House Democrats score DHS on IT inadequacies

House Democrats score DHS on IT inadequacies

Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee say the new department is not doing enough to defend the nation's information infrastructure or to leverage IT in its own activities.

'The administration should have as its goal nothing less than 'network-centric homeland security' akin to 'network-centric warfare,'' which proved so successful in the Iraq conflict, the Democrats said in a recent report.

The report called for:

  • Appointing a senior cybersecurity official who would report directly to DHS secretary Tom Ridge or the president

  • Naming a chief security officer in the Office of Management and Budget

  • Establishing a National Crisis Coordination Center to guide private-sector and government response to cyberevents.

The Democrats had also criticized homeland security efforts in January, calling the administration's actions woefully inadequate. Their more recent report includes recommendations for fixing weaknesses in a wide range of areas, including defense of cyberspace and use of IT.

According to the report, DHS is hampered in its mission by failure to integrate back-office systems that could knit 22 agencies into an effective department. The report cited difficulties in determining the total number of DHS employees, because there is no unified personnel system and many employees still are being paid through their old departments.

The Democrats said they fear a central administrative system still is years off.

They blamed many of the problems on weak management of IT acquisition and integration. They called a unified terrorist watch list the test case for the department's ability to manage IT projects. It is a significantly smaller task than many consolidations made by the private sector and should have taken only about six months, but it has not been accomplished in the 30 months since Sept. 11, 2001, they said.

'The failure to complete this basic and important information-sharing task casts serious doubt on the administration's ability to manage IT projects generally,' the report said.

The Democrats recommended that the offices of the DHS CIO and chief procurement officer be strengthened for centralized oversight of IT projects. They also suggested creating an independent team to oversee integration of IT systems.

The full report is online.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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