DHS plan for consolidating back-office apps emerges

Admittedly a single administrative system is many years away, Homeland Security's Catherine Y. Santana says.

Olivier Douliery

Forty general ledgers, 30 procurement systems and 20 travel systems add up to a lot of overlapping applications and code.

The Homeland Security Department has a cadre of IT, administrative, financial and procurement officials developing a plan to merge these back-office systems.

Over the next five weeks, the DHS officials will meet during a series of workshops to set the initial requirements for the merger project, known as Electronically Managing Enterprise Resources for Government Effectiveness and Efficiency, or Emerge2.

'The idea is we capture the bureaus' needs and capture what is in common across the enterprise,' said Catherine Y. Santana, director of the department's Resource Management Transformation Office.

A team of 18 workers from the transformation office and 64 contract employees will fine-tune the requirements fleshed out during the workshops. Their goal is to develop an Emerge2 solicitation by the summer.

The team will have to 'look at redundant processes and applications and make some hard decisions,' Santana said.

Neither making such tough choices nor leading massive IT consolidations is new for Santana. She spent 20 years working on IT programs at the Defense Department before she joined DHS in June. Most recently she was the business enterprise architect in Defense's Office of the Comptroller.
'What stays, what goes, we don't know yet. Will it be one? Maybe not. It may be several,' she said of the merger project.

Years away

Although eventually DHS officials would like one central administrative system, that may be years away, Santana said.

In the meantime, DHS wants to create an 'integrated, interoperable enterprise that provides management information to the key leadership in the organization,' Santana said. She expects the department to implement Emerge2 in phases.

Because it acquired so many disparate organizations when it was created, DHS in many cases has had to rely on other agencies to continue supporting their former organizations' back-office operations.

For example, the Transportation Security Administration receives financial management services from the Transportation Department. 'That would not be something we would want to continue over the lifetime of TSA,' Santana said.

This year, DHS plans to spend between $20 million and $30 million on the project.

Santana says her organization is on track to define the requirements for Emerge2 by May and issue an RFP this summer. The project has five functional areas: accounting; acquisition, procurement and grant management; asset management; budgeting and cost accounting. The Emerge2 project likely will take several years to complete, but department chiefs have high hopes for it.

'I think you'll anticipate and expect savings' as the office implements Emerge2, she said. 'But more importantly, we are looking for business drivers'providing the right information to the right people, making sure that there is confidence in the information we are providing, learning where we can bring some efficiencies to operations by automating manual operations and consolidating information through automated means rather than by manual data calls.'

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