House looks at failure of eMerge2

DHS knew of problems 'within weeks' of award

The Homeland Security Department is to be commended for moving so swiftly last year to cancel eMerge2, the program to consolidate the numerous disparate financial systems scattered through the Homeland Security Department, according to members of two House subcommittees.

The Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability and the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Management, Integration and Oversight, held a joint hearing March 29 to delve into why eMerge2 failed and to discuss the steps DHS is now taking to consolidate its financial systems.

Scott Charbo, CIO at DHS, and Eugene Schied, acting chief financial officer, told members that the department is making plans to consolidate all DHS components on financial systems currently run by Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard. The project would be aligned with the Office of Management and Budget's Lines of Business initiatives, but would remain independent.

Todd Platts (R-Pa.), chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee, asked Randolph Hite, director of information technology architecture and systems issues in the Government Accountability Office, why DHS has such problems implementing best practices and whether the department's problems are similar to those encountered in private industry.

It's much harder to execute best practices than to say they should be executed, Hite said. 'Similar unsuccessful outcomes [in companies] are not going to get the same visibility,' he said. 'My reading shows it is a common problem.'

Under questioning by subcommittee members, Schied said the department learned some positive lessons from the experience. For instance, because eMerge2 was being monitored closely, with very specific milestones, officials knew within weeks that the program was in trouble, he said.

'The procurement strategy may not have been optimal,' Charbo added. 'That's not unique to DHS'there are procurement challenges across the government.'

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