DHS will consolidate case management efforts

S.W. 'Woody' Hall

File

The Homeland Security Department is preparing a budget request for a consolidated case management system.

The system likely will serve 4,000 to 5,000 workers in the Customs and Border Protection Bureau as well as users in other DHS agencies, said S.W. 'Woody' Hall, assistant commissioner for information and technology.

Hall formerly was the Customs Service's CIO and now is in charge of a larger IT operation for the bureau, which merged staff and programs from the Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Hall spoke this morning at a breakfast meeting sponsored by Input of Reston, Va.

'As we speak, we are putting together a consolidated' request, Hall said.

He said that DHS officials now are preparing their business cases, or exhibit 300 submissions, for the Office of Management and the Budget. The new system will consolidate case management initiatives under way at the department, Hall said.

'Our plan is to review all that,' he said. 'I expect this would be a joint procurement' across several DHS agencies. He noted that none of the separate projects have received funding.

'I think we are six to 10 months away from putting this on the street,' Hall said, referring to a request for proposals. 'The good news is that this ought to be a pretty [large] procurement when it goes; something as big as case management will mainly be an outsourced effort,' he said.

Among the bureau's other initiatives are modernizing its databases and networks under the former Customs' Automated Commercial Environment project. In April 2001, Customs awarded a $1.3 billion, 15-year contract to IBM Corp. to build ACE. It is replacing the 17-year-old Automated Commercial System (Click for Aug. 19, 2002 GCN story)

Under initiative known as the Single Face at the Border, the bureau plans to coordinate the separate databases and applications of its customs, animal and plant inspection and immigration activities. Border entrants will no longer face a gauntlet of officials from different agencies repeating many of the same questions, Hall said.

Also on the agenda are the bureau's Trusted Traveler programs, which are supposed to let frequent border crossers who meet security requirements pass quickly into and out of the country. These programs already cover airline crews and some business travelers, and rely on palm reader biometric technology.

'We are looking to make distinctions that are fair and to increase the focus on high-risk travelers,' Hall said.

And, like all agencies, the bureau expects to expand its e-government initiatives, including the use of portals to interact with other agencies and industry. Officials also want to develop collaborative projects for wireless communications, portals, enterprise architecture plans, smart cards and biometrics, Hall said.

One of the most important systems integration tasks the bureaus face is its relationship with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau, Hall said. The two bureaus use several common systems, and Hall's team is working with the immigration bureau's CIO, Scott Hastings, to decide how to share costs and integrate their missions.

Homeland Security CIO Steve Cooper has directed the pair to develop interoperable systems and programs, Hall said.

'There really is a high level of interdependence between ICE and my bureau,' he said.

Part of the answer may lie in the two bureaus using cross-servicing systems. 'We have to realize that the funding goes where the people go,' Hall said.

Homeland Security IT officials also want to keep abreast of the latest technologies, among them wireless tools. Coordination will be an issue, Hall said, because the Coast Guard, Border Patrol and Secret Service are large DHS agencies running independent wireless systems.

'The management of wireless is going to be consolidated,' he said. 'The question is, how much are we going to consolidate the operational management, and what are we going to do with the networks, data centers and IT staffs?'

Department officials expect to make decisions on wireless integration by the end of the summer, he said.

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