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Homeland Security CIO Outlines Priorities

With 9/11 commission hearings, lingering tension over this month's train bombings in Madrid, Spain, and threats of retaliation against Israel and its allies for the recent assassination of Hamas founder and leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin serving as the backdrop, Department of Homeland Security CIO Steven Cooper highlighted several priorities for his organization over the next 12 months and addressed the challenges he faces in meeting those objectives. The most pressing of these priorities are information sharing, IT infrastructure integration, and data security.

"We are fighting a real war," Cooper said Wednesday at the Federal Office Systems Expo in Washington. "There are people who want us dead. Speed is important."

Cooper's road map comes as the Homeland Security Department's inspector general's office issued a report this month assessing the department's strengths and weaknesses. The federal government formed the department a year ago from 22 agencies and their nearly 180,000 employees. While the report notes that successful transformations of this magnitude could reasonably take as long as seven years, Cooper said he doesn't have nearly that long to integrate the department's IT operations and get them running smoothly and securely.

Information sharing within the federal government, as well as with states, local municipalities, Native American tribes, and academia is one of Cooper's top priorities. "This is a big deal," Cooper said, noting that the challenges lie not only in updating and automating systems and processes, but also in providing workers at various agencies on various levels with the initiative and training to contribute information into such shared systems.

Homeland Security at the federal level is looking for ways to integrate data from state and local law enforcement, public works, and fire departments. Security, Cooper said, comes not just from the top down but also from analyzing information and observations from the nation's 3,300 counties and 89,000 cities and municipalities.

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