Steven I. Cooper has been Special Assistant to the President, Senior Director for Information Integration and CIO, for the Office of Homeland Security since March. He brings more than 20 years of experience as an Information Technology professional. His most recent position was as CIO, Corporate Staffs, and Executive Director, Strategic Information Delivery, for Corning, Inc. in Corning, N.Y. Prior to that he was Director, Information Technology, for Eli Lilly & Co. in Indianapolis, Ind. In this in-depth, two-part interview, Cooper discusses the many significant challenges facing him at the newly created Office of Homeland Security.

Q: What are your primary responsibilities within the office?
The first is to guide input to the national strategy for Homeland Security related to information and information technology, the second is what we have labeled a little bit for convenience -- horizontal information sharing. That simply means among the federal agencies. The information to be shared is essential information necessary to support Homeland Security but it really translates to combating terrorism. And then the third is, again for convenience, labeled vertical information sharing. Talking about sharing and the integration of information among federal, state and private sector entities.

Q: What are some of the emerging technologies you plan to utilize to share Homeland Security information with state and local governments and other relevant private sector entities?
What we're trying to do is broadly classify information technology into some big buckets and honestly, internally we're calling them big buckets. For example, the current working big buckets include knowledge management and within knowledge management you can toss in things like data mining, data harvesting, data visualization -- There are a handful of software tools we have done little bit of research around and continue to evaluate and explore and gain some insight.


The second bucket we label modeling and in that bucket are things like simulation modeling so there are products and tools that allow you to simulate various [events]. There are hazardous materials types of models, chemical and bio defense types of models and again, we want to take look and review a lot of products and capabilities in that space.

The third technology bucket is collaboration software and that really is just good old collaboration stuff from very simple Microsoft Net Meeting -- to sophisticated software to enable us to do web casts and distance learning and global collaboration for project mgmt and research and development, so the whole range of anything that would be used for group collaboration and productivity -- workflow document management, those types of things.

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The fourth bucket, which honestly is a placeholder at the moment, is infrastructure. That would be where we'd begin to take a look at things like networking operating system software and look at various system console monitors -- just the stuff you never see unless you're an IT professional. We're not doing whole lot with that.

Another major bucket deals with applications. That has to be subdivided later. So for example, FEMA has a number of applications related to first responders that already exist. We want to inventory those and talk with the folks at FEMA and figure out how well those applications meet the program and mission requirements of FEMA.

Another example might be if we have an application related more to security or bio terrorism then we'd create a subcategory to do a little finer breakdown. Right now the point I'm trying to drive home is not what's in the buckets but that we're categorizing and grouping information technologies.

Q: Are there vendors in these various areas that you've worked with in the past that you're partial to?
Yes. But it's different from my previous responsibilities at Corning or Eli Lilly in the private sector, and I need to put that on hold. We need to drive this from a requirements perspective. Rather than jumping to any conclusion, we're flushing out and writing the national strategy now. We're taking the lead in writing the information chapter, which relates back to objective one. After we write that chapter and as we interact with state, local and federal agencies and the private sector to get input, expertise and knowledge from those arenas, we can have more fully set requirements and then be able to evaluate products and vendors.

The other key component is we're also constructing an enterprise architecture for Homeland Security. By enterprise architecture I mean documenting the business strategy and the business objectives in each of the functional areas of Homeland Security. Then we're documenting the processes that are needed to achieve the goals and objectives and identify the information that is produced by and consumed by the processes with those things in place and understood and then we can look at the enablement of those via information technology. Then we're getting into applications and the underlying information technology infrastructure. Together all of those component layers comprise an enterprise architecture. This is the same model being used across the federal government -- we're not doing anything different. We're building from the work that is already being done in the federal agencies to construct an enterprise architecture -- and aggregate it at a level higher because the processes of Homeland Security cut across any single agency. So we've got to integrate the component parts so you get the complete picture.