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Reports criticize DHS for lack of progress on IT

There are also lessons for those seeking consolidation of U.S. intelligence agencies

By Dan Verton
August 20, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - As the debate about adding a national intelligence director proceeds, two government reports are shedding new light on an existing dilemma: If DHS CIO Steven Cooper can't wrestle the agency's sprawling bureaucracy into submission, can any IT manager be expected to help fix the nation's problems with terrorism information sharing?
In July, the DHS inspector general issued a report concluding that Cooper didn't have the political clout needed to develop an enterprise architecture integrating the IT systems at the 22 agencies within the DHS.
Cooper "is not a member of the senior management team with authority to strategically manage department-wide technology assets and programs," the inspector general's report said. It added that there is no formal reporting relationship between Cooper and the CIOs of major DHS components.
In another report submitted to Congress on Aug. 6 and made public this week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the DHS "does not yet have the necessary architectural blueprint to effectively guide and constrain its ongoing business transformation efforts and the hundreds of millions of dollars that it is investing in supporting information technology assets."
According to the GAO, the current version of the DHS's IT blueprint "is missing most of the content necessary to be considered a well-defined architecture." The GAO described it as "the result of an amalgamation of the existing architectures that several of DHS's predecessor agencies already had."
In a written response to the inspector general's report, DHS Deputy Secretary Adm. James Loy disagreed that Cooper should be part of the senior executive team reporting directly to him. The CIO is "already an integral member at each level of the IT investment review process," Loy wrote.
The DHS acknowledged the problems with its enterprise architecture in a response to the GAO report. But the agency added that the GAO had measured its progress against "unrealistic" expectations about how comprehensive the first version of the architecture would be.
The DHS's IT budget for fiscal year 2004 was about $4 billion -- the third largest IT budget in the federal government. And in the year since the agency was established, its CIO has led several initiatives to boost connectivity among the department's 22 legacy agencies, including linking e-mail systems and providing access to a shared online intranet portal. But the larger tasks of identifying departmentwide IT assets and creating a consolidated and secure IT infrastructure have yet to be accomplished, according to the inspector general's report.
Sateesh Lele, a former CIO at Avon Products Inc. and General Motors Corp.'s European operations, said cultural change from the top

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