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Watchdog: Inadequate Staffing Hampers Oversight of DHS Tech Procurement

Watchdog: Inadequate Staffing Hampers Oversight of DHS Tech Procurement

Robert Brodsky | Government Executive Magazine

September 16, 2009

“We are looking at the balance of our workforce,” Duke told the subcommittee. But she acknowledged that “it will be a challenge to hire all these people.”

DHS also has taken significant steps to address redundancies and inefficiencies among their internal communications systems, Duke said. For example, in March 2003, the department’s IT infrastructure included 24 data systems, multiple independently operating e-mail and sign-on systems, but no secure data transmission policies.

Many of those disintegrated systems now are being consolidated through OneNet, an initiative aimed at blending existing IT infrastructures into a wide area network. DHS began work on OneNet in 2005, and envisions that the system eventually will provide components with secure data, voice, video, tactical radio and satellite communications through two combined DHS enterprise centers.

“After full consolidation, we will have the ability to continuously synchronize applications based upon mission requirements, so either facility can seamlessly take over in the event of a disaster,” Duke said.

But the IG’s office said DHS is experiencing delays in meeting its scheduled completion date for OneNet because some department components insist on maintaining their own Internet gateways.

“As a result, DHS may not be able to reach its ultimate goal of consolidating and modernizing its existing infrastructures and achieve cost savings,” Taylor said.

Recent reviews by the Government Accountability Office have found that major acquisition programs at DHS have failed to employ reliable cost and schedule estimates, meaningful performance measurements and proactive identification of program risks.

As a result of these weaknesses, major IT programs such as Rescue 21, the Coast Guard’s maritime search and rescue and advanced communications system, and the SBInet virtual border fence, have been burdened with considerable implementation delays, said Randolph Hite, GAO’s director of information technology architecture and systems issues. Other fledgling IT programs got off the ground too quickly, leading to cost overruns and failed applications, the watchdog said.

To reverse this trend, Hite said, “programs need to be grounded in clear expectations,” and subject to rigorous performance measurements.

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