilities needed for the Department of Homeland Security,' said Illa Brown, spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Office.

Brown would not give any further details about the office or the teams that will work with the systems group.

The Transition Planning Office asked FEMA to detail Miller, who still is the agency's CIO and will consult on various agency projects, FEMA spokeswoman Laura Shane said. Rose Parkes, deputy CIO, will handle Miller's day-to-day tasks in his absence.

Miller will work with the office for an indefinite time, he said. 'I don't know what my specific role will be, but my involvement is extensive enough that it requires me to divest myself of my other duties,' he said.

The systems transition team has its work cut out for it. The would-be Homeland Security agencies'the Animal, Plant and Health Inspection Service, the Coast Guard, the Customs Service, FEMA, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Secret Service and the Transportation Security Agency'have more than two dozen major IT projects under way. Jointly, the agencies spend at least $2 billion annually on systems.

Wide range

The projects range from domestic security initiatives, such as INS' entry-exit system, to infrastructure efforts, such as the Guard's Integrated Deepwater Systems Project and Customs' systems modernization.

Meshing such disparate systems is one of the more complicated tasks the new department will need to resolve'and resolve quickly, comptroller general David Walker told lawmakers earlier this summer at a hearing about the proposed department.

The Transition Planning Office's systems team will work to accomplish that goal.

Forming teams to tackle each function would seem to be in line with what Walker's General Accounting Office has recommended.

During another hearing, before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, Walker said a comprehensive transition plan is needed.

'The transition plan should establish a timetable for the orderly migration of each component agency or program to the new department,' he said. 'More detailed implementation plans also will be necessary to address business systems, processes and resource issues. The president has taken an important first step by establishing a transition office within the Office of Management and Budget.'

President Bush in June established the Transition Planning Office by executive order. The order said the office must coordinate, guide and conduct transition and related planning through the executive branch and work with Congress as it considers the homeland security bill that would create the new department.

The order calls for the office to be in business for 90 days after the homeland security bill becomes law or until June 2003.

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