DHS IG to put key programs under microscope

A controversial data mining prototype developed by the Homeland Security Department's Science & Technology Directorate is getting close scrutiny from the department's inspector general.

The DHS IG plans to review the Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement, or Advise, program, over the next several months to determine how well it is meeting its goals in identifying potential threats, according to the IG's just-released fiscal 2007 Annual Performance Plan.

The $40 million program is designed to extract terrorist threat information from large amounts of data. It and other data mining programs are criticized by privacy advocates because they sift through large amounts of personal information.

The upcoming evaluation is one of dozens of oversight investigations ? many of them for IT programs at DHS ? that the IG will conduct during the current fiscal year under the 94-page annual plan. Program areas to be reviewed include information security, information-sharing, acquisition programs, disaster management, logistics programs, threat assessments and data mining.

The plan lists audits for the current year and also audits continued from fiscal year 2006. The inspector general's $85 million budget pays primarily for investigative personnel.

While most of the oversight investigations are self-initiated by the inspector general, the Advise review is being requested by members of Congress. It will examine strategies, policies and procedures for data mining; systems and activities that use data mining techniques; and communication with security partners and the public to counter the threats, the report said.

The plan also outlines four audits related to the upcoming $2 billion Secure Border Initiative border surveillance system, which is one of the department's major current procurements. Boeing Co. was selected as the lead systems integrator in September.

One audit involves evaluating Customs & Border Protection's capability in developing an acquisition program baseline for SBI-Net to manage program risks. The inspector general also will look at "whether DHS has adequate technical strategies, implementation plans, contractor oversight, funding and reporting procedures" for the SBI-Net. A third investigation will focus on operational requirements and organizational capacity, the report said.

Other audits listed in the plan are:

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Housing Program, which include cash assistance for home repairs and temporary housing. Computer Sciences Corp. of El Segundo, Calif., maintains the database.
  • Max HR tasks under the Northrop Grumman Corp. blanket purchase agreement awarded in June 2004. Congress requested a review of DHS' rationale for using a blanket purchase agreement; evaluation of whether DHS improperly bundled dissimilar functions; and assessment of the adequacy of DHS oversight over task orders for the program.
  • The Homeland Infrastructure Threat and Risk Analysis Center, National Operations Center and intelligence fusion center initiatives to determine if they are meeting their information-sharing goals.

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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