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Sidebar: Two Reports Criticize DHS for Lack of Progress on IT

By Dan Verton
August 23, 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 that agency's sprawling bureaucracy into submission, can any IT manager be expected to help fix the nation's problems with sharing of information about terrorism?
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 of the 22 agencies within the DHS.
Cooper "is not a member of the senior management team with authority to strategically manage departmentwide 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 divisions.
In another report that was submitted to Congress on Aug. 6 and made public last 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 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 with the recommendation 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's report. But the agency added that the GAO had measured its progress against "unrealistic" expectations of how comprehensive the first version of the architecture would be.
Sateesh Lele, a former CIO at Avon Products Inc. and General Motors Corp.'s European operations, said the federal government desperately needs a cultural change. Lele, who is chairman of San Jose-based IT services firm Global Data Systems USA, noted that he has seen the same problems in the private sector.
"I have seen innumerable examples of this organizational malaise in extremely large organizations, and I have also seen some tough actions from the top which have fixed the problem," he said. "This is not an IT problem. It is a cultural problem."

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