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.
The Federal Enterprise Architecture
The OMB has developed a Federal Enterprise Architecture as a framework for federal agencies to use in developing their own IT architectures. OMBs FEA provides a common structure and vocabulary across agencies, as well as five reference models: the Business Reference Model, Data and Information Reference Model, a Service/Component Reference Model, a Technical Reference Model and a Performance Reference Model.
The OMB worked with Cooper to aggressively develop the DHSs enterprise architecture.
“We designed and delivered a comprehensive — and immediately useful — target EA in under four months,” said Karen Evans, administrator for electronic government and information technology at the OMB, in her testimony before the subcommittee. “Our EA is enabling us to make decisions about our IT investments now, even as we continue the hard work of developing greater detail, reaching deeper to find more opportunities for consolidation, and beginning to develop new and improved mission support capabilities.”
Next steps for Cooper and his staff at DHS include using the results of the departments architecture efforts to support short-term IT procurement decisions. Cooper will begin with initial quick hit IT purchases and at the same time consolidating systems were there is overlap and duplication.
However, even with a plan in place, the challenges of integrating the disparate divisions are daunting. Cooper said the biggest issues are cultural — moving the department away from entrenched stove-pipe legacy thinking to one that embraces “one DHS/one enterprise architecture.” There is also the issue of moving from a culture of ownership to stewardship, said Cooper — a move that will require a redirection of some IT investments and users to share and re-use IT assets.
To facilitate the whole process, architecture planning is being done at the department level.
“A collaborative approach will ensure that overlapping business processes and data needs are identified and that applications and IT supporting those applications will not duplicate one another,” Cooper said in his testimony to the subcommittee.
The IT consolidation plan architecture will enable DHS to evaluate where its core mission systems are — reorganization, support and starting modernization — and determine where it has areas of inefficiencies, said Jeff Flading, Vice President, Homeland Security And IT Systems, at systems integrator Anteon International Corp.
“If you look across the agencies that are brought together, there are many that have missions that are unique — what the Coast Guard has may not be common to what [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] has — but there are opportunities over time to look at those things that are common in operations, and in cost of support [and bring those together],” said Flading, in Chantilly, Va. “Theyll be able to see broad areas for opportunities fairly quickly. It may take longer to evaluate other areas where there might be commonality in business processes — such as asset management where it takes a more detailed analysis to determine needs.”
Flading said there are challenges facing the DHS roadmap, including a lot of public and legislative scrutiny and oversight. The upside, however, is a lot of people have a very personal interest in making the DHS roadmap succeed.
“We find a lot of people that have… a great deal of dedication,” said Flading. “This is not just some computer system. Its the defense of our country and weve recently been attacked — that patriotism, Ive seen it in many people Ive met. People are really focused; its more than some software for a warehouse theyre working on.”
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