Government Computer News

The August 29th issue of Government Computer News (the day Katrina hit) was devoted to the Department of Homeland Security. The cover story, titled Double Duty, recounted the agency’s struggle with “dueling, sometimes conflicting tasks” of dealing with security and citizens services such as disaster-relief.

Highlights from this fascinating 20-page piece include:

– Michael Chertoff’s plan to reorganize the agency by October 2005: “The reorganization itself is a tacit admission that DHS as it is presently constituted has not achieved its goals of aligning federal resources most effectively to confront terror and provide services.”

– Communication: “there were things that happened from the get-go that people forget. One was that the [DHS] IT budget was reduced by more than $300 million in the first year” DHS Chief Technology Officer Lee Holcomb.

As well, under the department’s goal to create a system to share information among government agencies and the private sector, GCN gave the agency a grade of Not Achieved, stating, “DHS’ information-sharing capabilities have been limited to a circumscribed “circle-of-trust” that excludes companies and the public.”

– Again, under the agency’s goal to “Improve public safety and public health communications”, GCN states that not much has been achieved: “The poster child technology problem of the terrorism response field – incompatible first-responder radios – remains years from resolution”

– Under the DHS, FEMA’s agenda was changed from disaster recovery to emergency preparedness. One of Chertoff’s initial actions was proposing that FEMA be returned to it’s original mission.

The article also includes a comprehensive analysis of DHS IT projects (far too detailed to discuss here) including Emerge2, the FBI’s troubled Case Management System, Rescue 21 (upgrade of the National Distress System), and the Integrated Wireless Network.

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