Cooper to face familiar technology issues at Red Cross

Steven I. Cooper, who will join the American Red Cross as CIO and senior vice president on May 2, will face a familiar challenge: managing a technology infrastructure of national importance in the face of public scrutiny.

Cooper announced his intention to leave his post as CIO of the Homeland Security Department during the FOSE trade show April 6.

The American Red Cross is a private voluntary organization, but it maintains close ties to federal, state and local governments in its disaster relief missions. The organization also is very tightly regulated by the Health and Human Services Department in the arena of gathering, processing and distributing whole blood and blood products.

The Government Accountability Office has, from time to time, reported on the Red Cross' disaster response activities and its handling of the nation's blood supply.

'One of his first priorities will be to complete the Information Technology Recalibration Project, which aims to develop a common road map for IT, eliminate duplicate efforts, and achieve a greater focus on strategic projects and programs,' Red Cross spokeswoman Devorah Goldburg said

Cooper will succeed the Red Cross' interim CIO, Mark Weischedel.

The Red Cross itself is a substantial organization, with an annual operating budget of about $3.2 billion. 'We have about 35,000 employees and almost 900 chapters nationwide, as well as about a million volunteers, ' Goldburg said

The charitable organization has been progressively upgrading its IT infrastructure in both disaster preparedness and response, in which it cooperates with DHS, and blood collection operations.

For example, the American Red Cross increasingly is computerizing its painstaking screening of blood donors for problems that might render them ineligible to donate. The organization also maintains databases of ineligible donors, which must be continuously available to donation centers.

Red Cross regional organizations also are progressively improving their online activities by adding more functionality to their Web sites. The sites already allow frequent donors to check their blood donation records and in some regions soon will allow them to accumulate points to be traded in for gifts.

Cooper was appointed in February 2003 as DHS' first CIO. Rear Admiral Ronald T. Hewitt will serve as the department's acting CIO, effective Monday.

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