Consolidating the homeland: Bush's budget request pushes DHS integration efforts

While [DHS was] going through turmoil, it probably caused a flat budget. Now, there is a clearer view of what its IT investments ought tobe, and that's why we're seeing the increases." Ray Bjorklund, Federal Sources Inc.

Henrik G. de Gyor

The Bush administration's dramatic boost in IT spending at the Homeland Security department may be a signal that the sprawling, two-year-old department is ready to consolidate some of its major programs and systems.

The president last month proposed an IT budget of $5.96 billion in fiscal 2006, a 25 percent increase over 2005's budget of $4.78 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget. The huge increase follows a year of flat IT spending at the agency.

Bush requested $65.1 billion for IT for all agencies in 2006, 7 percent more than in 2005.

The sky-high increase at DHS bodes well for programs aimed at centralizing and coordinating the department's many subagencies and offices, such as IT infrastructure, enterprise architecture and portal, the department's emergency operations center and interoperability.

The White House is putting more technology money into the department's management offices in 2006. In the most high-profile example, it is proposing to form the $847 million new Office of Screening Coordination and Operations to consolidate all identity-screening efforts from multiple agencies. (See story, page 1.)

But that's not the only integration happening. Some of the other IT programs receiving the largest funding increases in 2006 ? such as the enterprise portal and the emergency operations center ? are run by DHS' central management rather than from its 22 component agencies.

"I've seen a little more consolidation at the departmental level," said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer for market research firm Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va. "Money is being transferred from the lower-level subagencies to the headquarters."

Kim Shackleford of the Ambit Group agreed that consolidation is happening in the central office. "I think it's a positive trend that will help them accomplish their goals," said Shackleford, chief marketing officer of the Reston, Va., consulting firm.

DHS isn't alone. The federal Chief Information Officers Council has been pushing all agencies to adopt a consolidated approach that aligns each agency mission with its budget, programs and enterprise architecture, she said.

The White House wants to boost to $304 million ? a 10.5 percent increase over 2005 appropriations ? the 2006 budget for the office of DHS CIO Steve Cooper.

That double-digit budget hike is a vote of confidence, coming six months after that office was criticized by the Government Accountability Office for its difficulties in integrating the department's 22 legacy agencies into a cohesive whole.

"DHS' progress in institutionalizing these key information and technology management elements has been mixed, and overall remains a work in progress," GAO said in August 2004.

GAO's skeptical assessments of the department's huge management challenges most likely contributed to DHS' all-but-frozen technology budget from 2004 to 2005, according to Bjorklund.

"While they were going through turmoil, it probably caused a flat budget," he said.

But those concerns appear to be lifting.

"The department finally is starting to get its feet on the ground," Bjorklund said. "Now, there is a clearer view of what its IT investments ought to be, and that's why we're seeing the increases."

Among the large projects reflecting the trends toward IT funding increases and consolidation within the homeland security department:

Homeland Security Operations Center. The president requested $38.3 million for the Homeland Security Operations Center, to be operated by the Informa-tion Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate, one of the management units formed when DHS was founded. There was no IT money for the center in 2004 or 2005, according to OMB's budget documents.

The operations center will provide "a single point of integration for all homeland security information," according to OMB.

Industry sources said the goal is to create several types of connectivity with emergency management and response offices run by federal, state and local agencies.

The project is expected to include updates and new networking capabilities for the emergency operations centers at DHS' headquarters in northwest Washington and at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's facility in the southwest quadrant of the city.

IT Infrastructure. One of DHS' largest IT line items, infrastructure spending, will rise to $1.3 billion in 2006 from $1.2 billion in 2005.

"This investment is a move toward a consolidated infrastructure supporting the missions of DHS," OMB's budget report said. However, most of that spending is fragmented among many agencies, according to industry analysts.

Of the total, $485 million is earmarked for "development, modernization and enhancement," and $840 million for "steady state" activities, OMB said. The agency's central IT budget includes $48.3 million for enterprise architecture, an 18 percent increase.

Enterprise architecture has been an ongoing program at DHS since the agency was formed. In August 2004, GAO judged DHS to be at the third of five stages of maturity in its development of the architecture.

DHS had established a program office, assigned a chief architect to oversee the program, established plans for developing metrics for measuring progress, and placed the architecture products under configuration management. However, those efforts fall short of having "the necessary architectural blueprint to effectively guide and constrain its ongoing business transformation efforts," the GAO concluded.

One particular program, the Enterprise Portal, which is to consolidate all of DHS' Web sites and platforms, is scheduled to jump from $4 million this year to $19.5 million in 2006. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a new, separate line item for $5.4 million to consolidate its Internet portal.

Spending for 2006 includes budgets for several new departmentwide integration efforts, including $3.5 million for application modernization, $3 million for integrating domains and $2.5 million for the Solutions Engineering Center of Excellence, which creates "core component building blocks" to help integrate applications.

That's not to say consolidation will be easy to achieve.

"The trouble is the CIO is competing against the Transportation Security Administration and the other agencies for resources," said Jeff Viner, research vice president of IT consulting firm Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn.

Enterprise Geospatial. The hefty $285 million line item for the department's geospatial information technology ? increasing from $272 million in 2005 ? is a surprise to some vendors not accustomed to seeing the department's numerous geospatial IT initiatives grouped together.

"It's hard to believe it's that much," said a geospatial services contractor.

But the grouping may reflect a move toward greater coordination and interoperability in developing new mapping products and systems, which are used by FEMA, the Coast Guard, Border Patrol and other DHS agencies, Bjorklund said.

Interoperability. The Science and Technology Directorate's Safecom office, which oversees public safety wireless interoperability, is budgeted at only $1.6 million for 2006, the same as in 2005. But there are other key projects advancing interoperability goals that are receiving funding increases.

For example, the Integrated Wireless Network is to receive $289 million, a jump from 2005 spending of $255 million. Its goal is to provide a secure communications capability that is interoperable between law enforcement agents and homeland security officials in Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury departments. n

Staff Writer Alice Lipowicz can be reached at

Following the dollars at Homeland Security

Major IT investments

2004 actual2005 enacted2006 proposed
CIO office$184M$275M$304M
IT infrastructure$1.3B$1.2B$1.3B
Enterprise geospatial$261M$272M$286M
Integrated wireless network$258M$255M$290M
Enterprise architecture and
investment management program
Enterprise application integration00$3M
Solutions Engineering Center of Excellence00$2.5M
Applications systems
modernization/common solutions
Total IT spending $4.76B$4.78B$5.97B

Source: Office of Management and Budget

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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