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Homeland Security's First CIO Resigns

Steve Cooper came to Washington in March 2002 as homeland-security IT adviser to President Bush, before he was named the department's first CIO.

Steve Cooper, Homeland Security's first CIO, will leave office this month.

Cooper is leaving for personal reasons, a departmental spokeswoman said Wednesday. A successor, who will be appointed by President Bush, has yet to be identified. The spokeswoman said she didn't know who will head Homeland Security IT until a successor is named.

In an interview in December, Cooper said he hadn't decided whether he wanted to remain as CIO after the department's first secretary Tom Ridge announced his resignation. When named CIO in 2003, Cooper promised Ridge he'd remain on the job at least through the presidential election, or as long as Ridge headed the department.

Cooper said he wanted to talk with the new secretary before making a decision. The new secretary, Michael Chertoff, is in the midst of conducting a review of department operations.

Part of that review could involve where the CIO is positioned in the Homeland Security hierarchy. Federal law calls for departmental CIOs to report to the secretary, but Homeland Security's CIO is three rungs lower. Cooper reports to Janet Hale, the undersecretary for management.

Last year, reports issued by the Government Accountability Office and the Homeland Security inspector general called for elevating the CIO post. Cooper, too, has noted that there are advantages of having the CIO report to the department secretary, especially in a town like Washington, where perception of status is important. Still, he said, he had a working relationship with the cabinet secretary.

The CIO job at Homeland Security is one of the most daunting ones in government. Besides helping develop systems to protect the country, Cooper has been overseeing the merging of IT from 22 government agencies into a single department.

Cooper came to Washington in March 2002 as homeland-security IT adviser to President Bush, before he was named the department's first CIO. Before joining the White House, Cooper served as CIO and executive director of strategic information delivery at Corning Inc. Cooper earlier served as the director of corporate information systems at Eli Lilly & Co. He received his bachelor's degree from Ohio Wesleyan University.

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