HSD looks to take steps forward without going back

The first rule IT leaders of the new Homeland Security Department are following as they establish the agency's systems makeup is "Do no harm," said Steve Cooper, the department's CIO.

"We've got to be sure that we don't let the existing capabilities fall through the cracks," he said.

It's not an easy process, Cooper added in a keynote speech today at the FOSE trade show in Washington, likening integrating the systems of 22 separate agencies that will become part of HSD to changing the tires of a car while it's traveling 70 miles an hour. And the systems must truly be integrated, not simply placed separately under one roof, he said.

A team of IT leaders is working to make sure the systems work for users while fitting into the department's enterprise architecture. They are trying to determine whether systems overlap, so they can determine where redundancies can be eliminated.

"Whatever we do must be in an architected manner," Cooper said. "We have started the process to establish a national homeland security architecture."

Work on the architecture requires input from federal agencies, state and local governments, and private-sector organizations such as the Industry Advisory Council, Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the IT Association of America.

"We don't have the same insights as the private sector or state and local governments," he said. "We can reach out to them and say, 'Hey, help us.' "

HSD is establishing Web sites where it will accept input on a nationwide architecture from vendors and state and local agencies.

The first technology priority of the department is wireless technology, Cooper said. Other interests include geospatial technology, modeling and simulation, and collaboration.

Another challenge the department faces is finding how to use data mining to help fight terrorism while balancing civil liberties and privacy rights. Despite recent criticism of data mining efforts, HSD will use it to bolster homeland security, Cooper said, but "We need to set up safeguards to ensure that we use it wisely and judiciously."

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