Chertoff studies new screening office

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is taking a close look at the department's proposed new $847 million Office of Screening Coordination and Operations as part of his comprehensive initial review of the department, senior department officials said today.

The new screening office would be created under President Bush's 2006 budget request to Congress, prepared under former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. It would encompass nine screening programs including U.S. Visit, Registered Traveler and Secure Flight.

"We're under new management, and the new secretary wants an opportunity to review it," said Charles Armstrong, chief information officer for Border and Transportation Security, said at a forum on interoperability held at the FOSE technology trade show in Washington. FOSE is produced by PostNewsweek Tech Media, publisher of Washington Technology.

The outcome of the review is not yet determined, Scott Hastings, chief information officer for U.S. Visit, which screens international visitors at the borders and at airports, said at the conference.

"You won't hear anyone saying what the new position is," Hastings said. "The new secretary has put it on the table and will examine and decide how to execute it."

While the review is proceeding, the $390 million U.S. Visit program and other projects will continue their paths and move quickly on major initiatives, Hastings said. "We are not slowing down," he said.

Armstrong said the department recognized a need for "an ability to coordinate" the many screening programs. "Whatever you call it, [a screening coordination office] or what have you, there will be a function to coordinate that," Armstrong said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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