DHS shake-up to strengthen technology programs

Secretary Michael Chertoff has announced a reorganization plan that will buttress several technology programs in the Homeland Security Department. The overhaul largely was based on an analytic matrix that took the form of a spreadsheet correlating threats to the country with their consequences, officials said.

'The matrix will allow us to match possible threats against possible targets and will map the current state of prevention, protection and response planning with regard to each,' Chertoff told an audience of hundreds of DHS employees in downtown Washington today. 'This matrix will be a critical tool [that will] enable us to identify and remedy current gaps in preparedness.'

Chertoff unveiled a technology decision involving the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program that is designed to help detect and thwart terrorists seeking visas. DHS plans to require first-time visitors to the United States to submit 10 fingerprints, rather than the two now required under the U.S. Visit program.

Some analysts have stated that the two-finger IDENT fingerprint match does not take full advantage of the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System database that uses 10 fingerprints.

The reorganization will result in a torturous DHS organization chart that calls for 26 agencies to report directly to Chertoff through his deputy secretary, Michael P. Jackson.

Some parts of Chertoff's plan will require congressional approval, such as the proposal to create an undersecretary for preparedness and another undersecretary for policy. Chertoff announced that he would centralize the department's intelligence functions under the assistant secretary for information analysis. The plan also would create a new assistant secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications.

Under the new plan, many department functions will be centralized under a new operations coordination office.

The job title undersecretary for management, who oversees the CIO Office now, will remain in place, according to an organization chart DHS officials distributed.

The plan does create the opportunity for additional CIO slots that would report to the new undersecretaries for policy and preparedness, as well as the director for operations coordination.

Jackson told reporters during a press briefing after Chertoff's speech that if the reorganization creates the need for additional CIO positions, DHS officials will create those slots. But they will seek to use existing department resources when possible, he said, implying that the number of new CIO slots may not correspond with the number of new offices.

Chertoff proposed a change in immigration procedures that likely will have an effect on a pending IT overhaul at Citizenship and Immigration Services. Under his proposal, immigrants whose residence and citizenship applications are pending would pass through a security review at the beginning of the process, rather than at the end.

The change would speed immigrant processing and end a situation where people who pose security threats to the country are allowed to remain here for years. It also would affect pending plans for an IT overhaul of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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