IT industry taking cautious approach to homeland security legislation

Officials say lobbying efforts so far are muted<@VM>Creating the Department of Homeland Security

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the administration seeks to equip the new department with "the best technology available."

Information technology industry executives are watching closely the process of creating a federal Department of Homeland Security, but say they're not actively trying to influence how the department is created or what government entities are included in it.

"The policy debate is best left to Congress and the administration to settle," said David Colton, vice president of strategic initiatives for the Information Technology Association of America in Arlington, Va.

Booth Jameson, director of global government affairs for the federal unit of Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Texas, said the firm might be interested in some agency and department consolidation because it would make the firm's work easier, but EDS isn't lobbying Congress to that effect.

"That is subservient to the overall goal" of improving homeland security, Jameson said.

President Bush proposed the new department June 6, but bills in the House and Senate were already in the works.

The House and Senate bills would move to the new department the Coast Guard, the Customs Service, the Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service law enforcement, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service port and border operations, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Domestic Preparedness Office, the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office and the National Infrastructure Protection Center.

The two bills, S. 2452 and H.R. 4660, were introduced May 2 by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, in their respective houses.

While the essential goals of the White House and congressional plans are the same, the Bush plan would shift more federal organizations into the new department.

In addition to the federal agencies recommended in the House and Senate bills, the president's Homeland Security Department would include the Transportation Security Administration, INS services, APHIS domestic programs, Federal Protective Services, several offices from the departments of Health and Human Services and Justice, and the Secret Service.

Bush also would add the Federal Computer Incident Response Center, the Computer Security Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Bio-Weapons Analysis Center and Department of Energy programs related to weapons of mass destruction.

Congressional panels are now working to reconcile their bills with the president's plan, which proposed the most sweeping government reorganization in the last half-century. The process of creating a new department is highly political, as members of Congress try to settle issues of jurisdiction related to the creation of the department and its eventual operation, industry observers said.

"Anyone who has jurisdiction over any of these agencies is going to want to have at least one hearing on it, and I'd say that's the responsible thing to do," said Charles Cantus, director of government relations for KPMG Consulting Inc. of McLean, Va.

But "I think they can put aside personal jurisdictional issues," he said. "I think they'll see this as an opportunity for a strong, centralized department to handle all these [homeland security] challenges quickly, in real-time ways. There needs to be almost instantaneous sharing of information. One of the only ways to do that is by starting from scratch."

While Congress works its will, federal agencies may increase their fourth-quarter IT spending, said Jim Kane, president and chief executive officer of market research firm Federal Sources Inc. in McLean, Va.

"If I'm a [federal] program manager, if there is ever a time I want my program to be successful, it is now," Kane said. "We think you're going to see increased spending on programs in the fourth quarter" to move IT initiatives along before agencies are combined into a new entity.

Funding might be cut, however, for projects under the auspices of small agency entities targeted for transfer to the new department, Kane said.

John Spotila, president and chief operating officer of GTSI Corp. of Chantilly, Va., said he worries that some agencies might put on hold important upgrades to their homeland security capabilities while Congress works out the details on the new department.

"It could take years to work this out. We can't afford to stop enhancing our terrorist protection efforts for a couple of years, and we can't afford to rush into something that makes things worse," said Spotila, who served the Clinton administration as administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget.

IT and management consulting firms are trying to anticipate what might happen to their contracts once their agency customers, such as the Customs Service and Coast Guard, become part of a larger entity.

"The bottom line is everyone is always worried about the work they have in hand," Cantus said, "but a consolidated department poses just as many, if not more, opportunities."

Industry executives also said the new department will require an enterprisewide IT architecture to enable information sharing and analysis both within the new department and with outside entities.

"If we build [the new department] with the right technology to begin with, it will be agile enough to deal with the policy and structural changes which will occur. Otherwise, we might have to rip it out and replace it," said Kevin Fitzgerald, a senior vice president of Oracle Corp. of Redwood Shores, Calif.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, testifying June 20 at a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the president's proposal, said President Bush hopes to work with Congress "to design for the first time a new department equipped with the best technology available."
The Senate Governmental Affairs and House Government Reform committees held hearings on the Homeland Security Department legislation June 20. More hearings are planned, and legislators are working to reconcile their bills with the president's proposal. President Bush and Congress are aiming to have a bill completed before the end of the current congressional session, and some lawmakers hope to have a bill signed by Sept. 11.

In the House

[IMGCAP(1)]The Government Reform Committee is taking the lead in moving the bill forward, while nine other panels will have jurisdiction over pieces of the bill.

A bipartisan committee led by Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, (above) will oversee the process, and will be able to amend the bill after the committees have done their work.

The other members are Reps. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Tom DeLay, R-Texas; Martin Frost, D-Texas; J.C. Watts, R-Okla.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio; Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.; and Robert Portman, R-Ohio.

The House bill, H.R. 4660, was introduced May 2 by Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

In the Senate

[IMGCAP(2)]The Governmental Affairs Committee, led by chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., (above) is taking the lead. No special committees are being created.

The Senate bill, S. 2452, was introduced May 2 by Lieberman and is similar to the House bill.

In the White House

[IMGCAP(3)]President Bush proposed his plan for the new Department of Homeland Security June 6. He has named 16 business, government and academic leaders to the new Homeland Security Advisory Council and plans to appoint several more. The group will work with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and help promote and set up the new department.

Prominent advisory council members include Ruth David, president and chief executive officer of ANSER Inc.; Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt; James Schlesinger, former energy and defense secretary and CIA director; William Webster, former CIA and FBI director; and Washington Mayor Anthony Williams. For a complete list of members, go to this story at www.washingtontechnology.com.

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