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The federal government isn't prepared to apply IT techniques perfected by the private sector to its counterterrorism efforts, even though the IT industry is trying to help as much as it can, lawmakers and industry execs said Tuesday at a congressional hearing on the matter.
That's because the federal government isn't set up with a single CIO empowered to make governmentwide decisions on IT strategies, and the one agency charged with homeland security doesn't have the authority to make budget decisions, execs said at a hearing by the House technology and procurement subcommittee.
Testifying before the House panel, Tom Siebel, chairman and CEO of Siebel Systems Inc., ran through a chronology of how the insular methods and disconnected data systems of several government agencies were unable to predict and prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks despite a clear sequence of suspicious actions by the terrorists. "We are unaware of any effort by the federal government to identify existing technologies that could have solved this problem," Siebel told subcommittee members. He recommended the appointment of a federal CIO to direct the government's overall IT strategy and the establishment of a formal process for evaluating technologies already in use by the private sector. Siebel execs recently said the company offers a modified version of its customer-relationship management software that can help agencies coordinate data about known and suspected terrorists.
Another frustration for the companies that have offered their services and products for use in the government's fight against terrorism is that the Bush administration's Office of Homeland Security is unable to make budgetary decisions. "If the Office of Homeland Security has the authority to make anything happen, it's not apparent," Siebel said. Stephen Rohleder, managing partner of the federal contracting unit at Accenture, agreed, saying that it's been the private sector that's inundated the feds with potential solutions. "Industry is reaching in rather than the Office of Homeland Security reaching out," he said.
Subcommittee chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., said he was gratified to hear from the private sector about how existing technologies could be applied to the government's problems, but admitted that no solution was in sight to address their concerns. That's unfortunate, says Berge Ayvazian, senior industry analyst at the Yankee Group. With all of the offers to help, he says, "there all kinds of dividends we can get back right here. Private industry's ready to help, but there's a lot of frustration."