House Votes to Authorize Chief Data Officer Position at DHS

DHS Homeland Security

Along with a slew of IT-related bills concerning the Department of Homeland Security and addressing supply chain risk and cyber monitoring, the House of Representatives also voted on Tuesday night to approve the establishment of a chief data officer (CDO) at DHS.

HR 6447, the Department of Homeland Security Chief Data Officer Authorization Act, was approved by voice vote Tuesday, following its introduction on July 19 by Rep. John Carter, R-Texas. The bill was approved by the House Homeland Security Committee on July 24.

The bill outlines the responsibilities of the new office, which include: ensuring that the Department conforms with data management best practices; coordinating the organization and integration of data across the Department; reviewing the impact of the infrastructure of the Department regarding data integrity and interoperability; coordinating the release of data for public use; and promoting the use of modern data systems, among other things.

The bill also authorizes “component chief data officers” to be designated by the heads of each operational component of DHS in consultation with the agency-wide CDO and component CIO.

Within 180 days of the bill’s enactment, the DHS Secretary is required to submit a report to both the House and the Senate on the implementation of the CDO.

Rep. Carter said conversations with constituents and at DHS spurred his introduction of the bill, which aims at increasing government transparency to the public and those outside DHS. “This bipartisan legislation will help give the public an unbiased look into how their government is working for them, and ensure that DHS stays up to par with transparency expectations,” Carter said in a statement following the bill’s passage.

Rep. Bonnie Watson, D-N.J., highlighted the need for data integrity during debate on the House floor Tuesday. “At this time, when truth is under assault, it is critical that there be vigilant watchdogs, to help ensure that information provided by the Department of Homeland Security is accurate,” she said.

“Data continues to be underutilized as an asset by organizations, especially in the Federal government, largely as a result of poor internal data management and governance,” said Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., adding “it is imperative that Homeland Security possess the ability and capacity and tools to make decisions in today’s rapidly-evolving threat environment.”

The House bill has no Senate companion measure, meaning its chances for becoming law this year are slim absent swift Senate action.

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