Feds Face IT Integration Challenge

The Department of Homeland Security this week detailed its task of tying together IT systems from 22 agencies.

The Department of Homeland Security, launched in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is faced with quite a challenge: Connecting the IT systems of the 22 agencies under one umbrella.

CIO Steve Cooper this week laid out a plan for rationalizing the departments more than 300 back-office applications, 1,000 servers and 1,000 telecom circuits in testimony at a House committee hearing.

In conjunction with a federal enterprise architecture initiative and with the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), the DHS has been devising an internal enterprise architecture, or EA, that lays out the roadmap for IT integration.

The DHS integration plan is designed to provide the structure for integration and consists of four parts: an as is architecture characterization; a business model; target architecture; and transition strategy for migrating from the as is to target states.

The business model bridges the gap between a departments mission and its current IT infrastructure by identifying common activities that can be automated.

The target architecture, which will evolve over time, is geared toward enabling quick business changes through a service-oriented, component-based architecture. It is based on commercial off the shelf applications, but also identifies to be built apps and components based on required functions and capabilities.

The transition strategy, of which DHS is in the early stages now, is essentially implementing conceptual projects.

In his organizations initial look at its task, Cooper found significant overlap and duplication of efforts within DHSs IT systems. Not surprising, agencies were found to have redundancies in human resources, financial management, procurement and some mission-specific applications.

Currently, DHS has over 300 back-office applications performing functions like budgeting, financial management, recruiting and human resource management. It has in excess of 1,000 servers and an equal amount of telecom circuits. At the same time, the department has significant overlaps in IT initiatives. Fourteen separate credentialing systems were identified, for example, as were at least eight systems supporting Port of Entry management.