At DHS, meshing IT takes tact

Nat Heiner

Henrik G. DeGyor

Homeland Security Department leaders want to reduce the number of systems across the department, but managers have to take care in how they cut, CIO Steve Cooper said last month.

'In the mission space, we understand that some needs will remain unique,' Cooper said at the recent E-Gov conference in Washington. 'We are not trying to force change.'

Transportation Security Administration CIO Patrick Schambach, also a speaker at the conference, said his agency is working to evaluate credentialing projects across the department.

Those programs include projects for immigration systems such as the US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication System, and Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, as well as TSA's Transportation Worker Identity Card and projects for smart-card credentialing of HSD employees.

TWIC 'is dissolving into a departmental credentialing project,' Schambach said.

TSA is preparing a budget request for a coordinated credentialing project, he said.

DHS chief technology officer Lee Holcomb said the department plans to use smart cards to implement remote access across the department in the next six to nine months. 'The department is rolling out a pilot activity' that will allow workers to log in from remote workspaces, Holcomb said.

Coast Guard chief knowledge officer Nat Heiner added that remote access is also an issue for 'people who do not sit at desktops,' such as those in the Coast Guard and Border Patrol. 'It's not just a question of wireless interoperability, but how you meet mission requirements' in the context of what the military calls command, control, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, Heiner said.

The Homeland Security IT officials on the panel said one of their challenges is integrating IT infrastructures across many agencies, some of which have mature enterprise architectures while others are early in the process of building the management and systems blueprints.

For example, Cooper said, the department's contracting systems need additional work. 'At the moment there is no internal Web site' through which DHS employees can carry out contracting actions, he said.

The internal DHS online system will be upgraded to serve the needs of contracting officers 'as we identify those tools and resources,' he said.

Reach out

On a similar note in the intelligence field, Keith Herrington, CIO of the Intelligence Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate, said, 'In the data management effort, we are going to reach out internally and externally, and address interoperability issues.

'Some organizations are mature and some are just getting started. It is going to be very challenging.'

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