One of the functional areas of Homeland Security is related to intelligence in the sense of detection. There are several agencies in the federal government that are carrying out intelligence activities for purposes of detecting terrorism. We have to get from each agency their picture and hook them together to get the big picture. In essence, we're the group that is working to try and collaboratively coordinate the work that is being done by the agencies so it is a collaboration.

The executive order that created the office spells out the functional areas of Homeland Security...each of those functional areas is comprised of a set of processes to carry out that responsibility. So what we need to do in constructing these architectures is understand what are these processes and now we're right back to the processes that comprise the architecture. Then you can add the information component and you then can automate the whole thing.

Q: What in your background prepared you to work in information management?
Most of my professional career has been focused on the challenges of information sharing, information delivery and information integration. So does that mean I have all the answers? No. What it means is my experiences have positioned me to ask the right questions. If I can pose the right questions to the wealth of talent that exists in federal, local and state government and in the private sector, a whole bunch of people who are whole lot smarter than I am are going to come up with the answers. I'm drawing upon the work we're going to do as we build these architectures and take a current state inventory -- that will reveal what exists today.

One of the sets of questions I want to begin to ask when I look at these architectures and process maps we will build I will ask questions along the line of 'Why are we doing this process this way?' Of course armed with the process maps I can be pretty specific. Not that I really have the answer of a better way to do it, but by asking a question like [that] gives rise to answers that this is the objective we're trying to meet, or the requirements we have to maintain.

By asking why we're doing things a certain why enables a group of people to optimize or change the process for the better. It allows us to identify obstacles to achieving the desired statethere are two broad metrics we want to bring to bear in all this work: first is a faster cycle time. That means for example that if we are trying to pull together information to make a decision, ideally we want to reduce the time it takes to bring all the information together to make a decision to zero. That's a faster cycle time. Today we can measure how long it takes to do various processes or how long it takes to get the right information to the right people so we can creates baselines -- improvement can be demonstrated by reducing that amount of time. It's very important that we can measure whether we're getting better or worse.

The second important metric is quality. And quality can take different forms of measurement but if I talk to people who are recipients of information that is produced by some of these processes then I can ask them some very pointed questions like 'Did the information arrive in a timely manner?' If they say yes great. If they say no I want to explore that no further. Information is a product. People don't think of it that way but the same principles that hold true in supply chain management hold true in information management.

In Part 2 of CIN's interview with the Homeland Security CIO on Wednesday, Steven Cooper discusses technology strategies and best practices for cyber security and homeland defense.