Skinner: DHS still struggling with IT management

Nearly four years after it was formed, the Homeland Security Department continues to struggle in managing, integrating and securing its IT systems, Inspector General Richard L. Skinner testified at a congressional hearing Tuesday.

"Integrating the IT systems, networks and capabilities of the various legacy agencies to form a single infrastructure for effective communications and information exchange remains one of DHS' biggest challenges," Skinner told the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security.

Skinner focused on the department's management of IT systems, financial systems, acquisitions and grants as four key areas that are noticeably falling short.

In the IT realm, the department has made progress in eliminating redundant firewalls, replacing hardware encryption devices and combining operations centers, Skinner said. But component agencies have not yet aligned their programs for information security with departmentwide programs.

Agencies that are components of DHS also are not effectively managing their IT systems, Skinner said. He singled out Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for shortcomings in planning and buying new IT to meet their needs.

"USCIS remains entrenched in a cycle of continual planning, with little progress toward achieving its longterm transformation goals," Skinner said.

In the area of information sharing, Skinner called DHS to task for problems in implementing the Homeland Security Information Network, while noting obstacles such as privacy concerns, lack of resources, legislative constraints and cultural challenges that are often beyond the control of the network's program managers.

While departmental agencies are engaged in data mining for counterterrorism, the potential for data mining to become an effective tool against terrorism remains untapped, due to lack of overall planning, strategy and coordination in the efforts, Skinner said.

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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