White House IT strategy emphasizes info sharing

Information sharing and data mining will be integral IT components of the White House's newly released national strategy for homeland security, said Steve Cooper, chief information officer of the Homeland Security Office, during a July 16 administration briefing. Cooper also said three new pilot projects have already been identified by the office to ramp up new technologies.

In this briefing, Cooper stressed the need for information sharing and data mining tools to track potential terrorist behavior.

Cooper said the administration is looking to a "capture once and reuse many" approach to data gathering, meaning data will be shared among agencies. The proposed office would employ a business-focused enterprisewide architecture to facilitate data sharing within the department and with other agencies.

Cooper said the department would develop guidelines for other agencies acting as "primary guardians" of data.

Data mining would also be a central IT function for homeland security, according to Cooper. "What we're talking about is pattern recognition, or the use of software intelligent agents to peruse data, [which are] driven by algorithms and rules that define themselves over time," Cooper said. Such tools "can marry statistically derived outcomes from known events to predictive models."

Cooper said the proposed department would take on several pilot projects to test emerging technologies for large-scale use. Three projects have already been approved "by the equivalent of the deputies and assistant secretaries in the relevant agencies," he said. They are:

*A project led by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for law enforcement agencies across 10 states as well as federal agencies to share criminal information. Analytical tools would also be incorporated into this system. This project would have an estimated cost of around $10 million.

*A consolidation of lists of suspected terrorists that are kept by civilian and defense agencies. Cooper said this project would cost under $1 million.

*A homeland security portal for states and local law enforcement agencies to obtain more information on topics such as critical infrastructure. This project would likely cost in the range of "a couple hundred thousand dollars," Cooper said.

Cooper did not have an estimate of the proposed department's IT budget, but market research firm Input Inc. of Chantilly, Va., has estimated that the new department could spend more than $2.1 billion on IT in fiscal year 2003. Input's projection is based on the president's budget request for the major agencies that would be combined into the new department.

The national strategy, unveiled by President Bush, describes the defense mechanisms the United States should put in place to defend against nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical and cyberattacks. It also further defines the duties of the administration's proposed Department of Homeland Security.

A copy of the report can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/book/nat_strat_hls.pdf.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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