Holcomb lays out HSD blueprint

The Homeland Security Department won't own all of the 'network of networks' it plans to use to coordinate antiterror information, according to Lee Holcomb, director of infostructure at the White House Homeland Security Office.

Holcomb, who spoke today at a meeting of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Northern Virginia Chapter, said planners are working with the Defense Information Systems Agency to study authentication technology used for the Secret IP Router Network.

'We think we have a leadership role' in combining various networks into a homeland security web, Holcomb said. 'We think there is a need for a sensitive but unclassified network that will touch the first responder' at police, fire and emergency agencies.

HSD planners are figuring out how to let first responders who don't have high-level clearance determine whether a suspect is on a watch list. Planners also are creating metadata standards and interfaces between Justice Department and CIA systems, and common data formats.

Among the security office's initial tasks is inventorying the HSD agencies' current business transactions and determining what resources are needed. 'There will be a procurement strategy for the new department,' he said.

Homeland office officials have consulted with executives from AT&T Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Lowe's Companies Inc. and Raytheon Co. to determine lessons learned from mergers, Holcomb said. One of the most critical lessons, he said, is to foster as much communication as possible among the merging entities, which is why the new department will begin life on Jan. 24 with a common directory and e-mail system, as well as internal and external portals.

Referring to a pyramid-shaped information architecture, with strategy at the top and applications at the bottom, Holcomb said department planners are 'attacking this both at the top and the bottom.' One approach is to have technical reference working groups analyze particular IT segments, he said. The system must operate both horizontally'across the department and the federal government'and vertically with state and local first responders, he said.

Among the guiding principles for the enterprise architecture are balancing security with privacy, capturing data or building systems once for repeated use, and creating trusted databases of record, Holcomb said.

The new department will seek technology input in knowledge management, data mining, authentication, biometrics, geospatial systems, collaborative tools, simulation, modeling and wireless communications, he said.

As the planners grapple with creating the department, they identify barriers to coordinating the disparate databases of the law enforcement, immigration, intelligence and biomedical communities, Holcomb said. Some problems have arisen from applications specific to one agency and other problems from cultural barriers, noninteroperable communications systems and 1970s wireless technology, Holcomb said.

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