DHS' next steps

Thomas R. Temin

President Bush has said that government is good at starting things but that what's important is completion and performance.

This special issue looks at the Homeland Security Department, one of the biggest beginnings the government has ever undertaken for itself. DHS, forged out of the smoking ruins of 9/11, is struggling to keep its momentum, get organized and deliver on its missions.

With respect to momentum, the department is an unwieldy collection of bureaus and agencies, with many of its components pulling at cross-purposes. Estimates of how many IT professionals work in the department run from 4,000 to 8,000. No one knows for sure.

Plus, Congress keeps tinkering with it, as it did with the latest plan to reorganize the management directorate.

Getting organized at a basic level is a big challenge. Departmentwide e-mail, enterprise resource planning, personnel and finance systems are still months or years off. Reporting relationships are tangled. CIO Steve Cooper has, for example, little sway over the agency and bureau CIOs'some of whose projects are being undertaken on behalf of the whole department.

On another front, one of DHS' principal missions is to collect and analyze data, an effort that draws the ire of jealous rival agencies as well as privacy and civil rights groups.

And there's not a whole lot of money for this work.

In this issue's special report, beginning on Page 28, we point out where the gaps are between Homeland Security's mission statements and its performance, but also where there has been progress'and the department has indeed made progress. Its enterprise architecture, the U.S. Visit program and work by the Transportation Security Administration come to mind.

Eighteen months'the span of DHS' existence'is not a long time in the scheme of things. It's too early to declare either victory or defeat for DHS, but the department is at least past the beginning.

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