Homeland security plan skimps on tech

President Bush's push to set up a cabinet-level agency for homeland defense hints that there will be some information technology shuffling.

President Bush's plan to set up a new cabinet-level homeland defense agency would consolidate government efforts to protect the nation from high-tech attacks, but there's little word yet on exactly how.

The new office would take over the "key cyber security activities" performed by the Department of Commerce's Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office CIAO and the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center NIPC. It would use the General Services Administration's Federal Computer Incident Response Center and assume the functions and assets of the Defense Department's National Communications System to coordinate emergency preparedness for the telecommunications sector.

Bush's plan, sketchy so far, hints that there will be some information technology shuffling. The plan does call for "development of a single enterprise architecture" designed to eliminate "sub-optimized, duplicative and poorly coordinated" systems.

At first blush, it would appear that the president's plan may help the tech sector, but analysts say that enhanced cyberdefenses don't necessarily mean more spending.

"This reorganization of homeland defense agencies from 22 separate units into one doesn't change the overall IT budget that these existing agencies had," said James P. Lucier, an analyst at Prudential Securities.

Indeed, part of the plan encourages the new office to reduce "redundant" IT spending.

"There would be rational prioritization of projects necessary to fund homeland security missions based on an overall assessment of requirements rather than a tendency to fund all good ideas beneficial to a separate unit's individual needs, even if similar systems are already in place elsewhere," the plan states.

But there may be more work for companies that help with IT integration, Lucier said, since the new agency will need to bring together many disparate projects.

The House Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy will hold hearings Friday on "Assessing Barriers to, and Technology Solutions for, Robust Information Sharing," with testimony from companies including WebMethods and Oracle.

And companies are already gearing up new sales pitches and focusing their efforts on this new branch of government. Earlier this week, for instance, Computer Sciences created a post of vice president for homeland security.

"(Computer Sciences) is working to address agencies' emerging needs in establishing greater physical access control and identifying potential threats using such tools as biometrics and cross-enterprise databases," the company said.

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