GAO: Key elements missing from DHS architecture plan

The Homeland Security Department's most recent enterprise architecture shows improvements but is still missing key pieces and is only of limited usefulness, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The department rushed the enterprise architecture into development without adequately consulting with all the parties that would be using it, without creating a transition plan and without accounting for how it would fit with other information technology investments, the GAO said.

Despite receiving numerous comments on the draft versions of the architecture related to its clarity, internal consistency and completeness, most of those comments were not addressed in the final version, the GAO said. And significant parts of the department, including the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration, did not comment on the draft. It is likely that insufficient time given for comment and incomplete instructions contributed to the lack of input from users of the enterprise architecture, the report states.

Also, even though the GAO recommended an analysis be performed of what the department's enterprise architecture currently is, and what it aims to be, that analysis was not done and no transition plan was created, the report said. Furthermore, the department did not account for about $2.5 billion in anticipated IT investments in its planning.

As a result, the architecture is only of limited usefulness, the GAO concluded.

"Without an architecture that is complete, internally consistent and understandable, the usability of the DHS' enterprise architecture is diminished, which in turn limits the department's ability to guide and constrain IT investments in a way that promotes interoperability, reduces overlap and duplication and optimizes overall mission performance," the GAO report states.

The department, which was formed by combining 22 agencies, opened its doors in March 2003 and issued its first enterprise architecture six months later. The second version was released in October 2004 and the third in June 2006. The GAO reviewed the most recent version.

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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