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Signaling a major change in the way intelligence is handled, the Department of Homeland Security is embarking on an ambitious new Web portal project, designed to integrate the information systems of the 22 member agencies that constitute the two-year old organization. Lee Holcomb, chief technology officer at DHS, says the agency is moving from a "need to know" to "need to share" culture. The integration job will begin the first quarter of 2005.
Holcomb, a former chief information officer at NASA, says DHS represents "the most complex aggregation of Federal entities since the Defense Department was put together in the late 1940s." The integration challenge includes tying in state and local law enforcement, as well as other Federal security entities.
DHS already has an Internet portal, of course, but the upgrade will allow more intra- and interagency collaboration, along with improved content and document management. The Department initially got off to a fast start on its technology architecture, consulting with private-sector luminaries such as H-P chief executive Carly Fiorina when it was still run out of the White House as the Office of Homeland Security.
But the portal software needs updating to support the new collaborative culture. "We're a couple of product generations behind on our portal," says Holcomb. DHS is a model for the combined intelligence agencies mandated by Congress in December, he says. "We're a proving ground for that kind of policy."