Slimming from 170 to one

DHS wants to consolidate portals and Web sites, now it's looking for the right tools

Major DHS portals slated for consolidation

Audience: General public

Function: The department's main public portal provides information about most DHS agencies. The department uses it to inform users about general homeland security information. It does not provide access to any sensitive information.


Audience: Government and other affiliated organizations

Function: DHSInteractive is a secure external portal that lets registered users in federal, state, local, territorial, tribal and private organizations interact with the department. The system uses encrypted transmission from the user's workstation to the portal, via the Internet or direct connections.


Audience: Internal

Function: DHSOnline lets department employees access various mission-critical applications, as well as financial systems and document administration systems. The portal includes daily news highlights and an index for finding intranet sites and services as well as other functions. The system requires network authentication for access.

Audience: General public

Function: This portal, sponsored under the administration's E-Government Initiative, helps the public prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters of various kinds, and lets first responders share information and best practices.

Audience: General public

Function: is a public information site promoting awareness of and preparation for emergencies such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Audience: General public, Coast Guard partner agencies and service users, guard members and employees

Function: The Coast Guard's public portal provides information services to mariners and boaters, guard members and retirees as well as those interested in the guard's multiple missions.

The Homeland Security Department will consolidate more than 20 portals and 150 Web sites into one enterprise portal serving the entire agency ? just as soon as commercial software catches up with its needs.

DHS earlier this month issued a "Sources Sought" notice on, asking vendors to describe their qualifications for building a sophisticated Web portal.

DHS last week extended the deadline for responses from contractors for at least 30 days from the original May 25 closing date. Officials said vendors submitted "numerous comments and questions," and the agency would respond to them before accepting vendor information.

Part of the delay is because vendors still are bringing their service-oriented architecture products to a mature state of development, department officials said in the notice. The procurement documents call for the vendors to build systems that rely on open architecture and commercial products, as well as standards that do not restrict the portal to using one software product.

Officials do have a plan in place for when they eventually receive vendor technical and past performance statements.

DHS would issue a request for quotes from companies selected based on their abilities. The request for quotes would include a statement of objectives that would let bidders define many of the methods used to satisfy contract goals.

This is the latest delay in a project that is lagging about two months behind a previously announced schedule. A DHS spokesman said the department likely would not comment on the acquisition now that it is under way.

When DHS awards the contracts, it intends to use its enterprise contract with Akamai Technologies Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., to provide the platform for the new portal, which is to serve both internal and external users.

Several DHS organizational elements already use Akamai's fleet of more than 14,000 servers, which the company said handles about 15 percent of global Internet traffic, for content delivery and application processing, department officials said.

The department specified a broad range of capabilities for the new portal, including geospatial mapping, real-time messaging and collaboration, and document management. The new portal is intended to serve 3 million registered users and 1 million simultaneous users, and handle more than 100 million page visits a month.

The department hired the Interoperability Clearinghouse, an Alexandria, Va., not-for-profit organization to help refine its procurement process. ICH assists with structuring large, risky systems integration projects.

John Weiler, ICH executive director and chief technology officer, said his group submitted an unsolicited proposal to DHS to offer its Solution Architecture Integration Laboratory to hone the portal procurement.

"SAIL is a way for government to assess the potential capabilities and performance of [products in] the market, and to know where the capabilities are," Weiler said.

The virtual laboratory lets procurement officials determine whether the contract requirements can be implemented, Weiler said. "The government frequently has asked for capabilities that don't exist," he said.

Weiler confirmed that portal software developers have not yet fully adopted service-oriented architecture technology. Portals have evolved to be the enterprise application integration layer, and service-oriented architecture is the crown jewel for enterprise integration, according to Weiler.

"If the user envisions the need for SOA, the technology will migrate to that," he said.

DHS procurement documents state that the agency wants a distributed service-oriented architecture for the portal to promote component assembly and reusability. SOA would let the department adjust the portal to changing business needs and technology without disrupting services.

Wilson P. Dizard III is senior editor with Government Computer News. He can be reached at

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