Lawmakers spar with Cooper over HSD efforts

Lawmakers took aim at the Homeland Security Department's efforts at information sharing during a House Government Reform Committee hearing this month.

The Bush administration has established a ping-pong policy of passing responsibility for data sharing from the White House to the FBI, back to the White House and to Homeland Security, said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee's ranking Democrat.

As a prime example, Waxman and Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.) pointed to the lack of action on merging the multiple watch lists in use by the government to help spot suspected terrorists.
That no consolidated watch list yet exists'20 months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks''is staggering. This is an abject failure of leadership,' Tierney said.

Although Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge has identified creation of a single watch list as a No. 1 systems priority [GCN, April 7, Page 9], department CIO Steve Cooper focused his testimony on creating an enterprise architecture as the chief path toward better information sharing.

He said the department is about 70 percent done identifying an as-is systems inventory for Homeland Security's 22 component agencies. So far, the IT team has found about 100 major applications and more than 2,000 lesser apps.

Once the inventory is complete in July, Cooper said, the team will group systems and apps into three categories: those with nearly 100 percent commonality across Homeland Security agencies, those with roughly 80 percent and those with less. The first version of a complete architecture, planned for September release, will focus on a to-be systems environment.

In the interim, Cooper said, the department is bolstering information sharing partly by creating technical teams to devise common metadata definitions and data exchange methods for areas such as criminal justice and intelligence.

As the department refines its information architecture and capital investment process, it will consolidate many systems. For instance, Homeland Security agencies operate several physical alert and warning networks, Cooper said. Although the department may need more than one such system, it does not need the number now in use, he said.

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

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