Among the challenges the U.S. Department of Homeland Security faces is connecting the IT systems of the 22 agencies under its umbrella.
Tasked with making that happen is DHS CIO Steve Cooper, who last week laid out a plan for rationalizing the departments more than 300 back-office applications, 1,000 servers and 1,000 telecommunications circuits in testimony at a House committee hearing in Washington.
In conjunction with a federal enterprise architecture initiative Cooper previously worked on, the DHS has developed an IT consolidation plan for the department that comprises four parts: an "as is" architecture characterization, a business model, a target architecture and a transition strategy for migration.
The business model bridges the gap between a departments mission and IT operations by identifying common activities that can be automated, Cooper told the Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census.
The target architecture, which will evolve over time, is geared toward enabling quick business changes through a service-oriented, component-based architecture using commercial off-the-shelf applications, for the most part.
DHS last month started the transition strategy, which essentially implements conceptual projects.
Cooper said he found significant overlap and duplication of efforts within the DHS. Not surprisingly, agencies were found to have redundancies in human resources, financial management, procurement and some mission-specific software. At the same time, the department has significant overlaps in IT initiatives. Fourteen credentialing systems were identified, for example, as were at least eight systems supporting port-of-entry management.
Even with a plan in place, the challenges of integrating the disparate divisions are daunting. Cooper said the biggest issues are cultural, with a goal of moving the department away from entrenched stovepipe legacy thinking to one that embraces "one DHS/one enterprise architecture. ... A collaborative approach will ensure that overlapping business processes and data needs are identified."