Homeland information sharing improving, officials say

The Homeland Security Department's emerging enterprise architecture is beginning to harmonize information sharing, officials told the House Government Reform Committee this morning.

Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) convened the hearing to probe barriers to information sharing at HSD. Among the federal officials who testified were Mark Forman, administrator for IT and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget, and Steve Cooper, the Homeland Security CIO.

Democrats on the committee criticized Forman and Cooper for the continuing lack of a coordinated terrorist watch list.

Ranking Democrat Henry A. Waxman (Calif.) said the administration had established a "ping pong" policy of passing responsibility for merging the lists from the White House to the FBI, back to the White House and to HSD. He criticized the White House's failure to cooperate with a recent General Accounting Office investigation that called for merged watch lists.

Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.) said, "You've got to be kidding" when Cooper told him that responsibility for merging the watch lists lays with a coalition of agencies coordinated by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center. "To find out 20 months [after Sept. 11] that this [list merger] is not done is staggering. This is an abject failure of leadership.'

Cooper and Forman focused their testimony on HSD's progress in creating a coordinated enterprise architecture to improve information sharing.

Cooper described a process of building an enterprise architecture that will progress from an "as is" description to be available in June to an action plan that will be ready in September.

He said the "as is" inventory is about 70 percent complete, and the department has identified about 100 major applications and more than 2,000 IT applications.

The 'as is' IT systems will be grouped in three categories, the CIO said: those with nearly 100 percent commonality with other systems; those with roughly 80 percent; and others little commonality.

Cooper said the department is working to improve information sharing partly by creating technical teams to devise common metadata definitions and information sharing methods.

Two of these teams focus on criminal justice and intelligence information sharing.

As HSD refines its information architecture and capital investment process, the department is looking to consolidate several types of systems, officials said.

Cooper said HSD officials had found that the department's component agencies operate several physical alert and warning networks. The department plans to reduce the number of alert networks, but will keep more than one because some serve different purposes.

HSD chief technology officer Lee Holcomb, who had until recently been the department's director of infostructure, said after the hearing that the department plans to begin consolidating its personnel systems'which number more than 20'in the next five or six months.

"The issue [in consolidating personnel systems] is data migration'picking the system is easy," Holcomb said. Migration 'typically takes 18 months."

Davis praised Cooper's plans to develop a coordinated enterprise architecture before purchasing major systems, saying that a different process could waste money.

Cooper said the department's Border and Transportation Security Directorate could re-engineer its business processes to create a seamless method for tracking goods and persons as they enter and leave the country.

The process of coordinating interagency action had led HSD to submit joint budget documents to OMB on some issues such as wireless interoperability, Cooper added.

He also said the department had formed a joint working group with state IT officials through the National Association of State CIOs.

The department "remains in the early stages of the development of its enterprise architecture and use of capital planning and investment control," Cooper testified. "Even now, though, and clearly into the future, these tools are being used to guide the development' of the department and its information sharing efforts.

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