DHS to update its collaboration portals

The Homeland Security Department is considering a competition within the next six months to refresh its intranet and extranet collaboration portals.

DHS' chief technology officer Lee Holcomb said today that the current portal software, based on the Army Knowledge Online software developed by Appian Corp. of Vienna, Va., was set up within three weeks in 2002 to serve the brand-new department.

"We're looking to build on that," Holcomb said. "When the department stood up, we asked industry about the best practices for consolidations, mergers and start-ups?we were all three of those."

DHS learned from Hewlett-Packard Co.'s experience in the acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. that "you can't communicate enough with your internal and external partners," Holcomb said.

Today the DHSInfo Online intranet portal serves about 60,000 of DHS' 180,000 employees at any given time, Holcomb estimated. Extranet users come in with a password and Secure Sockets Layer encryption. The two portals provide all DHS regulations, documents and collaboration zones for workgroups. Neither portal is open to the public.

Holcomb estimated his office is part of about 14 internal collaboration zone groups, which are notified automatically when new postings appear on the portal.

Another portal, the Homeland Security Information Network, keeps all the states, territories, emergency operation centers and largest cities apprised of threat levels and other security data.

HSIN uses two collaboration suites: Groove Workspace from Groove Networks Inc. of Beverly, Mass., and Microsoft Windows SharePoint Portal Server. Holcomb said there are "five or six major communities of interest," including law enforcement, decision-makers and intelligence groups.

DHS plans to push out a classified-level HSIN around the end of the year, he said. Also, the long-planned classified Homeland Security Data Network is now undergoing tests for eventual connection to the Defense Department's Secure IP Router Network.

"We need a collaboration suite with user access to the same tools at both ends" within DHS and DOD, Holcomb said. "The software today doesn't quite do that yet."

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