Stronger role urged for Homeland CIO

The Homeland Security Department's Inspector General today issued a report advocating a stronger role for the department's CIO.

The IG report comes against the background of moves in Congress to strengthen the position of the department's systems leadership office. (GCN story).

The report pointed out that the department's CIO, currently Steve Cooper, lacks the resources and clout to strategically manage DHS systems.

'These deficiencies in the IT organizational structure are exemplified by the CIO's lack of oversight and control of all DHS' IT investment decision making,' the report said. 'Instead, there is a reliance on cooperation and coordination within DHS' CIO Council to accomplish department-wide IT integration and consolidation objectives.'

The report said the department would benefit by repositioning the CIO to report to DHS' deputy secretary.

'Having component-level CIOs report to both the DHS CIO and their respective agency heads would help ensure commitment to consolidating the IT infrastructure while also meeting business needs,' the report said. 'Further, with adequate IT office support and control of all DHS IT investment decision-making processes, the CIO can better ensure successful accomplishment of IT objectives, programs and initiatives.'

The report also noted that Cooper's office, with an authorized staff of about 65 federal employees and a contingent of about 50 feds currently working on staff, needs additional personnel to manage component-level IT organizations with much larger staffs.

With its small staff, the CIO office largely has been occupied in fighting fires rather than planning ahead, the IG said. Cooper has strengthened his links to the components' CIO offices by placing former staff members within them, according to the report, to buttress his informal methods of achieving cooperation among the various offices responsible for homeland security IT, according to the report.

The department's authorization bill, which could change the CIO's role and authority, is on hold now partly because Congress is on recess until Sept. 7 and partly because the President has asked Congress for legislative changes to respond to the 9/11 commission report. (GCN story).


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